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Readers weigh in on fees, families and 'bag lady' clerks

After three straight columns dealing with tax issues, it's time to lighten up a bit this week — thanks to you.

Several readers have commented on recent columns, and I think they've made some interesting points. So I'm going to share a few with you today.

A reader named Danny responded to a column in which I talked about the financial roller coaster of everyday life, focusing on recent insurance changes at the Deseret News, a hand injury suffered by my wife and a well-timed mortgage refinancing.

"As a former French citizen, I can't help but be amazed when I read that, here, it almost takes refinancing a house to afford health care," he wrote. "Then again, in my 20 years spent in France, I have never had the opportunity to live in a house: The taxes were too high."

In other words, every financial system has its pros and cons. Good to remember.

A reader named Earl wrote in to comment on a recent column that mentioned the importance of proper attire to good customer service.

"I still think it is disgraceful that so-called professionals dress like a bunch of bag ladies," Earl wrote. "In the dollar store, my clerk had three earrings and six lip rings and full-sleeve tattoos. I walked out and commented (to the manager that) his employees looked like they were prison skinheads. He just laughed and said he could do nothing about it. I said, 'Oh yes, you can.'

"Once again, thank you. General dress decency is a thing of the past, but as long as I'm around I'm going to speak out."

Please do, Earl. You have every right to expect good service, and as I've written before, the only way it will get better is if we demand it — politely, of course!

Several readers also responded to a recent column on three weeks I spent without my family while they were on vacation in Texas, and the various costs and benefits — both fiscal and emotional — of my temporary single life.

In an online post, one reader said his wife went to a family reunion and he had to stay behind because he couldn't get time off from work.

"I called her the next morning and proudly reported to her that I had a vegetarian breakfast," the commenter wrote. "When she asked me what vegetarian breakfast I just had, I proudly said, 'Chocolate cookies.' "

Now THAT is an excellent vegetarian dish. But you forgot to tell her that you ate it while standing in front of the sink so you wouldn't make any dishes dirty or have to clean up crumbs that might fall on the table.

Another online comment on the same column pointed out the other side of the story.

"Many people don't realize all of the 'hidden' costs of being single," this commenter wrote. "Mr. Kratz gets the benefit of six under one roof when he pays his property tax bill instead of just one. The Kratz family must water their lawn, pay for air conditioning, and pay for heating — all bills that don't necessary increase with size of family. Furthermore, in many cities, garbage and sewer fees are based upon a standard flat fee and not a usage fee.

"Mr. Kratz himself brings up the idea of extra food that would have gone to waste if his family hadn't returned. Ever try to economically buy for just one on a regular basis? It isn't easy with 'family size' packaging. The discounts are clearly found by buying food and supplies in bulk quantities."

The commenter did agree that the benefits of family life are worth the costs.

"However, I wish some people would remember that many single people still have a little 13-inch analog television set and are also dreaming of someday being able to afford the movie-theater-sized monster HDTV for home."

Thank you for your excellent points. I certainly did not mean to imply that all single folks are living large while all families are struggling. I think there are unique financial costs and benefits to both situations.

And believe me when I say that I sympathize with anyone who craves a big-screen TV, whether single, married or somewhere in-between. May we all be successful in our common quest!

If you have personal finance comments or questions, send them to gkratz@desnews.com or to the Deseret News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110.

e-mail: gkratz@desnews.com