Rick Nolle: Does NID really think I’m that dumb?
Whenever a business offers me a benefit, I tend to take my 40+ years of business experience and do some analysis.
My wife would say I’m a bit of a pinhead in that respect. So, on March 25 when NID offered the opportunity to go “green” by using their customer portal to pay my bill, I immediately went to work analyzing the offer. That analysis resulted in the headline to this piece.
Now I’m not an enthusiastic supporter of NID nor am I a hater. I just don’t like being treated like I’m dumb. NID’s offer was to eliminate paper statements and, optionally, pay electronically. This approach would save me time and money, they implied. I wouldn’t have to write a check, stuff it in an envelope, put postage on it, and mail it back for payment. A real savings of 50 to 75 cents. Hooray!
Wait a minute, let’s look at who’s really saving money here. NID gets to eliminate the expense of printing statements, stuffing envelopes, paying postage, waiting for payment, opening envelopes, preparing bank deposits, and dealing with bad checks. The real cost savings is not postage, but a huge chunk of staff time. Ya can’t fault anyone for trying to save a buck anywhere they can. Yes, it is a bit of a marketing snow job telling me that I’m saving check-writing time and postage by paying online.
Wait another minute here. Let’s go back to the headline. Why did I say that after my “savings analysis?” Well, let’s look at that “savings analysis” and I think you’ll see why:
NID’s offer was to go green with paperless statements and simply create a login account. Once online I could pick my favorite of three payment options. I could pay by credit card, the ever-popular debit card, or electronic check. Heck, I could even set up “auto pay” and my balance would get paid automatically every month. Wow, with auto pay, I mean, I could enjoy savings every month.
I immediately started to set up auto pay using a credit card (I like the miles and using the bank’s money interest free when I pay my balance in full every month). I checked the circle for credit card … and that’s when I first uttered the headline. For the privilege of saving time and money, I was going to be charged a flat fee of $3.75.
Yes, I know they get charged a processing fee. From personal experience the fee runs around 1.5% to 2.0% of the invoice amount. Given my NID bill was for $41.10, the flat fee of $3.75 works out to 9.12%. Exorbitant, but hey I’m the one wanting to use a credit card.
Sooo, I decided to change payment type. That’s when I loudly muttered the headline!
If I switched to a debit card, the same $3.75 fee was attached to my payment. Yes, I know there is a processing fee for using a debit card. Every time I buy gas at my favorite gas station I push the “accept” button for the 35-cent processing fee. Please excuse my “Captain Obvious” moment here, but that 35-cent fee is a whole lot less than the $3.75 fee being charged by NID!
I paused for a moment, gathered myself, and said, “Alrighty then, I’ll just pay with an electronic check.” That’s when I shouted the headline question! For the opportunity, nay privilege, of saving 30 seconds check-writing time and 50 cents postage, I get to pay NID a $3.75 fee! Yes, they are charging the exact same $3.75 fee for an electronic check! For those of you following along at home, that is still a 9.12% charge on my $41.10 bill. That’s a 9.12% charge to save NID — I mean me — time and money. Who’s spoofing who here?
Here’s the part that really bothers me. I don’t mind a little misdirection that you’re helping me be a good citizen by going green and saving time and money at the same time. However, I really don’t like it when the savings are majorly yours, while I’m getting a rate increase disguised as a benefit.
If enough customers set up auto pay and don’t notice the excessive fee, the result would be a nice little monthly rate increase without any public disclosure.
All of this just makes me ask, “Does NID really think I’m that dumb?”
Rick Nolle, a Nevada County resident, is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the board or its members. He can be reached at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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