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Gotcha Capitalism: How Hidden Fees Rip You Off Every Day-and What You Can Do About It

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3.51  ·  Rating Details ·  151 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
What is Gotcha Capitalism?

Coughing up $4 fees for ATM transactions. Iron-clad cell phone contracts you can’t get out of with a crowbar. Paying big bucks for insurance you don’t need on a rental car or forking over $20 a day for supposedly “free” wireless internet. Every day we use banks, cell phones, and credit cards. Every day we book hotels and airline tickets. And ever
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Paperback, 368 pages
Published December 26th 2007 by Ballantine Books (first published 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Lena
Feb 06, 2008 Lena rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who spends money
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a very handy little book containing solid financial advice that will benefit everyone, but will be particularly appreciated by anyone who has ever found themselves banging their head against the wall as they attempt to deal with Corporate America’s modern-day version of "customer service."

The basic gist of this book is that, while consumers weren't paying attention, companies have come to rely for their profits on an institutionalized form of bait and switch. Offer customers super low pr
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Jon
Feb 09, 2016 Jon rated it really liked it
Sullivan's book hits the nail on the head in describing why so many companies struggle with their customers yet they still make lots of money.
In a word, the are cheating their customers into paying fees, and we the consumers must now be ever vigilant and somewhat paranoid whenever we buy things and services. Many companies will with full intent try to screw you you over.

Being from Europe many of the items described by Mr. Sullivan does not translate to Europe but many of the broad practices doe
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Emily
Jul 05, 2008 Emily rated it liked it
Some of the fees discussed in this book are really simple to avoid, ie. cable television hidden fees (don't have cable tv). But some I was like WHAT? There are hidden fees in my 401k? I had no idea! And I am ticked off! Where are they disclosed? Nowhere. How much does it cost me? It could cost me as much as I paid for my house! Do you know what I could do with that much money? I could buy another house!

Anyways, I only gave it three stars probably because I already avoid most of these "hidden" fe
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Sarah
Feb 20, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it
Recommends it for: if youve got a bnk account, credit card, or utility bill
Recommended to Sarah by: consumerist.com
The Consumerist blog (one of my daily must-reads), featured so many snippets from this book I had to reserve it from the library.

With financial advice from a consumer advocate fed up with mysteriously multiplying fees, this is a useful little book. Each chapter is devoted to a different industry (e.g. credit cards, banking, real estate, telecommunications), which is convenient for the reader who has a particular nemesis -- mine's the phone company -- and wants to better understand their sneaky t
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Marty
Dec 08, 2008 Marty rated it really liked it
Most people never realize quite how much they get nickel and dimed in their day-to-day transactions. Bob Sullivan, however, is NOT one of those people. Sullivan, author of the MSNBC.com column, "Red Tape Confidential", is a master at finding hidden fees in every facet of our lives - something he calls "Gotchas" (which I'm pretty sure he had before Sarah Palin).

