These Things Used to Be Free (but Aren’t Anymore)

  • By Quentin Fottrell, Marketwatch
  • December 10, 2014

consumerism

Once the purveyor of all things free and often the subject of copyright infringements due to consumers uploading videos, Google Inc.’s YouTube is starting a music subscription service for $9.99 a month, which is the same price as music-streaming services like Spotify. (Their “biggest music fans” will get it for free for the first six months — by invite only — and then pay $7.99 a month.) The “YouTube Music Key” opens for business on Monday and will be available on computers and also smartphones that run Google’s Android operating system. This follows pop star Taylor Swift’s decision to pull her catalog from Spotify and make fans pay for her music.

Here are 5 things that used to be free:

Airplane food
Continental Airlines — which merged with United in October 2010 — was the last big U.S. carrier to offer free meals on domestic flights; that ended in March 2010. That’s one of many services that now cost extra on most airlines, with more airlines charging for seat selection, and additional carry-on and checked baggage, says Toby Street, spokesman for airline travel site SmarterTravel.com. Airlines started dropping free meals in economy on domestic flights around 2001 and began introducing more fees for check-in luggage a couple of years later. United Continental Holdings charges $9.99 for a chicken stir-fry and $8.99 for cheese and crackers.

Salsa and chips
More restaurants, particularly those serving Mexican food, are no longer offering chips and salsa for free, while others are also charging extra for water: That is, tap water — not the sparkling kind. What was once a given at many restaurants has now become a treat. Qdoba Mexican Grill, for example, offers a free order of chips and salsa for signing up to its loyalty program. Chipotle charges around $2.50 for chips and salsa, but other restaurants like Atlanta-based Moe’s Southwest Grill, offer free chips and salsa with every order.

Online news
Just as the top five U.S. newspapers have paywalls, according to the Pew Research Journalism Project, more local newspapers have decided not to give away their content for free. “The growth of paid digital content experiments may have a significant impact on both news revenue and content,” the report found. “After years of an almost theological debate about whether digital content should be free, the newspaper industry may have reached a tipping point in 2012.” Around 450 of the country’s 1,380 daily newspapers have started or announced plans for a paywall.

Grocery bags
Earlier this year, California became the first state to ban single-use plastic bags. Consumers must pay 10 cents for a paper grocery bag or bring their own reusable bag. Starting on Jan. 1, 2015, grocery stores and retailers in Dallas will start charging customers 5 cents for every plastic or paper bag used. Roughly 90 cities around the country ban single-use plastic bags, something environmentalists say have been the scourge of oceans for decades. Still, some environmentalists say reusable shopping bags are made overseas from energy-intensive materials and, as such, are not so green after all.

Gas station air
Not all air is free. About 10 years ago, complaints began popping up online from drivers who were charged 75 cents to $1.50 by gas stations for air. Some states — like California — prohibit gas stations from charging for air or water when customers buy gas, and the Department of Food and Agriculture there has even created forms to make it easier for customers to report them. Earlier this week, an attorney in Towson, Md., filed a class-action suit with a gas station company for allegedly charging customers for air even though Baltimore law stipulates customers who buy gas should be provided with one air pump free of charge.

This article originally appeared on MarketWatch.com and is reprinted by permission from Marketwatch.com, ©2014 Dow Jones & Co. Inc. All rights reserved.

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