Fees, Fi, Fo Phew!

There is an old adage about nothing is guaranteed but death and taxes. I’m thinking you can add into the mix ‘fees’. It seems that regardless of what some products or service costs, there are also the hidden fees. You’ve seen or heard commercials where an alluring voice brags about a special deal on a new car or cell phone service that seems too good to be true. Then, at the very end, the voice changes to a very low, almost indiscernible pitch when the hidden fees are spoken in sped up fashion. If you record the promotional announcement and play it back slowly and in reverse, I think you can hear the Beatles saying, “there’s a sucker born every minute.”

The monthly statement I receive from that three letter phone company breaks down the charges which require a lawyer to interpret. Besides the set fee for the monthly regular plan, there is one for long distance and another for the internet. I happen to be one of the old school guys that has two lines coming out of every phone jack in the wall. The second line is for the dsl internet modem. The phone company repairmen hate me for it. But, that’s another story.

Going back to the regular monthly plan, it is further broken into a line charge, repair insurance and a Federal Access charge. The line charge I can understand. It is the core service provided. The repair insurance comes in handy- trust me. But, what about that third fee? Hmm… Is the federal government charging me for the ability to tap into my phone lines and listen to my conversations?

The fees are given twice, one for each line with no discount for multiple service. Whatever happened to the idea of economy of scale?

The local calls are further broken into one fee for less than 8 miles and another for more than 8 miles. That’s okay- I appreciate that it costs more to run a longer phone connection that is not long distance, huh? The thing that gets me is that I am also billed for each of the following:

local village 911 Emergency System
State Infrastructure Maintenance
State Additional Charges
Federal Universal Service
State Universal Service
State Telecom Relay Service and Equipment.

Did I mention that this is just the regular call section? In the Long Distance section, there are the following additional fees:

Carrier Cost Recovery
Fed Universal Service Fund
State Infrastructure Maintenance Fee Recovery
State USF Surcharge

There are also Federal, State and Municipal taxes on long distance.

It seems to me that there is a lot of redundancy here in both the Federal and State governments making up multiple categories to take away our hard-earned money. As I understand it, one of the enigmatic charges listed above is mandated by the State to cover losses incurred by the phone company from poor people who don’t pay their phone bills. Well, when you add all these other charges how can anyone pay their phone bill?

As for my cell phone service bill, they add a Federal Universal Charge, a Regulatory Charge and an Administrative Charge. Wait- shouldn’t an administrative charge be blended into the monthly fee? Or is this a fee for collecting the other fees and handing them over to the Feds and whomever gets the Regulatory Charge? Geesh!

Oops! I forgot to mention there is also a City of Chicago 911 Fee and a State Telecom Excise Tax along with something called Chicago MTT. Needless to say that I bought the phone and the service in a suburban location and it is registered to a suburban address. No comment.

Changing the subject, how about them Bank Fees? If you do not keep a minimum balance that is so designated, you are charged a fee. Even if you do, they bill you for it and then immediately credit your account. What is the purpose of that? Seems like a wasted effort.

If you write a bad check or receive a bad check, you are hit with a fee. They get you coming and going.

Did I forget the electric company? No. They charge a connection fee as well as different rates depending on what the average temperature is outside for that given billing period. I’d like to charge my customers for the mood I’m in on a given visit but then they’d throw me out of the building.

If anyone thinks that death gets rid of a need to pay fees- try getting put in the ground and dealing with the union that does it.

By the way, I’m thinking of charging a fee for reading these posts. Wait! I’m just kidding.

Complaint Department

When was the last time you talked to someone in the “complaint department”? In today’s world of political correctness, a friendlier term is now in use- “customer service”. Based on interaction with people who populate this ever-growing field of work, the term is most definitely an oxymoron. And you can also say that some of the customer service people are morons, too.

Just last week, I was on the phone with a representative from the phone company complaining that they increased my bill from the previous month by ten dollars. I spent some time scrutinizing the four page statement of small print to figure out that they added an extra three dollars per phone number for something called ‘line charge’ and fifty cents each for ‘linebacker’. Having two lines, that was an extra seven dollars plus three dollars in various taxes to feed politicians need to take away my money. I wouldn’t have minded if the fees were reversed because ‘linebacker’ was a polite way to say inside wiring repair insurance. I’ve needed the talents of strangers coming into my apartment to rip up a few wires now and then. They call telephone repairmen linebackers not because they also doubled as football players but at some point in their career they climbed telephone polls for recreation, I guess.
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