Missa (liana13) wrote in bad_service,

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I contemplated for a long time whether to post my experience with CenturyTel phone company. But after much thought, I think it's worth writing about. I would also like to get some advice. This with probably be a bit long, so I apologize in advance.

My roommates and I began a local phone service with them in August of 2003. We had problems right from the start, ranging from them not showing up within the window they told us, charging us way more than they had said etc. My roommate, who's name the bill was under, talked to several different people and got each problem worked out. Four people lived within this apartment, so for each bill we would generally send four different checks. We called to verify that this was okay, and we had no problems. Until July.

My bank is rather small and local, there are five locations within Texas. But I have never once had a problem using a check. I am neurotic when it comes to keeping track of my money and I always have at least $200 in my checking account. We get the bill for July and two of my roommates can only pay cash. So I agree to write a check for $24.21(3/4 of the bill) and my other roommate writes a check for the remaining $8.07. We send it off, same as always.

We all moved to separate apartments at the beginning of this month. We canceled the phone last month. I was surprised to get a call from my roommate and she was rather upset with me. She had gotten a letter from CenturyTel saying that the check for $24.21 had bounced due to "insufficient funds". I of course knew this was ridiculous, so I asked her to add my name to the account so I could call and discuss the issue with a representative. She did so and was told I only needed to know my birthday in order to verify who I was.

I call and am put on hold for over 15 minutes. I finally speak to someone and she looks up our account. She almost immediately puts me on hold and then hangs up on me when picking up the phone. I call back, wait another 15 minutes and get the same thing from another representative! I was a little annoyed, but I called again, waited another 15 minutes and asked not to be put on hold when I spoke to the third person. She asked me to verify my identity by stating the mailing address for the account. I only knew our old address, not her new one. She had expressly asked what info I would need and had been told my birthday would be sufficient. I explained this and even told the girl the name of the rep my roommate had talked to. She said that was insufficient and I would not be able to discuss anything further until I got the address. So after almost an hour I call my roommate and get that information.

The fourth person I talk to is a bit more helpful. She says that, like the letter said, my check was denied due to "insufficient funds". I politely tell her that I know I had enough and still do. I ask if they can run the check again and she tells me she can't. I understand that. So I ask if they can accept another payment. She says they can't until they get a statement from my bank saying I had enough in my account and still do. Fine. It's frustrating, but I know mistakes can happen.

I call my bank and ask to verify my funds and explain the situation. Turns out they never even ran the check. So I'm frustrated and call back again. The fifth person I talk to is by far the most helpful. She looks up the account and says that oh, wait, it wasn't denied because of insufficient funds....oh no, it was denied because my bank does not exist! I'm rather shocked by this and ask what she means. She explains that their bank denied it automatically because my bank does not exist. I ask her to look and verify that I've used that bank for payments for almost a year and she says that yes, I have. So how can your bank have accepted those payments if my bank doesn't exist? I get the most air headed response I have ever heard. "Well, maybe it went bankrupt?". Umm, no. So I ask if she will rerun the check and she again says that that's not possible. I'm frustrated and just want to pay the bill so I finally ask if I can just pay it by credit card. She verifies that I can and tells me that I'll be charged $49.21! I ask why and she says it's a $15 bounced check fee and a $10 late payment. I politely argue that the check did not bounce and the payment was not late. She puts me on hold for a manager.

After 30 minutes on hold I finally talk to him. He asks first for my credit card information and then says, "okay, you're being charged $49.21." I politely say that I won't pay those fees since it was in no way my fault, their bank denied my banks existence. I went through the whole story and he basically flat out said, "Well we are charging these fees to your credit card. $49.21". I asked if the phone calls were taped and he verified that they were. So I said clearly, "I do not authorize any charges except for the $24.21". He then told me that he could charge me whatever he wanted. I know that's not true and I was very much trying to keep my temper in check. I work customer service, so I know it can be a frustrating job. But seriously! The eventual end is that I get charged the $24.21 on my credit card and he says I will be billed the rest. I ask to speak to HIS manager and am rudely put on hold without another word. I wait 45 minutes before hanging up.

I have verified that I was in fact only charged the $24.21 and that the check did not go through. What else can I do? It's not in my name so it shouldn't affect my credit ratings unless they report it as a bounced check. I want to get it all worked out but felt extremely frustrated and talked down to. It's a rather ridiculous situation, since my bank certainly exists. Do you guys have any advice on what I should do? The only thing I can think of is to write a letter and attach a copy of the original "insufficient funds" letter plus a copy of my bank statement(important numbers crossed out of course). I will definitely never use them again, but I want to make sure nothing else bad comes of this. I also ended up wasting over 2 hours of cellphone daytime minutes!

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