We unfortunately made the mistake of trying out CiCi’s Pizza on Ellsworth tonight. It’s located in the new structure in front of Wal-Mart. First let me get this out the way. The “food” sucked. There tag-line is “The Ultimate Pizza Experience is a Gourmet Buffet”. This place has no business using the word gourmet in any description of their food. I’m not going to get into all the details of the culinary experience because Jules is planning on writing about that over on YpsiBites. Suffice to say that if you think Tios is a good Mexican restaurant, you might appreciate CiCi’s. If on the other hand you prefer your Mexican food prepared by people who originated south of the Rio Grande then avoid CiCi’s at all costs.
Our experience at CiCi’s brought another thought to mind. I don’t often carry much cash with me these days. When possible I prefer to use a debit card. I believe that this is a pretty common practice these days. One thing I never, ever do is withdraw cash from ATM’s that don’t belong to my bank. A few years ago banking regulations were changed to allow banks to charge non-customers for using their ATM’s and charge customers for using some other banks machine. That means that if you use the ATM at bank where you don’t have an account you get charged twice, once by the owner of the ATM and once by your own bank. This can often cost you as much $4, $2 per bank. I make a point of trying to avoid these egregious charges.
Now back to my story. When you walk into CiCi’s there is cash register where you pay in advance before proceeding to the “gourmet” all you can eat pizza buffet. Mull that concept in your mind for a moment! Prominently displayed adjacent to the counter is an ATM. As I place the order and hand the cashier my debit card I am informed that they don’t take cards at the moment, only cash or check. I was also informed that I could use the ATM behind me. I declined to pay the extra fees that would go along with using an ATM that didn’t belong to my bank. So we ran over to Jules’ bank which was right nearby and got some cash. When we returned Jules noticed the little notice on the machine about the fees, and it stated that the machine was owned by the pizza company. All this got me thinking about all the ATM’s you see in gas stations, convenience stores and every other business. It occurs to me that since all these machines collect a transaction fee, these businesses are almost certainly getting a cut of the action. I wonder how much of that dollar or two they are getting? So it seems highly probable that CiCi’s is getting a cut of every time they tell someone they can’t use their debit card, and they turn around to grab some cash. This is ridiculous. Jules told me that New York Pizza Depot which used to take credit/debit cards has informed her the last couple of times that she was there that their card machine was broken. They also happen to have a conveniently located ATM.
It seems that more and more business are taking part in the hidden fee economy. That includes all the assorted regulatory recovery charges you find at the bottom your phone bill under that low advertised service price. There are more and more of these bogus fees popping up everywhere. Companies get your business by advertising really attractive prices and then end up nickel and diming you with all kinds of little fees that add up to a pretty significant percentage of your total cost. I will simply decline to patronize businesses that insist on applying these hidden costs.