Healthy Living: Fees & Surcharges

Healthy Living / Christine Harness

Do you ever take time to review the bills that you generate every month? Whether you pay them on line or continue using that dinosaur paper trail through the mail, it’s really an eye-opener to discover those strange added charges you will find on many of these bills. For an example, I see here an item tacked onto my phone bill that states “Taxes and Surcharges.” I know what taxes are, but what are surcharges? The dictionary defines it as “to overcharge,” “an additional charge.” Huh? Next I viewed my cable TV bill, “Regional sports fee of $7.29.” I called to complain and question this charge; we don’t watch sports channels. She briskly answered, “Oh, that is a state mandated charge!” And then there is my electric bill, “Tiered rate plan; state-mandated high usage charge;” “DWR bond charge of $8.78” and another one, on and on and on, endlessly.

“Basic charge of .95” What does all of this mean? That’s not all —- there are more. The water bill lists, “WRAM charge or credit of $3.09,” plus “Other charges and credits of $4.39.” What is a “Public Purpose Program for $3.80?” I have tried numerous times to contact these companies, determined to get some person-to-person clarification of these extraneous charges, but without success. The calls merely increase this fruitless game I have been playing. However, I wasn’t quite ready to quit. I switched to the game of reading the labels on packages. I looked at the back of the bright yellow 17-ounce bag of lemon, poppyseed, and toffee flavored popcorn. It’s oh, so delicious I can’t stop eating once I’ve opened the bag! And then I read, “Total sugars (per two-thirds of a cup serving) 16 grams” and next “includes 16 grams added sugar” does this mean 32 grams total, or is this a misprint? Or is this just a reinforcing way to be sure you understand it?

Total? Again, I’m confused. I picked up a small packet of coffee creamer, it reads, “non-dairy creamer,” and then further down the packet “Sodium caseinate (a milk derivative)” and even further down, in large caps, “CONTAINS MILK.” I thought I read that this is supposed to be a non-dairy product? Whatever became of that so-called movement promising to bring us “transparency, truth and disclosure”? Am I alone in this maze of confusion? Surely, there are others of you who must be troubled as I am? I need to find myself another pass time!
Christine Harness has worked in the field of Occupational Therapy throughout her adult life, both in and outside of the Kern River Valley. She has helped countless individuals to maintain or regain their independence. Christine believes that enjoying and taking satisfaction in one’s day-to-day activities is the key to a meaningful life.