Let’s say you have a friend. A casual one, at best. Let’s say your friend’s name is Fran. Wave hi to Fran. Did you wave?
Let’s also say it’s a sunny Saturday afternoon, you have no plans for the evening, and you’ve just finished watching all the new “Arrested Development” episodes on Netflix—in one sitting, no less—when you get a text from your friend Fran:
“Beer pong @8. My place. Bring beer.”
Now, we already know you’re not great friends with Fran, but you decide to go to Fran’s place down the street anyway since you need to get out of your apartment and have nothing better to do tonight, especially on the cheap. You text back:
“Fa sheez. Natty light okay?”
She doesn’t text you back until 8, when you’re in line at 7-Eleven:
“Can you get balls and cups, too?”
Would you be polite and help a friend in need? Sure you would. No? Well, let’s say you see a six-pack of ping pong balls hanging out on the counter. Beside a large stack of red keg cups. Both are on sale. The universe aligning, you think.
“Soytanely” you answer.
When you get to the party around 8:15, you’re expecting to be called a hero. You’ve got balls, cups, and cold beer, and you raise them all above your head as you walk through Fran’s front door.
Only problem is that there’s already people playing beer pong. And there’s plenty of beer—eight cases next to the table, you count, plus plenty of balls and cups. You wonder if she mass-texted everyone the same demands. Would you stay just to find out?
Before you have a chance to ask the dude sitting alone on the couch if he, too, was suckered into bringing an overload of supplies, Fran spies you, rushes over, and asks you why you brought all that.
You hold back your frustration, try to concentrate on the fact that you can probably turn around and at least get a refund for the balls and cups, but that’s when Fran grabs the balls and cups from you and stuffs them in one of her kitchen cabinets. Shame on you, you think. Lesson learned, you guess.
But would you decide to stay anyway? To at least get your money back by consuming mass alcohol?[ref]It’s OK, you aren’t driving.[/ref] Let’s say you write your name on the beer pong list and end up playing 10 games straight with Fran’s roommate Steph who averages about three made shots a game. But it’s only after that 10th game that you realize the party has trickled down to five people.
That’s when Fran makes her move.
“Do you think you could stay and help me clean up?”
You’re swaying a bit, trying to look down at the time on your cell phone. 1:00 am. You make up an excuse, really just wanting to collapse on your bed back home.
Fran replies: “Could you at least give me some money for the clean-up, ya know?”
Fran continues, raising her voice to reach the couple going to the door: “Come on guys, does anyone want to contribute to the clean-up fund?”
You’re slurring, but you don’t care: “I brought beer. And cups. And balls—” You laugh at that one. “I’ve already contributed.”
Fran frowns and her accent comes out: “It was B.Y.O.B. So did everyone else.”
Would you be able to hold back from saying what you’re thinking? Something along the lines of: “You want me to pay you for cleaning up a party that myself and all your guests funded?”
Would you wait for Fran to shout: “See if I invite you next time!”?
I’m sure we’re all in agreement here: The answer is a neon-flashing, blood-red, all caps, sans-fucking-serif: “NO.” We’re not gullible. We’re not going to pay for something that the host is responsible for, especially when you consider everything Fran’s guests had to pay for that evening. See, holding up to the party-goer’s part of the social agreement by bringing supplies is one thing, but when the host doesn’t fork over a dime to be the host, hoards all of the extra supplies, and tries to get a free ride through the clean-up process, what would you do?
You would tell Fran to fuck off.
Well, that’s what I’ve decided to tell my cable provider Comcast. See, Comcast is just like Fran. I bet they’re besties. Here’s why.
The other day I noticed my cable bill was $30 more than the monthly fee I was used to forking over. I didn’t remember signing up for more channels, or getting anything I was already paying for. Upon investigating, I realized Comcast was trying to Fran me by charging me $30 for having sent a technician out to fix my cable.
Let’s step back for a minute. I had had a problem with the picture going black every few seconds. I unplugged and plugged in cords, checked the power—basically every simpleton tech check I’d learned from years spent helping the tech-naiveté for pennies at a public library. So, I went online to chat with one of Comcast’s representatives. The rep tried to remotely fix the problem. No luck. After a few questions, the rep informed me they’d have to send a representative out. I set up an appointment for the following day. No problem, I could go without cable for a day. I thought about asking for a refund for the days of spotty cable, but I thought I’d keep cable karma on my side. The next day, the technician showed up to my place on time. She walked in and quickly assessed that the problem was most likely a faulty HDMI cord (keep in mind this is a cord Comcast provided, along with the cable box). After replacing the HDMI cord she made a comment about one lady having tipped her that day—that should have been my first hint. Anyway, spotty service gone. Nice clear picture for the rest of the month.
