A few years ago, I was under the control of the Local Worthless Telephone Company(LWTC), and forced to use their long-distance provider, Evil Telephones & Thieves (ET&T). There was never a month that didn’t involve calling LWTC to get our bill corrected. Every month, something was wrong.
One month, we got a bill for $800 more than expected. Another month, another mistake. I called LWTC to get it corrected. This wasn’t a big deal, just another screwup in long list. They refused. They had never refused before. They informed me that the charge came from ET&T, not their system, preventing them from doing anything about it. There went an hour of hold time I’ll never get back.
I called the Evil Mother of All Telcos, The Malevolent Bastard Offspring of a Government-Shattered Monopoly, the Unholy Source of All Communications-Related Errors and Communicable Social Diseases. Hold. Hold for soul-rending abuse. Do you sense a pattern? Evil abounds. The inspiration for Wolfram & Hart. Employee meetings open with ritual sacrifice and close with the desecration of the holy symbols of obscure religions from distant corners of the globe.
When the customer service rep came on the line, I asked for an explanation of the charge. I was informed that I had made a 30 minute call to Niue Island. I politely reminded them that I had long-distance blocking on my phone. They couldn’t explain how the call went through, but it had, so I was obviously responsible. They refused to consider doing anything about the charge. The next day, I called back. I explained the situation to a new rep, one who hadn’t yet been trained in the art of stealing the souls of the living. She recognized the logical impossibility of international calls through the block and reversed the charge. She was swell.
Ten minutes later, her supervisor called to explain that the good witch didn’t have the authority to reverse those charges. I was responsible for paying the bill, even though she couldn’t explain how I was responsible for making the call. I explained the situation, again. I begged. I pleaded. Nothing. I was informed that I had to pay the bill. If I didn’t, they would take me to court to make me pay. She swore their computer system was solid enough to pass as evidence in court. She was angry, rude and snotty. She told me there was nothing I could do.
That wasn’t going to work for me.
I started gathering papers. The next day, a certified letter was sent to both ET&T and the Evil Para-Monopoly Telco. The contents of this letter were golden.
- A dispute letter crafted using every bit of my experience in one of the largest collection agencies in the world.
- A copy of the problem bill, with the impossible charge and the long-distance blocking highlighted.
- A copy of a Minnesota Attorney General complaint.
- A copy of a Minnesota Public Utilities Commission complaint.
- A copy of an FCC complaint.
That was the end of it. There was no follow-up call, no collections notice, no court notice. There was nothing. The following month, there was no mention of the unpaid balance. The bill disappeared. Victory! I had conquered evil, driven a righteous stake through its beating, dust-filled heart, and poured garlic salt in the wound. I never even had to submit the complaints to their respective agencies.
That was the month we dropped our home phone line to eliminate that headache. At the time, the cell phone with the best family plan gave us $300 shared minutes for $75. It was worth it to get away from the Abomination That was the Union of LWTC and ET&T. A year later, when a business telephone provider decided to expand into the residential market in our area, we had our home phone reinstated. In the nine years since, we’ve never had to dispute a bill with McLeod USA.
Lesson learned: When you are battling evil, go big or go home. It’s better to swat a mosquito with a sledgehammer than to poke a dragon with a safety pin.
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