Pay and pay again scams

Posted 10.18.06

I no longer use my VISA for most bills, so when I saw a charge from Chatelaine to renew my subscription, I was suspicious. I keep track of when renewals are due, because magazines often send "final notice" cards months before your subscription actually finishes.

The situation with Chatelaine was more troubling. Less than a week after Chatelaine charged me $22.77 to renew my subscription, I received an offer in the mail for a full year of Chatelaine plus 10 issues of their sister magazine, LouLou, for a total of $14.95. I wrote to Chatelaine to protest, insisting that they honor the $14.95 rate for both magazines and cancel the charge on my VISA.

Then I encountered another attempt to persuade me to pay more than I should.

A storm on September 8 put a number of phone lines out of service. But since my neighbors weren't affected, I was concerned that my lack of a dial tone and Internet connection was something inside the house.

I checked every jack, and finally used my cell phone to call Bell.

I dialed the number on my phone bill, 310-BELL. The automated voice on the other end belongs to "Emily," who asks for your phone number, address, postal code and name.

When I told her I needed repair service, she gave me another number to call. It was clearly a call centre abroad. He had no idea where Gatineau was.

But I had to repeat all my information for him before he gave me yet another number to call, this one a long-distance call to a 450 area code. That's in southeastern Quebec, outside of Metro Montreal.

Finally, a pleasant young woman was eager to help. Yes, she'd send a repair person the following afternoon. But, she warned me in her sweetest "just between you and me" voice, I would be charged more than $75 just to have the technician diagnose the problem, and if the problem turned out to be inside my house, I'd have to pay another similar fee.

Huh? My monthly bill from Bell is $56.79. That doesn't include service?

She had a solution. I would sign up for Bell's maintenance plan, at just $7 a month, the technician's visit would be - gasp - free!

When the technician arrived, he told me he was from Laval, called in to help out because there were so many damaged lines after the storm. So Bell already knew the problem was not inside my house, and that they had a responsibility to repair their line at no charge to me!

I phoned the next day to cancel, but two and a half weeks later I received a letter from Bell confirming my participation in this plan. The letter was dated September 11 (the day I canceled) but postmarked September 25. I had to call "Emily" again.

What's going on here? It seems everybody thinks we're too busy to keep careful records, and expects us to pay and pay again. It's time we called their bluff.

Barbara Floria Graham is the author of the 20th anniversary edition of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing and Mewsings/Musings. Her website: www.SimonTeakettle.com

Copyright © 2006 Barbara Floria Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/10.06