Say What You Mean, Round 2
Last week, I posted an item about my Canada trip, mostly discussing the things I read on the trip. I want to revisit that item for a couple of reasons:
1. As I noted on a comment I posted late in the chat, I stand corrected about my criticism of the tree nut allergy warning on peanuts. I appreciate all your notes and comments and realize that those allergic to walnuts, pecans and other tree nuts, could wrongly assume that a bag of peanuts may be safe because they are not grown on trees.
2. Many of you also commented on my criticism of the notes left in hotel rooms, asking guests to be kind to the environment by reusing our towels. As you may recall, I agreed with that principle but objected--and still do--to the supposedly altruistic way the hotels are portraying what really is an attempt to control their costs. I guarantee you if there was a cheaper, but non-environmentally-friendly way to keep hotel rooms clean, the hotels would adopt that.
My blog item prompted Washington Post reporter Christopher Lee, to send me an e-mail about the posted prices of items that I suspect will sparka whole new round of conversation and ideas. Here it is:
"I read your post about hotels and other organizations meaning what they say. For some reason, it made me think about something I noticed on a recent trip to Germany for the World Cup: The posted prices for goods are the prices you pay. In other words, the tax is included in the price. It has always annoyed me that this isn't done in the United States. Why let stores get away with advertising a toaster oven for $29.99, when sales taxes mean you will pay five to 10 percent more than that? It's not like paying the tax is optional. One benefit to sellers, obviously, is that not including the tax in the quoted price makes their merchandise appear cheaper than it really is. That probably means that people buy more of it than they would at the higher, tax-included price.
In Germany, people rarely use credit cards for everyday purchases (groceries, meals, small items), instead paying for most things in cash. So the German consumer would care a lot about knowing whether what's in his wallet will cover the cost of what's on the checkout counter. (True, U.S. consumers need only to mentally compute the tax and add that to the price, but, really, who does that?) In the U.S., in contrast, we use credit cards for every little thing, even cups of coffee at Starbucks. If we want something, we buy it, no matter how much cash we have in our pockets. So what if the eventual total is higher than the price on the price tag -- the credit card will cover it. That approach maximized convenience, but not fiscal responsibility. And then there's the simple matter of honesty. It's just more honest to quote the actual price that people will have to pay.
Perhaps you and your readers could start asking stores to quote prices that include taxes, as a matter of full disclosure if nothing else."
I wholeheartedly agree with Christopher. In fact, the added taxes are particularly annoying when shopping for telephone service--it's impossible to figure out if you're about to sign up for a better deal without knowing what all the added taxes and fees are. The same goes for airline tickets, where you seem to have found a good fare, only to realize it's quite a bit more. For instance, I recently found a great fare to Madison, Wisconsin: $178.60 roundtrip from BWI. But then I discovered that there was another $54.60 in taxes, nearly one-third of the base fare. That's still a pretty decent deal, but why wasn't the total $233.20 price the one quoted to me in the first place? As Chris noted, that's the amount that's really coming out of my pocket.
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