Over the years I’ve seen a lot of proposals from professional services firms. Designers, architects, lawyers, consultants, and others.

Many of them included a small price list at the end. Here’s one from a recent proposal I received from a landscape architect I’m considering hiring:

These nickel and dime items have always rubbed me the wrong way. I’m about to pay someone many thousands and they’re about to bill me $0.15 for a copy.

Plenty of people bitch about ATM fees, but these copy and print fees feel even more obscene to me. I recognize paper costs money and toner costs money and machines cost money, but come on – isn’t this just part of the cost of doing business? It feels like they’d charge for bandwidth used to email you a file if they were sophisticated enough to track it.

Further, many of these professional services get annoyed when their clients cut back budgets or say they can’t afford this or that. But then the professional services themselves pinch pennies even tighter by trying to pass the cost of a piece of paper on to their client. The disconnect couldn’t be more obvious.

I can’t recall if I’ve ever actually been billed for any of these items, but it just seems unnecessary. Perhaps they are worried about clients that require thousands of pages or hundreds of plots. If that’s the case, ok – how about saying “After 100 copies, we will bill $0.15/copy” or something like that. Absorb the routine costs and bill the excessive costs. That feels reasonable and respectful on both sides.

At the end of the day another $15 here or $36 there isn’t going to break a client’s bank, and complaining about $0.15 feels petty – and in some ways it is – but these nickel and dime fees put up a sign that says “we’re passing every little cost on to you, no matter how insignificant.” That just doesn’t seem like the right way to start a business relationship.