Please Charge Me More!

My daughter recently bought some balloons and got them filled with helium from a local shop. Before the day was done, they’d already started dropping. By the next morning, they were on the floor. In years gone by, helium filled balloons would stay up for a few days. Now I’m not saying that the helium the shop supplied was laced with a cheaper gas, like air for example, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

I don’t mind being charged more for a product or a service, so long as that product or service is not adulterated in any way.

Take the transport network in London. All things considered, it’s just so much better than it was when I was growing up that it’s almost crazy to make any kind of comparison. From being able to track the times of trains and buses in real time to knowing that most of the time, you will not have to wait forever for a bus (though it might sometimes feel like that); from greatly improved wheelchair access to stations to having any access at all for wheelchairs and large buggies on buses, things are just considerably better. Whilst I moan at the increases, this is more an issue of wages not keeping up with rising costs than anything. The service has not been adulterated while the prices continue to rise.

In another case, take specialist hardware. The cost of production goes down over the lifecycle of a product and sometimes the shell will be replaced with something of cheaper quality. I don’t mind this as much because in general, the prices also come down, reliability goes up and the core functionality of the product has not been compromised.

Crisps however, are a case in point. No, it’s not just because I’m bigger. You get fewer crisps in number along with a corresponding reduction in weight, but the prices continue to go up. I’m not a crisp aficionado, but it is insulting.

It’s a far more serious problem when more important food is tainted.

We Muslims in particular should be careful about this. The Qur’an is explicit in its guidance on this matter:

“Give full measure, and be not of those who give less (than the due).”


I would always prefer to pay more than to be cheated on what I’m buying. Even if that means I have to go without.

Barclays Bank Investment ISA – Obscene Admin Charges

In May 2010, I opened a Barclays ISA on the recommendation of some newspaper article. I don’t remember which, but it was probably the Guardian, my loathing for which has increased dramatically since. See any number of my previous articles on my complete contempt for the media, which we should remind ourselves, exists not to uphold and purvey the truth, but to distort it sufficiently enough that readers feel compelled to pay for their outlandish, fear-mongering crap, leading to advertising revenue. The media exists to make money. That’s the bottom line. Banks also exist to make money, except that their product is even more fictitious, ruinous, usurious and frankly, evil.

The ISA, for those of you who are aware of my attitude towards interest, is share-based account, so it’s shari`a compliant. I had initially deposited £100 and promptly forgot about it.

I’ve since been charged two lots of £18 admin fee, and I’m now down to £64. We’ve just called them to find out what the hell is going on, because they’re about to take another £18 wedge out. I must have missed that. In a week’s time, my original £100 will become £46.

Apparently, I was supposed to send them a bank statement and so the money has remained uninvested and that’s why these admin fees have become due. The cost of administration of an electronic account is practically nil.As you can imagine, I’m not happy, especially in light of Barclays CEO Bob Diamond’s £6.5M bonus (as of March this year, it might well have increased since then.)

If I don’t send them a cheque in time, I will have to pay a £5 electronic “checking” fee, just to prove my authenticity, even though they’re happy to talk to me on the phone about how they plan to fleece me. (I wanted to use another word beginning with ‘f’, but I’m being good and so you will have to be content with ‘fleece’) – so if I do that before the 24th, I will only be down to £59 and can then invest that money in their managed portfolio, out of which I will have to pay them a fee of 0.5% to 2% on the value of each fund I choose to invest in. Given that interest rates (current bank rate) are running at 0.5%, that doesn’t sound too bad, except that it’s my money actually. We all know of course that interest rates might be low between banks, but to mortals, they’re still being sold as appealing at the usurious level of “19.5%”

So how about I just close the account? Well, prepare to weep, because closing the account would cost me £50 plus VAT. That’s £60. In other words, I’d get £4 back from £100.

It’s no wonder that banks are considered rapacious, and I know now why “rapacious” and “rape” share their first three letters.