A Five-Figure Comedy of Errors


This is a long one folks, so strap in.

Not long after my stay in tech support in my former life as a phone jockey, I found myself back in general customer service. While my consolation prize was being one of the folks tapped to handle escalations, we still had to be a regular rep once a week for reasons (job security for QA, I guess?). One of those days, I get what might be the second biggest cluster I would deal with in my dozen years.

Call starts, get into the account, ask the guy what I can help him with, and get the “oh, you’ll see in a minute” line that usually precedes a migraine.

Oh boy, did I see it. A five figure bill. On just a regular Joe’s account. At a point in time where rather drastic measures were being taken by the company to limit, well, exposure to humongous bills that folks would understandably skip out on.

By this point I’m…not new. I’ve seen shit. At first glance I can’t fathom how the hell this happened. So, we start digging. In one ear, I’ve got the caller relaying his side; we cut his service off because he was using his little internet thingy not on our network, but still domestically. Corporate doesn’t like that because it allegedly costs too much. So he calls, and because according to the map (don’t trust the map), he’s in our coverage area, if we just make it so he only uses our network domestically, it should all be great. So they make the changes, and make sure to set a flag to stop him from getting flagged again, and off we go.

Now, you may wonder why I kept pointing out ‘domestically’ there. Because this poor guy lived very close to an area near an international border. And this fact never clicked to anyone. Also, the maps like to lie. He was in our coverage area in much the same way flavor is in LaCroix beverages. So, when we turn off just the domestic roaming, and there’s none of our coverage actually there, and the other country’s providers turn the sectors facing us up to 11, and we stop monitoring for any excessive usage…it gets bad, and nobody even knows. This guy was told he was good, while we pressed the wrong buttons, and the result was a bill that could cover the cost of a couple compact cars of the day with a bit left over. And, for once, the particular method of bollocksing things up was…pretty well documented. Which made what happened next just a smidge easier.

My manager, being a reasonable sort, was on board with just making this go away, but the account had to go. That part, easy peasy, and poor ol’ Joe was fine with that. Getting the account adjusted, well…if you’ve worked in billing, you know how things go. Each level has a limit to how much they can OK. And ours was systematically enforced in two places. Ultimately, our CRM was gonna push it up to the designate of a VP to give the final ok. Only four layers of approval. The CRM gave that level essentially unlimited authorization so, we just grab our crayons and patience, and we can make it happen. And by luck, it went super smooth. The right guy pressed the button and…

…nothing happened. Approval was there, CRM said it did it, but, it didn’t happen. Ok, well, glitches happen, let’s resubmit it and get it done. Goes fairly smooth until the last guy in the chain goes, wait a minute, why am I getting ANOTHER huge approval request, from the same person, in just a couple days? This is not the sort of attention you want. More crayons and patience later, we all collectively figure out that the billing system itself won’t let the CRM process an adjustment that large. No one ever thought it would be needed. So they set some arbitrary high end, and we blew right the hell past it, and it didn’t even think to throw an error.

And by this point, collections were starting to send out their fun little notices. Which, with this much money, will make a customer tend to soil their underoos.

In the end, a third carefully crafted credit request got it done. But the bean counters kept a close eye on me for a while after that, I’m sure.


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Remembering my days as A Call Center Agent: Theyr got mad at me for leaving early O_O