Stan's World - Wait...I'm Paying for What?

Stanley F. Ehrlich |

I’m diligent about reading credit card bills. Once per month, I’ll review the statement and confirm the charges. While checking credit card bills seems obvious, when was the last time you looked at your phone bill? Or your cable bill? How about the subscriptions on your American Express bill?

Since I’m more of an advice giver than an advice taker, I decided it was time to take my own advice. I printed out my Verizon bill, sat down, and dissected the charges. I started with what I considered something simple: the bundle. 

The bundle typically refers to paying one monthly charge for multiple services: cable, a landline phone, and Wi-Fi, for example. I assumed this would be simple: Add up the number of devices on the bill, locate and confirm their presence in my house; and move on. So much for that thought.

Reading the items listed on the bill, I saw a line that was easily recognizable: “4 Fios TV Connections”. After counting the number of televisions in my home, the numbers matched. But below the words “4 Fios TV Connections” was another line reading: “Rent: Digital Adapter 3 @7.99”. Wait; what?

I called Verizon and was fortunate to speak to Louis. Louis was great because he could interpret the lines for me. He explained that “Rent: Digital Adapter 3 @7.99” had nothing to do with “4 Fios TV Connections”. In fact, Louis said I wasn’t paying for four televisions in my home; I was paying for seven. Wait; what?

I found one of the digital adapters in a closet and read the serial number to Louis. He confirmed it was one of the three for which I was being billed and asked if there were more. I told him I couldn’t find any others. He told me to take the adapter to the UPS store and to mail it back to Verizon at no charge. Louis then sent me an email confirming my new monthly bill going forward, the same monthly service but without three digital adapter rentals. Savings: $23.97 (plus misc. taxes and fees) per month. I was on a roll. (I didn’t waste any time wondering how many months I paid an incorrect bill. No point in beating myself up.)

When Louis asked if there was anything he could do for me, I asked if he could help me with the Verizon Wireless bill. He said that was another department. When he switched me over to the other department, I was immediately disconnected. That was when I realized how much I missed Louis; my call with him never dropped.

The Verizon Wireless bill proved far more interesting and potentially depressing because Verizon Wireless bills are a zillion pages long. Along the way, I figured out why: They don’t want you to understand what you’re paying for. If you do, you might ask questions.

It took a few minutes, but I found a page titled: Overview of Lines. I easily identified our cell phone numbers but noticed seven additional numbers. Wait; what?

I uncovered the detail pages that went with each number and quickly realized one of the numbers was for our iPad. The other numbers had similar monthly charges, except for one, a monthly charge that was substantially higher than the others. 

That prompted an initial call to Verizon Wireless, where a cordial representative informed me I was paying $79/month for a router, a router I can’t identify. That router had nothing to do with the house router; it was a router for mobile Wi-Fi through Verizon Wireless. The more I thought about it, the more I realized the router might be in a closet. It might be disconnected, still in the box, and being billed at $79 per month.

To my best recollection, as part of a package when I purchased a new phone, I also purchased an iPad and a router. What I didn’t realize was the router had a monthly fee, whether I connected it or not. Could I tell them to stop billing me, or was monthly billing of an unconnected router part of some deal? 

Aside from the fact I’ve wasted money for years, the takeaway is that paperless means, at least in my case, it’s unlikely (or less likely?) that those bills will be read. Paperless involves passwords, logins, and time. When it comes to Verizon, my set-it-and-forget-it attitude was clearly wrong and requires a reboot. Shame on me. 

I could write more, but I must go. As best I can discern, several of the other monthly charges on the wireless bill relate to iPads that have been passed on to grandchildren over the years. Those iPads might be sitting in closets or landfills. Either way, we’ve been paying a monthly fee for each. Ugh!




Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by S.F. Ehrlich Associates, Inc. (“SFEA”), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from SFEA.  To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  SFEA is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice.  A copy of SFEA’s current written disclosure Brochure discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request. If you are a SFEA client, please remember to contact SFEA, in writing, if there are any changes in your personal/financial situation or investment objectives for the purpose of reviewing, evaluating, or revising our previous recommendations and/or services.