Outside The Bubble
'We don't care, we don't have to'
I honestly thought that the total was in pesos.
I opened my gas bill and was astonished to see that the cost for a month of natural gas had doubled. Now, I realize that it was awfully chilly in the last month for the Eastern Shore. Heck, it even snowed a little bit, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that in the winter, the gas bill is going be higher. This I get. However, the amount of gas that my household had used was just slightly higher than the month before. It's not like we filled my living room with sand, booked DJ Batman, and had our own private Lunasea party.
I, like most reasonably organized people, know approximately what the bills are going to be per month, but after opening my most recent bill, I spit my coffee all over the kitchen counter like I had just heard one of Dubya's most recent destructions of the English language, or had been hit on the back with a hockey stick.
So, I called the company, and was informed that there was a 9-percent price hike on the product that they provide, and that hike, coupled with the chilly temperatures below the Mason Dixon line brought my bill to it's astronomical price point.
Now, I don't expect much from the utilities companies, or the people that answer the phones. I'm sure that handling the phones at any utility company is about as appealing as spreading manure for a living or mopping up vomit from a boardwalk bathroom. Honestly, have you ever met any kid that aspires to work at a utility company?
The point is this: the woman on the other line, briefly described the situation and verbally wiped her hands clean as if to say, 'sucks to be you, the consumer, but you need the gas, so pay your fare.'
I hung up the phone, wiped up my coffee, and recalled an old SNL skit with Lily Tomlin as a rather snide phone company worker. Her tagline was, 'We don't care, we don't have to, we're the phone company.'
It made me realize that there are certain products that companies (usually large corporations) provide that are essential to our American lifestyle. They've got us by the proverbial short hairs and we can't do anything other than write the check. Because we need what they have, and there is nothing we can do about it.
Obviously, the phone, gas, electric and water providers are in this category. Usually, in an area this size, there are no more than two providers. In most cases, however, it is one company depending on your neighborhood.
With the explosion of cell phone usage, the phone company isn't as much to blame on the surface, but they still contribute in subtle ways. For example, you sign a two-year agreement for a phone that dies in a year. Then when you try to replace the phone, the model is no longer available. Tell me that is a coincidence and I'll call you a buffoon.
Vehicles stick it to you in similar ways. You pay for a warranty, and of course, a few thousand miles after said warranty runs out, things start to break. It makes you wonder if a study has been done to see how long things will last, and warranties are set accordingly.
Then there are the body shops.
Body shops are not the most ethical of businesses, especially in an area populated by tourists a large majority of the year. I've heard many of horror stories about people that had car troubles while on vacation and paid through the nose just to get home. It is a service that is essential, and you must pay accordingly, but in the off-season, the practice gets stuck to the locals often times on the basis of 'company policy.'
Here's the problem with 'company policy': With the franchising of large corporations that have replaced the mom and pop shops of old, comes an almost chilling indifference to the customer when customer relations is really needed. Wal-mart is the greatest example of this. If Wal-mart isn't next to the definition of the word 'monopoly' in the dictionary I don't know what is.
Call a corporation sometime and clock how long it takes you to actually talk to a person.
The information that we get is fed to us by media conglomerates backed by huge corporations (All of the big three networks) or channels used as propaganda vehicles for particular political parties (um•€¦Fox News).
If America is so full of free choice, why are some of the most essential needs that we need as humans provided to us at a 'take it or leave it' way of doing business?
I recently watched a movie with an interesting monologue from an actor about small town America. He asked his sister who still lived in their small town if she liked living there. She said, 'yeah, there's more to do now than when we were kids.'
He replied 'sure, there's four chain restaurants and two new strip malls, if eating and shopping is the only thrill that you seek.'
When I hear the recent scandals of the administration, watch small businesses shut down to make room for an Applebees, and write the check out to my local gas company, I realize that though we have more choices and freedoms than most countries, some of the ones that we have are often times chosen for us.
I guess that's why the phrase 'stick it to the man when you can' has stayed popular over the years.
'The man' always seems to get all your hard earned pesos.
It just sucks when you know he's getting more than he should.Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org