Want Customer Loyalty? Don’t ‘Nickel-and-Dime’ Them


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One of the most infuriating things for customers is when they are hit with hidden or unexpected fees. Prime examples include being slapped with a double ATM fee for a cash withdrawal (the fee charged when you use an out-of-network ATM and then the penalty that your own bank imposes). Or when a hotel charges separate WiFi fees for each device that’s used. One of my favorites is the convenience fee that’s levied when ordering concert or other types of entertainment tickets online. On the flip side, consider the goodwill and loyalty that’s generated when a company provides assistance to a customer at no charge.

This happened to me last week. I’d been having trouble charging my smartphone in recent weeks and suspected that the phone may need a new battery. When I visited a local store for our wireless provider, a sales associate there asked me about the nature of the problem I was experiencing. Although the sales associate could have simply installed a new battery for $80, he instead checked the charge port on my phone and noticed that some gunk had built up on the port that was preventing the phone from charging properly. (I don’t know what the source of the gunk was, but a safe guess is that chocolate may have been involved).

After cleaning the port with a device that looked like a safety pin, the sales associate plugged the phone in and it immediately began to charge. There was no fee for his service, which took about 3 minutes, and the sales associate sent me on my merry way.

We’ve all had encounters like this. Like a trusted automotive mechanic that makes a free adjustment to your vehicle during a service appointment after spotting a potential problem. Or being offered a free upgrade on a rental car, even when you’re not a frequent customer.

Little things like this mean a lot to customers and can have a big impact on loyalty. By comparison, when customers feel like they’re being charged for services that should be included in the cost of doing business with a company, they’re more likely to seek out another provider that’s transparent about its costs and doesn’t surreptitiously fleece its customers.

Tom Hoffman
Tom Hoffman is Executive Business Editor at 1to1 Media in Stamford, Connecticut where he's responsible for overseeing the organization's custom content operations. As part of his role, Tom works directly with companies to develop articles, executive Q&As, case studies and webinars.


  1. Love this article, Tom. I can’t stand it when companies add on little fees. A while back I was charged a dime for extra hot sauce at a quick-serve Mexican restaurant. They said the limit was two per item. My son, who loves hot sauce, wanted a couple of more packets. I couldn’t believe me when the “dimed” me for the hot sauce.

  2. Shep: Thanks for the kind words.

    I’m, sorry to hear how you and your son actually got ‘dimed’. I’m sure the experience certainly didn’t strengthen your loyalty with this restaurant.


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