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.

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate