Where’s the Bourbon??


Let’s try this again. My first let’s-start-off-the-holidays post kinda sorta got derailed. Disclaimer: if you want holly jolly happy crap, you may as well stop reading here.

Guess I’m old enough to remember those Norman Rockwell holidays—thanks a lot, Norman. Jerk.

We all went to my great-grandparents’ house; after a few years, it fell to my grandparents to host, then my mother, and then me. For several years, we had five generations at the Thanksgiving table.

What the hell happened since then?

I have a list. Of course I do. And, in no particular order:

 

The world has gone to hell.

Sunday (and holiday) Blue Laws rescinded.

Kids move away.

Big box stores are greedy and grasping.

People are encouraged to do whatever they “feel” like.

 

Everyone knows the first one is true, regardless of why you think so. Let’s not waste time arguing over that one. I could make a sub-list, but why bother? I’m currently trying to downsize my Thanksgiving cooking to something suitable for only two people.

Blue Laws. Nothing sold on Sunday, businesses closed, people stayed home or went to Grandma’s or wherever. In other words, folks had to plan ahead and nearly everyone was off work on the holidays.

The fact that kids move away is not something you can do a lot about, but back in the day, particularly in the STL area, kids came home for the holidays. Period.

Greedy corporations—need I say more? Refer back to Blue Laws.

Feeeeeeeelings. All the feeeeeeelings. Ugh. And blech. Newsflash: you are not the only person whose feelings matter; you do not get to make every decision based on your own feelings. Is it a pain in the ass to travel over the holidays? Too bad. Is it a pain in the ass to go see multiple relatives over the holidays? Too freakin’ bad. Suck it up, buttercup. Do it. You can complain, but you can’t wuss out.

Have to work on a holiday or the day before or after? You might get a pass, providing you haven’t been at the job very long, but if you’ve been there a year, you’ve had plenty of time to figure this out. And if you have a few days or the week off? You better get your butt to your mom’s house.

And for Pete’s sake, don’t announce that YOU are hosting unless that torch has been passed, or suggest that your mom or grandma hold another event that week for YOUR convenience. And I don’t really give a damn how you feel about that—you’re hurting Norman’s feelings at the very least. Jerk.

Oh yeah—also don’t suggest that Mom have the big holiday dinner on a different day. What kind of heathen does that?? What is she supposed to do then, on the day itself? Sit around singing Christmas songs to herself?

So, happy holiday season, everyone. Where’s the damn bourbon??

 

Billing and Bullshit


I’m not only paying bills today, but I’m wading through the morass known as “medical billing.” I completely lost focus when I came across this charge:

“Insertion of needle into vein for collection of blood sample. $22.00.”

Now, after you pick yourself up off the floor and change your pants, this ridiculousness doesn’t only apply to medical billing. I found another gem, from the propane company:

“Service Labor, 1 HR, $53.99

“HazMat Fee, $10.00

“Fuel Recovery Fee, $5.02

“Service Dispatch Charge, $19.99”

That’s a total of $89.99 for the guy to come out and change a hose from an old barbeque grill to a new one. It cost $20 for them to give the guy our address, $5 for his gas, and $54 for 20 minutes of work. I guess the $10 was in case he blew himself to kingdom come . . . I really have no idea.

This isn’t the first time, or likely the last, that we, and everyone else, has been faced with goofy charges. When we owned our bookstore in St. Louis, our sewer bill included a “hazardous waste” charge simply because we had a business account. Because, I guess, they assumed we regularly flushed toxic books . . .

What happened to the general business principle of the “cost of doing business?” Maybe it started with those as-seen-on-TV products, the ones that not only charge for the product and shipping, but this supposed charge of “handling.” Like when they tell you they’ll send a second identical product for “only” shipping and handling—the product is probably only worth that handling charge, which, by the way, means someone takes it off a shelf and puts it in a box.

Let’s say a handling charge is, oh, $5.00. Let’s further assume someone can pull the product, box it, tape it, slap the label on it, and stick it on a truck in five minutes—and that’s being generous. Do you really think the worker is being paid $60 per hour? More like $10. That’s $50 going in the company’s pockets, every hour, per employee.

Go back to the “insertion of needle.” We all know that sometimes this takes a few minutes, which seems like hours when you’re the one getting stuck with that needle. But how many needles can a med tech stick in a person in an hour? Five? Let’s use five. That tech might earn $15 per hour—not $132, which is how the math works on that example. The hospital gets the rest. That comes to $117 per hour per tech that’s collected by the medical facility.

Sure seems to me that this fee should be part of the cost of the hospital doing business, just like that “handling” charge.

Look at the propane company—who gets that “dispatch charge?” We’re not talking life and death, a 911 call, we’re talking someone who answers phones and relays the information to a driver. Feel free to tear apart their other charges . . .

I remember back when I worked for Domino’s Pizza. Customers ordered pizzas, drivers delivered them—30 minutes or less or it was free—and that was it. Drivers worked hourly and for tips, and bought their own gas and usually used their own cars. Today, there’s a fuel charge or a delivery charge.

Owning a publishing house, I can attest to additional handling charges when ordering books. Here’s an example: I purchase books wholesale, which means about $5 each; the printer already makes about $2.50 on each one, yet they charge me to box them and ship them, on top of that. Any change in text or cover also costs me, as well as an annual fee to “list” books on different sites. And that last part, they usually screw up . . .

I’ve owned businesses. I didn’t charge anyone for “cost of cleaning supplies,” because that was part of MY cost; I didn’t have a separate fee for “driving to customer’s home” or for “scheduling” or any other random, mundane bullshit.

I didn’t charge for “ringing up purchase at register” or “picking up and re-shelving books that customers left on chairs.” Or even “wiping fingerprints off front door.” These things, like all the above examples, are PART OF THE JOB OR THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS!

And, since medical stuff pisses me off the most—BJC sent a bill for “hospital stay,” five figures’ worth, with zero explanation of any of the charges, and expected me to just pay it, no questions. No, thankyouverymuch—here are some more fun fees:

$86 for “blood glucose test performed by handheld instrument” That’s the same thing my husband does several times a week at the kitchen table. Far from a specialized procedure.

$43 for the EXACT SAME THING as the one above.

$12 for “insertion of needle into vein, etc.” I wonder why there’s a difference . . . did the $22 charge include multiple attempts? Special needle? WTH??

And yet, the government thinks having health insurance is of prime importance—how about taking a close look at medical billing? Or so-called HazMat fees, or anything else that is lining someone’s pockets at the expense of the American people?