Monday, January 20, 2003

My Chickens Come Home to Roost

So when I moved to a new apartment back in July, I was excited by the prospect of a new telephone number that might actually spell something. The Pacific Bell customer service representative gave me three choices of phone number, and some back-of-the-envelope scribblings revealed that one of them was 761-AUTO. I thought that was reasonably cool, so I picked it.

I'd had the number for about two days before I left town for a week-long seminar. I came home to an answering machine with about 30 messages -- all people wanting to advertise their cars in Auto Trader Magazine, which apparently had the number before I did. Some of the callers were pretty steamed about my failure to get back to them. "What the FUCK, man," said one of them, "why don't you people pick up your FUCKing phone???" As message after message rolled out of my machine, Olivia laughed her ass off at my expense -- since I had, of course, brought this on myself. Shortly thereafter, I called Pac Bell and got my phone number changed. End of story… or so I thought.

Last week I received a form letter from Pacific Bell -- now SBC Pacific Bell, and soon to be just SBC -- informing me that, due to my poor payment history, certain restrictions were being placed on my account: I must pay all bills within 15 (not 30) days, and I can't run up more than $200 in charges without special permission. How strange, I thought. I knew I'd occasionally paid a bill a day or two late, but hardly often enough to justify a deadbeat classification. So I went looking through my old bills and online banking records. It took a while to figure out, but I finally realized that Pacific Bell hadn't received one of my online payments, even though my bank said it had cleared. I'd continued to pay the additional monthly charges, but the amount due on my September bill continued to hang around for three months, seemingly unpaid, and presumably lousing up my credit. And what, you ask, happened to that errant payment? Turns out that after getting the 761-AUTO number changed, I'd never altered the account number in my online banking settings. Somehow the phone company still managed to register my subsequent payments, but that first payment under my new (post-AUTO) number got lost in the vortex.

I tried to sort all this out on the phone, but I still have to get documentation from my bank to prove the payment was actually made. Once I straighten things out with the phone company, I suppose I'll have to contact the credit agencies, too. And to top it all off, my current phone number doesn't spell a damned thing -- too many 1's and 0's, I'm afraid.

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