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Friday, October 15, 2010

Don't Penalize Payment!

Penalize Payment
On the first day of my very first pricing class in college, the professor opened with the following one-line statement: "Never make it hard for customers to give you money!"  The point was simple.  Get as sophisticated as you like setting up pricing structures, but for god's sake, don't make it hard to actually pay.  So why do so many businesses not just make it hard to pay them, but actually charge a penalty if you don’t pay them in the manner they prefer?!

I recently found an unpaid bill under the stacks of paperwork on my desk.  It was due in just a few days, so rather than chance it, I decided to call the automated payment line and pay via their check-by-phone service.  To my surprise, they wanted to charge an additional $12!  I have to pay more to pay on time?!

I'd understand if I was speaking with a human, but this was a totally automated system—not a human for miles.  The service only costs the business a few cents, so where does the extra $12 go?

Business owners, it's a bad idea to make it difficult for customers to pay you.  It's even worst to penalize them for paying you via an instant payment method.  That said, how do they get away with this?  The answer is exactly what that same professor said at the end of the last day of class: "...in the end, something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it.”  As long as customers are willing to pay $12 to pay their bill, those businesses will keep up their Gotcha Marketing strategy.

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