Murphy's Law

Taxing phone problems

Mom is real mad at Southern Bell this month. And she has good reason to be; our bill for the month of September was $79.44. Usually, our bill is something like $25.00.

To begin with, there's $15.45 for sevices for the month of October (wait! October? Yup, October 1 through 31). According to my calendar, it's October 11 (as I'm writing this. By the time you're reading this, it'll be the 19).

Then there are the various charges that appear every month (call waiting, maintanence, etc). But the two real big ones are $19.50 for calling up Southern Bell (as I related in September 21's column) and begin put on hold for two hours, and $25 for having Southern Bell update our address in their computer and hooking up our phone (they call it ‘Order Processing’) and then come the various taxes that seem to be everywhere nowadays.

Then a page about the long distance phone calls we made.

But the real irritating thing about the bill was the five pages of nonsense they included. One page was reguarding the ‘Inside Wire Maintenance Service Plan’ in which Southern Bell “will maintain or repair all single telephone wiring inside your residence or business, excluding damage caused be fire, acts of God (really! It says ‘acts of God’), riots, acts of war (really! It says ‘acts of war’), gross negligence, willful damage, vandalism, or wire not meeting Southern Bell's technical standard or installation guidelines.”

Gee, that just about excludes Southern Bell from having to repair anything for free. And on the same page, it says that Southern Bell has the right to raise the wire maintenance rate without notice. Boy, the nerve!

But what can you do? Call up and complain to the tune of $19.50? And at the risk of making Southern Bell mad and terminate our phone service for $25.00 bill? Boy, we live in tough times when the local phone company can extort U.S. tax payers like this and get away with it!


I've perhaps been a bit hard on Southern Bell. They're not the worst by far.

This was published October 19, 1988 (they're usually written a week before hand). This was before I visited family in Detroit in the early 90s.

It's summer of '92 (or '93, I can't quite recall) and I'm in Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit visiting with my Dad's side of the family. In preparation, I get accounts with Tymnet so I can log into FAU's computers (I was on the Internet when the Internet wasn't cool, or certainly before it turned into the InfoQuickMart-Superhypeway).

It's a call into a different exchange, but within Royal Oak.

Little did I realize that at the time, any time you called outside the exchange, you were charged 25 cents (an American quarter).

In the six weeks I was there, I racked up over $100 in charges apparently.

Honestly, I don't remember making 400 calls, so I must have been charged by the minute as well.

All for a local call.

Bloody phone company.