Reader Saves $950 By Ridding Life Of Fees, Overpayments

Moriconi writes in to tell us how he was able to save $950 this week by uprooting the hidden fees and renegotiating the things in his life he was paying too much for. Awesome! Here’s his true story:

Your website has changed my consumerist ways forever. I read “Gotcha’ Capitalism” this weekend and decided to take back my rights as a consumer.

1. Our mortgage was paid up in October and I didn’t realize that Wells Fargo had the real estate tax payment scheduled for semi-annual. Got the county tax bill with a penalty of $18. Called a county clerk, explained my situation and got the charges removed. Savings: $18

2. Checked my Wachovia account and found a $35 overdraft fee from November. Stopped at the bank regional main branch. Someone please explain to me why, in a 10-12 story Wachovia building, my escalated customer service request needed to be handled off-site by someone in meetings all day. At the end of the day (literally) 2 fees removed. Savings: $70.

3. Called around to price out heating oil costs and the best I could do was $3.34-$3.39/gal. Negotiated with Petro for a 1 yr. contract @ $3.09. I have 2 tanks x 275 gals x 5 deliveries. Savings: $687.50

4. Kids gave me an iphone for Christmas. Ported # from Verizon. ETF on current bill. Followed your script (including reading the legalese several times to the annoyance of the csr.) Waited 10 min. and savings: $175

5. Comcast. No success here. Offered to downgrade to basic cable-phone bundle ($109 with 2 year contract! Does this mean FiOS is getting close to my neighborhood?) Savings: $0

Total savings for week’s work: $950.50
Regaining some financial control: Priceless


Hidden fees are everywhere! With them, companies do what is called shrouding the true price of goods. You get lured in with a low “landing price,” then reamed on the backend with hidden charges. Since they’re not disclosed until far along in the transaction process, meaningful price comparison becomes that much more difficult for the average consumer. Scour your bills, question line items you don’t understand (hint: watch out for fees with important-sounding yet incomprehensible names). Ask for fees to be returned. Save, save, save. You worked hard for your money, why should anyone get to keep any more of it than they have to?

(Photo: Kai Hendry)


Edit Your Comment

  1. bustit22 says:

    I’d be more impressed if the guy kept on top of this stuff in the first place.

  2. snazz says:

    this guy’s major savings was in negociating his heating bill lower… thats not a hidden fee! he’s a smart consumer for doing so, but this article is misleading when it says he saved $950 by avoiding hidden fees. seems like all he really saved was $263.

  3. UpsetPanda says:

    These aren’t really hidden fees…I mean, there was early termination – of course there’s a fee. And he overdrafted his funds. Duh, fee.

  4. bohemian says:

    I asked for a printout of all the activity on our mortgage for the last year. We were reviewing something else on it and wanted to look at where all the charges and payments had posted.

    I found a line that was giving us back $500 but it didn’t show as a credit or payment toward the mortgage. After a few phone calls I found out it was a printed check and we didn’t get it. I signed a statement canceling the old missing check and reassigning that money to go to the account itself as a payment. The bank had been sitting on this money for almost a year.

    Someone does need to make a big list of typical BS fees and how to fight them.

  5. llcooljabe says:

    If moriconi is reading the comments, I’d appreciate tips on getting cheaper heating oil. (or anyone for that matter).

    I’m not sure what I’m talking about (I’ve had gas all my life, and just converted to Oil last year when I bought this house). What are the terms I need to know–is there a type of oil I need, etc?

  6. GearheadGeek says:

    This is good information, but it shouldn’t be a once-in-a-while activity. It really doesn’t take that long to read the bill. I confess that even I don’t look at every single call on my mobile-phone bill, but if the monthly is more than the standard rate I do. I pay many of my bills with scheduled monthly payments from the bill-paying service at my bank, but I still read the bill every month to see if it’s different than the standard amount, or if the due-date has changed (which seems to be a popular sport lately.)

    It’s YOUR money. It’s no one else’s responsibility to manage it but yours.

  7. ChrisC1234 says:

    “Checked my Wachovia account and found a $35 overdraft fee from November”

    It’s now JANUARY. Someone who actually knows their finances would’ve discovered that in DECEMBER. Actually, it COULD be argued that someone who really knows and manages their finances wouldn’t even HAVE an overdraft fee to try and get rid of.

  8. Morton Fox says:

    I just saved $400 a year by dropping my landline. The crucial insight I needed was that I could get a phone card to make overseas calls on my cell phone. Once I found a phone card with lower overseas calling rates than the landline, it was a no-brainer.

    Next step will be to try to get a cheaper calling plan on the cell phone.

  9. whytee says:

    I know it’s not for everyone, but buying an unlocked phone and then just buying minutes on a sim card has done wonders for my cell costs. This after three years of getting raped by Sprint. There’s no email or web capabilities but it’s worth it.

  10. chiieddy says:

    It seems to me the original poster has several issues here:

    1. Overdraft fee from November discovered in January. Dude, you need to create a budget and balance your bills weekly so you’re not overdrafting at all. It’s really not rocket science.
    2. Excess amount of time on his hands. How many people can take the time on Monday – Friday during BUSINESS HOURS to sit at a Wachovia regional office ALL DAY. Come on.

    Solve #2 by paying more attention to your finances and #1 won’t be necessary. Savings = innumerable.

  11. Aladdyn says:

    he states that he read gotcha capitalism and started reading this website wich led him to start paying attention to his finaces you asses. Way to leave great comments

  12. Sherryness says:

    The guy said he recently decided to get a hold on things. Not everyone is perfect from the get-go. Why are people ragging on him for not having a perfect consumer record from adulthood on? I think it’s inspirational to see what you can do if you really dig in.

