getting ripped off by your long-distance carrier/ISP

I’ve been ripped off huuuuge. Conned. Bamboozled. Gypped. Screwed. And like in any con, the only person I have to blame is myself.

17 miles is a long distance from Bethlehem, but not from 3 minutes away from here

A few months ago my modem died. I was without internet at home for a while but I was still paying for the service, mostly because I kept telling myself that I’d be getting a new modem shortly. Eventually, thanks to Dan, I got one, and when I went to log in, there was a kindly message from People PC telling me that they added some new numbers and if i wanted to add them, I could. I checked out the new location, someplace maybe 15-20 miles from here on the other side of allentown. The area code was the same as mine, so I added it and figured that it would be thrown down at the bottom of the list that I already had.

Today I woke up to my mom crying out in frustration. She showed me the phone bill, with huge charges to a phone number I didn’t recognize in a town that I didn’t recognize. I realized it could only be one thing, and I went to see what number my dial-up connection had been dialing. Sure enough, it was the same number.

Since I left my internet connected (a period of 241 minutes each time), and each session for the last two weeks ranged in price from 29 dollars to 60 dollars, I managed to rack up a nineteen day total of $810. You heard me. I’m glad I have some money saved up, because that’s the kind of mistake that makes you homeless. Just think, there’s still another four days worth of internet connectivity to be had on the next bill!!

Still, not understanding the reason for the long distance charge, we called to complain to the Verizon managers. We spoke to higher-ups, and higher-higher-ups, and all we got was the same response. “This is not our fault”. If you look in your phone book, you’ll see that a call to that place is long distance. I say, “But the area code is the same; how can that be long-distance.” “It doesn’t go by area code. It goes by exchange number (the first three digits). In your phone book you’ll find a listing of the exchange numbers that are local to your area that you can call.”

Of course I went to the phone book and found that sure enough, in Bethlehem, PA, that number is not in the “local” area. If however, I were to live literally two minutes away from here, in Allentown, it would’ve been perfectly fine.

I can’t blame the ISP because they have a waiver that you click on that says that you’re responsible for all charges incurred by your phone provider. I can’t blame Verizon because the phone book clearly doesn’t list that area as a “local” call. And now I’m out 800 dollars because long distance doesn’t go by area codes, and because that new phone number somehow got set to default.

Verizon managed to take off 20 percent, so technically I’m only out 640 dollars, but that’s still a huuge chunk of money for 3 weeks of internet service that was mostly slow anyway.

One thing I can’t understand, and didn’t think of it until after my conversation with the Verizon guy ended, is that if they were a credit card company, and they saw that there were large, abnormal changes to the bill, they would call (hopefully) to make sure that all was right. How come the phone company, after a few days of these enormous charges didn’t bother to think that something was abnormal or wrong about this. Why did they let it go on for weeks and weeks? I understand that with a credit card, there runs a risk of it being stolen, and that’s why those companies do that, to provide security. I just don’t understand how something like this goes unnoticed until the bill arrives. Nobody thinks that four hours of long distance calling per day is strange? In my opinion, Verizon was negligent.

But like I said, I can’t really hold them accountable for anything, because it’s clearly defined in small print some place I would never bother to look. Bravo legal experts and money-grabbing corporations. You suckered a man out of two weeks pay.

This may be the most humiliating, degrading, and definitely costly thing that’s happened to me all year… keep in mind that I bombed at a job interview at NBC.