Jewish World Review July 20, 2004 / 24 Menachem-Av, 5764

Jim Shea

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Consumer Reports

Some charges don't ring true | I always have had the following policy toward the phone bill:

Don't ask, don't tell.

I never asked about all the mysterious charges, and they agreed not to tell me anything about them.

This made life easier for everyone.

The phone bill came, I paid whatever the company figured I should pay, and I got on with my life.

Granted, this left me open to getting hosed, but then that was going to happen anyway.

(If I'm not mistaken, I believe there is actually a "Subscriber Hosing Charge" included right there in the monthly statement.)

Anyway, as the result of a hysterical wave of household fiscal accountability - not of my own making, I might add - I have been required to go over the phone bill in some detail.

The experience has been more sobering than sticking your head out of a moving car window.

For example, did you know that every month you have to pay something called the "911 Surcharge," even if you didn't make any 911 calls?

Don't get me wrong, I'm a compassionate soul, but I don't think it's fair that I should have to pay a whopping 20 cents a month to cover someone else's misfortune.

Is there any reason people in dire need of emergency assistance can't call 911 collect?

Or that people who know they are going to be using 911 a lot - say neighbors of the shirtless guys who are always getting handcuffed on "Cops" - can't get a direct line?

I will, however, say this for the 911 charge: At least I understand what it's for.

The same cannot be said for something called the "Flat Residence Line."

After considerable thought, I have concluded that the only explanation for this charge is bad typing, and that the item was intended to read "Fat Residents' Line."

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Personally, I think charging by the pound rather than the minute is kind of unfair. I mean, some people are just big-boned. And what if you are retaining water?

Another levy I have problems with is the "Number Portability Service Charge," which everyone pays in case someone wants to take their phone number with them when they move.

Who thought this one up, Karl Marx?

What's next, chipping in for the movers?

I could go on, but that would involve talking about something called the "Universal Service Fund," and frankly, I'd rather be watching shirtless guys getting handcuffed on "Cops." ___

Jim Shea is a columnist for the Hartford Courant. Comment by clicking here.

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06/23/04 Advice from the managed
06/02/04 Tired of playing the numbers
05/19/04 Words on words: Just call me a bloviating boomer


© 2004, The Hartford Courant Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.