Thursday, June 23, 2005


Smile, It's An Oops Day
by Janice Price

I have heard horror stories about cell phone bills, but yesterday I received the phone bill from hell and I don’t even have a cell phone. Generally, I can add basic service to the long distance calls I keep track of, plus whatever other charges they hide in the tiny print every month, and have a general estimate of my phone bill.

Last month I switched from Internet Dial-up to DSL. Since I have telephone service, long distance and Internet service with the same company, I can get a year of DSL at the same rate as what I have been paying for Dial-up. The deal was just too good to be true.

“The only extra charge you will have on your next phone bill is $10 for shipping the modem,” the representative assured me.

My hands were shaking as I dialed Customer Service yesterday. I’ll give you the abbreviated version. The call actually lasted over an hour.

“The phone bill is correct,” Deanna told me, after rattling off a number of reasons why I was out of order to question it.

“The phone bill is not correct,” I insisted, first to her and then to her supervisor Melissa. “I don’t know where you are getting your figures, but there is no way my phone service, DSL, modem shipping charge, and long distance calls can more than double my regular phone bill.”

“But you’re not being billed the full amount. You have credits.”

“But credits are supposed to lower your bill, not increase it.”

Melissa started over again. “There’s the $35 charge for your dial tone -”

I interrupted her. “You’re charging me for a dial tone now?” She was referring to the basic telephone service part of the bill, but this was the general tone of the conversation. Although we were discussing the same bill, her computer screen obviously didn’t match my statement and neither of us understood where the other was finding her figures. And I was searching the statement with a magnifying glass.

“Actually, I’m not looking at a screen,” Melissa admitted. She was distracted by the confusing conversation and locked herself out of her computer. She was “winging” it.

Once she was able to access a copy of my actual bill, she began to go through it line by line. May I never see a bill so confusing again! I would never have followed that bill on my own. In my mind, it was simple: add basic rate to DSL, long distance, $10 shipping and other charges, factor in pro-rated DSL for the prior billing cycle, and arrive at $x. Then deduct the $30 credit for a referral.

But we started on page 3, halfway down the page. On page 4, we got to the really fun part. If you add this line on page 4 to that line on page 3, you come up with $a. Then you add the next two lines to get $b, and go back to page 3 to pick up where they are listed in a totally unrelated column and then go down to the next section to deduct $c and $d to get $e.

“Where did that come from? I was told DSL would cost $f and the regular price is $g”

“But if you didn’t have our phone service, you would have to pay $h. They bill you for $h, then subtract $30 from $h to arrive at $f. Then if you go down to the next section, you have the $30 referral credit.”

“But it isn’t included in the credit total,” I protested.

“That’s because the representative who wrote your DSL order forgot to cancel your Internet service and you have been charged for one month and 21 days of DSL plus Dial-up. It’s a good thing you called us because you’re being overbilled.”

Once we passed this point, Melissa and I laughed at the absurdity of the situation. She corrected the bill.

This conversation is a good example of why God gave us a sense of humor. I sure needed one yesterday. A couple of hours later I was sending an email message to make an apology of my own, grateful I had not lost my temper over someone else’s mistake.

“This is one of those embarrassing moments of life. After the meeting the other night I rushed to download the pictures from the digital camera, write a quick couple of lines and send the local paper a community announcement. Might I add it was a long day and after 11 p.m. before I finished? (Just in case that makes any difference.) Anyway, I picked out a photo, then decided I should use one with the group’s president in it. I used a quote from her, designating her as the one on the left. Today I opened the paper and my first thought was, where did Iris go? You guessed it! I emailed the wrong photo, the first photo I had picked - without Iris!

Fortunately, Iris has a sense of humor. She is just happy the group got some publicity. I have already apologized to her because I know folks are going to be calling her to ask why she looks so much like her husband from the back. And, Renate, I apologize to you and Debbie because I know readers are going to think the mistake is the newspaper’s.”

Life gives us many opportunities to be on both ends of the apology. Can you accept an apology, in some cases seeing the humor of the situation? Can you proffer an apology when necessary?

If you’re having an oops day, smile. There is probably humor in it somewhere. I admit I haven’t always been able to find humor in such situations, but God is working with me. Things that used to anger me now sometimes tickle my funny bone. And unless you’ve had yours surgically removed, you have one too. Let life tickle it more often. It’s good for your health and also for your spirit.

© 2005 Janice Price

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