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The Checks In The MailPosted Saturday, April 14, 2012, at 4:01 PM
Recently I've been going at it with the telephone company. Doing battle with an oligopoly is a little like tilting at windmills for the average consumer. Had it not been for a couple of egregious statements that I received I doubt that I would have ever jumped into the fray.
I have been a customer of AT&T for years. I've had my house telephone service with them along with a dedicated telephone line for the computer and fax machine. My cell phone service has also been with AT&T with up to four separate cell phones for the business at one time. I'm not a big time telephone customer just your average small business consumer. I've had cell phone service with them so long that my cell phones have gone through numerous two year agreements. In that time I have changed phones, upgraded phones and added different options as they became available. For convenience I've had them direct debit my credit card because I would be traveling and working out of town and sometimes out of state for extended lengths of time.
One day I opened my credit card statement to find a charge for over eight hundred dollars for just one cell phone number. I knew that there was something amiss because that telephone was separate from the other telephone services. On that cellphone line I had all of the bells and whistles, unlimited usage of everything that I had on it and my contract called for a set price every month for that service and those benefits. Needless to say the contract price was nowhere near that amount, in fact the total costs for all of the telephone services that I had (home phone; business phone, computer and fax line and all of the cell phones) never costs that much money combined. Yes, as one would expect I had a little talk on the telephone about the bill.
After dialing the designated telephone numbers and pushing the options to get to talk in a language that I understood to the option that I needed and waiting all the time listening to elevator music and every commercial that the telephone company had on features that they offered several times a real person came on the line. I would have taken some time to do a happy dance but I was afraid that the person on the other end would not understand my jubilation and hang up on me. After about forty-eight minutes of back and forth discussion, being placed on hold, being transferred around the world all the time getting to listen to more elevator music and commercials the representative came back on the line. The telephone representative apologized and started to explain that somehow the system at AT&T goofed up and accidently charged me for each and every different feature on that line every time that I used it as if the set two year contract price didn't even exist. The telephone representative continued to apologize and advised me that she had been authorized to credit that account and that I would not receive a bill on that account until the overcharge was depleted. Great, here we go again. After disagreeing with her and explaining my situation I was again placed on hold then transferred all the while getting to listen to still more snappy elevator music until a supervisor came onto the line. I explained the situation again and informed her that the solution that they came up with was not going to be acceptable. The problem was that they debited that telephone bill to my American Express Card and that I was expected to pay that bill in full (every month) and in a couple of days. My position was that they hit the credit card in one charge and they could credit it back to my credit card that amount and we could all be happy. The supervisor then asked if she could put me on hold for a FEW minutes. I told her yes on the condition that they wouldn't be playing anymore elevator music or commercials in my ear this time. Before she put me on hold she explained that she couldn't do anything about the music and the commercials either. After what then seemed like an eternity she finally came back on the line and advised me that she would have the overbilling credited back to my credit card and then politely asked me if there was anything else that she could do to make me a more satisfied AT&T customer. I don't know how sincere I sounded but I had her remove the direct debit option from my phone bills and then I hung up. By now I was too tired to celebrate and do a happy dance.
During one such discussion with a telephone representative I asked him how many customers AT&T cellular had and he proudly answered that they had over thirty million cell phone customers. Since then I have gone over my telephone statements with a fine tooth comb every month. To date the telephone company as credited my telephone account over eleven hundred dollars and sent refund checks to me that have totaled more than six hundred dollars. Needless to say it has been a long, repeated and trying experience. I don't really understand how every time there was a screw-up on my telephone bills it was always in their favor.
I'll have to finish this blog about my telephone company experiences in another installment. Just reliving this one experience has exhausted me. . Hum, thirty million customers, am I the only one that this is happening too? What Do You Think?
I'm John Q.
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Larry Maxwell is a retired businessman who often writes about topics related to faith and religion.