The Perverse Punishments For Being Poor.
The Perverse Punishments For Being Poor.
- The Perils Of Prepayment.
“Tally ho, old chap. I see you are here to sweep the chimney. I shall be paying the usual £4.50, but as you well know, I charge you £5.00 for the privilege of entering my home. So you owe me £1.50”.
“That loaf of bread? That’ll be £1 for the loaf and 50p for the UC tax”
Both extreme. Both are entirely made up, and both are unacceptable. If either of these cases existed, you would tell them where they could stick your broom or loaf, and rightfully so. Yet, there are examples of people being punished just for being poor.
You may not be able to purchase something and pay over some time without encountering horrific interest rates. A doorstep loan from Provident for £100 paid back over thirteen weeks is an APR of 1557.7%. (https://www.providentpersonalcredit.com/doorstep-loans/). Perfect home will waddle like a pisshead between an APR of 69.5% to 119.9%. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfecthome) . Brighthouse, the modern-day pawnshops like CeX and Cash converters, so on and so forth. They are all much the same. Credit is expensive when you are poor.
Even shopping can be an experience. You have a -very- limited budget, so multipacks can go out of the window. It is, as explained by Terry Pratchett, the boots theory. (https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/72745-the-reason-that-the-rich-were-so-rich-vimes-reasoned).
It is not, nor has it ever been, cheap to be poor.
I recently encountered my own experience with this paradoxical piss-take through the marvels of gas prepayment. I was with nPower; they pushed me to Eon Next. (https://www.eonnext.com/help/npower-and-eonnext). It should be noted that I do not use a great deal of gas; shouldn’t this be praised? Am I not doing something good for the planet?
Jan 25 – 2021. I contacted nPower because my gas card was not accepted by the damn meter. I tried all the typical stuff – swearing at it, moaning about how shite it was, you know, the usual. Then I contacted them, and you can see the response in the image. They were unwilling to send an engineer out until the metre had run dry. The summer came, and the card started to work again at some point. I couldn’t tell you when exactly; I just put it in one day when I had run out of gas to check before re-contacting them. Halayula, praise the Devil!.
I did not want to be that plum that contacted them, and when the engineer arrived, the bloody thing was working. Is it cynical to suggest I thought they might have charged me for a wasted visit? Maybe, maybe not, OpenReach can and do. (https://btbusiness.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/11554/~/engineer-call-outs-and-costs).
We now fast forward and arrive at this winter, and it had been unseasonably warm, and as such, I had not needed to top up. I had £30 on the card, a troika of tenners, so I was not bothered; I would be able to use it when the meter ran dry. Dry meter day came, and I approached Eon…
Nov 5. (https://twitter.com/SpeakingSatan/status/1456653029080453123). An engineer was sent out and arrived that day. So everything is back in order, the world has been set to rights, and things are going well. No, wrong, incorrect. If you were any more wrong, you’d be in the cabinet. You would be the person Desmond Swayne looks at and thinks, well, at least I am not that thick. You would be the slimy white mess living under a certain human’s (citation needed) school desk.
First, the engineer put the card into the new meter and told me that it had no money on it. To say I was sweary and annoyed would have been an understatement. It was at this point – once he had gone – that I would not have just made a sailor blush; I would have made them run for the seas never to return to the mainland again. I was not a happy bunny; I was, in fact, the bunny who would sit at the end of a bar during happy hour and depress everyone else. But still, he told me with a smile, “you have the emergency credit”. Yeah, fuck you very much; I hope you have a shite existence. I am possibly being unfair here; he was just doing his job. I think.
Second. Mild though the weather was, I still needed to heat the place occasionally. I let the emergency credit run to zero. So sue me, I am living on a very fixed (and low) income. That week I put £20 on the card and then pushed it into the machine. Like water down an open plug hole, it swallowed the lot. X amount for “debt”, and Y for “emergency credit”.
Side grumble. This is not debt. I do not owe my gas company a penny in debt. I have a prepayment meter because it is easier to budget, and I can’t go into debt. My slate is clean; I am not paying off an old bill.
A fortnight of coldness passed. I am lucky, I really am, when I say the weather had been mild. It could have plummeted, and then I would have had no way to heat my home. I put another £20 on the card and pushed it into the bastard machine. Once again, X for debt, Y for emergency credit. It once again swallowed the total amount. It was like a fruit machine that had been fiddled to just rip you off, unlike the ones that pay out all the time, he huffs to himself.
I couldn’t contact Eon at this point. I hate, detest, using the phone, and frankly, I’d have probably been arrested for verbal murder. So, what happened here? Well, officer, I answered the phone (social media/email). The next thing I knew was my head was rolling down a hill and being enthusiastically kicked by a madman with little hair who laughed like a hyena after breathing in a helium balloon.
Another fortnight rolled on by, and I did not contact them. The cold may have caused me to forget. My mind being the haphazard jumble of anxiety, depression, and stress tucking the thought into a box marked, do not open for fourteen days. I have long given up trying to understand my brain. I just go with the flow and let it take me where it wants to go. This time I put £25 on the card. A pony on the thing, a score and a fiver. If you are keeping count, and why wouldn’t you be? Since the meter was replaced, I have now put £65 on the card. A bullseye, a Darvin and a Lady Godiva. And, finally! Fucking finally! I had gas!
The tax for being poor. £53.27 is what I had paid in debt! The payment I make to have the privilege of paying for my heating in advance. I am paying the chimney’s owner to sweep it for them. I am being punished for paying before I use something. I am being shat upon because I am poor.
Eon charge 31.5p a day for the meter. (https://www.eonenergy.com/campaigns/prepayment-get-ready-for-winter). This is a racket; if Al Capone had thought this one up, maybe he’d have paid his taxes? Well, in the modern-day, probably not. Why run a crime empire when you can run an energy company? Capone was thought to be worth around $100million, so maybe not quite, but it is far less risky.
My final question; my last point. Did the £30 on the card when the engineer came actually get swallowed by the X and Y demons? Did I actually end up paying £83.27 in “debt”? I suspect, though I can’t prove it, that I did.