I’ m a creature of habit. I like to pay my bills at the same time each month. Usually the same checks go out to the same people month after month, very boring.

My handwriting is terrible, I can’t recall how it got that way, but most people have a very hard time trying to make any sense of any thing I write by hand. Thank God for computers. I write my checks for my bills using a computer program which makes keeping up with things a lot easier.

All of my paid bills go into a folder for that month. I staple a copy of the invoice together with the bottom half of the check. Nice and neat. Then I print out a copy of the checks I’ve written and put it in the front.

I know this is boring, but I’ m coming to the point. Our bills are generally so predicable, I can tell if I haven’t paid something and start to look for either a lost or misplaced invoice.

But, over time you start to see a pattern emerge that makes me wonder.

My local cable company tends to send me an invoice maybe once every two months. I started noticing this was happening couple of months ago due to the fact that I hadn’t gotten an invoice for the current month and wanted to pay for the service. Several years ago, we stopped getting mail at our house and switched to a post office box since someone was stealing mail out of the boxes in our neighborhood. Of course we notified everyone of this change. All the other vendors managed to get the message, except’ you got it’ the cable company. For about a year they would send the invoice to the wrong address, I wouldn’t get it, have to call them and either give them a credit card payment over the phone or send my wife to their office to make the payment. This is a real pain.

Finally, I got someone on the phone to make the change. Next month, no invoice. I called again.this time they sent it to the correct address but the wrong zip code.

Now mind you each time you have to call this company you must be prepared to sit on hold for at least forty five minutes and listen to their commercials as well as some elevator music that no one has ever heard before. It is not what I would call a pleasurable experience.

Last week I paid all the bills as usual. Once again, no invoice. This time I just made a copy of the last one I paid and send a check for the same amount to the address on the invoice. Over this past weekend we kept getting calls from the cable company, but they would never leave a message. I began to suspect why.

This morning my wife called them, very early, spoke to someone and told them that a check for the previous balance had been paid and why were they calling’

Now, here’s where the rubber meets the road. Whoever was on the line talking to my wife tells her that if I sent the check to the address on the envelope as directed, then it will take anywhere from fourteen to twenty-one days to be processed. In other words, one to three weeks.

The check is not considered on time even if postmarked three weeks earlier, it’s considered on time once they process it and credit your account. So, if the date they process the check is past the date the invoice was due, even though you sent it to them in plenty of time, then they tack on a five dollar ‘ late’ fee.

Isn’t this lovely’

Their answer to this problem is to give them authorization to draft the balance due for your checking account each month to eliminate the possibility of being late and to avoid the late fee.

I don’t know about you, but I like to see what I am paying for and don’t feel comfortable letting someone just deduct amounts from my accounts without my approval. But these people seem to have it coming and going. They get the late fee if they don’t process your check in due time. They probably have one person opening the mail and posting the thousands of checks coming to them on a daily basis, but hey who cares since they make more by not being efficient’

It seems to me that the old adage The customer is always right’ has gone by the wayside in this country in the past few years.

I think it’s kind of sad.