By Larry Teren
I recently heard that Netflix raised their monthly fees for renting films. It was couched in such a way that it does not look like a price increase but rather a splitting of the current all-in-one service into two distinct plans. The thinking is that most people really only use one or the other aspect of the service but not both. It smacks of a little double talk to me and definitely confusing. You can read the official explanation on their blog located at http://blog.netflix.com/2011/07/netflix-introduces-new-plans-and.html .
It was subsequently announced that an independent survey found 15% of Netflix customers would stop using the service due to a real price increase of 60% when you put the two separated services back together. In other far-reaching economic news, this past week The Illinois Toll Authority announced that they were raising tolls an average of 87%. They said they didn’t care what any of their customers felt and predicted they would lose few because of the steep increase.
Personally, I avoid taking the tollway unless it is very necessary. The few times I patronize the pay-as-you-go roads will not make me or break me. But, a public entity should not have the right to decide on the fees they charge but instead should be done by a separate oversight authority.
As for Netflix, I don’t use it. I’m sure it is a good and useful service but I prefer to watch what I do for free. If it means that I don’t see a movie until it has been out for three or four years and then broadcast on television- so what?
As it is, I have to pay a mortgage, condo dues, two telephone services , electricity, food, gas and other mandatory items. Okay, my one vice is crossword puzzles. I go out and buy a fancy magazine that costs from three to six dollars a pop at least forty times a year. You know, the ones that also have word games as well. I’m not into Soduko, or whatever they call it. C’mon, we won the war! They should be playing our games, not the other way around. I’m sure John Wayne is rolling over in his grave with this disloyalty. If you do the math, I’m probably paying as much or more for crossword magazines in a given month than a video watching service. But I can spend hours doing the games anywhere in my apartment and not so with videos.
If someone wants to treat me to a live sporting event (hint, hint) – fine, I’ll go. I’ll even pay for the parking at the rapid transit station. Hey, I’m a sport. But I no longer see value in paying for the privilege of watching millionaires strut around and more often fail to achieve success.
We live in a world where everyone seems to feel that they need to increase the fee for their product and services at least once a year. That is usually called inflation. The U.S. Government does not seem to share in this philosophy when it comes to financing the social services it feels obligated as well as mandated to support. Social Security recipients have seen a real drop in spending money over the past 18 to 24 months. This is due to both a freeze in how much the Feds give senior citizens as well as an increase in what they withhold for Medicare premiums. The Feds insist that we in America are in a period of deflation, not inflation. Yeah, well tell that to the Illinois Tollway Authority and Netflix.
The people who run this country have also made it easy for the banks where we put our money for safekeeping to pay very little if any interest on savings accounts. Most anyone over the age of 30 remembers a time when they could earn at least 3 percent on a certificate of deposit and FDIC insured money market accounts. Now, one is lucky to get even a third of a percent. But the banks have the right to charge fifteen dollar a month service fees because they feel like it.
That’s why I look for every reason to find something for nothing. So, companies like Netflix can keep raising their fees. It doesn’t bother me the least bit. And the tollway people can charge five dollars for
driving on a thirty mile strip of asphalt. Go ahead, make your day. I’ll sit and relax at all the stop lights and think about my non-interest bearing nest egg at the bank. And it’s just as easy to watch the Cubs lose on television than sitting in person at Wrigley Field. Especially, when I turn off a stinker in the third inning and switch to something with a happy ending. Something that will hold my interest, even if it doesn’t pay it.