5 Tips for Getting a Service Fee Waived
Service fees grind my gears, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only one. When I
find myself confronted with tacked-on fees for seemingly nothing, I try one or more of the
following approaches to strike them from my bill for good.
1. Don’t Be a Jerk
As a customer, you may always be right — at least according to the old adage — but you’re not a king or a queen. Nine times out of 10, the person that you’re speaking with is just trying to do his or her job. In some cases, that sales associate or clerk may not even have the authority to waive service or handling fees. Get upset with them and you'd best just a well-off raising your voice at a magazine rack.
Now more than ever, kindness counts. Being polite will vastly increase your odds of getting what you want. Ultimately, you’re asking for a favor, and who wants to do a favor for someone who berates or belittles them? Nobody.
2. Ask To Speak to a Manager or Supervisor
It doesn’t matter if you’re at the bank or on the phone with your recycling service: Very few
customer service reps or sales associates like to bring a problem to their boss’s attention. In
some cases, it means additional (and tedious) protocols or paperwork. In most cases, it’s just a hassle. By asking to speak with someone higher up the food chain, you may motivate the person with whom you’re currently speaking to work harder to see what can be done to make things right.
3. Remind the Company of Your Value
Companies are nothing without their customers. Sometimes, politely reminding a customer
service rep of this fact is all it takes to get a fee waived. I find this approach particularly effective with organizations where I’ve been a member or loyal patron for years, if not decades. For the vast majority of industries, it’s more difficult — and costly — to land a new customer than it is to retain an existing one.
4. Threaten To Close Your Account
While this approach isn’t suited to every business, it can be very effective in certain industries. For me, threatening to close my cable account and switch to a competitor has saved me hundreds of dollars over the years.
Again, it’s important to remain courteous. As a matter of course, I always begin by expressing
how much I enjoy and value a service before threatening to jump ship. Then I explain that I’m
going to have to seriously think about terminating my account because of the exorbitant fees.
Sometimes, this gets me nowhere. Other times, it gets the fee waived. Sometimes, such as in the case of my cable provider, it means the fees stay, but I get switched to the monthly rate enjoyed by new customers for the next 12 months, even thought I've been a customer for years.
5. Read the Fine Print
You might be surprised by the number of companies that have certain criteria you can meet to make fees vanish. At most banks, for example, there are a variety of ways to avoid monthly fees, such as signing up for direct deposit, having a savings account at the same institution or simply keeping enough cash in your account to meet a minimum monthly balance. If you’re like my sons and regularly rely on delivery services for food, groceries and other items, many of those services will reduce or waive fees entirely if you sign up for a membership. Essentially you're trading your consistent use of its services for a company's tacked-on service fees.
Ill-defined service fees don’t have to be part of your monthly statements and purchases. Take the time to investigate the situation and explain your case, and you may be able to waive that
mystery fee from your next bill.