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I remember, in the near past, when getting a safe in your hotel room was considered a perk that many of us didn’t even use. Today, that little extra costs a little extra.

Over the past few years, in dribs and drabs, travelling has become a cafeteria-style industry. We generally pay for the main course – a bed in a hotel, a seat on a plane, the key to a rental car. But the trimmings cost extra. I am not talking about checked baggage on a plane (or carry-on baggage, for that matter).

According to a recent story in USA Today, fees have been attached to hotel housekeeping and bellman services, to second drivers of rental cars, and on early embarkation on cruise ships.

The airlines alone reported making $22.6 billion in fees for added services in 2011 – a $20 billion increase from 2007, according to the story (yes, 2-0).

Consumers, meanwhile, are feeling increasingly duped. Reading through the variety of creative perks we are now charged, I thought back to a compelling passage in Don Pepper’s new book, “Extreme Trust.” In it, he suggests that trustability will inevitably become a core component of a successful business model.

“Even if it were to cost billions of dollars in real money, trustablity is still going to become a dominant characteristic of business competition, because the rise in expectations with respect to trust and trustability is being fueled by a steady, irresistible drumbeat of technological progress. The world will become more interactive and transparent, and competitive pressure will compel companies to adjust their business models to be more trustable.”

If this is the case, we have some work to do. In LoyaltyOne’s own recent survey of 2,000 U.S. and Canadian consumers, only 42 percent said they trusted business.

So what to do? Many organizations are being forced to find new ways to generate revenue to offset rising commodities costs and other expenses; there may be no getting around that. But a guest who is charged $20 resort fee for a pool or gym she never used, or a cruise passenger who is charged a daily gratuity he never heard of, will not feel served – they will feel abused. And they will no longer trust the brand.

My suggestion: Bring the consumers into the fold and let them opt in to what services they may want, before they buy that ticket or check in. I believe there is a real opportunity here – the door is wide open for competitors to gain customer trust, loyalty and market share simply by being fair.

Most consumers would be happy to pay a little extra for a service they appreciate. But turning that welcome service into a stealth vehicle for carrying extra charges is something few consumers are on board with.

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Bryan Pearson
Bryan Pearson is President and CEO of LoyaltyOne Inc. and the author of the best-selling book The Loyalty Leap: Turning Customer Information into Customer Intimacy.
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