Monday, July 26, 2010

Don't Start Now!

If you do not normally read your bills while paying them, or someone else handles that chore, don't pick them up and start reading them.  It is like a visit to the Twilight Zone!

I confess.  My wife handles the bill paying -- by her choice and my happy compliance with her desire.  But today I decided to open the bills that arrived and read them.  The electric bill had an assortment of taxes and assessments, and energy charge (for the electricity) and an "availability charge" of $25.

That last one caught my eye.  I actually called to ask them what the item was.  The girl on the other end said it was just what it said it was -- it was the cost of providing the electricity - the buildings, the wires, the poles, and the salaries of various people.  I asked if she was saying that I was paying for the electricity and then also paying them to deliver it -and she said, "Of course!"

Frankly, it strikes me as stealing.  I don't go to grocers and expect to pay for the groceries and then have an additional percentage tacked on to cover the cost of the building and the employees.  I don't expect the gas station in town to charge an extra premium for actually having a station and pumps and such.  I expect that the products purchased are priced to include the cost of doing business.  The electric company, however, is bold enough to charge a pretty premium for the electricity and then charge the customers for their cost of doing business on top of the high cost of their product.

Next, I imagine that they will add a profit surcharge - you know, to cover actually making a profit on top of the cost of the product and their cost of doing business.  You can only get away with these shenanigans when the product is absolutely necessary and there is no real competition.  Utilities and governments - the two really abusive entities.  I wish I had not read my bills.

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