January or February, 2002
Dial-up is too slow, so I was looking into high-speed options. Due to some wiring issues in my apartment, a cable modem was not a possibility. Unfortunately, the only DSL option was through MSN and my local telephone service, Qwest. Qwest is legendary for their screw-ups, so when things got screwed up I wasn't surprised, but I still don't know where the error occurred.
I ordered my DSL last year, but requested that I keep my current ISP. When my ISP tried to activate my DSL, they informed me that they couldn't because Qwest had listed themselves as my ISP. I've had so many bad experiences with Qwest that I just said "screw it" and canceled the order.
Several months later, I see that my phone bill now has an extra $50.00 a month on it for "MSN Online Access". I figured that Qwest had screwed up, so I called them to get it sorted out. They informed me that they had nothing to do with the problem and transferred me to MSN. Not wanting to keep pushing various menu numbers until I drilled down to the right department (who would transfer me anyway), I waited until the voice on the phone said "If you have a rotary phone, please hold until an operator is available." I held and another voice said "We did not detect any key presses. If you have a dial-up account, press 1. If you have ..."
Wait a minute, if I have a rotary phone, I get directed back to the touch-tone phone menu?
OK, so I play their game, press all the numbers, get the wrong department, get transferred to the correct department only to be informed that they can't help me because my name is not on my account. It seems they have some lady named "Shirley" as the account holder. We worked out a deal where I fax in my bill with the incorrect name (no, my first name is not Shirley) and they'll clear the bill. Of course, there is no confirmation process, so I include a cover letter asking them to email or call me when they get the letter (and I included my email address and phone number.) They never called, so I called them back and they informed me that they had, in fact, reversed the charges.
I have my new Qwest bill. There's now $100 on my account for MSN service that I don't have. I call Qwest and they inform me that MSN never canceled the bill. Unfortunately, Qwest refuses to do anything other than present the bill to me because it's "not their fault." I tell them that MSN agreed that I didn't owe any money and would they please call MSN and verify this? They gave me a long explanation of their policy on this matter. It went something like this:
Apparently MSN "cancellation codes" can take several weeks to process (ah, the glories of high tech, eh?), so if I want this process expedited, I have to call MSN, get the code, call Qwest back and give it to them. I navigate through MSN's awful phone system again and complete this part of the process. Finally my bill will be taken care of.
Now that the MSN problem is taken care of, Qwest Communications has settled the matter -- by sending me to collections, even though MSN agreed that I didn't owe them a penny. I wound up filing a complaint with the Oregon Department of Justice and that seemed to finally get Qwest's attention. I know it will be cleared up this time.
Curiously, Qwest denied sending me to collections. When I picked up the letter and read it to the lady on the phone, she replied "hey, that's the collection agency we use." They didn't even know they had sent me to collections.
Later in July, 2002
Well, after getting sent to collections for a bill that I don't owe, it looks like MSN finally credited my account with Qwest. So all is good, yes? No. MSN over-credited my account by a considerable amount, wiping out not only their bill, but also my phone bill and leaving a credit on my account. Of course, if I call to tell them, they'll probably reverse it and send me to collections again or something really fun like that. If I don't tell them, than at some point in the future, they're likely to notice and debit my account by something which might quite possibly be the correct amount.
Irrelevant but annoying side note: I moved a few months ago and in my first month Qwest disconnected my phone three times, never giving me an adequate explanation of why it happened. And I've had Ford Motor Credit call me several times to demand that Shirley pay her bill. And then there's this car lot that keeps calling for Shirley ...