Friday, May 17, 2024

Buyer beware (yet again)


To my absolute lack of surprise, I learned that cruise lines have been carefully failing to inform their customers of additional fees, charges, imposts, etc. on top of their advertised prices.  For once, California is doing the right thing by forcing them to disclose these charges.

Starting July 1, operators including Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises will include the cost of port expenses, taxes and other fees in the price that potential passengers see. The additional charges can tack on more than $100 to the fare, or even double the cheapest base price on some short itineraries.

The changes kick in when California’s “Honest Pricing Law” goes into effect, restricting companies that do business in the state from advertising a price that is lower than what a consumer will ultimately have to pay.

. . .

For now, cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean promote bargain sailings, such as a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise “starting at” an average of $437 per person. But that number does not reflect the nearly $164 more that’s required for taxes, fees and port expenses and displayed in smaller print. A four-day Mexico cruise from Long Beach, Calif., shows the cheapest cabin for $234 - but the additional charges are an additional $240.

“The current ‘drip pricing’ technique where you show a low price and then tack on a lot of the extra fees later is a great attention disrupter but very misleading,” Doug Parker, founder of the podcast and news site Cruise Radio, said in an email.

Gratuities are also extra for most mainstream cruise lines, but tips will not need to be advertised up front. Cruise lines also offer optional drink or dining packages, shore excursions, and other add-ons that would increase the cost of a trip.

Parker said the cost of a seemingly inexpensive cruise can balloon with taxes, depending on the itinerary. He said the new policy will give families “a better idea on what the vacation will actually cost.”

There's more at the link.

I've been infuriated more times than I can tell to find unexplained, unauthorized charges tacked on to a bill or invoice.  Hospitals are particularly egregious offenders.  "Your procedure will cost you $4,999.99 out of pocket - your insurance pays for the rest!"  Yeah . . . and then comes the anesthetist bill, the rehab bill, the clean sheets every day bill, and all the rest of it.  Together they can add thousands of dollars to our costs, unforeseen and unbudgeted.

I'm glad this particular cesspool of financial chicanery will be drained;  but I'm willing to bet the cruise lines will find new and innovative ways to screw yet more consumer dollars out of us.  In their eyes, we're sheep to be sheared, and they're very good at shearing.



Rick T said...

You just hit a hot button for a lot of people, Peter.

The current healthcare cartels seem to be the only business segment exempt from honest pricing or posted pricing laws, and having 'subcontractors' like anesthesia being allowed to bill independently just compounds the problem, the patient CAN'T select the gas-passer to engage one who takes their medical insurance.

I'm about to get a hernia repaired, I'm not looking forward to the tsunami of bills for a same-day surgery.

Anonymous said...

And then of course people will start complaining about the optional costs, e.g. drinks, better dining, port tours, etc.

I'm not disagreeing that all of the non-discretionary charges should be listed up front and included - they should, especially when the final price can just about double. But it's not like people won't still complain.

glasslass said...

When we moved states within a year hubby's health began to decline. He was on cobra at the time and monthly was over $1,000. per month which ran out about 3 months before the decline. I quickly learned that when he checked in it was $1,200 within 12 hours. But I brought every med he was on plus the insulin and aspirins. By end of day he had his diet coke in their fridge. Saved a ton of money doing that.

Michael said...

Hospital billing, I can understand anger.

Who FORCES you to do the payment on a VACATION Cruise? Who says you're going to get dunned and pursued under the law like the Hospitals in the Cruise Industry?

OH, and JUST FOR FUN, lets add up the costs for a 437+164 X 2 = 1202 dollars for unlimited eating, most drinking, a nice CLEAN room (abet small) for a 7 DAY VACATION ANYWHERE. Tell me just how much "Fun" can you get for an adult couple @ $171.71 per day. I'll wait.

