Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Curmudgeon says something nice about government

That thudding sound you just heard is my blogfriend Dave hitting the floor somewhere in metropolitan Atlanta....

Yes, admittedly, I grumble a lot about all levels of government. If you paid your own withholding, like I do, you'd be wary of government too.

But if government is evil, it can protect us from other, greater evils, and that leads us directly to into this morning's discussion.

The evil in question is not the Red Chinese. The Chinese may be our rivals in trade, our most likely adversary in war, and the nation likely to supplant the United States as the world's hegemon as we gracefully decline into a really big Portugal, but they also own the biggest portion of our national debt. So, I don't mean to bite the hand that props us up. No, I refer to a menace far worse than the Chinese.

I refer to the Telephone Company.

I have complained about telephone service in other posts on this blog. Early on, I griped about troubles with the "Texans", a reference to the Baby Bell that later grew up to swallow its corporate progenitor. For the classically trained, you can critique my interpretation of Greek mythology at the post linked in this sentence. In that post, I called the telephone monopoly BP&P; in this 2009 post, I referred to the Telephone Company as AT&TT.

Whatever it may be called, my latest dust-up with the Telephone Company came when I fell behind on my bill.

I know I may be shattering some of your dearly held illusions about the great wealth of lawyers and I'm sorry that I haven't been able to live up to the standard, but when people don't pay me I find it well-nigh impossible to pay my bills.

I let the office telephone bill go for one month, then two, waiting for the dreaded Red Notice all the while trying to plug up other, larger holes in the dike.

The dreaded Red Notice came shortly after the regular bill arrived showing that my business account was two months in arrears.

But here was the problem: The amount demanded on the regular bill was some $36 or $38 less than the amount demanded on the Red Notice.

No, I didn't let things deteriorate to actual disconnection -- so I didn't actually incur a restoration charge. The two bills just demanded different amounts.

Guess which amount I eventually paid?

Wouldn't you?

But the Telephone Company, having decided it was owed more, kept showing this phantom $36 or $38 charge on subsequent bills.

On receipt of each bill, for two consecutive months, I wrote to the Telephone Company at the address designated on the bill for the sending of complaints. I asked for an explanation about this phantom charge. Where had it come from? I explained how I'd paid the amounts demanded on the bills.

I imagine a giant shredder must be at that location: Letters complaining about this or that are apparently fed, unopened, into the maw of this giant machine. At least this would explain the total lack of response that I received from the Telephone Company to my inquiries.

In month three, therefore, I decided to try a different course. I did a little research and ascertained that telephone service in this state is regulated by the Illinois Commerce Commission. I did a little more Googling around the web and found a site maintained by the aforementioned Illinois Commerce Commission on which I could tell the Sovereign State of Illinois all about my trials and tribulations with the Telephone Company. It was a fill-in-the-blanks type form. I filled in the blanks. I pressed enter.

By the next morning -- the next morning! -- I had two voice mail messages from different corporate units of the Telephone Company both promising that a thorough investigation was underway and that I could rest assured that every effort would be made to resolve my problem. Several more calls followed.

This would be a better story if I didn't have to pay the $36 or $38 -- but, alas, this proved not to be the case. It turns out that, several months ago, the Telephone Company mysteriously applied a credit of roughly that size to my bill, lowering my monthly payment for one whole month. I thought nothing of it at the time -- credits like this pop up every so often as the Telephone Company is forced to settle a class action suit or is otherwise caught overcharging its customers. This time, however, the Telephone Company insisted that the credit was applied erroneously. The error was not picked up until the dreaded Red Notice was put together.

How could I argue otherwise? So I paid the #$@%! charge.

Late last week, I received a letter from the Illinois Commerce Commission advising me that the Telephone Company had advised it that my problem was solved and inquiring if I thought so too.

My thank you letter went in the mail last night.

Not all government regulation is bad. Sometimes it is necessary to keep evil corporations more or less honest.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

well buggers curmy. just buggers.

smiles, bee

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