Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Monday, January 12, 2009

An Open Letter To Bell Canada

Dear Bell Canada,

I am writing this letter and posting it on the internet in the hopes that an employee or two of yours will come across and read it. Even though times are tough, I know you still have many, many thousands of employees, so the chances are decent one of them will find it eventually and perhaps draw it to the attention of Somebody who works in the Appropriate Department.

I’d call you on that device your namesake invented but...well...lemme s’plain.

In July of 2008 my wife died suddenly. At the time of her death we were living apart but as next of kin, I of course had to take care of her affairs. Unlike me, who only utilizes your services for my home phone (and have since the early 1970s) my wife had her home phone, her cell phone and her satellite television all provided by your company.

She, of course, had no further need for these services once she passed away. In August, I brought a copy of her death certificate to one of your service centres and a kind young woman there tap-danced through your voice mail system and eventually put me through to a Person In Charge. The PIC expressed her sympathy, noted that payments were up to date and promised any further charges would be waived. She asked that I return the satellite receiver in specific packaging which would be sent to me.

A couple of weeks later, I did just that and crossed off another in the seemingly-endless list of things to do following a person’s death.

Sometime in October, the first dunning letter arrived.

Your company wanted $87.65. The bill didn’t say what for, but the account number was different from my own, so I presumed it was to do with my late wife’s. I ignored it, thinking there was probably a lag in communications between the Department of Receiving Returned Satellite Receivers and They Who Send Bills.

In November, I got another letter which was now rather urgently demanding that $87.65, still however, without specifying exactly what it was for. This time, manfully, I waded through your voice mail system myself. Within a mere 15 minutes of listening to recordings, button pushing and department shuffling, I was speaking to yet another Person In Charge. Like the first, she was extremely sympathetic and apologized for the dunning letter. She would take care of it. There was no reason to pay. It was a mistake. Please forgive us.

Graciously, I did so.

Well, darned if I didn’t get another Urgent Notice a couple of weeks later, regretfully informing me that because of my refusal to pay this mere $87.65 for unspecified services, your company would be forced to turn my bill over to a collection agency and well, goshdarnit, if my credit rating went all to heck I only had myself to blame.

I decided to return to the same Bell centre I went to originally. This time, a kind young woman told me that it really wasn’t their job to intervene in situations like this. What, I inquired, was your job? Well, it was to sell cell phones and related services. She really wished she could help me.

I told her I could make her wish come true. She could do the voice mail dance for me and hand me the receiver when she reached a Person In Charge.

She did so and guess what?

No, seriously, guess what?

The PIC apologized profusely for some Nameless Incompetent’s error and promised she would take care of it.

I said Wow! It was like my guru Yogi Berra said about being deja vu all over again! But, hey, it was closing in on Christmas. I dug deep into my well of goodwill towards men, forgave the PIC and the NI and walk out whistling.

The Final Notice was dated Christmas Eve. A nice touch I thought. All those little Bell Canada elves working until the last possible minute to ensure a Merry Christmas for everyone. Call me a sentimental old fool but I found myself dabbing a tear.

This time I looked very closely at the bill. It was confusing. It said as of Dec. 3rd, there was a balance owing of $87.65. Directly below that, also dated Dec. 3rd, was a credit of $87.65. And below THAT, was an amount due of - yep - $87.65.

As my high school teacher, the sainted Mr. Elliot could attest, my mathematical skills are somewhat rudimentary. But it sure looked to me like the bill was saying $87.65 minus $87.65 = $87.65.

Yesterday, I got my first letter from the collection agency you hired, Total Credit Recovery Ltd. out of Laval Quebec. I suppose you know what they wanted. I considered calling them. They provided a helpful toll-free number just like you folks do. Somehow, though, I bet I if I call their number a human being will answer.

But I decided to write this letter instead and propose a solution to this ongoing problem.

My wife was cremated and her ashes are in a vinyl bag in Son #1's bedroom. I will put $87.65 in that bag. All you have to do is send a representative to my house, convince me why I owe that money and they can help themselves to it.

Then maybe we can all rest in peace.

Kind regards,

Frank Baron

23 comments:

Hilary said...

You can write all of my dissatisfied customer letters from now on. Poor you. But that part at the end was a tad creepy. Thank goodness you're not my next of kin. ;)

Big Plain V said...

