Wednesday, May 2, 2007

When was the last time you READ your Bills?

The Wall Street Journal had a blog post yesterday by Nathan Koppel about a Sanford Professor that did a study about billing abuse by attorneys. He pulled 5000 attorneys and found that many of them pad the bills and preform "unnecessary" tasks to bump up the rate.

Ross polled 5,000 attorneys from various walks of life throughout the country, and 251 responded. He worked with Reed Business Information to generate a random sampling of lawyers who work at law firms. Two-thirds said they had “specific knowledge” of bill padding ─ a finding virtually identical to one reached by Ross in a 1995 billing survey. Also, 54.6% of the respondents (as compared with 40.3% in 1995) admitted that they had sometimes performed unnecessary tasks just to bump up their billable output.

Now this post is about Attorneys, but really... how often do you read your bills in detail? Do you know what your credit card rates are, would you know if they changed one month? Do you know what your banking fees are and if you were charged $2 extra for "POS Debit Fee" would you have any idea if you were supposed to?

Having worked in the phone industry, doing contract negotiation, I know that many of the "regulatory fees" are actually phone company charges that stay right in the phone companies pocket.

Chances are you are being ripped of by someone! You should read your bills in detail every month, often, if you pay the bill then you agreed to it's contents and getting credits for longstanding "mistakes" is very difficult.

My recommendation, start negotiating more of your bills. When you call and discuss your utility bills and what you can do to get it reduced you will learn a lot about what you're actually getting billed. Take this negotiation as an opportunity to learn about the business, the better educated you are the better you will understand how to protect your budget. And... think of it as a game, what's the worst that could happen?

Ask questions that have nothing to do with why you are calling... get out of your comfort zone... ask the phone rep if he is paid by the sale or just hourly. Ask if they get in trouble for discounting your bill. Ask if they have a record of how many credits they have already given you, even better, if they have a limit. (annual, monthly, daily, percent) All of these little tid-bits of information will drive you to better negotiate and better understand your bill so you won't get ripped off anymore.

I'll give you one more tip... read these... I know the bill you are negotiating might not be your cell phone bill but read these posts they will give you a real understanding about how customer service reps are paid and think.

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