So, I’ve been feeling kind of cranky lately. I’m not usually a cranky person. But several events have happened lately that have caught me unawares. And the fact that all of this is legal – things that in your wildest imagination shouldn’t possibly be legal – has been especially astonishing to me.
I’ll go in order of sneakiness and heinousness. The first was several months ago when I was visiting my girl child down by the coast. Because she lives within an hour of water, merchants of every ilk feel obligated to charge insanely high prices for everything. For example, I stopped to get gas before I headed home in the evening. There was a price posted that said it was the “cash” price. How much more could it be for using my credit card? Any guesses? 10 cents a gallon? 20 cents a gallon? My first problem was it was dark and I couldn’t see the sign posted on the pump which detailed the options in plain English. The second problem is, I am blind as a bat reading anything without my reading glasses. So when the numbers went racing by, I had no idea what was happening. Until it was all over – they charged an extra 50 cents per gallon for using a credit card! Sigh.
Next. I still have a landline phone. For years, I was paying for long-distance access. I didn’t really pay attention to the itemized charges on my bill. Until one of my friends told me her bill was about $50 less per month than mine. She was only paying a few dollars a month for the same service from the same company. I called. They said, oh, you’re not really paying US for this (even though it’s the same exact company name), that’s like a sister company that’s independent of us (even though it showed up on the same bill with the SAME COMPANY NAME). Oh, sure, you want to do this service through us, yes, it will be $50 less per month. But no, we had no intention of deceiving you. Seriously.
Numbers 3 and 4 are tied in my mind for the insane and ridiculous things they’re getting away with, so here goes. One of our cars needed towing a few months ago. The towing guy didn’t exactly strap the car on correctly and the car went bouncing off the back of the tow truck, causing damage to the back of our car. I wasn’t present when this happened, but the driver was apologetic and presented the company’s business card with the name of a body repair shop nowhere near our home for us to go to. We don’t know this towing company – we got them through our friendly auto membership club. I called our friendly membership club and asked if there was somewhere closer we could get the car repaired. They said it wasn’t their problem, that we needed to ask the towing company to work this out. I politely reminded them that we’ve been paying them to be members for longer than my kids have been alive, but the girl on the other end apologized but said there was nothing they could do. Really? Beware, all of you who pay for these memberships because if something goes wrong, you are basically on your own. Due to a large number of circumstances I won’t bore you with (if you’re still with me here in spite of my rambling), it’s been several months since this event happened and no one can find the business card. But when I called our auto club people, they had a report of the incident and gave me the name of the towing company. The towing company informed me that since it’s been over a month since this happened, they’re no longer responsible for the repair. I beg to differ. The auto club company promised they’d get this straightened out and call me within 72 hours. Over a week ago. Still waiting.
The final insult. One word – banks. They’re no longer the friendly neighborhood business you might remember from days gone by enticing you to trust them with your money by offering you free toasters and glassware. They are all business these days. Now, you might be under the false impression if you – or one of your children – have a debit card, you are limited in what you can spend to the amount of money in your account. You would be wrong. Not only wrong, but shockingly wrong. Because not only can you – or your child – go hundreds of dollars above and beyond what is in your account, but each time you might buy, say a $3 coffee, if there is no money in your account, the bank will happily give you that $3 – for a $35 fee! I’m not kidding! And they will continue loaning you money for an unlimited time because they are allowed to collect $35 each time you get money when there is no money! So, why would they stop – they’ve got you hooked! How is this legal?
If you’re not familiar with the term usury, here is the definition from Merriam-Webster: an unconscionable or exorbitant rate or amount of interest; specifically : interest in excess of a legal rate charged to a borrower for the use of money. Now, I’m no great legal scholar, but it seems to me that borrowing a couple of dollars and being charged $35 for that privilege – instead of just being told “no” – sounds like it fits that bill to me. Congressmen? Senators? Any thoughts on how this is possibly legal?
So, I hope you understand that while I’m trying not to let all of this nonsense destroy my sense of humor, I’m finding it difficult to keep the faith these days. It just seems sometimes like the inmates truly are running the asylum. Maybe I’ll just feel better if I run out to get a cup of coffee – but first I have to make a quick long-distance call, find that debit card, and fill up the dented car with gas.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved