The hotel industry successfully introduced "resort fees." The airlines gradually added baggage-handling fees. Cell phone and cable TV marketers steadily increase fees for expanding services. But when banks tried to introduce a $5 monthly debit fee, consumers revolted, likely because banks failed to rely on the science of "pricing psychology" to sell them.

"Customers will go along with price increases if they think they are getting a fair value for the service, but Bank of America failed to provide that part of the equation," says Jens Baumgarten, a partner and price-psychology consultant with the marketing-strategy firm Simon-Kucher & Partners in New York.

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