Everybody has heard of the famous (perhaps fictional scam) where someone embezzles millions of dollars from a bank by skimming a penny (or even a fractional penny) from every transaction and waiting. As it turns out, this sort of pocket lining is a key component of the business model for many transaction-based businesses. For example, David Pogue points out that mobile carriers increase their profits by inserting that annoying instructional message that’s played after your personal greeting but before the beep when you get someone’s voice mail.

Check out his estimate for Verizon alone:

Second, we’re PAYING for these messages. These little 15-second waits add up–bigtime. If Verizon’s 70 million customers leave or check messages twice a weekday, Verizon rakes in about $620 million a year. That’s your money. And your time: three hours of your time a year, just sitting there listening to the same message over and over again every year.

Half of me wants to be even more alert when it comes to this kind of thing, and the other half wants to figure out how I can profit from a small surcharge on a common type of transaction.