The Art of Overcharging

Sadly, we’ve all been a victim of something going wrong, and it costing us an arm and a leg; or if you so choose, a kidney on the black market. However you’ve had to pay for it, you’ve had to pay for it, and in a big way. Afterwards though, you look at the bill and wonder really if it should have cost that much. Or if charging that much is even a fair price, depending on what the service is that you had to have accomplished. Unfortunately, unless you’ve worked in the industry personally, we as consumers may never really know how much the hardware involved in these tasks cost, but most of us can give a ballpark estimate and assume that it’s just too much for what is being done.

Anyone who owns a car can attest to car repairs being a huge cash suck. And it also just so happens that something will go wrong at the most inopportune times, creating even more of a hassle. But have you ever stopped and read the bill afterwards? The first thing that always stands out is usually the diagnostics. Most of the time, especially when they have to use their computer diagnostic tools, it will cost upwards of $115, even though all they do is hook your car up to the machine and let it do it’s work. The main point though is that that entire cost is in the “labor” category. Usually when a computer does the work, doesn’t one just have to sit back and let it do it’s job? Sure, they have to watch it to see where the issue lies, but the inspection alone costs about half of the price of a fuel pump.

Of course, any of us who live in a winter weather area will understand the plight that can befall us if we are to let our guard down driving in inclement weather, even when it really isn’t our fault, or when we just hit a patch of bad luck (also known as “ice”). As an example, when driving to work one day, a driver is coming up the off ramp of the highway. He needs to turn right, so at a slow speed, knowing the weather is bad and that there is ice on the ground, he gets into the right turn lane. Suddenly, he loses control of the car, ever so slightly, so that the car turns sideways barely to the right and the front tires of his front wheel drive car become stuck on the ice. No damage is inflicted to the car, and the only issue is that he can’t get his tires off the ice. Due to this, he is forced to call a tow truck, which quite simply, spends two minutes dragging the front of the car off of the ice. The total charge? $75. And that, according to the tow truck driver, is the minimum he is allowed to charge! One can understand the cost of gas, and the time taken, which was minimal, in order to drag the car out, but can that $75 charge be justified?

There are, of course, many other things other than our vehicles which can cost us a ridiculous amount. For example, technology can become a huge burden on us, especially when things go wrong. Anyone who has ever had a problem with their computer knows that one of the first places we think of to go to get it fixed is the Geek Squad, and most of us go there even though we know that they charge an extreme amount for what can potentially be the simplest of tasks. For this example, let’s say your computer doesn’t start up one day, without any prior warning, and the error, of which you search online for, doesn’t give you an answer on what the problem could be. The Geek Squad says that they’ll look at it for $70, and if there’s something wrong with the hard drive, and they can get your data off of it, it’ll cost you another $100 to back it up. Once again, one can understand that there’s probably some work involved to find the issue, but a part time job with an hourly pay of $9 an hour would have to work eight hours for that much to be made. And after you find out that the issue is your hard drive, you not only have to pay $75 for the hard drive, but another $50 for them to install it. Mind you, installing something, especially like a hard drive into a computer, is a simple task which requires minimal work. That comes to an approximate total of $200+, after finding out that your hard drive can’t be backed up.

Electronics must be complicated to some people, because even Target is getting into the installation business. Target now has Target Zip, which is a service of blue shirt wearing employees (gasp) who will come out and install your electronics. To have your new HDTV taken out of the box, set on your entertainment center and plugged in, it will cost you $99. Not only that, but they’ll teach you how to use your new television, and even take the box and packaging with them when they leave. That same price can also get you your computer or video game system set up, in case it was a challenge for you. And just in case you get a bigger HDTV and want it wall mounted, as long as you buy the wall mount and HD cables, for a price of $299, Zip will come out, wall mount your television, set it up, connect it to up to three HD devices, show you how to use it, and remove the packaging. For some, particularly those who are unable to due to age possibly, this may be a great deal, but to most, setting this kind of thing up could probably cost you much less to do yourself, and nowadays, it isn’t like this type of thing is that difficult to do.

This article could be considered a rant in some cases, but it’s still surprising to see how many people use these services even though if they had the time and resources, they could probably find a small establishment, or even a friend who did it as a side business, which could do the same types of services at a much lower price. Sadly, most of these companies are so mainstream that we forget to think to look elsewhere, especially when we are in times of need and can’t afford to wait around and look for other places. This is just the way things are, and while we may not like it, we’re pretty much forced to pay it when the need arises. None the less, it’s interesting to think about how much we really are paying over what the actual cost for what they’re doing will provide for us.

Have you been charged an immense amount for a service you’ve needed done? Leave a comment with your story below!

One Comment

  1. Ellie

    It only takes a minute or two to pull your car out of the snow. But how does the tow truck vehicle get paid for? Those are quite expensive. What about the time it takes to get to/from your vehicle, and the hazard of driving in the same poor conditions that led to your accident? And I'm sure they have quite high insurance costs, performing the work they do.

    Plugging in a diagnostic computer is easy and hardly takes any work. But those computers are expensive, and are an investment that the mechanic has made. The computer will never "fix" a problem, only diagnose them. So, a mechanic has to charge a fair amount of money for this diagnostic.

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