Here's a bright idea Use those 'free' light bulbs

January 15, 2008|By TIM ROWLAND

All right, enough. I am typing with one hand and I have 96 cents in the other, which I plan to personally throw at the next person who goes off on the Allegheny Energy light bulb situation.

Yes, Allegheny pulled the corporate bonehead move of the decade. Yes, it was funny for a while. But as of now, everyone in Washington County has weighed in on the topic. Everyone's children have weighed in. Every dog has an opinion. The woolly bears are predicting a long winter of light bulb commentary. The groundhog will see his shadow in the illumination of a CFL.

Look, the next time I hear CFL, it better be about the Canadian Football League. The next thing I hear about bulbs, they better be tulips.

I'm begging you. Stop telling us how 96 cents a month to pay for the two unsolicited bulbs is going to have you eating cat food. Stop the comparisons of Allegheny Energy with Nazi Germany. Stop with all the stupid jokes: "How many light bulbs does it take to screw ..." Oh, never mind.


It's like the "Who's on First" shtick. It was funny for about three seconds. Now it's over. We got ripped. We know that. Now deal.

These are two, 60-watt light bulbs. Light bulbs. Not cancer, light bulbs. What Allegheny did is no better or worse than what any other corporation tries to do to us on a daily basis. Credit card companies, cell phone companies, insurance companies, predatory lenders, you name it.

They all try to squeeze a buck from us, whether they've earned it or not. It's what they do.

If it were up to me, there would be one big "Screw the Citizens" fund and we'd all pat $10 into it a month. Then the revenue would be divided among all of corporate America, in exchange for them transacting business with us in a legitimate fashion.

They would get their money, since they are so doggone desperate for it, and we would be assured of getting what we pay for, and only what we pay for. There would be no hidden fees, no cell phone contracts, no extended warranties. Business gets the money it's going to snooker from us anyway, and it saves all the rest of us from the eye polio we get from trying to figure out the fine print.

And it would save us having to hear about all the legislation that gets filed every time something like this happens.

The economy can be spiraling downward, millions can go without health insurance, the ice caps can be melting, people can be losing their houses, unemployment can be rising, highways can be jammed, bridges can be falling into the rivers and nothing happens. But if you want to see bold, rapid, decisive action on the part of government, just let a power company send its customers two light bulbs.

Lawmakers are all over that one.

But does Allegheny care? I doubt it. As a matter of fact, I think it knew exactly what it was doing, and we have all fallen into one gigantic corporate trap.

How it works, see, is that these new bulbs save us a lot of what Allegheny sells. If we all go over to more efficient light bulbs, the power company will sell a lot less energy. The power companies don't want that.

So what they need to do is come up with a scheme that will so sour the public on these energy-saving devices that we will all resolve never to use them. What better way than to send us a couple without our consent and then charge us double for them in the form of a "hidden" surcharge?

Move over, Oliver Stone.

So the way I see it, the best thing we can do is call Allegheny's bluff and actually USE the light bulbs. I know I'm going to. Then I'm going to the store and replace ALL of my light bulbs with the energy-efficient models. That will show them. As a matter of fact, I'm not going to use light bulbs at all. I'm switching to kerosene lanterns. My house is going to look like the passenger car of a train pulled by an 1860s steam engine. They "want" me to use less of their product, then by gum, I'll do it.

Take that.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on

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