MoneyPet Peeves

When Computers Do All The Thinking

There’s going to be trouble. Every time. I just spent a ridiculous amount of time last night and again this morning on the telephone trying to get to the bottom of two erroneous bills.

First was my insurance provider. The doctor’s office had previously billed me for over $263 for medical services dating back to a pair of bronchial infection-like bugs I had in November and December, despite the fact that I should have owed nothing since they were “in-network.” I had to call the insurance company a couple of weeks ago, during which an agent assured me that some code had been entered incorrectly and she would resubmit the claim and get it taken care of. Yesterday, they sent me a copy of a letter they had sent to the doctor claiming that they were denying the re-submitted claim because their review indicated that the claim had been processed correctly the first time.

I went through their computer-generated maze, “Press 1 for this, Press 2 for that,” and got a person and explained the situation. She said she was transferring me to the “Rapid Resolution Department.” (Is there a “Slow Resolution Department?”) Naturally, I got cut off during the transfer.

I called back. Finally got a person again. And I made it clear that I didn’t appreciate 1) being hung up on and 2) having to do their job for them by correcting their mistakes. The Rapid Resolution Department came on the line, looked up the doctors and verified what I already told them: they were in-network and the bill had been processed incorrectly. She offered to take care of it without me having to wait on the line. I declined. I figured, based on past experience, that as soon as she hung up with me, another call would take her attention and my little claim would once again fall through the cracks. It took about fifteen minutes of her battling with her computer — “Sorry, my system is going slow tonight!” — to get me to a zero balance.

Also last night, I got a letter from Verizon, with whom I had telephone and DSL service in Richmond. This letter began wih this:

“The above referenced account remains past due in the amount of $82.95. Your Verizon Online Internet access service has been terminated.”

Remains past due? This is the first I’ve heard of such a charge. And as for my service being terminated, that was true: it was terminated by me when I moved. Who were they trying to kid?

Like all telephone companies, their billing department is never open when you need them, so I had to call this morning. The operator looked up my account after I remembered what my phone number had been — only a couple of months before my move, I had switched from Comcast Telephone to Verizon, so I didn’t have that number for long at all — and found that a credit of $84.19 had been credited to my account on 18 January. This letter was dated 8 January.

ME: So what’s this $82.95 charge about?

OPERATOR: I don’t know. It won’t let me access the telephone part of the account, but there’s nothing you owe on the DSL side.

ME: Well this is specifically for DSL, according to this letter. What was the credit applied for?

OPERATOR: It doesn’t say.

ME: You mean a credit was applied to my account for no reason ten days after a past-due charge popped up on my account for no reason, and there’s no way to know why either appeared?

The pregnant pause, which told me more than anything she had to say. Then she assured me that while she couldn’t figure out where the charge — or the credit — had come from, I owed them nothing.

They never bothered to update my address on the “Internet side” of things, so this letter had been delivered to my former Richmond address. I asked if we could go ahead and update my address just in case anything else came up, and she declined, explaining that since my service was terminated, the computer wouldn’t let her change the address.

The bigger the company, the more complicated the computer system that does all said company’s thinking. In the old days, things were slower, but people looked at accounts, and when people made mistakes, they could be found and dealt with. Maybe it’s time some of these companies hire more people and turn some of the computers off!


  1. Eeek! That sort of mistake makes me nervous – I’m speaking of the phone company. If I were you, I’d hang onto that invoice you recieved and jot down the woman’s name, if you remember it… These sorts of things have a habit of popping up later on as an issue and it is best to have some sort of documentation. (Especially since all they have is your old address and the forwarding service will expire soon enough!)

  2. My father-in-law called Sears and asked them to come out and clean his furnace. There was a time constraint, as he was going down south for the winter. He heard nothing. Nobody came out. He called them back and said, “too late, too bad, so sad, cancel the order.” After he left, we started getting bills from Sears for the service which was never proffered. The latest one was from the collections department. My wife called them, and explained, in somewhat less than polite terms, that no payment would be forthcoming for a service that was never rendered. Yesterday, I was at my father-in-law’s place watering the plants, and I checked the answering maching. Lo, and behold, there were six consecutive messages from a Sears technician wanting to make an appointment to come out and clean the furnace. He can call every day from now until April if he wants. Stupid.

  3. you won’t get an arguement from me! I’ve had both type of “mistakes” happen to me too… I don’t know how it happens but it sure stresses me out when it does!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.