I am old enough to remember Lily Tomlin’s routine as the condescending telephone operator on Laugh In. The way she handled customers strengthened the public perception of the “Omni-Potent” Telephone Company of the late 1960s. It was no laughing matter when I opened my telephone bill the other day to find an extra $14.95 charge from a third party, that ATT was helpfully collecting for. This was not an SMS donation, or the price for voting on a telethon, but a charge on my LAND LINE.Â I called the toll-free number on the 3rd party bill insert from HBS Billing Service and got customer service promptly.Â They admitted that the charge was made by someone other than me and offered me credit, but said the charge (a second charge) had already gone through for the current month and that it took 2 months to issue a credit. I strongly pointed out that I had not authorized the charge, nor had I authorized ATT to allow such charges. The CS person told me they would block my number for future charges.
Next call was to ATT billing where I was “helped” by a condescending CS person who didn’t even apologize for the problem, but told me he would block my number from future 3rd party charges. When asked directly, he said he couldn’t promise me that it wouldn’t happen again.Â Bottom line, worse case scenario: They don’t get this fixed. I don’t pay the 3rd party charges. ATT cuts off my phone and turns me over to a collection agency, all because their Policy appears to be that 3rd party vendor billing is an Opt-out, rather than an Opt-in service for the customer. Really shows how much they value their customers.
After exchanging a few tweets about this issue, I got a tweet from @ATTJessica offering to help with my problem if I DM’d her (made her look good in the Twitter world, but I DM’d my info on Thursday night and haven’t heard back from her as of noon Monday). From the looks of her Twitter profile and page @ATTJessica is manager with the AT&T Customer Care/Social Media team (from the page, it looks like there are about 13 of them). Looking at @ATTJessica’s stream, she answers lots of customer issues like she did mine:
I am sure I will hear from @ATTJessica, about how ATT values my business, and how much she wants me to be a satisfied customer, but the damage is done. In these times of rampant identity theft and hundreds of new scams every day, ATT seems to be encouraging the practice. I would like to know what else I am Opted-In to without my knowledge. What THE telephone company doesn’t seem to realize is that this is not 1967, and there IS competition. Friends laugh at me for keeping a land line. Maybe it’s time to free myself from those strands of copper. Maybe all mobile, VOIP, or Magic Jack is the way to go.
If you have a land line with ATT, be sure an check the charges on your bill.Â Below you will see the normal ATT charges and the Third party charges from HOLD Billing Services.