09 November 2011

Five Sweet Rackets I Need In On

Yesterday I posted an image from my GNUCash profile of our shopping trip on Saturday. I chose not to make any explicit commentary on the price of my wife's shampoo outside of the helpful tag I use in the program to remind me what the expense was.

Simple. Easy to remember.
Since BJ's is a wholesale club, you may be inclined to think we needed a handtruck to get it out of there.

You would be wrong.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about. Nor am I allowed to talk about the fact that instead of buying a bottle of shampoo and a bottle of conditioner, the Space Monkey actually bought two bottles of shampoo.

So I won't.

No, what I'm here to talk about today is money, the process whereby people separate it from me, and how I really need to get a piece of that action.

Number Five: Everything women need to buy

Women often find impressive ways to save money on things men would blindly pay full price for, it's true. Our neighbor frequently tells us about how she bought $150 worth of groceries for $30. Having attempted to do the same and failing, I can only assume this has something to do with unspeakable crimes she is committing in her basement.

That's how she got on the HOA board.
That said, the stuff my wife insists she needs would break a lesser man. The shampoo was one example. There are other examples I can think of that I won't dwell on here except to say that if there is a product women need, there are 40 cheaper brands they cannot abide.

This is what she says will happen if she uses them.

Number Four: Event parking

It holds fair that I should have some equally stupid expenditure, and I do. If you go to a sporting event, you may get a reasonably priced ticket. The lowest-priced seat for my beloved New Jersey Devils is $10.

And then you try to park.

If I wanted to go to this Friday's game against the Capitals at the Prudential Center, I could get a ticket for $10, but parking would cost me $25 for the spot and $6.25 for the service fee.

Now you might be thinking that surely that service fee pays for the valet. Nope. Well then it must be to guarantee your car doesn't get stolen.

Have you been to Newark?

As far as I can determine, you're paying $25 for a parking spot and $6.25 for the owners being so kind as to make the parking spot available to you. That's all.

To be fair, this isn't limited to sporting events. In July we went to Ocean City, MD, and almost turned right around when we found that some lots were charging $50 for single day parking.

Number Three: The government of Maryland

I know I could have broadened this to the federal government or any government really. The money goes in, and how it comes out is a matter of theoretical mathematics and chaos theory.

The reason I'm singling out the fine government of this here Democratic People's Republic of Maryland (MD-DPR on the scoreboard) is that I live here and I am disappoint.

No, really, that's the meme.
So late in the Bush presidency, the country kicked all of the Republicans out, whether they were doing their jobs or not. I get that. Here in MD-DPR, they elected a man who's nickname is Martin O'Money. In case you're interested in running for governor here, the route to that office is to be the mayor of Baltimore and then the people of Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County will give you the throne.

He immediately raised the sales tax. In a recession.

Check that kid's wallet.
We're still in a recession, so the new plan is to double the tolls in the state. To put this in context, it currently costs $7 to get to Delaware—a state whose existence is also a scam.

True story: the supporters are no longer on the Seal because they couldn't afford the tolls.
So let's double that to $14. And how about that Eastern Shore that the governors are told exists? It currently costs $2.50 to get there. Make it $5.

None of this would really bother me because I've found a way to New Jersey free of your tolls, and, honestly, who cares about the Eastern Shore?

Now, though, he wants to raise the gas tax.

It's a good thing the recession's over.


Well, at least illegal immigrants can get in-state tuition. So someone's getting a break.

Number Two: My wife's student loans

Okay, so higher education is something of a racket as well. I would know: I work in it. Unfortunately, I haven't found a way to get me some of that because I'm only qualified to work for low-tuition colleges and universities.

The wife and I both have student loans. Hers, however, are a special little scam.

See, the truth about student loans is you have to pay them back. Most companies are pleased to get paid. 


Not only do these people want the money we owe them, they want us to pay them to pay them. No, that was not a typo.

You can pay by mailing them a check (which costs money) or by going on to their website and paying by credit card (which costs money) or electronic check. If you wanted to do something novel like, say, pay via your bank, they charge you a fee.

So let's recap: we give them money, they ask for more because we did not give it to them right.

That's a sweet racket!

Number One: Assurant Health

These guys don't pay anyone.

I was thinking about indicting the entire health care system. After all, my wife once received a bill for $1500 for services Assurant Health had decided they weren't going to pay for. After she dealt with them, they settled with the doctor's office for $400.

For those of you keeping score, hardworking paycheck-to-paycheck honest citizens: $1500 charge; evil, soulless insurance company that rejects every claim: $400 charge.

I can understand the sentiment behind the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. It's unfair a lot of the time. The problem that keeps me from going over to their side is an understanding of real world economics. Corporations make money. Whether they are privately owned or publicly owned, their goal is to make as much money as possible.

And I can appreciate that.

Here's the thing: the people who make the money are the people who pay the employees. When someone—let's say, government taxmen—cuts into their profits, there are three ways they can react: find innovative ways to become more efficient without raising prices or firing employees; raise prices; or fire employees.

I'll give you a hint which way they lean first.
Wait...there's a right way?
So it may sound good to say raise the taxes on the corporations, but whose money do you think they're going to use to pay those taxes?

Anyway, back to Assurant Health and why I chose them over the health care system as a whole: they don't pay anyone. At least not the first time.

In the year and change that my wife has been employed and under the umbrella of Assurant Health, she has spent more time on the phone with them than I have with my mother. The reason is that every time we have to go to the doctor for, say, a physical, sickness, sudden bowel evacuation, whatever, Assurant Health denies the claim.




Remember when I talked about my physical therapy? We received a bill from Assurant Health in which the first trip to the physical therapist's office was billed as out-of-network, while the subsequent four trips were paid for.

My wife telling her brother this story last night.
Since my wife—who is a lawyer by training—deals with them more than I do, I'll leave it to her if she wants to tell the tale of The Diagnosis. Beware, though: you may lose your will to live.

In sum, if you go for a job interview and the employer tells you health insurance is provided by Assurant Health, that employer hates his employees.

Especially if you work for Assurant Health.

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