We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.

~ George Bernard Shaw ~

Crazy Telco Out Of Order

October 12th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 2 secs

Beware of crazy payment demands.

What is it with those crazy telcos? Sending people outrageous bills for services that were never rendered, they then wreak havoc by intimidation. Just ask Solenne San Jose, a French woman living in Pessac in South West France. Look what happened to her.

Solenne got the shock of her life when Bouygues Telecom sent her a phone bill for a crazy 11,721,000,000,000,000 euros! “I almost had a heart attack. There were so many zeroes I couldn’t even work out how much it was,” the recently retrenched teacher’s assistant said.

As we have seen before, unless people in power are held to account, gross indifference and stupidity can happen. So, when Solenne contacted Bouygues Telecom’s call centre, she was told that there was nothing they could do. Instead, she would be expected to pay the full amount, which is as it happens is roughly equivalent to 6000 times France’s annual economic output.

When Solenne again tried getting help from Bouygues Telecom, they then put on a veneer of appeasement by offering to arrange helpful repayments for the ridiculous figure. Yet, at that point, none of Bouygues Telecom’s staff saw the ridiculousness of the bill. Given the crazy amount, one wonders whether they were really considering spreading terms over several hundred thousand years.

Clearly, nobody cared less, nor had the wit to do anything to address the issue. Only after Solenne made a series of frantic calls did Bouygues Telecom finally acknowledge the crazy nature of the bill, concluding that instead of 11.7 quadrillion euros, Solenne only owed 117 euros.

Eventually, the telco’s management stepped in to sort everything out. Happily, they at least did the right thing and waived Solenne’s fee entirely, as a way to apologize for the company’s absurd behavior. Blaming a computer printing error, and misunderstandings between the call centre and the client, they tried to put this crazy situation behind them.

But what can we learn from this poor woman’s experience? Sometimes companies lack the internal procedures to stop such crazy things happening. In this case, nobody even bothered to do the most basic maths. Worse still, they were completely blasé. It took Selenne’s persistence to save the day. When she discovered the gargantuan direct debit, Selenne kept requesting help until finally someone woke up enough to take notice.

It’s a timely reminder. We all need to be vigilant and insist on reasonable treatment (especially in the face of commercial indifference). The crazy thing in Selenne’s case is nobody within Bouygues Telecom spotted the obvious anomaly. That means, sometimes you’ve just got to go in and bat for yourself. Judging by the poor performance of too many companies, you can expect you’ll need to defend yourself against corporate indifference, at least now and then. Otherwise, get ready to pay for a host of ridiculous bills, phoney claims, and some very, very long repayments.


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