  13. That70sHeidi says:

    I saved hundreds by ditching a cell plan. I use a prepay (1 year) plus a $30 phone. My coverage is excellent, my phone is cute, and I “pay” about $8 a month ($10 the first year I had the physical phone cost factored in). It’s too bad I can’t roll my unused minutes over though… at the end of the year I usually have between 400-200 minutes left. It’s still better than a monthly Big Cell plan!

  14. Alexander says:

    @whytee: What is this “unlocked phone” and “buying minutes on sim card” you speak of? Is that just a prepaid phone or am I missing something? I’m really interested as I want to get rid of my monthly cell phone bill I hardly use…

  15. UpsetPanda says:

    @Sherryness: I totally applaud him for getting his fees reduced or taken away, and getting ahold of his finances. I think the post itself was not “saving $950” by going after hidden fees, rather it was “saving $950” by getting smart about who to go after when you have fees that are sometimes hidden, sometimes not.

    Early termination is a given…who doesn’t look out for an early termination fee. If your contract is not up, yet you break it, it should be a little obvious you need to wait until your contract is up and start brand new, or understand there might be a ETF and deal with it or go after them, like this guy did. He did a good job of getting his fees refunded but I don’t think think the ETF was a hidden fee. How much it was might have been in the small print, though.

  16. whytee says:

    @alexander: Yeah, that’s basically what I’m talking about in my typically tongue-tied way. I wanted a low SAR phone, so I found an unlocked RAZR from Europe on ebay, went down and bought a sim card from T-mobile, and was off and running. As far as rollover minutes go, evidently T-Mobile has a policy whereby after you cross a certain threshold of minutes you get rollover status. I’m ecstatic over this since Sprint had me over a barrel for so long, and I could tell you horror stories that would make your eyeballs bleed about phantom fees, hostile customer service, and the lengths I had to go to to get these phantom fees and discrepancies on my bill removed (including emailing the CEO).

  17. chica_girl55 says:

    @ ALEXANDER: An unlocked phone is a cell phone that is not locked to any one specific carrier. You can get them all over the place. My favorite is because they always have good deals on the latest and greatest phones that you can’t always get in the US. A prepaid sim card is like a prepaid phone, but it is the little tiny card that goes in the back (or side) of the phone and contains info like your calendar and contacts and such. You can purchase sim cards that have airtime minutes preloaded onto them and it works pretty much like a prepaid phone. I’m not sure what the ease of use on these is as I use a carrier so I can get e-mail and internet and the like. Hope that helps.

  18. MommaJ says:

    Re oil company issues: I recently got a postcard from an oil company that competes with the one I have used for 20 years. They offered a guaranteed rate of $2.69 through June, which was almost a dollar less per gallon than what I had been paying. I also have two tanks and a large house, so this was a serious savings. I called my oil company (Petro, actually) and attempted to negotiate a better rate. I was then told that I could have sign up for a contact program they offer, which would get me a better price per gallon (though still more than $2.69). So, I asked, as a 20-year customer, why hadn’t I ever been offered this program? There was no satisfactory answer, so I terminated our relationship and went with the new guys. Bottom line on oil: There’s only one grade appropriate for residential use in your climate. Many oil cos. offer special deals for new customers, especially if you sign a service contract (these are smart–you get your system cleaned annually and priority service if your furnace poops out on a 10 degree night). Call around to get competing prices. As my new provider’s rep explained, retail prices will vary depending on when the oil company contracted for its winter supply–apparently, I’m now buying oil that they cut a deal for last year. Remember that you’re buying a commodity, so the only issues are price and, to a lesser degree, service (I don’t think any oil company that let your tank run dry or was slow in making service calls could survive for long). Finally, don’t be afraid to re-shop every year–that’s what I’ll be doing from now on, as loyalty meant nothing in my case.

  19. Alexander says:

    @whytee: Thanks for the info. I think I’m done with contracts after my current deal expires. My wife and I hardly use the phones, we’d be just fine with prepaid.

  20. rjhiggins says:

    God, what a bunch of know-it-all jerks. The guy got inspired by reading this blog and a book and wanted to share how it helped inspire him. Unlike you, he’s not holding himself up as some smarter-than-thou consumer god. He just wanted to share his enthusiasm.

    No doubt his enthusiasm for this blog is waning after reading your comments.

  21. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    You can also get unlocked phones at []
    Only downside is you will be (back) on their mailing list for catalogs for years (even if you do not want).

    Also how nice for many of you who are perfect banking customers who have apparently never had an overdraft. Thanks for pointing out your superiority over the rest of us (again).

  22. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @rjhiggins: Hopefully you and I can put these people in their place :)

  23. ColdNorth says:

    Within 15 minutes of the OP’s article showing up, there were three posts attacking the OP and one who recounted a similar experience…

    A 75% attack rate in the first 15 minutes!

    I thought the whole purpose of this blog was to inform people about consumer-related issues and offer tips to those who are less informed by those who have met with some success?

    Why all the flaming of OPs on Consumerist?

  24. LouM says:


    Enjoyed all responses to my post (I did not choose the title implying hidden fees). As a newbe on Consumerist (I just registered this am so I could reply), my purpose was to channel some of the suggestions I picked up from Consumerist and Gotcha Capitalism and share my experiences dealing with today’s “customer service”, where penalties and fees are applied automatically (assuming the consumer is always in the wrong) and many times buried in similar line items, where wait times for questions can exceed 1 hour, and csrs adopt an adversarial role.

    I hope my experience “fighting back” encourages others who harbor a misguided loyalty to a company or fear of confronting faceless “big business”.

    Thanks to sites like this, we all can reclaim our consumer rights.