Understanding Your Phone Bill: the Softer Side of ATT
ATT & me -- we've got history
Who doesn't love Ma Bell -- or whatever the hell she's calling herself these days? The phone company has always played an important role in my life. Not only does it supply me with local, long distance and Internet service, it provides a safe and legal place to vent my anger.
Every month when that ATT bill comes in I search for reasons to call and kvetch. Most months, I find something. Hubby laughs at me, rightly pointing out that spending 1/2 hour on the phone trying to save $5 actually costs us money. Oh right! Sometimes in my excitement I forget that I am self-employed and (at least theoretically) billing out my time at $75 an hour.
I respond: "I know, Honey. But you can't put a price on vindication."
However, ladies and gentlemen, today I am here to tell you that you can put a price on vindication. Today vindication is worth $6.84 -- and I am triumphant!
The beginning of outrage
Yesterday (July 2) I sat down and paid bills. This included my ATT phone bill. Duly noting that the due date was June 25th and it was considered "late after June 28th" I went ahead and paid the late amount.
Now I am not a mathematician. I am sure someone will be able to extrapolate the real or compound interest payment for me -- not that I really want to know.
If you pay your ATT bill a mere three days late, they charge you the equivalent of 6% extra.
I suppose they intend it as an incentive to pay timely. However, I don't need to tell anyone reading this that times are tough and paying every bill every month on time is damned near impossible. I've never been one for "creative accounting" but have become somewhat adept at juggling payables over the past several months.
But rather than have ATT add yet another late fee to my next bill, I sucked it up and added $3.57 to my payment. I stuck it in an envelope, stamped it, and dropped it in the box. Buh-bye $57.12. Sigh.
A slap in the face .. or ear ... or rear
So this morning, July 3, I open my mail and there's a "Disconnection Notice" from ATT. It informs me that my account is past due in the amount of $53.55. The notice is dated July 1.
Ok, so let me get this straight. ATT considers the bill "late" as of June 28th and three days later it's turn the service off time?
This seems more than a bit unfriendly. I briefly wonder what the hell other ATT customers are doing about this? I pity the customer already struggling to pay the bill who misses the July 7 deadline and actually has their phone service temporarily disconnected.
You see, if they have to disconnect your service, even "temporarily", you will have to pay:
1. A $35 security deposit, plus
2. All outstanding charges for your basic service before your telephone service will be reinstated.
3. In addition, a reconnection fee of $25 per line will also apply.
Please, oh please don't disconnect my service!
I managed to contain my anger long enough to formulate a strategy. I have found that I get a better result when complaining to customer service people if I modulate my voice and refrain from screeching, swearing or threatening (the person on the other end of the phone. Actually, threatening to take my business elsewhere seems to work pretty well).
I dialed the "plans and services" 800 number and patiently waded through the automated menu. Once I got a live agent on the phone, I calmly informed her my payment of $57.12 was on its way. This being a holiday weekend, I could not be certain whether the payment would hit their desk by the 7th. The agent made a note in my file not to disconnect my phone.
Hooray! Saved by Ma Bell!
Energized by this victory (pyrrhic as I knew it to be) I asked to speak to a supervisor.
You see, the disconnection notice was just the catalyst I needed to let ATT have it right between the ringtones. I had a righteous complaint ,and someone over there was going to hear me out, dammit! Sorry, I had to get that out before actually talking to ATT.
Once connected to the ATT supervisor I turned on the sweetness. I said I was following up on the phone service I had transferred for my mother-in-law at the end of June. This was true.
I explained that I had placed the order on June 19th but the soonest they said they could come out was the 25th. Ok, we accepted that and planned our day on the 25th to sit at home waiting for the big turn-on.
But the service did not get turned on on the 25th. Or the 26th. It didn't get turned on until end of day on Saturday, June 27th.
I asked if my mother-in-law could get a credit for the days when her service was supposed to be on, but wasn't.
What's good for the goose is good for the gander
So far the supervisor was with me. She readily agreed my mother-in-law deserved a credit. That amount turned out to be $3.17. Hey. $3.17 for two days without service seemed reasonable to me.
Now comes the amazing part.
Emboldened by scoring $3.17 for my mother-in-law, I said to the supervisor, "You know, I am trying to understand something here. It's July 3rd and I just received a disconnection notice from ATT on my home phone service. What exactly is your policy? The bill says it's late after June 28th. I put a check in the mail yesterday and paid the late fee. This seems awfully soon to be threatening disconnection, don't you think?"
Then I continued, "And not for anything, but why is it ok for ATT to be three days late turning on my 88-year-old mother-in-law's service, but if I'm 3 days late paying my bill, you threaten to turn my service off? That doesn't seem very fair to me."
To my complete and utter surprise, the supervisor agreed with me! She said, "You're right. It's not fair."
If you try sometimes... you do get satisfaction
Buy me a latte and call me happy
Without even asking for it, the supervisor volunteered to reverse my $3.57 late fee. So that's $3.17 for my mother-in-law and an additional $3.57 for me, for a total of $6.84.
It's a small amount, sure. But the principle is huge.
Until next month, this is Mighty Mom, consumer zealot, signing off.
I'm on my way to Starbucks to spend my ATT windfall:-).
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