I recently wrote a post for a local website…www.momagama.com. Check it out as well as the rest of the site.
gazump v. swindle (someone)
As a person that spends most of my current life dealing with the mundane duties of household maintenance and child care, I am always on the lookout for gazumpers. They lurk around every corner, it seems – when I least expect it. It’s not as if I live on the corner of Canal and Prince, fighting off street vendors trying to trick me into buying faux designer wares. Yet even so, I feel like I should be wrapping my wallet in barbed wire somedays as everyone wants a share of my husband’s hard earned money. So as a tribute to this wonderful, archaic, British word, I am awarding the Gazumper Medal of Morosity to two of my most recent and favorite swindlers – PSE&G (Public Service Electric and Gas) and the baby food squeezable pouch industry.
PSEG – Putrid Service, Expensive Gas
I feel like I am always on the look out, trying to protect myself and my family from being cheated. It happens almost automatically sometimes – like my utility bill this month. I live in New Jersey in an old house with lots of drafty corners. Our gas meter is in our basement and once a month a meter reader is supposed to come by and read the numbers and report them back to the gas company so we can be billed appropriately. For awhile, mainly the summer when the weather was quite fine, the friendly meter reader was coming regularly and I would escort him to my basement to read the meter. It took a few minutes and it was simple enough. But then November came and he didn’t show up. In fact, the last time I have seen him was way back in October. Perhaps it’s been too cold or Hurricane Sandy messed up the schedule, but nonetheless, the meter has not been read. I didn’t realize I was supposed to be managing this person and calling the company – since, you know, he’s a paid employee of THEIRS. So 2 weeks ago, I received a bill for almost twice as much as the month before – and no one, including my dog and baby have touched the thermostats. In fact, my feet are frequently in a state of numbness because most of the time it isn’t even warm in here. I had to make the unavoidable, dreaded customer service call. I am a notorious abuser of customer service representatives and frequently have anxiety about dealing with these people. I much too frequently find that there is absolutely no service being performed to me at all other than reading some sort of form letter or diverting me to someone else who knows even less. Most of the time they just hang up on me. Anyway, I behaved and was courteous on the phone with the rep and I came to find out they had been “estimating” our gas usage based on what an 80 year old woman who lived in this house over 2 years ago used. In truth, they have no idea how much heat or electric we have utilized until I called and read them the numbers myself. I’m supposed to get a credit next month, but still need to shell out almost $800 (!) to them by the 7th.
This is a colossal gazump. We pay our bill on time every month as responsible home owners. I am assuming part of this bill goes to pay the meter reader who has decided not to show up every month. I wonder what he does instead…perhaps he heads into the bakery in town for a cup of coffee and a scone or perhaps he gets his nails done. I would hope he’s at least doing something fun since I am now paying $800 for his incompetency. Whatever the case, I now have a special day marked on my calendar for waiting all day at home for him to come – and if he doesn’t show up, I get to do his job for him and call in the numbers myself so as to avoid the company “estimation.” So I award the highest medal of gazump honor to our utility company, whose service and business sense is about as archaic as the word gazump itself.
Baby Food Puree (aka overpriced fruit mush in a plastic pouch)
When I’m not waiting around my under heated house for the meter reader, I sometimes leave the house with my 1.5 year old son. When we do so, I have to make sure I maintain my arsenal of emergency tantrum tamers at all times. I keep a diaper bag in the car with wipes, diapers, butt cream, a pacifier, a change of baby clothes, Purell, and 3 pouches of pureed baby crack…er fruit. I also keep a pacifier and more baby crack in my hand bag. If we are at the grocery store, bank or somewhere that I have to actually accomplish a task and my son decides it’s time to throw himself on the floor because I wouldn’t let him play with something hazardous (i.e.. butcher knife, electric socket, etc.), I whip out one of these squeezable pouches and – VOILA – he turns into a quiet, serene, suckling, precious toddler child…and I can get my shit done. The problem is that he is now addicted to these things and will run into the kitchen and bang on the cabinet door behind which they reside. I’m shelling out serious coin to keep him stocked up in small plastic pouches of things called Banana Baby Brekkie and Green Beans w. Greek Yogurt. I am pretty sure if I added up how much I have spent on them since he started eating them, I could buy myself one hell of a nice Louis Vuitton purse (not that I would since it would be covered in unidentifiable sticky smoosh in about 2 seconds.)
So I did an experiment. A bag of apples costs about $3 at Trader Joes – which is about the cost of 2 pouches (the cheap, unorganic ones.) When steamed and pureed, that bag of apples makes about 6 to 7 pouches worth of the same stuff I am shelling out $20 to $30 a week for…and the bastards are adding water to theirs while mine is 100% pure! The magic in their equation was the actual pouch itself. If I have to stop and open a container and spoon feed the puree to my son, it no longer works. I need that instant squeezable, hands free peace of the pouch. It calms him down and gives him something safe with which to occupy himself. But today I have had a breakthrough…and I have found that they sell the same exact pouches, empty and in bulk at Target. No more will these purveyors of squeezable baby crack take my hard earned money! I can get 50 of their precious pouches for $14.99…and fill them with as much discount fruit, vegetables and yogurt I can cram in there. Over this gazumper I can clearly claim victory…PSE&G however will be an ongoing battle.
So beware of the gazumpers. They lurk around every corner, in your heating vents and even behind the doors of your very own kitchen cabinets. Hold your children tight…and your wallets even tighter.
by Clodagh McGinley
a 'tail' of two friends
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