A Man With A Phone Bill (And Nothing To Lose)
Modern life is pretty mundane. We sit in traffic, go to work, go home, watch our shows, and sleep. Sounds boring, but we often go through our lives pretty painlessly. But sometimes, along comes something that we just can’t take our minds off. Something so angering, so frustratingly bureaucratic that it consumes our whole lives; keeping us up at night, tossing and turning as we plot our revenge. If you guessed telephone customer service then you’re right! If not, then you might have some kind of bloodthirsty vendetta to fulfill, man.
But there is something truly blood boiling about the wait queues, the constant runarounds, and teeth-gratingly corny hold music that comes with phone customer service. It’s the stuff that puts people on the verge of insanity. Call it purgatory, but one man has been brave enough to fight the system at its own game– and win!
His name is Mark, a man with nothing to lose but his time, money, and patience, as he battles his adversary, AT&T.
If you’ve ever had to wait in those grueling hold queues or woke up to those pesky hidden fees from phone companies, then you’ll thoroughly enjoy this story. Mark, our David, takes on his Goliath, the multimedia giant AT&T and makes the idiots pay through the nose. AT&T swindled him out of $139, but Mark was about to make a plan that would cost them over $108,000!
You can only push the little guy so far until they just snap. CEOs and Fortune 500 companies, beware!
He Who Casts The First Stone
As with most revenge stories, this one starts with good enough intentions. Mark and his wife had gotten married a year ago and decided to really, really tie the knot by getting on the same phone plan. You know, real married couple stuff. So what’s a better place to start that off than heading straight to the AT&T store? Except Mark forgot a cardinal rule: never trust salespeople! The guy in the blue polo at AT&T promised Mark an absolutely darling deal of $70 a month for two new phones with unlimited data, including all taxes and fees!
Sounds absolutely sweet right? Like, who wouldn’t sign up for that deal? So Mark did what any consumer would do and signed on the dotted line. He and his wife get brand new iPhones and boom. End of story, right? Dead wrong.
Two days later, Mark logs onto his AT&T account to check his status only to find a bill for $139! It hasn’t even been a week yet and the company has already charged him double his monthly rate! What gives? Mark isn’t a poor man, but he isn’t a fool either. If someone tells him he’s only going to owe $70 then he’s only paying $70. He rings up AT&T customer service to get to the bottom of this and is less than pleased. The rep says the $139 bill is correct for taxes and activation fees, but when Mark explains that the salesperson told him that those would be covered, the phone rep pretty much tells Mark to pound sand.
Looks like Kevin in the blue polo had lied to Mark for that sweet commission.
“Okay, okay,” thinks Mark, “I’ll pull out my trump card.”
“How about I cancel my contract and we just waive the $139?”
The rep says that he could cancel the service but they would still keep the $139 AND Mark and his wife would lose their new phones and phone numbers. You know, for a company worth over $250 billion, AT&T sure is hard up for keeping that lousy $139.
Mark sighs defeatedly. He’s hit a dead end and terminates the call.
Tomorrow he’ll look for a new carrier and cancel his contract with AT&T, so he can finally move on with his life.
“May I Speak To Your Manager?”
Over the next couple of days, Mark finds Visible Mobile, a great company that not only gave him a great rate but will let him keep his phone number. So, there’s one thing out of the way. Next was to finally cancel his AT&T contract. Breakups are always hard, but Mark takes a deep breath and calls the customer service line again to deliver the bad news…
…except AT&T just doesn’t want to let go of poor Mark so soon. He asks for a refund of the original $139 but it’s a no-go. Per the fine print on that contract Mark signed, he is no longer entitled to a waived fee since he’s already had the service for four days at this point. Apparently, the window to cancel a contract is only three days. With Mark’s luck, he had called 24 hours too soon.
But by now Mark is fuming over the phone. The person he talked to on the phone the other day denied him a refund for canceling even though it was totally in the contract! What kind of show are these people running here?
Not to be a Karen, but totally Mark pulled the “May I speak to your manager” card, and got his call sent over to a senior CSR in the retention department. Mark breaks down and explains the whole fiasco to the senior CSR who is at least nicer and more sympathetic. Mark mentions the lying, the runaround, and the hidden fees. According to Mark, this rep is a very polite guy and tells Mark that he can waive the fees and the bill. Mark, finally finding relief is more than thankful and ends the call feeling a bit lighter…or at least that’s what he thought.
They Sent His Bill WHERE?
Mark is able to sleep soundly for about a month until he receives a bill in the mail from AT&T asking for, you guessed it! The $139! Mark angrily calls the customer service line again, except this time he doesn’t get the chill dude from last time and is met with a “very smarmy woman” who says that he still owes the full bill. Mark asks the CSR to check the notes that the last guy left and is then put on a 10-minute hold. Phil Collins plays as Mark pounds his head on the table.
