My Great Phone Company!
I'm not naming names, but I am a "valued" customer of one of those nice, friendly, humungously humungous Telephone Companies here in Wisconsin. As a matter of fact, it just changed names AGAIN, and there line is "New company. Same great service".

As we all know, the Government is constantly monitoring these monopolies, and certainly wouldn't let them rip you off. Just like they monitor the oil companies, you know.

Even though the company has changed hands more times than I can remember, I've had the same phone number through them for more than 25 years.

For the first 22 years or so, if I was a bit late paying the bill, it was no big deal. They just added on a little late payment fee, which was alright with me. If I got about 3 months behind, they would send me a nice letter about it. No problem with that.

But when it became one of those big 3-letter-name companies, they got pretty bitchy about late payments. Won't even let it go 2 months now.  But at least they would call and tell me if there was a problem. Until recently.

Back in March of '06, I got a letter from them telling me my phone service would be disconnected in 5 days if I didn't make payment arrangements. So I called the Automated Billing System number that they gave. I chose the option to pay by electronic funds transfer from my business checking account. Their friendly "your call is important to us" robot told me that the payment went through, and all was OK.

Until a week later, that is. I woke up to find my phone not working, and another call to the robot indicated that "my service has been suspended due to non-payment". I managed to somehow get an actual human being on the line (this wasn't listed as an option), who told me that the bank didn't accept the electronic transfer. So I had to put it on a credit card, and pay an extra charge to have my service restored. (A call to the bank the next day explained that certain companies won't do electronic transfers from business accounts.)

So here's why I decided to consider them to be CROOKS from now on.  They never notified me in any way that there was a problem with the payment, after their robot assured me that the payment went through, then go disconnect my service. Secondly, when they send their 5 day notice of disconnection, it arrives in the same envelope they use for their regular bill, that says "Your monthly statement is enclosed" on the front, causing people to think it's just a normal phone bill, not requiring immediate attention. And last, the reason I wrote this page happened to me today. Yesterday, I was paying bills, and I wasn't sure if the phone bill I had, dated April 19, reflected the last payment I had made.  So I called their robot to check on my account. It said I have an estimated bill of $38.00, with a credit limit of $200.00, and $162.00 of available credit. It said NOTHING at all about any payment being overdue. So I assumed all was well for a while, as the bill said it was due by May 15, which is still 2 weeks away. That was yesterday. Today, I get a notice in the mail that my phone will be disconnected TOMORROW!

It amazes me that the phone system works at all, considering the BUNCH OF IDIOTS running the thing!

I called the robot once more to make a payment, and now I am going to fire off a letter to the State Public Service Commission!

And if they disconnect me once again, believe me, it will STAY disconnected.

MORE NEWS ON 12-26-06!

I had to call the Automated Payment Robot today to clear up an issue with my 80+ year-old mother's phone bill. They have a new robot, and this one uses the latest, high-tech, kewl, speech recognition available! It actually understands almost 50% of what you say! There is only about a 10-second pause after you answer each question, then it usually says "I didn't understand you" in a very romantic male voice! And the available options do not include telling them that the check was mailed last week. I guess they are sick of that line! So I had to choose "I will mail it today", and I imagine someone (or something), will be real surprised if the check shows up there on the same day! Makes me wonder how an airplane still manages to fly, with today's intelligence!

And there's more, on 1-something-07!

During another discussion with the Romantic Robot about my mothers phone bill, I was trying to figure out how to put her account on Automatic Withdrawal to prevent future problems. Of course Mr. Romantic offered no such options, even though several different numbers I had dialed all directed me to the same place. I was in the process of trying to teach Mr. Romantic some new words, that I'm sure he hears all the time, which all have four letters, which he's sorry he didn't understand, when a lady came on the line! She said she would mail me a form to fill out to put my mother's account on auto-pay.

So several days later The Form arrives. Two pages

Page 1, instructions : 1) Fill out the form using black ink. 2) Cut at the dotted line. 3)Put the form in the envelope provided, with the address showing through the window, and mail to blah, blah, blah... This took up  two inches of the otherwise-blank full sheet of paper.

Page 2, The Form. First it asks for your name, then gives a line 1 inch long to put your entire name in. Then it asks for your Phone Number, including the area code, and the 4-digit code after your number, from your bill (this IS your account number). Then it gives you another nice 1 inch line to put this all on. Then it asks for your
Account Number (which is the same number you just provided), but this time has the exact amount of little boxes needed to put the number in. Then it asks for your Account Number (this time not in bold) and has the exact amount of boxes where you apparently are supposed to put your number for the THIRD time!

I decided to call someone and ask if I was doing this right, but I discovered that nowhere on the form or the instruction sheet, was a telephone number. Even though the one of the T's in the company's name means "Telephone", apparently the Telephone Company doesn't have a Telephone! And there isn't even a local number in the Telephone Book for the Telephone Company. Sure, Mr. Romantic's number is in there, but I'm a little sick of him right now.

So now that I decided to just put the same number on there 3 times (might have even been 4, I think it wanted a "contact number" too), I proceeded to Step 2 of the instructions, Cut at the dotted line. I still haven't found the dotted line. The whole second half of the full page, that they give you only a one-inch space to write your name, is blank. Very thoughtful clerical work.

Now for Step 3, put the form in the envelope. But someone failed to notice that their address in NOT printed on the form, at least in any way that could possibly show through the window on the envelope provided. Absolutely Brilliant clerical work! All I had to do was throw away the "provided envelope" and use one of my own! Talk about the ultimate in convenience!

Amazingly, somehow this worked, and several days later a notice arrived that we were on auto-pay.

I've gotten in the habit of listening first to see if there really is a dial tone each time I pick up the phone to make a call, and I am truly amazed to find it there! And they're advertising really big (around the world!) that they can handle all of your cell phone, home phone, business phone, wireless networking, and even television needs.

How about learning to answer a phone or type up a simple form?  I imagine that's technology of the future, maybe someday, huh?

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