GRRR! Fees, Tickets and Fines on Blue Monday

It's legal extortion. At least, that's my opinion.

I'm talking about parking tickets, construction permits and exorbitant finance charges on revolving credit cards.

This is your Grrr guy having a bad day, but in the same day this week (Blue Monday, go figure) I got a parking ticket for $45, came home to a letter from my town's construction office charging me $543 for "duct work" for air-conditioning work done on my house six months ago and a late credit-card payment resulted in the account going into "default pricing," boosting the APR from 8 percent to — get this — 33 percent.

I'm not saying I'm right in any of the above, but I am saying that I, for one, am sick of being financially penalized for every little infraction.

Let's take the parking ticket first. This is my fault. It's all my fault. But I'm still Grrr'd nonetheless.

I parked in a one-hour spot for more than an hour while shopping at local stores on a street where parking is scarce. I took a chance. I lost.

But I will tell you this. The next time I need paint, I'm going to Home Depot or Lowe's, where they have big parking lots, instead of the neighborhood hardware store on Main Street.

The next time I want to stop for a cup of coffee, I'll hit the Dunkin' Donuts drive thru, instead of stopping at the cafe on Main Street, and next time I go shopping for a "big-girl bed" for my daughter, it will be at Kids "R" Us or better yet, online, rather than the Mom-and-Pop furniture spot on Main Street.

I'd much rather pay $45 to UPS for shipping than to some city parking czar.

And Mom-and-Pop stores think Wal-Mart is the bad guy? No, it's the parking czar driving those last few nails in your coffin, because who wants a parking ticket while shopping in your stores?

Next, the construction permit for the central air that we had installed last summer. Again, this has to be my fault, right? I mean, somewhere along the way I must have misplaced the permit fee?

At least that's what it said in the letter from the construction office.

"You have been notified previously of same," the letter says.

Well, then, I guess so.

Interestingly enough, Mrs. Grrr and I were under the impression that the permits were covered in the overall price of the work through the contractor, but after we looked at the contract, again, we were wrong.

But I was confused about how the construction office came up with $543 for duct work, so I called.

It added up like this: $325 went for the "building" of the AC duct work in the house; $75 for the plumbing work on the AC's condenser; $75 for electric for the unit; $50 for "fire" on the unit, whatever that means; and $18 for a state fee.

Total: $543.

All of this on top of a little more than $13,000 for the installation of the AC work.

I know what you're thinking. After paying so much for AC, another $500 bucks shouldn't be a big deal. I agree, and I'm going to pay it.

But for crying out loud, not every day is Daddy Warbucks Day at my house. Money gets tight this time of the year, every year. It's no wonder they call it Blue Monday.

Now, the credit-card fee. Again, my fault. After being late on a payment just twice in the last eight years or so, the card goes up to 33 percent APR.

It doesn't matter why I was late, I understand that, and I wasn't going to try to explain to the nice lady we called at the card's service center.

The fact is I was late. But the APR jumping a whopping 24 percent is a bit much to swallow, so I called the number on the back of the credit card.

After being transferred to a manager and briefly (and calmly I should add) explaining that my card was put in "default pricing," the manager on duty put the rate back down to 8 percent, without hesitation, and credited the account for the 33 percent finance payment that I already made — and now I don't have a payment due until late February.

I guess I should be grateful. But I find myself thinking about all the folks who don't know that they can call the manager and get that 33 percent finance charge lowered and just go ahead and pay it month after month.

But boy was I Grrr'd the other night. Apparently money is the cure-all for every infraction by law-abiding citizens, and that's extremely Grrr'ing. No wonder we live in such a lawsuit crazy society.

Go figuRRR!

Click Here for Your Grrrs

Respond to Mike | Pre-Order The GRRR! Book | Mike's Page | The GRRR! Archives