Smarmy woman comes back and in a monotone voice says that she has escalated his case and that he will receive an email from a supervisor by the end of the week. So far, so good. Except TWO WHOLE WEEKS pass by and Mark gets nothing more than a peep from AT&T!
Mark calls again, he lucks out this time and gets a very sympathetic lady who says she can waive the bill. But as she searches her program for it she explains that the bill is no longer in her system because AT&T HAS SENT THE BILL TO COLLECTIONS!!!
Marks jaw drops. This pesky $139 bill now has the possibility of hurting his credit score. Just amazing. He can’t believe this. Playing defense, the nice lady assures Mark that she is sending a note to collections to waive the debt and that there shouldn’t be a hit on his credit. Hearing this relieves Mark and for the second time he hangs up the phone happily.
A Light At The End Of The Tunnel
Another six months roll by. AT&T is now just a blip in Mark’s proverbial rearview mirror until he receives another grubby letter in the mail. Except this one isn’t from AT&T, it’s from none other than Sequim Asset Solutions of Georgia trying to collect on Mark’s fabled $139. These people just don’t know when to stop!
Instead of picking up the phone, Mark drafts a letter to the debt collectors to verify the debt given the nice AT&T lady said that she’d waive it.
Another TWO MONTHS roll by and nothing from the debt collectors, but Mark now has a charming little blemish on his credit score thanks to this unresolved debt that no one will address with him!
Now we have to give Mark credit where credit is due, for most people it would honestly be easier to just pay the $139 debt and be done with it, but Mark just ain’t like that. This industrious fellow personally writes THREE letters to all credit and debt companies involved and MIRACULOUSLY, through all the bureaucratic red tape and nonsense, gets the bad marks on his credit score waived.
Mark holds his breath, thinking this may all finally be over but alas. THREE MORE MONTHS pass and Mark receives another letter, not from AT&T, not from Sequim Asset Solutions of Georgia, but Sunrise Credit Services in NY, demanding the $139 bill!
Mark shakes his head and makes an annoying discovery. The bozos at Sequim didn’t even bother verifying his debt at all! They simply sold it to another company who they thought could collect the money! GENIUS!
Mark, the saintly monk that he is, puts his nose to the grindstone again and pens another letter to yet another collector explaining the whole situation. And so far, so good! He hasn’t heard a peep from Sunrise Credit Services since, and they have not put any marks on his credit! So I guess in Mark’s mind, he is just going to let sleeping dogs lie.
He does admit though how ridiculous he has been during this situation.
“I am not cash strapped,” he explains, “I am blessed enough that I could easily pay the $139 without making a dent in my budget. I have lost 5x that amount in hours spent on the phone and writing letters. But I am determined to go to the mat with AT&T on principle alone.”
It seems for now that David has held his own against Goliath, but the time for revenge certainly draws near…
Time To Hit Em Where It Hurts!
Funny thing, after hearing all of this backstory about Mark you folks still don’t know what exactly he does for a living. The reason Mark doesn’t sweat so much over $139 bucks is that he’s an established lawyer and elected city councilmen. He’s also a very fiscally responsible person which is why he helps run his town’s finances. So it was certainly a big surprise to Mark when he went over his municipality’s expenses and discovered a HEFTY $6,000 monthly bill being forked over to AT&T for their phones and internet service. Mark’s town is a fairly small community so it was obvious to him that they were getting the short end of the stick when it came to their money.
Instantly thinking back to his debacle with AT&T from earlier that year, Mark went shopping around for services and drafted a new budget with his IT Director and City Manager. They discovered by switching up their phones and internet providers Mark’s city was able to cut their bill in HALF! It was so much money saved that the city was able to hire a part-time animal shelter employee!
Mark admits that he never would’ve looked that closely into his city’s telecom expenses if it weren’t for AT&T treating him so badly. In a bit of an unintended domino effect, that salesman swindling Mark out of $139 cost his company a whopping $108,000 annual contract!
“I highly doubt our city would’ve considered switching if I didn’t make such a stink about it,” says Mark, “but AT&T will end up losing hundreds of thousands over the coming years because of this. I hope the $139 was worth it!”
And that’s the story of how a smalltown city councilman got back at a multibillion-dollar telecom giant that was not only swindling himself but the fine people of his town. Sure, yelling at your customer service rep may feel good in the moment, but there are always ways to cut deeper. And if you’re a phone company, a piece of advice, maybe don’t lie to a man three times, put false marks on his credit, and make him jump through hoops for your amusement; it might just cost you a pretty penny.