MetroPCS gouges customers with $3 fee to pay bill in store

I stopped by a MetroPCS store at the corner of Main Street and Pico Boulevard near downtown Los Angeles. I was the only customer.

The woman behind the counter was straightening things up. She didn't seem overburdened with corporate activities.

I asked about bill payments. The saleswoman said I'd have to pony up $3 if I wanted to pay at the store with a credit card, a debit card or cash. I asked why.

"That's the rule," she explained.

I guess Crowell saw no upside in defending an indefensible company practice. But he did offer this: "MetroPCS works to educate its customers regarding the wide array of payment options available so they can select options that best fit their needs."

MetroPCS is the only major wireless company that gouges customers in this way. There's no fee for paying your bill at an AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile or Sprint store.

You may be hit with a fee by these other guys for paying at an authorized dealer such as Radio Shack or for paying by phone — T-Mobile's $5 phone charge is a slap in the face — but in-store payments are gratis.

MetroPCS merged last year with T-Mobile, yet T-Mobile hasn't done anything about MetroPCS' customer-unfriendly billing practice.

Glenn Zaccara, a T-Mobile spokesman, said the two companies keep their distance from each other, policy-wise. "We have two brands that operate as separate business units," he said.

Consumers have grown accustomed to being nickel-and-dimed by wireless companies. From activation fees to early-termination fees, this is an industry that's completely at peace reaching into customers' pockets.

But a $3 fee for paying your bill in cash at a company store? That's nothing but greed, pure and simple.

David Lazarus' column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. He also can be seen daily on KTLA-TV Channel 5 and followed on Twitter @Davidlaz. Send your tips or feedback to david.lazarus@latimes.com.

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