Facts are irrelevent, principles are irrelevent, contacting a flesh and blood human as opposed to an automated billing computer is irrelevent -- the institution always wins.

Topple those ivory towers, Frank.

Barbara Martin said...

Frank, this seems to be the way with most corporations. Though you might write a letter to the CEO of Bell with a complaint.

And belated condolences on your loss.

Leah J. Utas said...

I hope you make this incompetent asshattery as public as is possible.

Frank Baron said...

Okay Hil. I'll give you a discount. Probably. :)

Ray, I don't get why somebody there didn't just pick up the phone and call me. It's not like they're shy. They call me every week or so trying to sell me more services. ("That's a different department, sir.")

Thanks Barbara. And I'll keep your suggestion in mind. Maybe that'll be Plan B. :)

Leah, your vehemence is invigorating. Down with the asshats!!

Maud said...

I can't tell you how much you have my sympathy! I had a similar battle with a company here. In the end I paid - it was that or madness - but I still feel a chill hand clutch at my heart whenever I see or hear their name!

Frank Baron said...

Maud, it's nice to find a kindred spirit. I suspect we have lots of company though - ineptitude and indifference abound within corporate entities everywhere.

Jennifer Jilks said...

We have familiar Bell stories, Frank. My late mother and father had some issues with phones, and my dear sweet daughter learned that if you swear at Emily you will get a person right away.

We wrote a letter to the big cheese and finally got some satisfaction and a month's credit.

It is terribly defeating when you are in mourning, just pisses you off when they not only act ignorant, but pursue it = stupidity. But do pursue it and write down the name (and time & date) of every person you speak to.

Reb said...

The two things in life you can't avoid: death and taxes. The only thing death won't stop: big corporations billing departments.

You get 'em Frank!

the Bag Lady said...

Oh, dear.

Is this what I'm in for? I have just now embarked upon my own journey into Bell hell.....~~sigh~~

http://bagladysblather.blogspot.com/2009/01/wee-rant.html

Stace said...

Seems like all big telecommunications companies are more or less the same... ie, pretty fucked up in the billing department. I wrote a lovely long complaining blog post a little while ago about Telstra... so I fully sympathise. Except with the whole ashes thing, that was weird :P

Frank Baron said...

Yes Jennifer, I made a major faux pas by not recording dates and names. Glad you got a resolution. Thanks for the visit and the empathy. :)

Got that right, Reb. I'll do my darndest. :)

Sorry to hear that Baggie. I'll come over and commiserate a little later. :)

Yep Stace. Corporate greed, blindness and terrible service knows no boundaries. (Sorry I weirded you out. You kids today...you're so darn delicate.) ;)

Meredith Teagarden said...

Ugh. What can I say to this?! I will say, you can write about anything and have the reader hooked.

So sorry about all of the mess with Bell Canada.

(I know, I am not in your genre of blogs (mom blogs :)), but I do love reading your blog, Hilary's, and some of the other real writers here!)

Frank Baron said...

Meredith, you're very kind. Thanks. :)

Sherry said...

Beauracracy rules the world.
Along with insurance companies.

Frank Baron said...

And Jack Russell Terriers, Sherry. Don't forget them. ;)

kcinnova said...

An excellent letter.
Perhaps you should send it to the top?
(My very naughty voice is telling me that if you do, you should sprinkle a few cold ashes from the fireplace on the letter before you fold it up and mail it!)

Frank Baron said...

Kcinnova, I suspect the "top" is shielded from riff-raff like me. But I don't think they've heard the last from me.... :)

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Anonymous said...

My condolences to you.
I have my own Bell horror stories. I am trying to get a hold of an address to send them a letter demanding they correct my bill. How would one get a letter to the person in charge of Billing and/or complaints? I am not having the greatest of luck in locating an address...(one that I think someone will even read the letter).

Anonymous said...

well well I am at least a satisfied customer (senior) bell has been our service for over 50 years and yes it takes forever to get through to the right person after all the hit one for English two for something else 3 for etc.etc. and it is frustrating but I persevered and they yes they waived a 99.00 charge for someone coming into my house to repair a wire so sometime it pays to be pleasant, persistant and thankful.