Wednesday, February 15, 2012

All Together Now: WHAT ABOUT THE FEES?!

A clever chap’s blog just fired me up. Andy T. Le Peau, associate publisher for editorial at InterVarsity Press, posted a tongue-in-cheek speculation as to how it might look if publishers “look to the airline industry for inspiration.” Since I’m an author and a traveler, his topic nabbed my attention. Odds are you’re a reader with an astute business head, so please take a moment right here and now to read his thoughts before you move forward. His post is short.

[Pause, you're reading ... and, YOU'RE BACK!]

Oh, boy, Mr. LePeau, and AMEN!  I sure do resonate with the preposterousness of it all.

For instance, some book stores don’t allow exchanges, but they will issue store credit for a returned book, barring a few circumstances. Otherwise someone could buy a book, take it home, read it, bring it back and exchange it for another one. (Local book store as lending library. It happens.) But when they do offer an exchange or store credit, how nuts would they be to charge a fee for that type of service? If they did, who’d shop at their store, ever again? Whereas with the airlines, you don’t want to sneakily use the seat you need to exchange. You just want … a different one. Something better for your circumstances, or your body. Yet, the airlines charge a service fee PLUS the upcharge, and we shell out. And fly them again and again. [Southwest Airlines, I do believe you are among the teensy few who still treat passengers with respect, charging only for the difference in current fares at the time of the exchange, even if a live person helps. I seal your mention with a big kiss! ] 

Whether we're talking about an exchanged book or an airline seat, the “product” we leave behind can and likely will be resold to another chap or chapette. It’s not like we consumed it.

Yes, I understand there is employee time involved in scheduling changes. Someone has to pay said employee to do these things. Although shipping and handling fees on Internet and catalog purchases are annoying and sometimes exorbitant, it does take manpower to accomplish the task. People need to earn a living. 

But in the end, doesn't that still circle back to us? We’re often the ones facilitating such online changes. At the very least, airlines could consider our time a fair exchange (pay us instead of themselves), which might look something like this: airlines trade at least one of their scurrilousness surcharges for the time we spend buying upgrades or making our own scheduling adjustments. I'm sure someone could invent a handy app for that.

You know, I feel suddenly compelled to do some tricky math involving OUR TIME: We pay for the seat, the difference in fares if we change the seat, do all the work AND pay an additional   fee for the privilege to give the airlines even more money for the more expensive seat, perhaps even the seat we already earned with hard earned airlines miles?

Okay, now I’m mad.

This past weekend, I watched an awe inspiring segment, video here, on the CBS Sunday Morning Show about the digital revolution. It included an interview with the vibrant Molly Katchpole, the young woman who posted the original effort to revolt against banks (read Bank of America, the first villain) inexplicably deciding to charge us fees to access our own money. (Note, when the banks tried to charge us the way the airlines do, a revolt ignited!) The CBS segment highlighted and affirmed the power we wield when we turn our collective efforts toward determination.

So, is there no way we can put a stop to these blood sucking airline fees?

Seriously, imagine what would happen if the publishing industry—if any industry (keep the banking industry in mind here, aside, of course, from Freddie and Fannie and … the imagination can only stretch so far)—followed the airlines’ lead by so dishonoring its customers. What say ye, road warriors? Is there something we can do to launch change, rather than continue counting on the government or the airlines themselves to stop the insanity? What do you think?

Or are we just doomed to suck it up and pay, no matter how dumb it looks when we see such a comparison lined out by someone in the publishing business.

I think I need a stress tab now. Thanks for that, Mr. Le Peau! :)

In the process of full disclosure, I know Mr. Le Peau. He's a really smart and likable guy. I published my first book with InterVarsity Press, way back in 1991. DON'T MISS YOUR KIDS, they'll be gone before you know it. It is (subliminal message) still in print and available through InterVarsity Press and via other resources. 

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