Tuesday, March 20, 2007

If you thought the Verizon .01 cents was bad, this is worse

Forward: this took place prior to y2k7, and I'm sorry, I wish I recorded this, but I didn't

One of the best way to stop text message spam is to call your cell provider and get those $0.20 back. It costs them far more than $0.20 to give you the money back, and it encourages them to prosecute the spammers and have better spam filters.

I called Sprint, my cell provider, to get this fixed. Since my account was new, they offered to give me a free month of data access. I went for it, and once I hung up, I proceeded to start playing with my new data plan.

When I got my next month's bill, it was higher than I expected it to be, about $50 higher. I called up their support line. When I asked, they told me I used the data plan at around 12:30 on Saturday (I forgot the day). I said that's not right, I called on Friday. Well, it turns out that they recorded the time in central standard time. I then asked when I used my data plan and was told 11:35 on Friday. I said I'm sure I used it after my phone call. I had to return a call to get a $0.20 credit, and I created a text file with the information I needed. Interestingly, the timestamp was around 9:30.

Now the fun part: I asked them what time they're on (CST) and what time it was. The time they gave me was 3 hours from me (PST); they gave me EST. I spent 10 minutes arguing with them what time it was. I pointed them to time.gov. Java wasn't working for them. I kept trying to tell them, and they kept saying it was the wrong time. I asked where they were based, and I was told the Philippines. I told them that what happened is that they had two systems running on different time systems, and that was the reason for the mistake, and why should I pay when their system clearly has at least one time mistake.

There was some good news that came out of this. In contrast to the Verizon case, with a single call and without escalating the case (I only talked to one rep.), I was credited on my next bill for the data.

Clearly, outsourcing has problems like this. Screwing up time zones is easy enough, but there's a good chance that whoever coded it was never in at least one of the relevant time zones. This is where good customer service comes in. While this case is as outrageous as the Verizon incident, I had it resolved within half an hour.

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