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The real cost of convenience


The real cost of convenience

Jane Stephens is starting to think the imaginary worker or ghost in the machine is what we’re all paying for in ticket and retail transactions.

Little squares that harvest gold, they are: voraciously hungry devices – all beeps and numbers, lights and codes. Touch and pay. Wave and go. Spending money has never been so easy. And we do. But it turns out that plastic on plastic is not so fantastic.

Those payment squares and eftpos machines are really pricey, it turns out, causing vendors hip-pocket pain far beyond the average consumer’s imagination. Now that business costs have risen so much that tipping point has been reached, the customer is footing the bill – and that pain is being shared.

‘We prefer cash’ signs have proliferated on the Sunshine Coast. And ever more shops are charging the 1.7 or 2.1 per cent the device supplier charges them. Some bump it up to 3 or 4 per cent to cover their bank charge, too.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that over the 12 months to June, all cost of living indexes rose by between 6.3 and 9.6 per cent. Insurance and financial services, food, non-alcoholic beverages and housing had the biggest rises.

It is tough at the moment, certainly, and in these times of escalated cost of living, we notice the extra. We have learnt that a dollar here or there adds up.

Fees and charges used to be my bugbear. With greater understanding about the costs of electronic transactions for businesses, I have recently had to let the irritation go – or else I would be in a permanent state of feeling cranky.

But the charge that continues to get my goat is for tickets. Book a seat at the movies and there is this sneaky ‘booking fee’ that latches on just as you are sealing the deal – and it is charged per ticket. Seriously? What is that for exactly? For live events, there is still a ‘print-at-home’ fee and you are forced to pay even if the tickets are delivered to you via SMS. It is outrageous.

I understand people need to be paid for their service. If the tickets need to be printed and a human must be employed to put them in an envelope and walk to the post office and send them off, I understand that costs money. But too often there is no actual service, much less any need for actual action.

Last I checked, software, computers and automated payments did not yet draw a wage. But who says machines don’t run the world?


Jane Stephens is a USC journalism lecturer, media commentator and writer.

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