Consumer Complaints: If you want to stop paying us, you have to pay us

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Today, after many months of procrastinating, I finally called AT&T to tell them to take their "long distance service" off my home phone line. I don't even use the line, much less the long distance. So the idea of paying an additional $5 a month for something that doesn't cost AT&T anything to make available to me, and for something I don't ever use, is just silly.

Of course, it took me many months to get around to making this phone call. (Imagine them collecting $5 a month from hundreds of thousands of customers just like me, who just ignore the issue.) I know, I know. It's my fault for being too lazy to call them. It's just that it's always so painful to call AT&T...

So I call customer service, go through several menus, and end up speaking to a live person. He tells me he's happy to remove the $5 per month charge for the long distance I don't use, if I just pay a $9 fee. Huh? I have to pay you if I want to stop paying you?
Of course! That's the way it works with so many service providers these days. I think phone companies, wireless carriers, and cable providers are some of the worst. There is a fee for everything including blowing your nose, and if you try to stop the fees, you have a pay another fee for the privilege of not paying the fees.

I told him three times that I wasn't interested in paying his $9 fee for removing a service I never use and never should have been charged for in the first place. After the third time, he finally told me that the way around the $9 fee was for him to assign an outside long-distance carrier to my account. So long as I had some long distance service associated with my account, there wouldn't be the $9 fee to take off AT&T's long distance.

Sigh. Why must we play these games? He assured me that he could assign a long distance carrier that wouldn't charge me any fees at all, so long as I never use the service. Fine. Do it. But why, oh why, must the phone company make it so hard?

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Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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