LiLo – too taboo for the bigscreen

The best part is, the “reason for going to Cannes” was to promote this movie; and now it shall never be seen! Instead she missed her court date and is slapped with a few restrictions. But hey, she keeps rockin’ on!

Lindsay Lohan’s big return to acting is supposed to be in the role of Linda Lovelace, a.k.a, “Deep Throat,” in the film “Inferno.” However, the role may be so controversial, it won’t see the light of day in any mainstream fashion. According to Aerik Von, who works at a fetish website and claims to have read the “Inferno” script, and spoke to the New York Post, Lohan will have to play a role in which her character is “thoroughly degraded.” According to Von, “the movie is obviously designed to just outright disturb (with) the combination of childhood imagery and absolute outright depraved perversions.”

“It’s hard to imagine the movie making it to theaters in its current form no matter who plays Lovelace,” reports the Post.

Ten annoying fee charges that consumers face

Whether you’re traveling, banking, renting a car or buying a concert ticket, you’re going to be subject to a host of fees, some hidden and some blatantly obvious. It’s one way companies have to collect more money from you on top of the price for the actual service. Here are 10 particularly annoying fees, most of which you can’t avoid:

Airlines

Airline Baggage Fees – Passengers traveling with bikes, skis or other cumbersome items are used to paying extra fees to haul them. But some airlines are now beginning to charge passengers for checked luggage. According to Expedia, almost every major U.S. carrier charges between $15 and $25 for the first checked bag, and $25 to $35 for a second piece. JetBlue allows one piece for free — but charges $30 for a second item. Southwest has built an entire marketing campaign around its two pieces for free policy.This trend has yet to go global, since most international carriers (except American) allow you to check one piece of luggage gratis, while Lufthansa and Frontier allow two pieces.

Airline Preferred Seat Selection Fee – Airplanes are designed to cram passengers into undersized seats like sardines in order to maximize profits. Savvy (and tall) travelers have long opted for emergency row seats for some precious extra legroom, while others like to be near (or far) from the bathroom. And while the ability to choose a window or aisle seat has traditionally been a standard courtesy while purchasing a ticket, some carriers are now charging for this non-service. According to Expedia, the worst offenders are United Airlines ($14 to $109 for domestic flights, and $89 to $109 for international flights) and Virgin America ($15 to $50), while others, like American and Delta, still let you choose your seat for free, both domestically and internationally. At this rate, pay toilets are probably inevitable. Don’t laugh, it’s already been proposed by Ireland’s Ryanair.

Airline Fuel Surcharges – Rising fuel costs affect consumers and corporations alike. But while the average Joe can’t demand higher pay to cover the extra money spent commuting, airlines are happy to demand increasingly exorbitant “fuel surcharges” to maintain profit margins. These surcharges first kicked in two years ago for international flights, and will increase by an average of $100 per ticket to most European destinations compared to last year, Bestfares.com found. Travel to any German city doubled from $160 in July 2009 to $320 in July 2010. Dublin, which enjoyed bargain-basement fuel surcharges last year of $14, now costs $184 — and that’s still the lowest fuel surcharge to Europe.

Automobiles

Car Rentals – The question is as inevitable as “do you want fries with that?” Every time you rent a car, the clerk invariably asks if you want to purchase collision and supplemental liability insurance, both of which can run anywhere from $15 to $50 a day. But chances are good you won’t need either of them, since you’re probably covered by your own insurance policy. Some credit cards also offer rental car insurance as well when you use them to rent an automobile. So be sure to check with your insurance and credit card company next time you plan to rent a car. And, depending on where you are, there’s a chance you’ll get charged fees for such normal overhead as “concession fee,” “security fee” or “licensing fee.”

Dealer Preparation Fee – Anyone who’s ever purchased a new car has probably noticed a “Dealer Prep Fee” in the sticker, which usually runs anywhere from $500 to $2,000. So what exactly does “dealer prep” cover? Typically, it involves peeling the plastic off the seats and hood, vacuuming the interior, a wash and wax, and maybe topping off the fluids. Most people just pay it, but you can try negotiating or just flatly refusing to pay it, consumer advocates say.

