Verizon says it hates extra fees. Then I looked at a phone bill

Verizon is currently mocking cable companies that charge extra fees. Could this be the same Verizon that does actually charge them?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

No one likes to pay extra fees.

Screenshot by ZDNet

You've become so used to them that you don't even notice.

You just pay your bill and conclude that everybody does it and, in our supremely crooked world, there's nothing you can do.

Yet when an ad invaded my laptop and encouraged me to laugh, I found myself shrinking a little into my velvet (fake) sofa.

You see, the ad was from Verizon and it was all about how terrible, awful, sinful, disgraceful, and shameful extra fees really are.

Was this an attempt at sackcloth-and-ashes marketing to coincide with Lent? I fear not.

Instead, this was an ad for Verizon Fios, the company's marvelous fiber-optic bundle of joy.

Here, Verizon had created a corner store that offered fine goods and not so very fine surcharges. Such as the tomato-ripening fee. Oh, and the fermentation fee for a Kombucha. And, quite naturally, a stacking fee.

Of course, I chuckled away.

"No one likes to pay extra fees," declares the ad at its end. "Especially on their cable bill."

Oh, I don't know why your cable bill should be so special. Any bill with silly fees can raise hackles. Such as, well, your phone bill.

It's true that carriers seem to have become a little more judicious in the way they present those fees. Some annoyances, though, are still there.

Fortunately, my wife has a Verizon phone account. She allowed me to look at her bill and there was the completely fascinating Administrative Fee. A mere $1.78.

We're all used to these sorts of fees. Why, this tiny $1.78 is nothing compared to the service charges imposed by the likes of Ticketmaster for, what, emailing you a ticket?

Still, I asked Verizon to update me on what this Administrative Fee covers. I was directed to a link that explained it "helps defray certain expenses we incur, including: Charges we, or our agents, pay local telephone companies for delivering calls from our customers to their customers; fees and assessments on our network facilities and services; property taxes; and the costs we incur responding to regulatory obligations."

Certain expenses, eh? That does sound like "any expenses we feel like putting it toward."

Wait, but no one likes paying extra fees. Verizon says so.

Why, therefore, should customers pay Verizon's property taxes? It's not as if the company has ever offered to pay theirs. And why should customers be paying for Verizon's regulatory obligations? Aren't they the sort of obligations that companies generally pay themselves? That's why they're called obligations, surely.

Oh, but it's only $1.78, I hear you sigh. (You who work for Verizon.) However, Verizon has 118.7 million subscribers. Ergo, that seems like quite a hefty donation the company is getting from its customers on this perfectly discreet collection plate.

Then things became slightly more complex. You see, I have a Verizon wifi Jetpack. I leaped to see whether I, too, pay a $1.78 Administrative Fee. Oddly, I'm only charged 8 cents, even though my bill is roughly half of my wife's.

Does administering my account take nothing at all? Is it, in fact, handled by a tiny machine that lives in a field, pays no property tax and has no obligations?

I feel terrible that I'm making such a paltry contribution to Verizon's property taxes when compared to my wife's more generous if involuntary, gesture. Even though the disparity accurately reflects our personal generosity in real life.

Please, I'm sure that Verizon Fios is a supremely excellent product that delights everyone who partakes of it.

It's just that when you market yourself as having no extra fees, it might be wise to have no extra fees across all your businesses.

Otherwise, the power of your startling kindness is a touch diluted.

And otherwise, the stacking fee you're laughing at bears a painful resemblance to your Administrative Fee.

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