First, some setup information. In August of 2008 we changed cell phone company to fit in with the last job I had. So no contact from the prior provider since then. That is, until two days ago...
A 4-page (2 sheet) bill from the provider (one of the big four) shows up saying its from the Oct 10-Nov 9 Bill Period with a Nov 13 Bill Date. First page shows
Oct 13 Tax Adjustment ............................................. -$1.81
New Charges ........................................................... $1.81
Total Due $0.00
On the payment remit slip is says "DO NOT SEND PAYMENT. This amount will be credited to your next bill. $0.00."
On page 4 (after 2 pages of legal stuff and ads for buying more services) it says
(and that is the only thing on the page except the "4of 4" page number, the company logo, and billing acct number and dates).
Now the fun begins since I wanted to know what this was all about after 14 months of not being with this provider. So I call the customer service number from the first page of the bill and explain all this to the person who answers. I tell them I'm trying to find out why I got this and what it means given I have not been a customer since August of 2008.
The person was quite nice but said her records of our account doin't show any such credit/charges. But she said we didn't owe anything, so just ignore it. But, again, I asked why did I get this and what does it mean. Since she seemed to feel I should not care, I asked for a supervisor.
The customer service supervisor was also quite nice, but could not explain it, i.e., nothing showing on any records she could see. She guessed it was a credit left over after we closed the account. So why, I asked, did it take 14 months to contact us and why what was the charge for that cancelled out the credit. She did not know and put me on hold a few times trying to find someone who might know. Finally, she sent me to their finance/accounting folks.
That person, also very nice, suggested "they" must have noticed this credit recently so "the system" sent me a letter letting me know. I said, it wasn't a letter, it was a bill and asked what a "Tolerance" charge was. I never got an answer to that last question. But it seems, since we closed the account and paid the final bill, somehow "they" decided we were owed a $1.81 for some overpayment of tax. However, it is the provider's "policy" not to send out checks for less that $5. But the finance person could also not really explain much beyond this and did not show anything in their records either specific to this "bill" being sent.
So, apparently, to clear the account, "the system" or some "they" decided to send a bill to acknowledge the credit and the charge in that credit amount to make the account $0 since it was not the provider's intent to actually reimburse the credit amount given it was under $5.
This silliness, of course, was to satisfy some legal and accounting rules that I didn't know or care about.
But a couple things struck me about all this, besides the silliness:
- None of the people could access any system of information that would allow them to find out what this was all about. (The Finance person was basically guessing what happenbed based on "policy" rules, not based on any information about the actual account.)
- I wonder if this was something that was done to many people to clear out old accounts, i.e., the cost to do this and then to deal with people like myself calling up to find out why, if so, would clearly be a substantial waste of time, money and company credibility.
- It would be interesting to know how much the provider makes each year keeping all credits under $5 (and what legal loophole makes this possible) since they waste the postage and time sending out silly $0.00 balance bills anyway.