AT LARGE: Monstrous ink

AT LARGE: Monstrous ink

I got a letter from Optus the other day. This letter has me baffled. Apparently if I want to continue receiving a printed invoice for my Optusnet cable service (which I do, because I claim it back as a business expense and I need documentation for that) then I am going to be charged $2.20 tocover the cost of paper, printing and postage.

Imagine this scenario. You go into a restaurant. You eat a sumptuous dinner, then you ask for the bill. At the bottom of the bill there is a small charge that the maitre de explains is to cover the cost of having printed the bill.

I would imagine, in a sensibly-run business, that such administrative costs as the printing of bills would be accounted for in your cost structures. I find it very hard to believe that Optus has, for more than a year now, been altruistically swallowing the burden of billing me. I find it easier to believe that Optus is not a sensibly-run business.

I can, apparently, avoid paying the $2.20 per month by having the charges debited directly from my savings account. Makes sense, right? No paper, no postage, save the world and money too. Except that, if Optus’ motives were above board, it would have sent me a letter saying “here’s a way to knock $2.20 off your bill each month”, rather than “direct debit or else”.

Meanwhile, my medical insurer tells me that it will charge me a fee per month if I want to have my premiums direct-debited. Such electronic conveniences cost money, you see, and tragically we have to pass those costs on to our sucker customers. I can save money there by paying in person at a branch, so I do.

Meanwhile, my bank doesn’t want me to do business at a branch at all. Anything I do in an actual branch incurs an extra fee, even putting my money into my account. They’ve got to pay staff, you see, and wages are expensive (thus the large number of bank tellers who own ocean-going yachts). There is apparently no way to avoid having to pay the bank for the privilege of banking.

What’s next? Will Optus start adding the other costs associated with running its business, such as light bulbs and carpet cleaning, to customers’ bills? If a normal business did this kind of thing, it would fairly quickly, I submit, become an ex-business.

One final note to Optus: the letter I got about saving paper costs arrived via email. I’ll let you work out the rest.

Matthew JC. Powell is grateful to Optus for providing such frequent inspiration. Send a bill to

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