The Grumpy Old Man

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Grumpy finds that many websites selling stuff very frustrating


Mrs Grumpy and I have just come back from a short trip overseas and, would you believe, one of the most annoying and frustrating parts of that trip was the on-line purchase of air tickets. We were fairly flexible in our travel arrangements particularly as to the day of travel. I found that the website would only show the cost on a particular day, rather than a full weeks worth of costs from which I could chose the best option. Eventually, I did manage to cobble together the information I needed and work through the convoluted process. The rest of booking system was relatively easy to work through. However right at the end (why is it that there is always a sting in the tail?). I was asked if I would like to choose seats. Gordon Bennett, why has choosing seats become an optional extra, after all, we could hardly be expected to stand? Lets face it, I was booking a flight, not a trip on the London undergroud. As the flight was only an hour, it didn't really matter where we sat, so long as we had somewhere to park our bums. I thought, why not let the computer allocate a couple of seats and save the cost of a 30.00 (each way) fee. So I went ahead and purchased the flights without picking seats.

But the best laid plans of mice and men soon go awry as the airline computer had other ideas. To save time at the airport, I decided to check in the evening before we flew. Gordon Bennett, I was steaming when a message came up saying I couldn't check in as I hadn't chosen seats yet. It was apparent that the computer could not allocate seats. Where we sat was not opttional. I was left with no option but to pick seats and pay for the privilege. Now that is a huge con as it was not possible to fly without booking seats and paying this fee.

And what about the ubiquitous 'admin fee'? Why is it not apparent until you get to the final stage of the payment process? The first one finds out about it is at the last possible moment when payment card details are requested!

I suppose by complaining about this 'admin fee', I will really show my age, because I clearly remember when plastic payment cards first came out, (this must have been in the nineteen sixties or seventies). One of the big selling points was that you would use them instead of cash or a cheque, and it would not cost you a penny extra to do so . Any charges made by the card company would be absorbed by the vendor, not passed on to the customer. What is more, the card companies made a big thing of this, it being a huge selling point, particularly in that the customer no longer needed to carry cash!

I see that Ferry company's websites also make similar charges. I am sure there are many other websites also making this charge.

A recent edict from the dear European Union Commission ruled, in the example of airline websites, you must be able to travel for the advertised rate. In the case of this website, and probably many others, this is not the case, as the advertised rate does not include the "admin charge". It also failed to include taxes and charges. The bottom line is, who in the world is interested in what the cost is without these 'additional' charges? Let's face it, there is actually no way you can fly without paying them. Gordon Bennett; what a flipping con. It is plain and simple sharp practise. Is it any wonder I have high blood pressure!

The only way I manage to get my own back, and I accept it is a small victory, is when I fly on these short flights, I ensure that I purchase as little as possible from the in-flight trolley. Many of these "budget" airlines make the largest proportion of their profit from in-flight sales. Apart from that, I do object to paying a fiver for a dogeared sarni that you can't get out of the packet (more about that later) or three or four Euro for a bottle of warm water.

I must confess I've yet to find a way of combating this flipping 'admin charge'. It really is naughty and I believe is actually against EU competition law.

If you know of ways to combat it, do let me know!

With regard to this seat charge, I have just found out that it can be avoided by checking in at the airport. It seems that we are now being charged, albeit surreptitiously for doing the airline's work, i.e. booking passengers in for a flight. What incenses me is that it's done surreptitiously. It really does amount to a 'concealed charge', although you can get round it, the route is not half as clear as the one that makes the airline a bob or two. To me that is out and out sharp practise