Peter what were you thinking? Just BS "We DID Something" Legislation from the FAILED STATE of California that is in what

SNIP: California’s total state and local government debt now stands at almost $1.6 trillion, or about half the state’s GDP.

That isn’t an alarming ratio when compared to the national debt, which has now soared to 128 percent of U.S. GDP with no end in sight. But Californians carry this $1.6 trillion state and local debt ($40,000 per capita) in addition to their share of the national debt (about $90,000 per capita).

Peteforester said...

I remember my grandmother and my mom going over a hospital bill a bunch of years back. The hospital won't give you an itemized bill but is REQUIRED to give you one if you ask fir it. There were $10.00 gauze pads and $15.00 Band-Aids. I'm not talking bandages here. I'm talking actual 2"x2" gauze pads and Band-Aids! The kind that even CONSUMER buying power can get for a few cents each. The list went on and on. Long story short, they highlighted every gross overcharge and took it back to the hospital. I remember my mom saying the bill was lowered by WELL OVER $3K!

Airlines are another one. I booked an "$89.00 round trip" flight from California to Houston. Turns out, that's just for the TICKET. That will get YOU on the plane. It won't get your ONE CHECKED BAG, UNDER 40lbs, on the plane. That's $40.00 extra. It won't get your ONE CARRY-ON BAG on the plane. That's $60.00 extra. It won't get your ONE PERSONAL ITEM on the plane. That's another $20.00. A "personal item" is a woman's purse. A "personal item" is a TABLET. End of story, my "$89.00 round trip" was $280.00 by the time I hit "ACCEPT!"

Dan said... do "resort fees" that can easily double the per day cost of a hotel room. Even cheesy little podunk roach motels that don't have any amenities are charging bullshit "resort fees".

bobby said...

Many - maybe most - of the tacked-on fees we get hit with are either taxes, or some other kind of government charge. (Port fees.)

I'd like to save money too, but not at the cost of letting government get away with hiding their taxes in a company's charged price. Those taxes should certainly be shown up-front, but we cannot let them be entirely hidden.

Javahead said...

I'd like to see a full listing up-front:

Base fee
Port fees
XXY fees

And allow only the TOTAL value to be advertised.

The same for Hospitals. Of course, what I'd really like to see for Hospitals is single pricing. No preferential pricing - the lowest price for X you accept from any payer is the only price you can charge. Period.

When a service can cost 5 or 10 times what you'd pay yourself if through an insurance company or Medicare, something is wrong. If a hospital accepts Medicare, the Medicare limit should be the going price. If they don't, let them set the price to whatever they like, as long as it's listed up-front and it's the same for everyone.

But I'm wandering a little far afield. Going back to the topic at hand: CA just passed a law eliminating all the non-optional extra charges on restaurant menus - one of the very few recent CA laws I heartily approve of. This sounds like very much the same thing.

Old NFO said...

Agree with all the other posters, and yet one MORE reason I don't 'do' cruises!

Anonymous said...

medical billing is a artform. it started getting bad in the 1990's after the Hillary care shit show. that is when and where the insurance companies found out they can make a lot more money by NOT paying the bills. it also the time where you saw mom and pop medical offices go bust or close the time we go Bozo care, the insurance companies where fucking everyone over as they now had protection from congress critters. I know of at least 3 shops that closed die to unpaid bills by big blue and others.
and having lost my 401k to hospitals due big blue not paying shit. well, it the wheels come off and the rule of law dies
I plan on going hunting for the bastards of insurance companies. paid thousands into them and when I needed it.
fuck off, we don't cover it .
how else does a non profit make 5 or more billion per year? or the fact the CEO makes 5 million or more per year ? simple, really. they fuck everyone over.
any hospital today has a army of billers. they have to in order to get anything from the insurance companies.

Will said...

Speaking of medical expenses, ever wonder why you don't find any single MD's in an office? This is due to the need for a group of paper shufflers to handle all the insurance billing. (if you find a single doc, that is due to them only accepting cash) It takes too many support people to be successful, so they have to band together to afford the office expenses.

