How Big Is the Penalty For Not Paying a 34-Cent Bill?


Before we went up to City of Hope, Marian prepaid a bunch of our monthly bills. That way our service providers would all have a little stash of money to draw from in case we missed a bill.

As a result, we recently got a bill for 4 cents from Verizon. Please don’t bother paying this, they said. We’ll just pick it up in June’s bill. We also got a bill for 34 cents from AT&T. Unlike previous bills, this one didn’t include a return payment envelope and the remit portion of the bill didn’t include an address to send the payment. Sounds like they didn’t want us to bother paying either, right?

Nope. They may want it to look like they don’t want payment, but after finally getting hold of someone at the billing center (Marian is much more tenacious about this stuff than I am), they told us they did indeed want payment. In fact, if we didn’t pay this 34-cent bill, we would be assessed a $6.50 late fee.

This is just a tiny slice of life that’s either annoying or amusing for someone like me. However, it’s also a tiny slice of life that, when you multiply it by a hundred, partly explains how poor people are continually screwed over and have a hard time ever digging out of debt. Nice work, AT&T. You are indeed a symbol of American ingenuity.