Hidden fees in your cell phone bill, your credit card statement, even your 401(k) are all exposed in this short book that tackles about a
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Jessica
Feb 22, 2008 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone that pays bills
I really, really enjoyed this book. Not only because I get so irritated by all of those added fees to credit cards, bank accounts, cell phone bills, cable bills, etc. This book actually provides examples of letters to write to different companies to resolve conflicts/fees. It provides a list of regulatory agencies to contact for each industry. It tells you what your rights are in resolving discrepancies on your credit report! In short, it is every industry's nightmare handbook of ninja technique ...more
Mike Wallace
Jan 07, 2015 Mike Wallace rated it it was ok
350 pages of whinging. I agree with many of his complaints, but generally found that there were few viable and effective actions suggested in the book.
Chrissie
Jul 07, 2008 Chrissie rated it really liked it
Living is Texas where there is a huge immigrant population (and dating a resident alien) I have learned that I take for granted things like knowing car dealerships for the most part are trying to rip you off or that cable companies have "introductory rates" that can change at a drop of a hat. This book is good at shinning a light on what companies are doing to swindle you out of your hard earned cash. I don't think that I'll see the $1000 savings the book predicts, but I'm glad there is someone ...more
Chrismcginn
Feb 16, 2009 Chrismcginn rated it liked it
This book is written by Bob Sullivan who is a columnist at MSNBC's "Red Tape Chronicles." He offers an interesting
peek behind the curtain at how credit card, phone, cable, hotels, banks and others rip us off. There are some fascinating tidbits like how companies plot to get you not to open their mail that informs you of changes to your contract so you implicitly consent to them. I haven't saved any money yet, but I'm seriously considering dropping my home phone service. If you have credit card
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Eddie Saleh
In this new globalization-capitalism-consumerism world, a lot of people are victims to the local and international economic machine. This book focuses on details about many modern methods of financial and consuming means in American society, and it emphasizes the claim how we are cheated every day with no knowledge of us. This book added to my knowledge lots of valuable information about very practical things related to services fees and how they are paid. I recommend this book to every one in t ...more
Jill
Jul 30, 2008 Jill rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone Looking to Improve Their Financial Understanding
Recommended to Jill by: NPR
A somewhat useful book, though I think I already avoid a lot of hidden fees. For example, they write a lot on cable fees, and well, I just don't have cable. My gripe with this book is that it doesn't really have interesting anecdotes, which is what I always hope for in a book with lots of facts. I do think it could be useful to someone taking a harder look at their finances for the first time, and looking for places to save money, so even though it's not my favorite book, I recommend it.
Hope
Apr 27, 2009 Hope rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008
This is a great bunch of information -- but I found myself so angry when I read it that I had to keep taking breaks. The author makes plenty of suggestions to avoid getting screwed by nickel and dime fees from banks, cell phones, etc. -- but many of them weren't practical for me, and so the end result was a feeling of profound disappointment at how our culture has evolved to encourage/permit this kind of corporate greed to run rampant.
J.W. Nicklaus
Jan 18, 2009 J.W. Nicklaus rated it liked it
Looking for some truly irritating reading? It's truly not the writing that's irritating, but the informatin provided.
See what the credit card companies are up to . . .
Better read that fine print when you look for an escrow broker . . .
The phone companies (and cable companies) are in on thing too . . .
Don't take my word for it--Mr. Sullivan lays it all out for your benefit. IF you ask me, every savvy consumer should read this.
Ktmholm
May 30, 2015 Ktmholm rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Though now slightly dated (2007), I re-read this every so often, any time I'm complaining about the cable, credit card or cell phone bill & thinking about switching. Sullivan discusses various types of fees each industry uses to rip you off, and suggests points to be aware of BEFORE you call to complain. Highly recommended; lacks a 5th star only because it's no longer up-to-date, but most of the advice is still relevant.
Kelly Anderson
Sep 07, 2013 Kelly Anderson rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up years ago, but I still reference it to this day. I remember putting just a few pieces of the author's advice into effect and saving hundreds of dollars instantly (specifically from my cable company and one credit card company). I was so impressed that I started telling everyone I know about "Gotcha". Definitely a great book for anyone looking to save some money, and these days, who isn't?
Beth
Aug 18, 2009 Beth rated it liked it
This book covers all the ways that consumers get ripped off. The author does a great job of exposing the many hidden fees that banks, utilities, and other companies charge their customers. He gives good advice about how to complain and get some fees removed or reduced or when you can negotiate on contracts or services.
The author is a columnist for MSNBC for the "Red Tape Chronicles."
Anne Broyles
Mar 02, 2009 Anne Broyles rated it really liked it
This book is filled with important info, but also, proves a depressing read because the reader discovers all the ways s/he is being ripped off in every aspect of personal business. Still, I got some good pointers on how to be a smart consumer who makes it hard to be taken advantage of. These strategies take time, intelligence and perseverance. We'll see if I have enough of all 3!
Julia
Jun 10, 2008 Julia rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
After hearing the author interviewed on Marketplace Money, I was expecting something more wonky -- about the rise of hidden fees, regulatory issues, oligopolies and the resultant insanity in the market for services like cable TV. It's much more basic than that. Definitely a useful how-to book, but The Consumerist has better anecdotes (and executive e-mail addresses and phone numbers).
Kathryn
Oct 21, 2010 Kathryn rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, 2010-books
A book every consumer should read and take the advice of. I have been doing some of these things all along, but now I know how to be effective in my attempts to fight against these big corporations that love to take the consumer for money everyday. :)
Travis
Jul 06, 2012 Travis rated it liked it
It was a decent read, with some good advice on how to save some money. Some I already knew, and some doesn't apply to me. It also tells you on who you will have better success with in getting money back, so you know better which battles to pick.
CJ Romberger
Jan 28, 2008 CJ Romberger marked it as to-read
I listened to an interview with this author on Teri Gross (third week of Jan. 2008.) I don't necessarily agree with everything he's saying, but I'm interested in reading it because I think there is some valuable information in it.
jen8998
Apr 30, 2008 jen8998 rated it liked it
Nothing really new here - it wasn't really a surprise that my phone bill is dotted with extraneous fees (I notice this on a monthly basis). However, there are some good tips on seeking refunds and making complaints.
Penny
Feb 03, 2010 Penny rated it it was ok
A lot of the information included in this book was stale to me. The most interesting points were covered in the NPR interview with the author. This book could be useful to a fledgling consumer.
Dan
Sep 14, 2011 Dan rated it it was amazing
Great read about greed and about the attempts to
cheat us of money via fees.
Listen to the Fresh Air interview w/ the author
at:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/st...
Nikki
Jun 05, 2008 Nikki rated it liked it
Shelves: finance
Some interesting information. I tried to read it cover to cover, but it got pretty tedious at then end. I will definitely refer to it in the future if I need it, though!
Brian
Jul 05, 2008 Brian added it
A curious title that caught my eye, it's an interesting view into the world of hidden fees and various money traps. The writing's a little to vehement to be a pleasurable read.
Trish
May 17, 2008 Trish rated it liked it
Shelves: abandoned
It was good, I just felt like I knew a lot of the things he was talking about. I skimmed through most of it and read only the most interesting sections.
Geri
Aug 18, 2008 Geri rated it really liked it
Quite an eye opening book on ALL the fees that are added to our monthly bills. The author also gives great examples on how to dispute fees.
Nyla
Mar 07, 2012 Nyla rated it liked it
A little dated and didn't offer much advise I didn't already know. If you have paid any bank or credit card fees this year you should read.
Mr.david
Mar 12, 2008 Mr.david rated it really liked it
A bit repetitive but an interesting compendium of ways in which little fees are hidden in bills so that price increases are not apparent.
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