The .gov did it's best to destroy the clinic model during the covidiocy, trying to force doctors to join hospitals, where they could be more closely controlled.

My sister and husband had two medical clinics, with around a dozen docs, and about 45 other employees, most of them office workers with a few nurses. Single doctor offices pretty much disappeared in the late 80's.

Paul, Dammit! said...

I did ONE trip as a mate on a small cruise ship. Never again. I prefer my cargo to either moo, be heavy, or give me cancer or blow the heck up if you light it on fire, thank you.
That being said, the fees are a pure scumbag move and we all know why they are doing.
About the only fee I would like to see added on a cruise ship is a toilet unclogging fee. I spent 4-6 hours a day focused on maintenance related to morbidly obese people flushing inappropriate things down a toilet that were never designed to go down a toilet... and there were only 200 toilets on board. When your adult diaper is waist size 'equatorial and could be converted into a sail for a tall ship, trying to stuff it down a toilet is just mean and stupid. I always wanted the engineers to bag and put the room number on retrieved adult diapers and sneak them into the passenger's suitcases.

Aesop said...

They're also banning tack-on dining "fees" by restaurants, for the same reason.

Straight-up pricing, no hidden surprise items.

Most of what the legislature here gets up to hereabouts is pure insanity. Like about 99% of it.

This is not that.

Javahead said...

My stepmom handled billing for a pair of orthopods. In their specialty, they could (just) get by, though they're semi-retired these days. They were two very respected doctors in a high-demand specialty where at many of their patients paid cash rather than used insurance. And they explicitly didn't accept Medicare or insurance plans that attempted to low-ball their bills. It worked, for them.

But the local medical group my wife and I used to go to was all GPs and internists, just half a dozen doctors banded together. They finally ended up being acquired by a much larger medical group for just the reason given: too much insurance billing and overhead. The older doctors retired soon after. The rest - well, as employees they had less to worry about, but a lot less autonomy.

Then there's the fun of having your doctor refer you to a specialist that's out of your network ...

Chris said...

I've been on multiple cruises, starting in 1984 (before email or text messages). Never had any problem with unexpected charges, whether on Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Disney, or Carnival. One does need to read the documentation, though. (Fat, drunk, and stupid applies in this.) I have been hit with surprise cellular bills from AT&T, when we didn't ask the right questions. Don't expect them to volunteer information up front. We went on a Carnival cruise in December (on the Mardi Gras) on which we never ate in the main dining room, because the additional charge venues were worth the extra. And knew in advance what that would be. As I get older and less mobile, cruises are increasingly attractive. And cheaper than a week in Ocean City, MD. By a lot.

Divemedic said...

The funniest part is that all of you are complaining that government needs to fix the problem of hidden charges on cruises, restaurants, and medical expenses, and it is government that caused the problem in the first place.

Why do band-aids cost $10 at the hospital? Thank EMTALA, which requires that hospitals treat people even when they can't pay. Thank ambulance chasers that sue for millions for every little thing.

Aesop said...

EMTALA is self-explanatory, and I've broken it down on many occasions for people.

So which government mandate forced cruise lines, airlines, and restaurants to try and claw and gouge more money out of people, instead of just raising prices, and dealing honestly and straightforwardly with the true cost of doing business...??

Then we can talk about why banks pull the same crap, charging more fees for less service.

Then we can get to retailers getting rid of cashiers, thus putting shoppers on the payroll as checkers, except without the paycheck.

Tis isn't unfunded government mandates coming back to bite the customer in the hindquarters. This is simply as much naked retail greed as the traffic will bear.

The laws in question simply make such masked pocket-picking and purse-cutting of customers illegal. Now they have to rob you open-faced, in broad daylight, while you're looking.

Linda Fox said...

CA takes a lot of criticism (much of it rightly, I think), but this is a good thing.