Update (2/21/10): I heard back from Steph, who said that (in part) the reason behind it is to get more people to switch to automatic bill pay. I’ve had so many billing SNAFUs with Qwest’s billing that I refuse to allow them to automatically take money out of my account, and many of the other people who are outraged about this are saying they refuse to sign up for automatic billing as well. Another issue I have (along with others) is that there was absolutely no notice of the change. If you, like I do, wait until a few days before to pay the bill online, all of a sudden you’re hit with a bill pay fee (and I’ve read other accounts of people who paid via their phone, which is possible, only to be hit with a $4.00 fee instead of just the $1.00 fee for the online bill pay) and you have no choice: Pay it or be hit with late fees. (By the way, the reason I deal with Steph from Twitter is that their phone reps are rude and unhelpful and the executive customer service person I dealt with was extremely unhelpful as well. Steph has always been polite and very helpful, so I do give the Twitter reps a lot of credit: It’s not their fault that Qwest is going to this silly system, but the more people who speak out against it, the more Qwest knows that it’s a ridiculous fee to levy.) I have checked my past bills and all emails I’ve received from Qwest, and there was NO notice of this fee addition. The small print on the bills still tells you that you can pay online or via your phone’s bill pay function and does not mention the additional fees associated with this. If you, as many, have been paying a particular way for years, this is completely out of the blue. I wouldn’t be so upset about it if I had at least had some notice of hte change. (I was also told the change was rolled out different months for different states, which is why some started in December, some in January, and apparently mine in February. The fact that this has been known for so many months and still no notice to people that it would be starting and, more importantly, when it would be starting for each state is just bad business. /update
Okay, you’re all probably sick of hearing my “Tales of Qwest” already, but bear with me on this one.
I logged into my Qwest account this weekend (which, in and of itself, is always a gem to do. I always try to log in with Firefox and have tons of issues with none of the buttons working properly. I then decide to start up Chrome and finally actually get logged in. I then have to navigate to the correct payment section to pay my bill and pray that the buttons work — sometimes they do in Chrome, and sometimes I just have to keep trying or come back later) and discovered that they are now charging a “convenience fee” for people who pay online.
I always have wondered why businesses go to this model of payment, when it makes absolutely no sense. I emailed Steph at Qwest’s twitter customer service (whom I’ve written about before) to find out why they did this all of a sudden (with no notice to customers, I might add, so I was afraid I’d either have to pay the ridiculous fee or be charged a late fee, neither of which sounded like a good idea). Instead of answering the question, she gave me ways to pay the account balance without going online.
Which makes me wonder: Why have an online payment service if you’re going to make it more difficult to use than another way? I’m assuming they have paid to have this set up correctly to take the differing ways of payment, so why waste their own money?
But back to the other issue, as you can tell, paying online isn’t really “more convenient” for me, the consumer, because I’ve always had so many issues with Qwest’s website anyway (and I’m not the only one, as I’ve found through keeping an eye on their Twitter page). In fact, it’s much more convenient to write the check and mail it out in the envelope provided than to go through all the rigmarole of figuring out which browser today will actually open the freaking site (sometimes one, sometimes the other, and sometimes neither!) The only reason I’ve ever used the online payment was then I could be assured Qwest didn’t get my payment any sooner than they needed to. (Hey, after all I’ve been through, they don’t need it any sooner than the due date. I deserve to make more interest on my money than they do.)
On their end, however, it’s much more convenient. Having worked at places where bills were paid in two different ways, I can tell you that online payments are MUCH more convenient for the company you’re dealing with. If you send in a check, someone has to open the envelope (especially if you don’t use the postage-paid envelope and have one of another size) and then pull out the check and the payment slip. You can’t do too many at one time, for many people don’t write account numbers on their checks (I don’t, so I have nothing against those people), and you might mix up payments. (Not everyone pays the full amount every time.) You then have to figure out their account info and put the payment in. I know they do electronic checks now, so they at least don’t have to hand-stamp the backs anymore. Then you have to destroy the checks (unless you work somewhere they keep the physical payment information after the e-check has gone through).
Pulling electronic payments are much easier, more fool-proof, and seamless with the database. I can’t imagine that a company as big as Qwest wouldn’t have it so their payment information pulls from the payment center database and automatically applies it to each account in the database immediately and with very little (if any) human interception.
So the convenience fee is for, well, what exactly? The convenience of Qwest and other companies to higher fewer accounts receivable people to handle the payments? The convenience of Qwest to pull the information from one database into another without dealing with envelopes and paper cuts and e-checks that have to be run through? My convenience of trying to figure out even how to log in to my account from one day to the next, since things keep doing odd stuff on Qwest’s site (on all of my comps, too, not just this one)?
Good thing I can always do my own e-checks, I guess. I’m not sure how this saves Qwest any money, but they sure know how to tick off a long-term customer even more!
I emailed Steph back to find out exactly why this was instituted. She insists it was in place as of December 14th, but I have two payment emails that show I paid later in December and again in January and neither had a convenience fee attached to it.
“Convenience fees” are ridiculous and just another way to stick it to the people who pay your salary, companies (including airlines, utility companies, and anyone else who adds this ludicrous fee to any type of payment). You should be happy that I’m your customer and willing to pay you anything! This is where my choice as a consumer will probably come in very handy soon.