Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Little Things


Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant Hapus! - Happy Saint David's Day! One of the ways in which St David inspires were his cooperative principles in their earliest form - no personal possessions. Attributed to his last sermon is the phrase "Gwnewch y pethau bychain" or "Do the little things", so simple it is mind blowing in its magnitude.

In Zero-credit terms, I guess you could say look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves, but from my recent experiences, I should say that many of us may be overlooking this advice. Some companies, evidently, do not. Indeed, there has been a lot of discussion about handling fees recently - 70p per ticket for booking cinema seats online, for instance - in so many cases a 10% surcharge for accessing our money with ease. Pah!

Even sneakier, is the Direct Debit instruction, which for variable billing seems a licence to print money... If you read The great LLU swindle, you will know of the appalling difficulty I had in receiving any semblance of service from TalkTalk. Facing a penultimate bill which went so far as to itemise a call to my bank at 10pm on Christmas Day when I had no connection, I stopped the Direct Debit. TalkTalk's parting gift was a £4.50 Direct Debit cancellation charge.

These "little things" may go unnoticed in our desire to get on with day to day life. 70p is a small price to pay for the convenience of advance booking, £4.50 a molehill compared to the mountain of problems endured. For goodness' sake, take the money and let me move on... 

You may feel like a cheapskate querying every small sum, but take a step back to look at the bigger picture for a moment. How many of your friends or family are too embarrassed to challenge a couple of quid - all, most, some? Now consider that in spending psychology consumers are known to have the worst levels of recall for smaller amounts of money. So, precisely how many thousands of 70 pences and £4.50s do you think mount up to make a profit, simply because we failed to notice or moved on?

Forgive me for stating the obvious here, but aren't we the customers, aren't we the people businesses should aim to please? It seems we are too ready to accept the consumer's lot as a poor one, swallowing the line that charges made or increases passed on are inevitable. I mean, how come when a barrel of oil is cheaper than it was at its peak a couple of years ago, within days I am paying yet more than I did back then and seemingly in person for the Arab uprisings?

We need to stop this. There are far more consumers than there are managers, directors and executives and the inevitable welfare costs of leaning on consumers are a tad more significant than returns on investment too. In 2011, we have an unique opportunity as majority shareholders in our banks - individually, we may be "little things", but collectively, we are massive. Now there's a thought for St David's Day!


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