Getting a (sur)charge out of life


This is getting ridiculous. It was bad enough when the airlines started charging hefty fees for each piece of luggage. And that was after they had already figured out they could charge for meals, drinks, pillows, blankets and headsets. Sigh. I wonder how long until they realize they can charge a toll for access to the jetways used to board their stupid airplanes? (Don’t you dare give them my idea.)

Then again, when it comes to added fees, surcharges, and taxes, nobody does it better than the phone company. Trying to decipher a monthly telephone bill, or worse – a wireless phone bill – is like trying to crack the Da Vinci Code with a Buck Rogers decoder ring (not that I ever had one of those). Has any group ever actually checked to see if all those taxes and surcharges, access fees and service charges are legit? Is it even possible to do without a platoon of full time consumer advocates?

My most recent AT&T statement is a perfect example. It included the usual Monthly Service charge, individual fees for Caller ID and Call Waiting, a fee to not have my listing published (if that isn’t chutzpa, I don’t know what is), a Federal Universal Service fee, Local Usage fees, Local Toll charges, Federal Subscriber Line charge, Rate Surcharge, State Regulatory fee, Federal Universal Service fee, CA High Cost Fund Surcharge-A, CA High Cost Fund-B, CA Advanced Service Fund, California Teleconnect Fund surcharge (I promise you I’m not making these up), Universal Lifeline Telephone Service surcharge, CA Relay Service and Communications Devices Fund, 9-1-1 Emergency System fee, Federal taxes and last but not least, Local taxes.

Whoops, wait … I was wrong. On a separate page, I just found four more fees “billed on behalf of” another related vendor. What the what? All I know is, I’m in the wrong business.

I wish these companies who think they’re fooling us with their tacked on charges would be honest and just put “one arm, one leg,” and “your first born” on their price lists. One way or another, we have to pay for it anyway. (You can’t imagine, dear reader, how tempted I am to unload here about the so-called Health Reform Initiative those lying, conspiratorial, glad-handing, two-faced felons in Washington D.C. are even now trying to ram down the American taxpayers’ throats. But I won’t. For now.)

The latest eye opener has been helping my son with his college applications while at the same time covering the expenses for his upcoming high school graduation.

On the college side of things, there’s a nice little fee just for the privilege of applying to the phenomenally expensive institution, a fee to get a copy of his transcripts from his own high school ($1 for unofficial, $3 for official. Seriously? What’s the two dollar difference, a rubber stamp that says ‘official’?), another fee to have his S.A.T. scores sent to the college, and so on. We’re going to be flat broke before he even runs up a dime of tuition expense. But that’s okay, because we’re already broke. Heck, we’re still paying off the loans we took out so our daughter could get a nursing degree from Azusa Pacific University quite a few years ago. I have a feeling that I’ll personally need her nursing skills before we’re through paying off those loans.

In the meantime, my son has to make it out of high school. And that, my friends, is proving to be a bank buster in its own right. Between his senior pictures, class ring, cap and gown, announcements, envelopes, college entrance test fees, and so many other looming costs, I already feel like a well-wrung sponge.

Unfortunately, in addition to being out of money, I’m out of space. So I’ll need to take up this topic next week. I wouldn’t want to be charged an ‘over word limit’ fee by my publisher, after all.

I’ll see you ‘round town.