Phone foolery: Caught between a malcontent and a merger

After a company takeover, cold shoulders and closed ranks greet a techie trying to figure out the phone and Internet bills

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During that visit I was able to evaluate the PBX for the phones and see the cable modem for Internet, which had a sticker for the provider affixed to it. Around that same time, our management threatened to cancel this purchase if we didn't get cooperation, and the division's owner took the threat seriously. I finally got enough information to proceed.

The phones were rolled over into our account with no problem, and I scheduled an upgrade to the Internet connection, which also went smoothly. Time rolled on, and Jane had been transferred. But the problems weren't over yet.

Roadblock No. 2: Call me maybe?

By the beginning of the third month, I was approached by the person who handled the account contracts for our company's remote locations. Apparently, no one had ever renegotiated rates for the phone service, which had dropped drastically over the past decade. The division had been paying too much for years -- as would we. I was asked to see if the cable company providing the Internet connection could handle a couple of phones lines, which would allow us to cancel the phone service and save money.

Not remembering which vendor served this location -- we used almost 20 across the span of the company -- I called the employee who paid the bills for the site. She said there were no payments for any Internet service! I knew we had service, as I had set up the connection and remotely assisted several individuals at that location. What was going on?

Going through my files, I found the contract with the vendor's name and phone number. I called -- lo and behold, that remote location was scheduled to be disconnected the following Thursday for not paying our Internet bill. I told the vendor we couldn't pay a bill we had never received. It was then I learned that the Post Office was returning the bills as "undeliverable." (I never got an answer for that one.)

I asked why the company had not notified us when the bill was returned. The procedure when receiving a returned bill was to flag the account, and the customer then gets an automated call. I told the vendor that we had never received a call and asked what number it was dialing -- and discovered it had transposed two digits of our phone number. The robo-caller had no way of knowing it was contacting an invalid or incorrect number!

I was able to pay the bill by using a credit card. Once I received confirmation that the account was current, I negotiated with the Internet provider to add new phone lines, canceled the original vendor's service, and dropped the bill by more than 75 percent, adding up to an all-around IT victory.

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This story, "Phone foolery: Caught between a malcontent and a merger," was originally published at Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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