Take Your Fee and Stick It
I just paid our home phone bill to AT&T. For the first time ever, the process made me want to scream.
As you all know, bills have a small section showing how much more you'll owe if your payment is late. Usually, that late fee is something like 80 cents on a $50 phone bill. That's reasonable--you should pay your bills on time, and if you can't meet that commitment, you should pay a small charge. The late fee is a pretty decent deterrent to sending in your check a bit late. It's been at least 3-4 years since I've paid a late fee.
This month, the late fee on our $47.54 bill was close to eight dollars.
Is AT&T struggling that bad? Are they falling short of their own payments on last year's purchase of SBC? Can't they look under the executive sofas to pick up a few extra quarters? Instead, they've decided to let customers know that if the post office loses their mail, or they just can't, for some reason, get around to writing the check in time, they'll be shaken down for 17% of their bill.
Were I in a good mood, or even a forgiving mood, about this, I'd probably think, "Well, a higher late fee is an even better deterrent to late payments."
But I'm not in a forgiving mood about this right now. Raising late fees by approximately 500 percent is punitive and greedy.
When the phone company blows off your service call, do they pay you for the time you've lost hanging around waiting for them? No. When you lose service, do they credit your account for the time your phone line is down? Only if you call and raise holy hell about it.
But if you're late on your bill, you're billed a fifth of your monthly rate.
I haven't heard anyone raising a ruckus about this. Why not? Why aren't people beating down AT&T's damned doors? Why isn't somebody like John Kass screaming about this?
If AT&T's customers aren't paying their bills on time, perhaps instead of raising the late fee by 500 percent, perhaps AT&T shouldn't be selling phone service to people who can't afford it. Perhaps AT&T shouldn't be charging so much for its services. Perhaps AT&T shouldn't be buying up so many phone companies if they don't care about serving customers. Perhaps AT&T shouldn't be helping the government spy on ordinary citizens.
Perhaps AT&T is going to be short one customer next month.