The term “junk fee” seems pretty charged to me. After all, application fees, fees to pay the rent with a credit card or for trash removal aren’t the equivalent of eating a box of Twinkies for lunch and a bag of Doritos for dinner. Residents are paying for real services.

Is it a “junk fee” when you go to dinner and you can pay with your debit card for free, but they’ll charge you 2% more to pay with credit because that’s what the credit card company charges the restaurant?

We’re transparent. If it’s going to cost us more to accept one form of payment, we’re going to let the consumer know that it will cost them more. They can make a choice.

Those fees are not for us to make money. They provide value, a product and a service. Ultimately, if consumers don’t find value in the services we provide, we want them to make an informed decision.

We offer a variety of customer services. For instance, in many of our communities, we provide a service that takes trash from their front door to the dumpster in the parking lot. Some apartment communities are enormous, and no one wants to drag their nasty garbage halfway across the planet.

I could see someone whose job it is to protect consumers might say we’re charging a “junk fee” to handle trash. Consumers that find value in that service want to live at a Bonaventure community that offers it. If they don’t value it, then they’ll choose somewhere else where they don’t have to pay for it.

It’s no different than when an airline says you can get the exit row for $20 more. The airline is very clear that they’re assigning a value to an enhanced benefit.

A lot of the services we offer cost extra and are part and parcel of living in a community. Others are a la carte. Ultimately, we leave it in the consumer’s hands as to whether they think that represents a compelling value trade.

But sometimes you can’t unbundle things. For instance, if you left the trash fee up to everyone, some people might decide not to pay. They might drag their trash bag that’s leaking last night’s leftovers down the hall and destroy the carpet. Then everyone’s rent would rise because we’d have to replace the carpet.

Plus, there’s always someone who wants a free ride when you offer an a la carte menu. They’ll dump their trash in front of someone else’s door for pickup instead of paying.

Unbundling things and letting the consumer choose what to pay for isn’t as easy as it seems. Neither are “junk fees.”