A couple of weeks ago, I opened my Verizon bill and it was higher than usual, so I called Verizon to ask about my unexpected Christmas treat.
After the customary 11 minute wait, a Verizon representative got on the line and assured me that its fees and services had not changed. Rather, I had apparently ordered a new service. Verizon was collecting the money for the service on behalf of the other provider.
“What did I order?” I asked.
“See page five of your bill, sir.”
“Hmm. ‘Online Green Pages.’ $49.99. What’s that?”
“I can’t answer that, sir. You’ll have to call the other provider.”
“I thought I was doing business with Verizon. Why are you serving as a collection agency for other people?”
“Again, sir. You’ll have to call the other provider.”
But there was no direct phone number for Online Green Pages. Instead, I was directed to call a company called PaymentOne. PaymentOne is a bill collector for about 500 subsidiary companies.
Another level of bureaucracy. Another 11 minutes of my life.
I eventually get ahold of Online Green Pages. They claim that Andy Geisel placed the order for their $49.99 monthly service on November 4.
I check my calendar. First of all, November 4 was a Thursday. A deadline day. No one would have ordered any service on a Thursday. Frankly, no one would have ordered any service at all. I asked Andy about Online Green Pages.
“What’s that?” he replied.
“Never mind,” I said.
I managed to cancel the Online Green Pages and get credited the $49.99. In addition, I was so irritated with Verizon that I decided to eliminate that phone line I’ve been meaning to get rid of just because I wanted to stick it back to Verizon any way I could.
Fast forward to Wednesday’s Mammoth Lakes Town Council meeting where Mayor Skip Harvey announced that he had been the victim of a similar scam. Although Harvey actually called the California Public Utilities Commission to report it. That’s where he learned that what had been done is so common that it has its own name, “Third Party Cramming.”
A different company had levied a $49.99 surcharge onto his bill. But they’d used the same tactic – getting the name of an employee whom they then claimed supposedly ordered the service.
So folks, make sure to double-check your phone bill. The complaint line for the California Public Utilities Commission is printed on your bill. They’re responsive. It doesn’t take a lot of time to lodge a complaint. All I had to do was fax them a copy of my bill.
If I do business with a company like Verizon, I don’t expect Verizon to play dumb while it allows shysters to try and steal from me, shysters from whom Verizon clearly collects a percentage.
Shame on Verizon.
Council doesn’t add cops
At Mammoth Lakes Town Council Wednesday, Council decided not to act on Mammoth Lakes Police Chief Dan Watson’s request for additional personnel.
The MLPD has been operating with a management staff consisting of a Chief and three Sergeants for the past six months.
This leaves the department down two supervisors from historical staffing levels. Lieutenant Jim Short retired in June (the position has been left vacant) and Sgt. Eric Hugelman has been sidelined due to a disciplinary action over the Rusty’s incident (a verdict on the appeal of his termination is expected in the next few weeks).
Watson said research he’s done shows that the average supervisor-to-sworn officer ratio in police departments runs about 1:2.3. Mammoth’s ratio is currently 1:4.7.
During his career, Watson says it’s a lack of oversight which leads to potential problems. “When officers make mistakes, that indicates a fundamental failure of supervision.”
If he doesn’t get what he wants, will Watson leave when his interim, one year contract expires?
“It won’t make or break my future,” he said Thursday. “I accepted the challenge to come here, and I do sense support [from Council].” Watson added that he is well aware of the Town’s financial position and the limitations associated with it.
Councilman Rick Wood did say at Wednesday’s meeting that Town revenues are running $100,000/month ahead of projections, so perhaps money will be available down the road.
Watson said there is plenty of talent within the organization to fill any vacancies at the sergeant level in-house.
As for the lieutenant’s position, the only logical in-house candidate is Sgt. John Mair. Watson did not say whether or not he would recruit from the outside if Council authorized filling the position.
Now from Geisel …
District 2 Supervisor Hap Hazard, reacting to a sudden lapse in service in southern parts of Mono County when cellular towers were transitioned from Alltel to AT&T earlier this month, says the problem seems to stem from an analog to digital conversion and the distance of the towers between Bishop and Benton, Chalfant and surrounding areas.
Evidently, the old analog signal has a longer throw than its digital counterpart, basically meaning that when the switch was thrown to turn off the old signal, and customers activated their new service, a large chunk of the county went dark almost instantly.
Hazard said this has raised numerous problems, not only for residents who had given up land lines for cell phones, but also first responders, who relied on the phones as well.
AT&T is apparently on the case.
“It has been a joint response involving their legal staff, management, technical people and engineers,” Hazard said via e-mail. “I have been told that all AT&T customer service sites and phone numbers now have this same information. Hopefully this will end the many different explanations and confusion on this issue.”
As Hazard said he understood things, the old Alltel phones will continue to work for a while longer, with the exception of some of the oldest Alltel phones, which may or may not work.
Hazard included the following note from AT&T’s Eric Johnson, in charge of External Affairs:
“AT&T recently discovered that some of our former Alltel customers who received new AT&T phones have encountered network issues in Mono and Inyo counties. Our teams in the field are working diligently to address these issues at the four cell sites. We anticipate that new AT&T phones will be working in greater Benton, including the Hammil and Chalfant valleys, no later than Wednesday, Dec. 15, barring unforeseen technical or environmental issues. All required network equipment is on-site and we have commenced testing. We expect the new AT&T phones to be working in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest area by the end of December. Our teams are also working to have the new AT&T phones operational in Mt. Patterson and Rogers Peak as soon as possible.
Customers with the new AT&T phones can reactivate their old phones by bringing them to one of our stores located at 352 Old Mammoth Rd., Mammoth Lakes, or 905 N. Main St., Bishop. AT&T is working as quickly as possible to address these issues. We apologize for the inconvenience and we look forward to bringing all the benefits of our advanced wireless data network to our customers in Mono and Inyo counties.”
Hazard said he will provide any additional information as it becomes available and thanked his constituents for their patience.
Ass kissing not required
In response to Wolf’s story last week about the Town’s ambassador program to teach employees about proper customer service, I had at least one business owner call me to say the choice of language in the headline was unfortunate.
It’s not about kissing ass, he said. It’s about being courteous and respectful. Ass-kissing is not required. Just good customer service.
Agreed. Point taken
Wolf forwarded another response to the story from one local (identifying himself as T. Wells) who wrote:
“As a longtime Mammoth local and former employee of MMSA, it pisses me off that I am constantly reminded how I should treat the visiting tourists when I am unable to afford a decent night out on the town myself.
I don’t begrudge them [the tourists], and true, it’s been my choice to work, live, and raise a family here in Mammoth. But it seems that every year it gets tougher to support my family with just the basics of life.
Having said this, I believe one way to achieve the goal of said article is to start treating the troops in the trenches with some sort of reward system that enables them to share the same niceties that are available to the tourists. An example of this system that comes instantly to mind would be one free month’s rent in employee housing, not just a mug from the sport shop. There are no doubt many other ideas that can be implemented along this same line (I’m sure the administration on the hill would be more than capable of putting together some sort of campaign to accomplish this).”