Friday, August 05, 2011

896 How To Read Your Phone Bill

Admit it.  You do not understand your telephone bill.  So as a public service, here is the Wessays™ guide to reading and comprehending it.

The first question that usually arises is “Why is it never the same twice, even if I don’t use the phone at all for two consecutive months?”  The answer is simple. The bottom line is generated randomly based on a complex formula to determine what you might have done, even if you’ve done nothing.  Your phone number is put into a computer which adds, subtracts, multiplies and divides both it and the total of the digits by a variable determined by averaging the diastolic blood pressure of the top 50 executives at the phone company.

Problem solved.

There probably are terms you actually DO understand, like “line charges,” “usage charges” DSL charges, that sort of thing.  But there are those for which definitions are known to only a few in the billing department.  Here are some examples and their definitions, gleaned from deathbed confessions of accounting department retirees, but not from hacking voicemails or bribing workers.

Telecommunications Relay Service:  This is phone-speak for the price of bouncing your call around inside the company building, searching for an open line out.  It costs money to trap your call inside their headquarters and then dawdle around looking for a wire to whomever you’re calling.

VLD State and Local Tax:  VLD stands for “Very Last Day.” This is a relatively small levy collected each month in case you should decide to cancel your service.  It’s collected by your locality for not knowing how to reach you if you move.

VLD Gross Receipts tax surcharge:  This is an extra charge only when the tax collector forgets his lunch money and is hungry.

Federal Universal Service Fee:  This is an amount collected so that the Federal Communications Commission can figure out if you’re being overcharged.

Adjustment due to change in rates: it’s usually a refund of under ten cents and is determined by the Federal Communications Commission, using the larger Federal Universal Service Fee as previously described.

Non-Basic Charges:  This is the money they collect for supplying you with services you thought came with the deal when you signed your contract.

Some other tricks they use:
--Listing a customer service phone number that’s one digit short, giving you the missing digit and not telling you where it fits in among the other six.
--Advising you to use their website to report DSL problems.
--Placing long series of meaningless numbers at strategic spots around the bill to further confuse you.
--Placing what you were supposed to have paid and probably DID pay last month at the head of a long column of figures and misleading you into believing it’s what you owe now.
--Printing you bill as one long sheet of paper and then cutting it up into smaller pieces so a topic heading is never on the same page as the topic.

We hope giving you this information and explaining these terms helps you understand what you’re paying for and how much and to demonstrate our long stated notion that private bureaucracies are every bit as confounding and fossilized as government bureaucracies.


--The farm team system seems to work pretty well for baseball.  Bring ‘em up and send ‘em down as needed.  It doesn’t work too well in government.  Once you’ve promoted someone, they stay promoted until they die or lose elections, usually the former.

--Want to annoy a cop?  Ask him or her “When was the last time your radar gun was calibrated?”  That’s sure to draw stares of hatred, even if you weren’t pulled over.

--Unfair speculation:  Fiat has reentered America, introducing the silly looking model “500.”  Those of us who have owned machines of this brand will assume that the model name designates its life expectancy, probably in kilometers.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to
© WJR 2011

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