Then I get my monthly bill and the $30 uptick. Keep in mind I was never told that a technician coming to fix a problem would cost me money. Not online with the representative. Not by the technician before entering my residence. Not once. Nor did I ever sign a contract with Comcast for my cable and nor was ever told at any point in any conversation with any Comcast employee that getting a technician to repair cable that isn’t working when I’m already paying for it would cost me more money. (If you’re saying “huh?” here, then trust me, you’re following me.)
Comcast customer service (they put the moron in oxymoron) was quickly called. My argument, in summary, had two parts: (1) I was never informed of the charges beforehand; and (2) how can a company charge their customers to replace a faulty device which said company provided in order for the customer to receive the services they are already paying for?
My logic was lost on the first rep I spoke with, and even that rep’s supervisor to whom my call was later transferred. They offered to give me more channels to recoup the cost. I told them I didn’t want more channels, only to pay what I rightfully owed them. They claimed that $30 was the minimum amount for an in-home visit, that it could have been as much as $50. I asked them how they are legally allowed to charge whatever they feel like for their services, asked how a technician couldn’t just charge me $50 and do nothing aside from set foot inside my apartment. Their final, overall counter argument: I couldn’t prove that they hadn’t told me about the charge for a visit. This coming from a company known for their putrid customer service. Both reps ignored my second argument. I was told to seek a copy of the original internet chat I had had with their rep about the problem. Guess what? They didn’t have a record of it. I asked to be transferred to their account cancellation department. Guess what? My call was disconnected.
It’s safe to say I’ve never dealt with such a miserable excuse for a service company in my life. To say Comcast is running a scam is an understatement. Think of how much money they’re making from people who don’t pay attention to their bill, or think $30 isn’t worth the fight. How many people will cancel because of it? I’m willing to bet everything I’ll ever own that Comcast makes more money off this in-home visit scam than they do from losing customers because of it.
And Comcast isn’t the only company getting away with this.
After seeing an uptick in my cell phone bill and doing some online research, I’ve learned that communications giant AT&T has recently started charging an “administrative fee” of $0.61 to every customer who pays online. A disguised “convenience fee.” For the convenience of giving them money. Or for “maintenance” on their cell sites. What exactly are we paying for in the monthly bill to begin with then?
Sixty-one cents. That’s chump change, though, right? Not worth the fight. Thing is, AT&T could be making upward of a half a billion dollars from this fee. A fee that isn’t on the two-year agreement I stupidly signed. That makes the fee illegal then, right? Wrong. Technically, the fee is not part of the contracted service charge, but is instead an add-on fee, charges they can increase whenever they want. However, according to one source, you can get out of your contract this way since, technically, the fee is an increase in service, which should, in fact, nullify the contract.
My major concern in all of this lies with the Federal Communications Commission. How are communications giants like Comcast and AT&T able to swindle hundreds of millions of dollars from the American consumer and nothing is being done about it? What’s the point in having a federal agency funded to regulate communications when it isn’t regulating them? What’s the point in regulating capitalism at all if corporations can do whatever they want? We’d at least have less taxes to fork over, so we could fork that money over to the corporations screwing us anyway.
Answer: The FCC is more concerned with rappers swearing than corporations committing heinous crimes.
So, what’s to prevent every business from charging similar hidden fees? Especially companies that charge you after a service has been completed?
What if a car wash advertised a basic wash for $23.99 and you look at your bank statement later and you find out they tacked on an additional four bucks for drying it off?
What if gas stations advertised $4.00 a gallon and when you looked at your receipt they ended up charging you 10 cents on every gallon for the ability to pump the gas into your tank?
At what monetary amount would you pitch a fit and sue their asses?
And if Comcast and AT&T and others continue to get away with this, what’s to stop every other service on the planet from doing the same thing?
Will we have to lock ourselves in our houses, and avoid all communication with a world that is trying to scam us? Or will we give in and just accept the fact that we’re going to get fucked?
Will we accept the fact that Fran is our only friend? And that maybe there isn’t anyone else to play beer pong with?
Will we be forced to play beer pong with ourselves?
How would we get our balls back?