Would you like to have just one monthly bill... but like THIS?
Me, I think it would be dangerous.
An Italian utility company just announced a… let’s say remarkable new offer, that in my opinion should be good food for thought for everybody, even outside Italy. Here is the translation of the core part (consider that gas is used for both cooking and heating in the overwhelming majority of italian apartments):
What if fiber, electricity, gas and Amazon all came together?
“These days, every household must have three separate utility contracts: electricity, gas and fiber, to surf the internet quickly and easily. Generally these contracts are with three different companies, which means users must deal with three different types of bills and possibly also having to request support from three different service centers. Wouldn’t it therefore be more convenient to rely on a single provider? And what if this also offered an Amazon gift voucher worth 100 Euros, to spend on the largest online catalog of the world? All this is now possible thanks to [COMPANY NAME]’s new offer."
Before making the main point of this post…
Please appreciate a couple of things:
- As it happens with many other things in this world, that gracious offer to save money only applies to already (relatively speaking) “rich” people. Folks not reachable by broadband need not apply
- I wonder why they don’t mention water. Even if they assumed that everybody only consumes bottled beverage these days, people would still need to wash, wouldn’t they?
These are side issues though. And here, I won’t even elaborate on the the surveillance and profiling, or datafication nightmares that come for free with any bundling like this, because the main point of this post is another.
Don’t flatten your Maslow pyramid!
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, usually visualized with the pyramid above, visualizes “the needs that one must have met in order to reach self-actualization”, with deficiency (i.e. basic necessities of life) at the bottom, and higher, non-material needs above them, and well distinguished from the others.
Now, let’s be honest: unless you actually pay the bills by streaming high-resolution video from home, or equally bandwidth intensive activities, you don’t really need fiber to work from your living room.
So, the problem with any offer like that is that it puts your survival needs, namely heating, light and (if you can work from home, of course) internet connectivity, all in one basket with thoroughly non-essential ones, from Amazon vouchers to really high bandwidth.
What if one month you can’t pay that one bill? Should that happen, suspension of that integrated, so-convenient offer may thoroughly screw every level of your life.
In a sane world, a defaulting customer should have guarantees that at least the life-essential services will remain available, even if she cannot pay for 2 or 3 months. But this isn’t a sane world, and s**t happens, especially when automatic algorithms are left alone to decide as it’s fashionable these days. So, if you are tempted by great deals like that be very, very sure to check in the fine print that you do have such protections. If you haven’t, don’t touch such offers with a ten-meters footpole.