Monday, December 2, 2019

"Sneaky, Sneaky"

I don’t know.  Is it just something we live with?

We have heard of the Volkswagen emissions testing scandal, and the Wells Fargo accounts fraud.  This one is bigger.

Not really.  I just wanted you to keep reading.  Although, in a way it is bigger, because it happened to me.  And for me, that’s as big as it gets.

Okay.  (I need to calm down here, ‘cause I am still fuming.)

We get the Sunday New York Times delivered to our house, and every year, they send me a bill.  I will not say how much it is, but they appear to be charging us by the page.

Anyway, (still trying to calm down, using “okays” and “anyways” as relaxing “Rest Stops.”)

The latest New York Times bill arrives, and I look at it.

There’s the charge for the paper.  (Yikes.)

There is a “Sunday Only” discount.

And there’s some kind of a tax charge.

Underneath, it says “Amount Due”, the “Amount Due” being the aggregate sum of the individualized entries.

It is then it occurs to me that something’s rotten in Denmark.

Which was this.

The “Sunday Only” discount had been entered as a “charge” rather than a discount, making my “Amount Due” the discount-amount-times-two higher than it should be – one, because they added that amount they should have subtracted, and two, because they did not discountingly subtract it.

I call The New York Times – ahem – “Customer Care” number, where I am transferred to Philip.  (His voice emitting an officiousness that said, “Don’t call me Phil.”) 

I tell Philip I have a question about my bill.  Philip pulls it up on his computer, and reads it back to me in its entirely – the charge for the paper, the “Sunday Only” discount, and the amount for the tax.

In his view, my bill seems to be correct.  I then ask him a question:

“When it says, “discount”, is that money I pay, or is it money subtracted from my bill, and if it’s money I pay, why do they call it a “discount”?

At this point, I hear a “light bulb” go on from across the continent.  Accompanying a hint of “Uh-oh” apprehension.

Upon further perusal, Philip agrees that an error had been made in my bill, leading me to then ask, somewhat boldly,

“Was it just me, or did it happen to everyone?”

Looking back, that was a tricky question, which came right off the top of my head, making me think I am perhaps a trickier person than I let on, even to myself. 

There were two ways to answer that question, and both of them were not good.

If the mistake happened only to me, they were singling me out, and that wouldn’t be nice.  On the other hand, if it happened to everyone – which seems more likely, because what have they got against me? – then the New York Times overcharged a whole bunch of people.  A small amount, but it adds up.  Possibly to millions.

In the end, things were amicably… Oh, wait.  I forgot to say something.

Having acknowledged the “glitch” on my bill, Philip asked if he could put me on “Hold” so he could check with his supervisor about what needed to be done.  It was then that I made a suggestion.

“How ‘bout giving me the discount instead of charging it to my bill.”

Philip replied by once again asking if he could put me on “Hold.”

I remained on “Hold” for more than ten minutes.  And then there was a “Dial Tone.”

Apparently, Philip had hung up.

I called back and got Maria.  I asked if she could reroute me to Philip.  She said she couldn’t, but informed me that Philip’s “notes” showed that the discrepancy in my bill had been appropriately corrected.  (As I recall, Philip’s first idea in that regard was a “Credit” on our subsequent bill.  I said, “Next year!?!  It was then he put me on “Hold” to go talk to his manager.)

Truth be told, I rarely scrutinize my bills.  I think, “Why would they cheat me?” 

You know what that does?

It allows them to cheat me.

Not saying they all do.

But what’s to stop them if they want to?


JED said...

I believe that if you hadn't gone into comedy writing for a career, you would have made a fine investigative journalist. Where people quaked in their boots when they heard Mike Wallace was coming in to interview them, if they were told Earl Pomerantz was coming in for an interview, they would have not been on their guard and you would have been able to pounce on them without them having their "talking points" all prepared.

Way to go, Earl. Is a class action lawsuit to follow?

Pidge said...

I have been trying to get the Toronto Star to stop billing me, monthly, for a free trial subscription I cancelled in July! Each month, after lengthy explanations and profuse apologies by “customer service”, I’m assured that my refund will be posted to my visa immediately, within a few days, next week, next month...still not there. I don’t want to cancel my card. I still wouldn’t get the money back if I did. I hope I outlast them.
It’s a racket.

FFS said...

The Toronto Star!!! Grrr! They keep sending me letters saying my account is past due. They have my current credit card information and one part of the customer web site says I have paid while another says I am in arrears and in a “grace” period. The call centre person is hopeless with an Indian accent so thick the conversation is like a comedy sketch. They should hire the scammers who endlessly call about problems with my “windows operating system” - they have far better English.

Aside from competition from the internet, they are shooting themselves in the foot by pissing off us geezers who still like to read a physical newspaper despite its ever decreasing heft.

Stephen Marks said...

Using a truck and driver to deliver one paper once a week to a guy in LA, doesn't sound like a great business model.