Starbucks’ coffee bean surcharge, bank checking fees: a brave, new world of surreptitious fees?


Starbucks merchandise. (Kevin Lee/BLOOMBERG)

At Starbucks, the Boston Globe discovered a hidden $1.50 surcharge applied to each bag of coffee beans under a pound. If, for example, you were to buy a half-pound of the chain’s morning blend coffee beans, listed for $11.95 a pound on the company’s Web site, you’d be charged $7.45, not $5.98.

The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations fined the chain $1,575 in August for the practice and the company has ceased applying the surcharge, but they are not alone in slipping extra costs to customers.

The New York Times gave several recent examples of how banks are trying to squeeze more income out of their customers as well. Some examples:

— Bank of America now charges $5 to replace a lost debit card and $20 for rush delivery.

— U.S. Bankcorp charges 50 cents when customers deposit a check using mobile phones.

— Starting in December, TD Bank will start charging customers for wiring money to their bank accounts - $15 for each incoming domestic payment.

These charges might surprise consumers, especially after the large public backlash in response to the Bank of America’s attempt to add a monthly fee of $5 for debit cards . Though the Bank of America eventually scrapped the plan, it appears banks do not see the fees themselves as a problem, but rather the public reaction to them.

In late October, New York University’s Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management released the results from a study that found U.S. hotels are on track to take in $1.8 billion in fees this year. Fees for early check-ins and late cancellations. Fees for access to wetbars and swimming pools. Fees for parking and shuttle services. This is up from $1.7 billion from 2010 and just $1.0 billion in 2001.

Ultimately, fees might just become a function of our brave new a la carte world. Perhaps it’s time to start paying a little closer attention to those receipt tallies.

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