Second story on here…this is still back in the dim, dark days of the late 1990’s, when grunge was king, the internet was in it’s infancy, and the various phone companies were falling all over themselves to introduce new tech for their customers. I had moved from my prior job at C, and was now working for a large Southern telecommunications company…if you are from Florida, you should know to which one I am referring to.
My job was Sales/Customer Service, which truly sucked when you dissected it. Basically, my job was to assist the customer with whatever issues they were having with their phone/cable/internet/cell phone/pager, and then try to up-sell them a service. Sometimes it was easy, especially if I was able to quickly fix the issue AND prove that “by switching to the Complete Choice package, you will save an average of $30 a month by bundling the services that you are already paying too much for!”
Despite how awesome I sounded in that last sentence, I suck at sales. I hated that part of the job, although I did get outstanding marks for my customer service. Anyway, one day a youngish (mid-30’s) man called in on behalf of his mother. She was in her 90’s, and was suffering from Alzheimer’s, or dementia, or something of the sort. After verifying that we had a Power of Attorney on file and he was authorized to speak on her behalf, I asked how I could help.
He told me that he had been going through his mother’s bills, and kept seeing a $5/month charge for a phone rental, and as far as he could tell, his mother did not rent a phone. After pulling up her account, I, too, saw the charge, which was on every monthly statement going as far back as our system would go, which was about 5 years, IIRC. (I suppose that there may have been more written records in a warehouse somewhere, but I truly don’t recall.) I placed him on hold, and called my supervisor over to ask, because I did not know that one could rent a telephone. My supervisor had to call HER supervisor, and we finally were able to figure it out: WAY back in the day, when telephone service was new and exciting, home phones were not available at the local Mom and Pop grocery store, and you could not go down the street to the Walmart supercenter, as they did not exist (shocking, I know!), so the phone company offered a service in which the customer could rent the phone from the phone company for $5 a month. Now, that service had long since been discontinued by the company. Her son stated that the phone in her house was bought from Walmart, and while he dimly remembered seeing the “phone company phone” in his youth, it had long since disappeared.
I felt bad for the old lady…she had been paying $5 a month, for DECADES, for a phone that she did not even have anymore. Unfortunately, due to how the computer system was set up, we could not refund a couple decade’s worth of charges. I was able (with my supervisor’s permission) to refund the last 5 years worth of charges, sent the old lady an “old person phone” with the large dial pad, and sent her the complete cordless phone system that had the base plus five other phones that tied into the system, also for free…at the time, it was about a $500 system. I’m sure the son used the cordless system for himself, but I didn’t mind…he was dealing with a lot of stuff.
The one thing that I learned from this was to keep careful track of my bills, and watch the charges like a hawk!