Thursday, February 07, 2008

Dial R for Rip-Off

As many of you know, our phone service at the house went wonky about a month ago. Maybe it's been longer than that, I don't remember. Anyway, all I know is that for most of the past month we've been unable to make or receive calls. No dial tone. At all. The landline phone keypad doesn't even light up when plugged into the phone jack now. We disconnected all the cordless phones, even taking out their batteries. We let the phone line rest for a bit (per the instructions from the phone company). We looked in the phone box on the back of the house to plug in a landline there, to try to determine if the problem is inside the house, or outside the house. Since there isn't a jack in the box (ha ha), there is no way to test it. We did get phone service back, myseriously, for a few days in the middle, but now it's out again.

So, given that we've essentially been without phone service for a month and haven't missed it (although I am a little bummed that I, like others I know, haven't received personal calls from Barack, Hillary, Mitt or John's computers), we decided it's pretty stupid to keep paying for something we don't need.

Especially after I got out our bill and realized that while we pay $23.74 for monthly service plus caller ID, we also pay:
Federal Universal Service Fee
Federal Subscriber Line Charge
Special E911 Tax
Relay Missouri Surcharge
Missouri Universal Service Fund
Special Municipal Charge
Federal (Local Charges) (isn't that oxymoronic?)
Federal (Non-regulated & Toll Charges)
State and Local (Local Charges) (issued by the Redundant Department of Redundancy)
State and Local (Non-regulated & Toll Charges)
Long Distance II
Carrier Cost Recovery Fee
Federal Universal Service Fee (yes, it's in there again, one for local and one for LD, apparently)
Missouri Universal Service Fund (ditto)
Federal Tax
State and Local Taxes

The long distance stuff chaps my butt because we never, ever use the landline for long distance calls. Always use the cell. Free that way, you know. But here we are, paying for a service, again, that never gets used.

So while our basic phone line plus caller ID is $23.74, all the fees and taxes and garbage bumps it to $39.12. Forty smackers a month and we can't even call for pizza. Or for emergency services, for that matter, but that's another issue entirely.

I called AT&T. All I want to do is remove the phone service from my home, while keeping our internet access. Not a big deal, right?

I went through the automated response voice system, which involves an annoying robotic male voice asking me questions. Which means my officemates heard me yelling the following into my phone:

I want to disconnect my phone line!
Disconnect my phone line.
Oh for Pete's sake. (This is when I zero'd out.)

I finally got a woman on the phone who listened to me with half a brain (she must have been winking), and who, as soon as she heard me say "...and keep my internet access..." promptly transferred me to the DSL department. Who, of course, don't handle the disconnect of the main phone line.

I was transferred back, and the same annoying roboman came on and started asking me all the questions I had just answered. I zero'd out at the beginning this time, listened to some bad on-hold music, then was hung up on.


For them being, you know, the phone company, their phone system sucks.

Called back, zero'd out promptly, waited on hold, then got a woman who explained that she could easily remove my phone service today, thankyouverymuch, but my DSL would have to go down for five days before coming back up.

Oh no. No no no no no no no. We're in the middle of a class. Literally. This week is our mid-term exam. We are taking it on-line. We can't go without DSL for five freakin' days. She, of course, understood, and then tried to upsell me to a higher phone service that has unlimited long distance.

Lady, I can't get my phone to dial Imo's Pizza half a mile away. Why on earth would I upgrade to a more expensive option right now? Hey, $50/month (plus taxes, fees, surcharges and beer money for the phone company marketing department) for no dialtone, now that's a great deal.

I said, "Look, I've got no phone service now, as it is, so how about you just stop charging me for something I'm not receiving anyway." She said, "Okay, so your DSL will be down for about five days..."

I shall call back the week we're between classes, but I'm not talking to Roboman anymore.


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