Your phone bill goes down easier with mustard

Telephone with mustardWith energy costs on the rise, around the Hickson household, we’ve been scrutinizing our monthly bills a bit more carefully. Among them, our landline telephone bill.

Now, in the past, we’d considered ourselves savvy consumers because we took the time to look for things like calls to Kohldazhell, Poland, and any connections lasting for more than 24 hours. In addition, any 1-900 calls were categorically disputed. After which I would call the phone company and do the same.

However, all those itemized surcharges in small print at the bottom of the bill were sort of like the little tag you get inside of your new clothes that says “inspected by No. 10.”

I’m not sure who he or she is, or what that inspection process entails.

I just assume it’s important enough to include in my pants.

But in this case, as we began looking more closely at our phone statements, we started questioning the validity of some of the charges which, until now, had been averted like the list of ingredients on a package of hot dogs:

You know they’re there.
You know they’re ugly.
But you also know you can cover them with mustard.

All together, there are 17 “extra” charges on our bill. For the most part, I understand five of them: bill statement fee, federal tax, public utilities commission fee, residence line fee and the state 911 fee. While I understand these fees, I don’t necessarily agree with them. For example, the $1.50 I pay for receiving my billing statement each month could just as easily be dropped if they’d just stop sending me a bill in the first place.

And though I’m not sure why I pay a fee to the utilities commission, I figure it’s worth one penny a month to keep them from holding a telethon.

That said, the remaining 12 charges seem, at the very least, questionable. First, there are a number of “universal” fees I incur, beginning with a charge for “Universal Connectivity.”

For those of you who may be wondering; Yes, “connectivity” is really a word, which means one of two things according to Webster’s Dictionary:

1) To connect something
2) The connective muscle tissue that holds antlers in place.

Since I’m (nearly) certain that my monthly expense of 42 cents doesn’t go to help deer suffering from DAS (Droopy Antler Syndrome), then I can only assume it’s for being connected to the universe.

The thing is, I get at least five calls a week — usually while I’m eating — asking about long distance service. I think if someone had called to offer phone service to places other than my own planet, I would’ve remembered.

In addition, there is the Federal Universal Service Fund, Oregon Universal Service Surcharge, and the Oregon Universal Service Surcharge for long distance. I believe the reason Oregonians are charged twice is because, as Oregonians, we’re already in our own universe; calling outside of it costs extra.

Though there are other fees that seem questionable — such as a separate “User Charge,” which sounds a lot like what I’m paying for in the first place, there is one charge that I find a bit unsettling:

“Resident Service Protection Fund.”

When I called to dispute this fee, the phone company said they’d be happy to eliminate it. Just as long as I understood that my protection would no longer be guaranteed.

I decided to go ahead and pay the extra dime, leaving me just enough pocket change for a hot dog.

Heavy on the mustard.

(Write to ned at, or at Siuslaw News, P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore 97439)

Published by

Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

29 thoughts on “Your phone bill goes down easier with mustard”

  1. Oregon is like another universe! BTW I am obsessed with Astoria. Don’t know why. Maybe it’s as simple as I saw ‘Kindergarten Cop’ and ‘Free Willy’ too many times.
    And, heehee, the line about your pants was really funny.

    1. And don’t forget “Goonies!” Yeah, Astoria is extremely cool. I love all the old homes and the museums. And thanks — what’s in my pants has been the source of many laughs… 🙂

    1. Exactly! That’s why I went ahead and forked over the extra dime to some guy named Carpachio. Figured it wasn’t worth the risk of waking up with a severed telephone book in my bed.

  2. You took on a lot there, Ned. Trying to understand the red tape is time-consuming enough, but actually disputing it? I hope it was worth the price of a hot dog!

  3. Resident service protection fund sounds like something Jason Bourne would be utilizing to keep his calls from being traced. Try to trace this number and you will find yourself on the doorstep of a backwoods taxidermy studio in nowhere Missouri….. I hope I didn’t just uncover too much.

  4. I once called the landline phone company and questioned the same charges you are listing. After a series of mind-numbing explanations from a totally clueless customer service rep., I just gave up. I no longer have a land-line and now I just spend my time trying to understand all those mysterious charges on my cable bill! Life goes on!

    1. Ahhh, trading one series of unexplained charges for another. I am familiar with that pattern. The only way to break it is to communicate only by way of walkie-talkies. Of course, it also means you can only make friends with people and have family within a 300-foot radius.

  5. Heyyyyyyy fellow Oregonian…. I knew we got each other especially well seeing as we have our own goofy little universe 🙂

  6. I finally decided to forego the land line. I was paying $70.00 a month for the most basic of services and just keeping the cell seemed a much smarter choice. Cell service is more galactic than universal. 😉

  7. Hey…isn’t there a Kohldazhell right down the pike from Fargo, North Dakota, too? Hmmm. Small world.

    Great post, as always, Ned. And I read the whole thing without a drop of Earl Grey tea anywhere in my vicinity, so my keyboard has remained dry. Who says I’m too old to learn anything new? (No, really. Who says it? I want names!)

  8. The DAS made me laugh—as much over how a mind could come up with deer suffering from that while examining a phone bill than any mental image of the droopy antlered deer.

    Maybe that’s a lack of imagination on my part. I’ve seen deer suffering from SAS (Stunted antler syndrome) and MAS (Missing Antler Syndrom), but never DAS.

    A Buck suffering from DAS would be a truly tragic figure. You may know this, but antlers are technically sex organs. Bucks that have been neutered (because some moron thought they’d make a cute pet) don’t grow antlers. I know: I have pictures. Think about what the other deer would be saying about that poor DAS deer!

    Did I miss the point of your post?

    1. Hahaha! You do seem fixated, however, it’s understandable. I agree it is a tragic waste to have a giant rack and not be able to get it up as a result of DAS. And “poor” Rudolf thought HE had it tough… 😉

  9. Those phone companies are unscrupulous! It seems like every service you apply for now includes at least seven additional charges to accompany them. Every appliance in your home has to have a protection plan of some sort and then there are the ‘luxury’ uses for each of the utilities used in your house.

  10. weirdly, i remember hearing a recent npr story about market research done by some corporations to determine the absolute highest amount that the average customer would pay without going through the process/bother/mind-numbing experience of questioning it. the amount was determined to be $2.99. apparently, as soon as it hit the 3 dollar mark, people felt it was worth the bother to check in these freakish ambiguous fees. large corporations such as cell phone companies, utilities, cable companies, some credit cards and banks all have made extra millions each year, just by sheer volume. as an afterthought, i used to give my daughters each one ‘no-reason reason’ to not go to school each semester, i believe this is the same type of things, perhaps they should just go ahead and name the fees, ‘no-reason reason fee.’ seems appropriate. beth

    1. Wow, that is really interesting! It makes total sense, too. It’s just like insurance companies’ policy (although they deny it) to automatically deny most claims that come through, knowing 10 percent of people won’t pursue it. They save millions and millions of dollars each year doing that! With what you’ve told me, I think I will start sending in any future medical claims in $2.99 increments.

No one is watching, I swear...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s