Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, November 8, 2013

All bundled up with some new technology

Since we live in an age when consumers are constantly being confronted by “aggressors,” as we called them in my Army days at Fort Hood, Texas, I feel compelled to spend at least another week giving unsolicited advice on how to keep from getting suckered when bills arrive in the mail.

I am not talking about legitimate bills. I am talking about bills that raise questions in your mind and small hairs on the back of your neck, commonly called “hackles.”

I think that is what they are called. But I don’t have any way of looking up hackles without resorting to Google. And I want to move along.

I told you last week how I got Sears to cancel a small amount it claimed I owed (about $21.10) by appealing to the company’s sense of fair play. Several readers told me I could avoid such confrontations by paying bills on the Internet. I have never learned how to do that and I don’t intend to start now. I have enough trouble looking up college football scores on the Internet for my Football Prognosticators League. It is because some of them draft such small, obscure college teams that their scores are not listed in the papers.

I am not going to mention any names, but there several prominent citizens among the Prognosticators, including some judges and a few lawyers. They shall remain nameless because many years ago I wrote a column about the group and the late and highly respected judge Jim Jackson, one of the Prognosticators, had a fit because he thought I was linking him to gambling.

My response was that if you call a competition among friends in which you can win or lose as much as $7 over the course of a season “gambling,” then I plead guilty.

Other readers told me I prevailed over Sears because I buy ink by the barrel and paper by the carload.
Please be advised that I don’t “buy” anything around here. They have other people who do that.

But I digress. Let’s get down to the consumer case at hand. A couple months ago the lady of the house and I went over to Verizon to get new cell phones because our old ones were running down every day, which was a severe pain in the posterior.

I learned from the chap who waited on us that Verizon is now hooked up with Time Warner Cable, and if we got our cable TV and our computer line from TWC, I could save some money.

All I had to do was drop the AT&T phone and computer line. I hated to do that, because I always liked AT&T and I have friends who work there. But it was a business decision.

Here’s the math: I was paying Time Warner $108 a month, and I was paying AT&T around $72 a month, for a total of $180 a month. According to the chart I got at Verizon, I could get all that “bundled” for $130 a month ($129.99, to be precise, but I think it’s fair to call it $130.)

Swell, I said. Sign me up. A guy from TW came over and put a new wire in my modem (those are wonderful gadgets with blinking lights, and when they go bad you unplug them for a minute and “reboot” them. That is a technical term that I don’t understand, but it doesn’t matter. I am not an electrician, I am a typist.)

When the first bill came, it was for $193.65!

Whoa! I said. Hold the horses! That was not what I had agreed to. Five minutes after the mail came I was on the phone to TW. There are some things I don’t understand,  the guy advised me. The regular bill is going to be “only” $139.88, but that includes a new modem for $5.99 a month and some taxes and fees (it sounds like the government).

OK, I agreed. But you promised me free HBO (I never really wanted it. I cancelled it once before because I never watched it.) However, I wanted to make a point.

All right, the guy said. I will turn on HBO for you, and the new monthly bill will be $139.17. So get this! I add a new service and save 71 cents a month. Figure that one out.

I calculated I should be getting a refund from AT&T because they charge you a month in advance on your phone bill (while you’re at it, figure that one out), and sure enough, I got a check in the mail for $31.65.

Hey, it all adds up.

Here’s the hooker (if you’ll pardon the expression) in the deal: The price is guaranteed for 12 months. What happens after that, only time will tell.

I do know this: If I turn down the price increase and they come to get my new modem, they will be met at the door by five angry females. One of them is two-legged and the other four are four-legged. If that happens I am going to get out of the way lest there be some fur flying.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I pay most of my bills on-line and learned the hard way that it takes 5 days to reach its destination. I got fined from my credit card company for paying late. I had sent it about 2 days before it was due but that wasn't long enough. I did call and get refunded but from now on I'll know to pay at least 5 days ahead.

November 10, 2013 at 5:25 AM 
Blogger russ Hunter said...

fees are the way of the future for profits

November 24, 2013 at 11:32 AM 

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