Auto Repair Environmental Fees – What with global warming, oil spills and deforestation, we’re all concerned about helping protect the planet, right? So are those “environmental fees” showing up on your auto repair bills a reflection of government-mandated regulations for the proper disposal of hazardous materials? Not really. It’s actually a case of passing along costs to consumers while making the original charge deceptively low. Take auto repair bills, the most common source of these fees. Thanks to “environmental fees,” an advertised $19.95 oil change may end up costing $25, or a new set of tires may run you an extra $20.

Hidden Traffic Ticket Fees – California has long been an automotive bellwether state, paving the way for the rest of the nation in everything from emission standards to drive-thru restaurants. But there’s a recent automotive trend in California we hope doesn’t spread to the rest of the nation: hidden ticket fees used to plug budgetary holes. The CEO of Southern Califonia’s AAA explains the base fee for a carpool-lane violation is $100, but nine additional fees, such as a “state court construction fund fee”– despite the fact that most people don’t use the court system to handle traffic tickets — brings the total to roughly $440. Some cities even charge “crash fees” for fire and police services rendered at the scene of an auto collision, even though general taxes already pay for such services.

Money

ATM Fees – We’ve all been there, desperately in need of cash, and no friendly ATM in sight. While technology should be making transactions increasingly cheaper, the cost of using another bank’s ATM continues to rise. According to Bankrate.com, 99.2% of ATMs levy a surcharge, which now average $1.97, up 10% from a year ago. But that’s not all, you’re getting the shaft from your own bank too, thanks to its fee for using another company’s ATM. The average cost of that fee is $1.46, up from $1.25 a year ago. So expect to pay an average of $3.43 for not having enough cash on hand. If there’s a supermarket nearby, buy something cheap and opt for some cash back instead.

Currency Conversion Fees – If you’re planning on traveling overseas this summer, pay close attention to your credit card bill when you get home, since you’ll undoubtedly find you paid more than you bargained for thanks to a “foreign currency conversion” fee of as much as 3%. One percent of that currency conversion fee is charged by Visa and Mastercard, which is less than the commission you’d typically pay in a foreign exchange office. But Bankrate.com says many credit card issuers and banks are fleecing customers by tacking an additional 2% on top of that fee without providing any additional service. Among the institutions raking in a pure profit at the expense of their customers — which they rarely bother to disclose — are Bank of America, Citibank and Chase.

Ticketmaster Service Fees – If you’ve ever bought a ticket to see a concert, play or sporting event, you’ve almost certainly dealt with Ticketmaster, which enjoys a near-monopoly on live events in the U.S. Ticketmaster is also notorious for assessing various fees to the price of tickets. For instance, two $90 tickets to a recent Broadway show wound up costing $203.70. That included a facility charge of $1.50 per ticket, a convenience charge of $7.50 per ticket, an order processing fee of $3.20 and perhaps the most egregious one, a “TicketFast” fee of $2.50. “TicketFast” allows you to print your own ticket and save Ticketmaster the cost of printing and mailing them to you.

Pros and Cons of the new AT&T limited data plans

The discussion continues around AT&T’s new tiered data plans for the iPhone, and whether AT&T’s decision will significantly impact how new iPhone owners use their device.

As I previously posted, AT&T will offer new iPhone users a choice of data plans starting Monday, June 7. New users will have to decide between a 200MB plan for $15/month or 2GB for $25. Any data usage above those limits will incur overage charges that have the potential to double your monthly data fees for the iPhone. Current iPhone user can keep their current unlimited plan or switch to a cheaper tiered data plan.

