EDITORIAL for February 6-10, 2021
Iím CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof. If youíve been around for awhile you know about getting bills and paying them. You go to your mailbox and find a bill from some company. You open it and yell a bit about how much money they want. Itís almost always more than you thought it would be. You look at the details and decide to pay it. The bill typically has a payment stub. You cut it off with your scissors and then look for your checkbook. You write out the check, sign it and stick it in an envelope along with the payment stub. Last step is to put a stamp on the envelope and drop it into the mail. A few weeks later you get a statement from your bank that shows that you paid the bill. Pretty simple, right? Not anymore!
Things are changing, and in my opinion, not for the better. A couple months ago I got a form letter from the Arizona Department of Revenue. It said that I can no longer pay my companyís sales tax bill using a paper check. All payments must now be done on line. The notice gave a special web address for paying sales tax bills. I was given no choice except to establish an on line account. First step was to provide a user name and some password that had to meet rigid specifications. Had to be some small letters and some capitals and some punctuation mark too.
I came up with one and was prompted to wait for an email with yet another identification code. It showed up and when I entered it the error messages came one after another. I yelled at the computer but it was to no avail. So I decided to phone the departmentís help line. I got the usual recording about pressing some number for Spanish and if it is a life threatening emergency I should call 9 1 1.
I got put on hold for nearly half an hour when someone finally came on the telephone line. She helped me set up the account. I decided to relieve my frustrations and pause for the day.
Next day I tried to log on again. I gave it my user name and the password but it insisted it needed my zip code. I entered my zip code and got another error message. So I tried a second zip code and that didnít work either. Back to the help line. I called the number in Phoenix. Back to the question of whether I needed Spanish and back to being put on hold for well over half an hour. I explained to the agent that I was trying to log in but my zip code was rejected. He told me that the system wanted me to enter a zip code in New York State where my parents lived until they died over eight years ago.
He fixed the zip code problem. The final step was to figure out how much money my company owed and to figure out some way for the department to take the money out of the bank account. That required yet a third call to the department in Phoenix. Finally, after three calls and wasting as many hours the bill has been paid.
Now weíre at the heart of the matter. Why couldnít I just fill out a form and sign it, and place a check into the mail? That would have taken minutes, not hours. Thatís how I did it for years and it worked fine. The reason for the change is that the department has figured out a way to get rid of a clerk and transfer all the work from the department to me. They donít care how much time I waste or how many hairs I pull out of my head from all the frustration. Plus, they get the money faster.
Iím sure that all of you have seen the slogan about ďgoing greenĒ that comes with bills that you receive. Trust me. These companies or government agencies arenít interested in saving scraps of paper or saving trees. What they love is being able to help themselves to your bank account and withdraw any amount they think is right. Their computer grabs your cash instantly and they donít have to pay anyone to process your payment. You wonít even know how much they took until you get your bank statement. And even that can be done on line. The bank would rather not mail you a statement and they too are spouting the line about going green.
All this is possible because we, the bill paying public, are willing to take all this exasperating nonsense on the chin. Banks and big businesses have powerful lobbyists in Congress. The rest of us donít. Maybe those who are the victims of these on-line filings and payments should be making a bit of a stink and letting our feelings be heard. The needs of government agencies and big corporations arenít the only needs to be considered. If you have been victimized donít keep it to yourself. Let your feelings be heard. You can even refuse to participate.
Iím CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof and the opinions youíve just heard are mine and not necessarily anyone elseís. If youíd like a copy of this editorial or youíd like to express your opinions, go to the CAVE web site and select ďEditorialsĒ. Weíre at CAVE FM.com. Thatís CAVE FM.com