Saturday, February 21, 2009

Qwest Pay Phone Use

This is an amazing story. It may prove me to be totally out of touch with reality, or prove Qwest to be at the top of the 'rip off the unsuspecting consumer who doesn't comply with their world' list. I am already in the camp of the latter mentioned group.

David versus Goliath. The customer versus the Behemoth Corporation. The poor dumb sap versus the assholes of corporate America.

I was at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the VA, last Tuesday, February 17, 2009. I had completed my visit to the doctor late in the day, around 4:30 p.m., and was diagnosed with pneumonia. I was waiting for a prescription of antibiotics and wanted to call the good wife and tell her where I was so she wouldn't worry about me and tell her what was happening. Simply communicate as I had been gone all day and it was getting late.

I had left my cell phone in my car which was parked way off in the hinterlands of the huge VA parking lot. Minneapolis is a major metropolitan area and serves a lot of Veterans. The parking lots seem to be oceans of cars and it is hard to find a spot close to the building. I left my cell phone in my car because they ask that you don't use your cell phone in the hospital medical center. I complied.

A pay phone was available and I had a shitload of quarters along with some dimes and nickels in my pocket. I swear the damn change grows in your pockets. And where does all that lint come from? I think the lint is the disintegrated missing socks from the dryer, but I digress.

The phone I used looked very similar to this one.

I used the pay phone. I dialed the number, in this case, Barb's cell phone, and placed my call. The automated voice gave me options. I chose the option that said to get an operator who will tell me how much money to deposit to complete my call.

When connected to the operator, I said I wanted to pay with coins at this pay phone. He told me that I needed to hang up and dial the number I was trying to call and it would tell me how much to deposit. I had done that, but I didn't argue. I'm an old gray haired man who was born in the 1940's. What the fuck did I know about it? I hung up and started the procedure all over again.

With the same result, I get the same operator. He tells me, in a confused sort of way, that he didn't know how much to deposit. He asked me if I had a calling card or a credit card. I said, "Yes, I have a Visa card." He told me I could use that to make the call.

Now I knew I was gonna get ripped off. I thought maybe I'd get charged $5.00 or even $6.00 or $7.00 for this short, less than three minute call, to Barb, at a number with a Wisconsin exchange, (I was in Minnesota at the VA). But I gave the number and expiration date willingly as communication was of paramount importance to me. I didn't want to walk to the car and get my cell phone. It was cold outside, Winter in Minnesota don'tcha know, and I didn't have much energy and I was thinking the cold air wouldn't be good for the pneumonia I was just diagnosed with.

I made the call. Told Barb I was going to get a prescription and head home. The call lasted all of 2-3 minutes, max.

I look at the on line balance of my check book and see a charge for $21.16 for this call. Twenty one dollars and sixteen cents for a freakin' three minute call! I didn't call the Fiji Islands. I didn't call The Ukraine, I didn't call Bora Bora. I fucking called Wisconsin from Minnesota. Bordering states.

I go to the Qwest website in a number of different ways. I wanted to lodge a formal complaint. There is NO e-mail contact for Qwest. I did find a corporate office address in Denver. I settled for a compliance customer service e-mail I finally found after searching for a half hour. Now, we'll see if anyone answers me.

Here's the deal as I see it. They are corporate leeches. They suck dry everyone they can at every turn. They rip you off on every type of service they offer, usually with their small print and hidden charges. They arrange their billing statements in such a way as to extract maximum money from the unsuspecting consumer. They are the lowest life forms on the planet. The greed is so intense that I believe them to break and bend rules as often as they can and are never held accountable.

Veterans fight, soldiers and civilians die so corporations can rip people off and feed their greed and cheat the public legally.

I've asked them to respond, and if I didn't write to the correct department, I asked them to steer me to the department that is appropriate. If I don't hear from them, I will write to the FCC. I promise to spend the rest of my life waging a war of words and mud slinging towards Qwest.

Twenty one fucking dollars and sixteen cents for a three minute call by a disabled veteran trying to communicate with his family from a VA hospital. So much for fucking honor.

What do I want? I want to pay a more reasonable price. I want to be ripped off at a different level. I want to be ripped off at the jackass level, not the imbecile level. In my perfect world, Qwest apologizes and credits my account. In a good world, Qwest reduces the charges to three bucks or less. In my fantasy world, Qwest is under indictment for fraud and illegal overcharges and loses a class action suit that forces them into complete bankruptcy with all assets divided amongst the homeless.

A long time ago, I played in a blues band called The Dump and Shortcake Band. We wrote many of the songs we did ourselves, and taping sessions were ad lib at times. Here are the words of a couple of lines of a song we called "Big Bucks":

Tell Ma Bell just where it's at

Tell Ma Bell she's a too darn fat

Tell Ma Bell that we ain't gonna pay that bill

I got no big big big big big big big big big big big big big big big big bucks

Big bucks, in my pocket

Big bucks, like a rocket

I got no big big big big big big big big big big big big big big big big bucks

(Lyrics by Bruce Anderson and the Dump and Shortcake Band, all rights reserved, copyright 1976)

I think it's time to get the band back together.


billie said...

when hubby and i first moved in together, we didn't have much money. and ny had allowed different phone companies and utilities to ply their trade in lieu of att and verizon. so, we had a choice. we chose a 'cheaper' phone company to start out and of course, had an issue where we didn't have phone service. it took days to get anyone to even take a look and then days more because... they rent the lines from att and verizon. just like the utilities here rent pipelines and wires from nyseg. it's a racket and a monopoly and so, we went back to verizon and stayed with nyseg. better to have real service and pay more than to pay more and have no service.

i agree with you. and i agree it's a david and goliath deal. keep trying but don't get discouraged.

Anne said...

i feel your pain. the youngest has used a payphone to call us collect before and the cost was also ridiculous!

Jessica said...

This scam is more than ridiculous! I recently also was ripped off by Qwest, this time at a pay phone in Seattle International Airport. I had accidentally left my cell phone in the car of the friend who had dropped me off, noticed immediately, and ran to the nearest pay phone to try and reach her. Of course I did not have her number memorized as I am dependent on the phone book in my phone, so I had to make a series of phone calls to get it, most of them out of area. I ended up making 6 long distance calls, each less than 3 minutes, which I charged on my debit card. The price posted, on the same type of machine in the picture above, was $2.00 per minute for long distance. Not cheap, but a price I was willing to pay. (as a 20-something young lady, going a week without my cell phone would be difficult!)
A few days later I checked my bank account online to see that I had been charged a total of seven times, for a total of $93.39.
Like I said in the beginning, the charges by Qwest are more than ridiculous, they are outrageous. These charges took place March 30th, and I am still trying to find someone with Qwest who can help.