ON HOLD: When Billing Becomes Bilking
This type of thing happens to me far too often.
When I opened my phone bill recently, I was surprised to see a $14.95 charge from ILD Teleservices, a company I’m pretty sure I’d never head of. When I called ILD, I was told that the charge was for an “800-number voice mail service.”
I explained that I had never signed up for an 800 number, and that no one in my family could have done so. That’s when the ILD representative pointed out, to my embarrassment, that I’d been charged the same amount every month for six months in a row.
(Guess what? I don’t always examine my phone bills.)
The representative agreed to give me credits for three months, but told me that if I wanted credits for the other three — a total of $44.85 — I would have to fax a letter to the company. (Note the incredibly arbitrary rule.) I hesitated. As the father of six-year-old twins and a writer with constant deadlines, I wondered whether sending the letter (and making the inevitable follow-up phone calls) was worth the trouble.
There was a time when I would have made as many phone calls as it took to set things straight. Back when I believed that if an error had been made, it ought to be corrected. End of story.
But these days, I think less about justice and more about my sanity. Do I really want to spend hours on the phone trying to recover $1.38 or $9.31 or even $44.85? Shouldn’t I learn to “let go of the little stuff” — not for the company’s sake, but for my own?
Then again, if people stop reporting billing errors, companies may realize they can get away with accidental overcharges. Or worse.
So, with a view to deterrence as much as enrichment, I wrote the letter and faxed it off. Let’s see if I get my $45 credit.
In the meantime, I’d like to know how you decide what to do about minor billing errors.
If you woudn’t call a company about $2, how about $20, or $200? Where do you draw the line? (And has your line moved as your income has one up or down, or as the circumstances of your life have changed?) Has the recession had an effect?
When you do pursue a billing error, is it just about the money? Or is it “the principle of the thing?”
If so: What principle?
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