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Paying to Pay: Is That Nice?

pay to pay?Paying bills online is convenient. Paying bills over the phone isn’t too bad. I accept these necessities of modern life with good humor, if not grace.

Today involved two things I hate. Indeed, they could easily supply appropriate elements of torture, just in case someone in The Celestial Barbecue Pit is taking notes.

What I find so annoying is having to pay for the privilege of paying my bills. In most of my accounts, there is an automatic robot system with which you should be able to pay your bills remotely, conveniently and quickly to hear them tell it.  This boast is the kind of thing we use to fertilize our farms here in Indiana.

From my local utility company to the government, and of course, and with unseemly greedy participation, banks, more and more organizations are charging you before they will accept your money. In short, you are charged for doing the honest thing and paying your bills.

They do this by hiring third-party collectors and charging you for the privilege of paying their staffing expenses. So, in addition to realizing a profit from charging you in the first place, you are forced to contribute to the profit of an extra organization that provided you with exactly nothing for your hard-earned money.

These places call it a “service” charge, which puzzles me. The “Service” they contracted to give me is the utility, loan or whatever I agreed to receive. My agreement was to pay them for whatever it is I asked them to supply.

We have already established our contract. Your company said it will supply heat, phone service, garbage collection or whatever else I’ve agreed to buy. I said I would pay for these services on a monthly basis. As long as we both do these things, our contract with each other should be satisfied.

I don’t know where my brain was recently when it came time for paying property taxes. I had myself convinced that they were due 2 days later than the State of Indiana thought I should pay them.

I realized my mistake the day after they were due. I fully expected to pay a penalty for being late. 5% of the total amount due seems a bit excessive, but I understand why the taxing authorities might want to encourage its citizens to pay on time, rather than be hit with a penalty.

There was a website that could accommodate credit card payment of the debt. I logged on and finally secured the right to continue living in my house, at least until November.

After all, was said and done I was informed that there would be an additional $40.00 charge for the convenience of paying online. Even the government doesn’t handle its own billing!

I remember the old days. You got a statement and made your payment in the enclosed self-addressed envelope. You had to supply a stamp and throw your check in the mailbox. Then, you were done with the transaction for a month.

Now, you have to go to the company’s site to register. You have to make up yet another username and yet another password. Then you have to fill out a form to prove that you really are you.

Let’s rephrase that. You are presented with a form to fill out, but it rarely is satisfied with your answers until you have typed them at least 4 times.

If for some reason you are forced to start over, all of the cute edit boxes which were formerly populated with your information have reverted back to their blank state. This, of course, means that you must retype such interesting facts as your address, phone number, mother’s maiden name, sister’s shoe size, and your cousin’s favorite color. About the third time you do this, you are ready for a nap, or at least a good, stiff drink.

You finally decide to call for help. The telephone number is not available on the site. There is an email address for support that advises you that every email is read, but only important ones are answered. I guess the second question is “important to whom”? “Me” isn’t the right answer. Allowing me to maintain good credit and continue to occupy my home may not be important, or even relevant to the wider world. It would be nice to get an answer, but, as I said, there is no phone number, and I suspect that any question delivered by email goes directly into someone’s spam folder.

Finally, through the kindness of Providence, and a friend who is a lot more patient with that kind of thing than I am, the bill is paid, and the threat of being sued is evaded for another blissful month. Now, to add to the frustration and annoyance of having to spend 3 hours to arrange payment of the bill, I am informed that there will be a charge for the “service” the collector is providing to the company who is already earning a profit from my patronage.

As I said earlier, I can remember a time when a 10-cent stamp and a check for the amount due were all you needed to keep the creditors from ruining your standing in the community, let alone the collection agencies. Now, not only do you have to pay your expenses to be considered a good and honest soul, it should be a privilege to do so. You have to pay someone to accept your money like they are doing you a favor by taking it.

I think utility companies; banks and the government should show a little gratitude to those of us who pay our debts. I’m not saying that fireworks should be involved. A brass band would be nice, but it isn’t necessary. Just thank me for doing it, and don’t insult me by charging for the privilege.

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