The Great AOL Adventure (Part I)

So, being a responsible adult, I usually pay my phone bill as soon as it posts online.

Several weeks ago, ATT told me (and the NSA, presumably), that my phone bill was ready for viewing. I popped over, opened it up, and noticed that it was a little high. Now, I’ll warn you, the following tale is not pretty. Not only does it provide a view into the seamy underbelly of the phone company, but it also shows you a not so hidden side of me–my penchant for abusing phone service personnel. I only recently discovered this aspect of my manifold personality, and I’ll admit that I’m a little bit ashamed of how much pleasure I get from berating stupid people who work for stupid companies.

Hnh, I thought. Well, wierd. Whatever, it’s probably residual charges from opening my account. So I merrily got ready to pay it, until I looked more closely. All of the charges looked normal, until I got to the bottom of the page and saw this:

ebillit screenshot

Ebillit? (Note that the blue bar is covering the identifying information for my phone account–in fact, the “company identified above” was not identified.)

I looked over the charges again. There were the charges for phone and internet service, all proper and correct, and then there was this mysterious ebillit charge. What the hell is ebillit? Why is it on my phone bill?

I called the number listed as a reference, and suddenly all became clear.

“Thank you for calling AOL, this is __________, how may I assist you?”

“Uh, hi ____________, I’m calling about some charges on my phone bill?”

We did the rigamarole where I give the person in India sensitive personal information and they type for awhile, and what transpired was this:

“Oh, I’m sorry ma’am, it looks like the person who had that phone number before you had that service.”

“Oh. Well I don’t want it.”

“I understand that ma’am, and we can get that cancelled for you.”

“Great!”

(Here’s where I got excited, because I know that AOL is notorious for extreme customer retention tactics, and I was delighted to hear him using the “c” word first, thinking we might actually make some progress.)

“Ma’am, are you calling from the phone number on your bill?”

“No, this is my cellphone–the landline is just for my high speed internet.”

“Oh, well we’re going to have to have you call us from that line.”

“Oh well that’s kind of not possible because I don’t own a phone for it. Is there any other way of cancelling?”

“Uh…well I think you can fax a copy of the bill with a request to cancel.”

“Great. And how long should that charge take to clear?”

“4-7 business days, ma’am.”

“Awesome. I just have one question for you–this hasn’t appeared on previous phone bills, so why did the charge suddenly pop up now?”

“Previous bills ma’am? Well the account was opened on June 16th.”

“Wait…June 16th?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“June 16th is long after I took possession of this phone number. Yet you tell me that I would have to call from this line in order to get this service. Which is pretty much impossible.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“No, wait a minute. What you’re telling me is that someone apparently started a service on my phone number without my consent, presumably from my own phone line. Is that not a little bit of fucked up?”

“Yes ma’am, and we would be delighted to cancel that for you, we do apologize.”

“I think you sneaky little bastards snuck that charge onto my bill, hoping I wouldn’t notice, is that correct?”

“Ma’am, we’re just going to have you fax that request in, and then you can pay your bill, and then a credit will be issued.”

“Wait…you expect me to pay for charges I didn’t incur, and wait for a credit which may or may not ever be issued? How exactly is this a win win situation for me, the consumer. What happened to this 4-7 days deal?”

“Yes ma’am, and we will issue a credit.”

“No, I mean you expect me to pay for a service I didn’t use, didn’t order, and don’t want, and this is supposed to be all hunky dory?”

“Well if you like ma’am you can just pay the portion of the phone bill without the ebillit charges.”

“Oh, this is great. So not only are you sticking random charges on my phone bill, but you’re asking me to fuck over my credit rating too?”

“Ma’am?”

“You know how on your bill there’s a big box that says ‘failure to pay in full may result in collection activity on your account?’ Yeah, that giant box says you are issuing a fucking credit right now, for this ridiculous charge that I didn’t incur, or I talk to your supervisor.”

“I’m sorry that you are upset ma’am, and if you can just fax that in for us we can get the charges removed.”

“No, you know what, you can shove that fax up your ass. This ebillit bullshit popped up on my phone bill like a herpes sore, and I want it removed. NOW. I know that you have the ability to do that, or if you don’t, your supervisor does, and I expect you to do it. I did not authorize these charges, and I want them removed. I’ve given you plenty of personal information to verify my identity, I own this phone number, and I want this fixed…NOW.”

“Is there anything else I can help you with, ma’am?”

“Yes, you and your piece of shit internet company can go fuck themselves with your mother inside a giant bleeding ass chancre, that’s what you can do. You can try actually engaging in some customer service, seeing as how that’s what you are paid to do…hello? Hello? What the fuck?”

Yes, kids, it’s true, AOL will hang up on you if you give them enough provocation.

So I called again, and finally got through to a nice lady in New Jersey, who told me that yes, I would have to fax in a request, and here’s the toll free number, and she’s so sorry, that happened to her once and she was pissed, and yes, the charges should disappear from my bill within 5-7 business days.

5-7 business days go by. Charges are still not clear. I wait another few, and then I call ATT directly to have a little chat:

“Thank you for calling ATT, this is _______________, how can I help you today?”

“Hi ______________, I’m calling about a problem with my bill.”

It turns out that she, too, is from New Jersey, which is apparently the new India in terms of call centers. And what she tells me is that AOL was full of shit, there’s no way the charge will clear from my bill for at least three months, and she’s going to personally put a hold on my bill so that I won’t be responsible for the charges, she totally understands, AOL does this all the time, apparently. She expressly tells me about three times that I should just pay the portion of the bill I actually incurred, because a credit will be issued.

So…I’m going to pay the $19.23 that I actually owe ATT today…and we’ll see what happens. I suspect that this is going to be a multi-part saga, kiddos.

[AOL]