And you thought 2011 was going to go out on a quiet note.
With one working day left in the year, Verizon Wireless announced that it would impose a $2 “convenience” fee on customers who make a one-time payment using a debit or credit card, online or by telephone. The company claimed that the fee was:
“… designed to address costs incurred by us for only those customers who choose to make single bill payments.”
Given the events of 2011, it’s hardly surprising that consumer advocate groups and the press jumped all over this, creating a ton of bad press for Verizon Wireless. The company’s attempt to justify the fee because of “costs incurred” is indefensible.
The bad PR could have been avoided had Verizon Wireless been a graduate of the Snarketing School of Public Relations.
If Verizon Wireless were a certified snarketer, its press release would have looked like the following:
Verizon Wireless Announces A $2 "One-Percenter" Fee Starting January 15, 2012, Verizon will impose a $2 fee on customers who make one-time payments using credit (and debit) cards online and over the phone. An analysis of customer records indicates that customers who use their credit card to make one-time payments are predominantly wealthy millionaires working in the financial services industry. For the vast majority of Verizon Wireless customers who pay their bills by check, cash, online through their bank site or through recurring payments on the Verizon Wireless web site, no additional fee will be charged.
PR problem solved.
Ironically, I'm only half joking. In a 2008 Aite Group report that I wrote, I found that:
"Consumers that earn more than US$100k are more than twice as likely as those who earn less than US$50k to pay monthly bills with a debit or credit card."
Not-so-ironically, however, is that the purpose of the report was to demonstrate to marketers (specifically those who bill customers monthly or frequently) that card-based payers were an attractive segment of customers because of their demographics and attitudes (e.g., they're more likely than other customers to want to receive marketing communications from the firms they do business with).
Of course, there's no better way to shoot yourself in the foot than to impose a fee on the customers who may be your best customers.