Wednesday, June 22, 2005


I don't want to tell you how much insurance I carry with the Prudential, but all I can say is: when I go, they go too.

A Jack Benny quote is most appropriate for today's missive. My friends will tell you that I'm usually a pretty generous guy and I rarely squawk about matters financial (other than my utter contempt for Respected Employer's remuneration policies over the last few years) but every once in a while my cheapskate streak kicks in and brother, did it kick in today.

Needless to say, a lot of enterprises are looking for new revenue streams, and when I opened what an AT&T long distance bill I noticed several new fees tacked on(service charges and such), retroactively applied that added a solid thirty bucks to the tab. Needless to say since Vonage arrived we haven't done anything with any traditional landline carriers for LD, so I'd imagine there'll be some bills popping up over the next few months with some insane monthly inactivity fees. A great example of the old adage that it takes a long time to get a customer, and only moments to lose a customer.

Since there's a lot of choice in the voice game, I have little inclination to brood over the matter other than to bemoan the needless spending of thirty bucks (I've spent far more on crummy entertainment and meals that should probably irk me more), however, I don't particularly have a lot of choice in the toll facility game. Say what?

I opened my E-Z Pass statement yesterday and found a yellow slip inserted into the envelope. Said slip begain "In order to maintain the high level of service...." at which point the BOHICA reflex kicked in. Needless to say there's a few points here which bear dissecting.

One egregious little point is "including providing tags to customers at no cost". True you don't pay for them, however, there is the small matter of the deposit on them which you have to pay in order to get a tag. Lots of $25 deposits on these tags, let me tell you. Then there's the simple matter that every account is prepaid, so someone's earning the float on all of those account balances and deposits. Not to mention the recent toll increases (For some reason it utterly galls me to pay four bucks to cross most TBTA bridges - a 1600% increase over their original tolls) that subsidize everything in creation besides than keeping the bridges maintained. Not to say they aren't keeping the bridges maintained, there's ample evidence of that as the Triborough, Whitestone and the Throgs Neck are all being worked on simultaneously, with the concomitant problem that there is no alternative route to accommodate midday traffic. I did want to note the work on the Whitestone in particular, as they've removed the stiffening trusses from the bridge in favor of making the deck more aerodynamic. The interested layman that I am, I note that the trusses were put on the span after the infamous Tacoma Narrows collapse in 1940, for the simple reasons that both bridges were stiffened with plate girders instead of trusses at the time, and that the designing engineer for both spans was one Leon Moiseiff (also known for the Manhattan Bridge). The Tacoma collapse couldn't be attributed solely to Moiseiff (after all, aerodynamics wasn't as exact a science in those days), it was also partially the fault of under-financing (the only anticipated traffic really was for the Navy installations on the Gig Harbor side of the Tacoma bridge - it really wasn't thought that the bridge would be a financial success. Contrast that to nowadays, the replacement span is overcrowded, and a new twin span is being built next to it)


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