Second prize for ineffective mailouts goes to the insurance company. Last week I phoned company X to say I'd switched to insurance firm Y, and today I got two letters from company X: a late payment notice in one envelope, and a credit note for the identical amount in the other.
But first prize goes to a Rather Large Phone Company (RLPC), and you'll need a little background for this one: Ten years ago we combined our home phone and two mobiles onto the same bill, thus saving a tiny amount of money and a whole lot of separate payments. Over time I moved my mobile to prepaid (never use it anyway), and the home phone to another provider. With me so far? Simple math will tell you that my wife's mobile was all that remained on this bill.
Recently, my wife and I agreed that our eldest daughter should have a mobile, and while my wife was out shopping she found a really good prepaid deal, including a very nice phone. So, she bought two of them - one for our daughter, and one for herself. Note that this was NOT with RLPC.
Now comes the fun bit. She took her old phone into a RLPC shop to cancel it, but they said they couldn't because it was on a joint bill in my name. All they could do was apply to have the phone removed from the joint bill, and once that went through we could then cancel the phone. With a bit of a shrug, my wife said okay.
Two weeks later we cut the phone off, and a week after that I get a bill for two weeks of network usage. Now, we'd already paid three months up front (until the end of September) before going to cut the thing off, so I was surprised to say the least. I dug out the old bill, and with both in hand I phoned RLPC mobile. Here's how it went:
Me: I have a query about a bill.
Them: Give us the account number.
Me: (New account num)
Them: I'm sorry, that's been cancelled.
Me: Yes, I know. But I have a bill here for $12.
Them: You need to pay it.
Me: But on this other bill for the same phone I have a credit for $50.
Them: What's the account number for that one?
Me: (Other account num)
Them: I'm sorry, that's a joint billing account. Would you like me to put you through?
Me: Sigh. Okay.
(Purr purr, lots of ads for their broadband accounts, then finally I hear someone on the line)
Me: I have this bill for $12 but you owe me $50.
Them: What's the account number?
Me: (1st account num)
Them: I'm sorry, that's a mobile bill. You'll have to speak to mobile.
Me: But I was just speaking to mobile and they put me through to you.
Them: That's because you said it was a joint account.
Me: It IS a joint account. (Gives joint account number) You see, mobile X was on that account but they wouldn't let us cancel it. So, we moved it off the account.
Them: The mobile number you gave me isn't on that joint account.
Me: Yes, I know that. We just moved it off so we could cancel it. There's NOTHING on the joint account. But you're trying to bill me for the mobile number on a new account and I still have a credit on the joint account.
Them: What's the new account?
Me: (1st account num)
Them: I'm sorry, I can't look at mobile phone bills.
Me: But you own me fifty bucks, and the guy on the other line wants me to pay $12. Wouldn't it be easier if you just offset them and paid me the difference?
Them: I'm sorry, that's a mobile bill. This is joint billing.
Me: But you're the same company!
Them: I'm sorry. Would you like me to put you through to mobile?
So, I've paid the $12 on the new bill and I await my $50 credit with interest. So to speak.
(And just for completeness, this is the same company who messed me around with a 99c bill and a 1c credit for an internet account last week.)
Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)