Thursday, June 01, 2006

What Makes OverCharging Possible?

I am sometimes staggered by the things other people are apparently willing to pay good money for, and the charges that they are prepared to accept.

For example, Martin Geddes finds an advertisement on Richmond station soliciting charitable donations for building a home for children with cancer - buying virtual bricks. Send a text message on your phone to donate. Pay £1.50 plus network charges, and the munificent sum of 94p will go to the charity.

If a transaction fee of nearly 40% doesn't count as usury [>Wikipedia], I don't know what does. As Ezra Pound wrote:
"With usura hath no man a house of good stone
each block cut smooth and well fitting
that design might cover their face."
This transaction fee makes the percentages charged by banks and credit cards, coin counting machines and bureaux de change seem very modest in comparison.

So what makes such a high transaction fee possible (sustainable)? There are several possible explanations - which may combine in different proportions for different people (situations). Who is really paying the fee - the donor or the charity?
  1. The donors don't pay attention to the transaction fee. (This is small print for most people - it's only people like Martin and me who think it's interesting.)
  2. The donors don't really care how much money the charity actually receives - because their satisfaction as donors comes from the act of giving.
  3. The donors don't really care how much the donation costs them - because they don't micro-manage the cost of their phones. (Mental model 1: the phone is a necessity, so you can't control the cost at all. Mental model 2: the phone is a luxury, so you budget £x per week and stop when the money runs out. Mental model 3: someone else is paying.)
  4. The charity has to accept the terms offered by the phone company. This is because the phone company has exclusive access to donors who might not donate in the traditional way.
How many of these factors might be found elsewhere in the service economy?

Technorati Tags:

No comments: