Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Lies, damn lies and Ticket Master.

I just bought tickets to a New York Times event--a forum moderated by Tim Weiner, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of "Legacy of Ashes," a history of the CIA. The tickets cost $25 each. Then they tacked on a 16% "service charge"--$4/ticket, for the privilege of downloading and printing my own ticket.

Calling a surcharge a service charge is a lie. I got no service. They did nothing for me. Likewise, when the airlines charge $50 if you re-book a ticket. WTF? They did not do $50 worth of work.

Not long ago I suffered through a delayed flight and tried to charge the airlines a "$75 inconvenience fee." Of course I am a vox clamatis in deserto--a voice crying in the wilderness.

A similar surcharge, of course, is surreptitiously foisted upon us by the telcos everyday. My guess is that millions of customers pay billions of dollars a day of false charges all in order to listen to some automatonic voice tell us how to leave or pick up a message.

For me, silent fees like these are not just costly annoyances--they are brand killers. Because the companies imposing them are ripping us off and attempting to conceal their malfeasance through linguistic shenanigans. I suppose the best example of this semantic and financial hocus-pocus hits us every year around a month after April 15th. That's when we get a $400 tax refund check from the government. The same government that through the legislative sleight-of-hand they call the Alternative Minimum Tax (which is neither alternative nor minimum) has decided to tax the vanishing middle-class at a rate higher that the mega-wealthy.

I guess my point is simple: If you're smart and aware, it's hard not to be angry.

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