Here are four issues with AT&T’s new plans, and a few pros and cons for each:

AT&T’s New Data Plan Will Save You Money:

  • Pro: Most users would probably save money under AT&T’s new data plan. As AT&T pointed out recently, 200MB of data gives you the capability to send and receive 1000 e-mail messages (no attachments) and 150 e-mails with attachments, view 400 Web pages, post 50 photos on social media sites, and watch 20 minutes of streaming video. If you also use a Wi-Fi connection for your device when you’re at home, work or in range of an AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot (free access for AT&T customers), it gets even easier to survive on 200MB. The New York Times’ David Pogue says that he and his wife typically use 150MB of data per month combined on their iPhones. So AT&T’s new data plans could mean big savings for Pogue. “Here I am, a power-using geek, and I could put both phones on the DataPlus plan and save $360 a year,” Pogue writes.
  • Con: But as some have pointed out recently, they use on average of 484MB of data a month, meaning they would need AT&T’s 2GB monthly plan. They would still capitalize on savings, but could save even more money if AT&T had a middle ground data plan between 200MB and 2GB, say a 500MB offering for $20. But why is there such a big gap between data plans? To put this in perspective, AT&T’s two data plans offer a choice between 200MB or 2048MB (2GB) per month. So for an extra $10 you get more than ten times the data under AT&T’s new data scheme. Why such a huge disparity of data levels between the two plans? Is AT&T trying to keep its annual revenue high while simultaneously lowering customer service? Something just doesn’t add up.

Most Plans Don’t Offer Unlimited Data Anyway:

  • Pro: AT&T is the only network to offer a truly unlimited data plan for the iPhone as most carriers cap their so-called unlimited plans at 5GB of data per month. In fact, AT&T imposes a 5GB cap on its other data plans including its Laptop Connect and Blackberry tethering plans. The reality is that most users don’t need unlimited data. AT&T’s new data plans will allow most users to pay less, and bring their monthly billing in line with the amount of 3G data they actually use.
  • Con: If you’re an avid iPhone user who is constantly downloading, tweeting, e-mailing, and streaming video and audio, then 200MB is probably not enough while 2GB is too much. So a good portion of people are saving only $5 per month on their plans, and may still have to keep tabs on how much data they are using. The beauty of AT&T’s unlimited plan was that most users would never have to worry about overage charges even on high usage months. That’s not the case under AT&T’s new tiered data plans.

Usage Limits Will Kill Innovation:

  • Pro: Some third-party application developers worry that monthly usage limits may make consumers wary of downloading and using applications, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Bart Decrem, CEO of Tapulous, told the Journal that AT&T’s data plan “could dampen people’s appetite for downloading apps and engaging with them over the cellular network.” If people stop freely using applications like they are today, this could force developers to reconsider creating useful and yet data-intensive apps.
  • Con: There are many ways to download applications including via a Wi-Fi application or your computer at home. It’s not like 3G is your only download option. Even if you downloaded the occasional app over your 3G connection, you likely wouldn’t have to worry about overage charges on a 2GB plan anyway. As for interacting with the applications, the biggest concern would be for users of GPS and video streaming apps, and even then 2GB should be enough data for most people. Besides, as that same Journal article points out, restricting data usage could push developers to create apps that use data connectivity more efficiently.So there you have it four points of view about AT&T’s new data plans.

AT&T Will Offer Tethering for the iPhone:

  • Pro: AT&T is finally offering tethering a year after the rest of the developed world was offering it.
  • Con: AT&T’s tethering scheme will be difficult to swallow for most users who want to add tethering to their service. First of all, to get tethering when it launches this summer you have to abandon your unlimited plan on your current device and switch to a tiered data plan. Then, you’ll have to pay AT&T’s $20 monthly tethering fee, which doesn’t even come with any extra data. You are literally paying for the right to tether and nothing more. In other words, AT&T’s tethering fee is simply a convenience charge.

I think we all just assumed that using AT&T’s new iPhone tethering plan to get sweet, cellular-data goodness on your iPad wasn’t going to be allowed, but now it is official. TechFlash has received word from AT&T that an iPad to iPhone tether is currently not possible. While the software code to allow Bluetooth tethering is included in the iPad’s code base, the feature has been disabled. TechFlash did publish this cryptic message from AT&T:

Asked for further info, AT&T referred additional questions to Apple, describing this as an iPad/iPhone issue and not a matter of AT&T policy.

While that might make sense, AT&T shouldn’t care how you use your 2 gigs of monthly bandwidth, especially when there are overages to be had! However, that would mean you’re not purchasing the (more expensive) 3G version of the iPad, and not buying a data plan for it through AT&T.