Tales from the trenches

I told myself when I started the previous incarnation of this blog that I’d try to avoid talking about work at all. But quite frankly, sometimes the only way to vent about something or share a funny story with other people is to put it here, so there we go.

Let me tell you about yesterday’s experience.

Our service is just that: a service. Like any utility or subscription – electric, cable, what have you. If you pay your bills, your service stays on. If you don’t, it doesn’t. It’s very simple. For some reason, though, various people seem to think this is different. I haven’t quite figured out why that is, exactly. Is it because it’s all Internet-based, and thus doesn’t seem quite real, or that they have a strange notion that it costs us nothing to actually run it? No matter; this is half about people who can’t grasp the concept that this is a business and half about people being deadbeats.

We’ve always been fairly lax about suspension policies, which isn’t exactly what we’d like to do, but there always seems to be something other than searching through billing for nonpayers to be done. Toss in the last few years with everything that’s been going on, and it makes the situation worse. We’ve been addressing that, and being more aggressive about either getting people to pay their bills or getting them gone. Cost efficient, the beancounters like it, and it cleans up the billing system. Works. We understand that sometimes circumstances result in an invoice here or there being declined. Credit cards are stolen. People get sick. They have an issue. Believe me, we understand, and really, our clients know that if they have some temporary problem and let us know, we’re fine with it. However…

Periodically, we rerun failed invoices, as people will update their billing information so the processing can be completed. Yesterday, we did just that. We then received an email from someone telling us that only one of her accounts was set to payment by credit card, so why were there two invoices processed? Well, that would be because you had the current invoice as well as the previous invoice outstanding. This is a paraphrase of her response.

“I didn’t know there was another invoice too, and now this is going to cost me another $35 because there is no money in that account. Take it off the card and put it on Paypal with (other account).”

Let’s examine this, shall we? At the bottom of every invoice is a notation of any other open invoices that might exist, and the total due of those other invoices, so if you’re actually looking at anything that’s being sent to you – and since you’re asking about two processing notices, you appear to be – or if you simply log in to the billing system to look at your account, there is no reason for you not to know about this. The total charge here, for these two invoices, was a grand total of $12. If you don’t have $12 to pay for your service, and you’re habitually behind on invoices, perhaps you should rethink having that service. Beyond that, you’ve just told us to take it off the card and change it to payment by Paypal. That’s what the above means to us, and being the nice people we are, and even though we will incur an additional transaction fee, we void those two invoices. In the meantime, we’ve looked at the billing for the other two accounts you have, and lo and behold, you have half a dozen invoices open for one, and two on the other, which doesn’t make us inclined to do what we’ve just done for you so you can avoid whatever overdraft fees you have. So we ask you, nicely: when can we expect payment for these other accounts? This is the response we received, verbatim:

“Please stop with the tone – I’m doing what I can – go ahead and just park the (name) site and that won’t be an issue right?
(Other site) may get caught up on the 5th, the other one on the 20th.”

Let’s examine this, shall we? First of all, you’re lucky that the one account still exists at all, given that it’s so far behind, and that any of them are still up, period. Second, whatever “tone” you think there is in a simple question is a mystery, but guess what? This isn’t a charity, and being a bitch to us isn’t helping your case. Third (and this is rich), “doing what you can” and telling us on the 29th of a month that one account “may” get caught up in a week, and the other in three weeks is entirely insufficient. You know what all that gets you? Suspended.

And that’s what we did. Which, in turn, led to this same person telling us we were “petty and vindictive”, that she just made payment in December, and that she wanted the sites back on because having them down was “impacting a lot of people”. Wrong: this business is not a not-for-profit enterprise, and no matter how much of a unique snowflake you believe yourself to be, you are not above our policies. And yes, you made a payment in December. To pay not one, but six open invoices on one of the accounts, for June through November, which still leaves you with December and January invoices open and past due. As to the third: well, quite frankly, the impact to others is being caused by your failure to address your obligations. Perhaps they should have chosen someone more capable of dealing with keeping the account current to handle this.

She further went on to claim that she had been asking for the three different billing system profiles to be put into one, and since it hadn’t been done, that was the reason she hadn’t paid. Au contraire: no such request had ever been made, but even if it had been and wasn’t done, leaping from there to the conclusion that it absolves someone of having to pay open invoices is absurd to say the least. It certainly has no basis in reality.

It also led to another rather amusing little game on her part. As we moved through helpdesk tickets, I came across one from someone asking how long an account upgrade would take. Not long, I replied. Just long enough for whoever caught the ticket to do it. The response to that was “Good. There is currently a problem with my account (name) and two others, because they were suspended and I think that’s unethical.”

I see. Apparently it’s unethical for us to expect to be paid, but opening a support ticket under a dummy name, using a freebie email account, and asking a bogus question in order to waste our time is entirely ethical.

In the end, because she continued to insist that we were wrong to suspend the sites, wrong that she had told us to take any charges off and recreate them, wrong to claim she was behind by two months (rather than one) on one account, and just plain wrong about anything else, we told her to move along. Others may live in bizarro world, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be dragged down into it as well.

All of this took away from the time I was spending tracing power cables in order to put together a plan for replacing certain power distribution units and moving some equipment off one buss to even the loads. I completed a bit of that work, but there is more yet to be done. Now that the current nasty, seemingly crazy person has been dealt with, though, maybe we’ll catch a break until the next one comes along and we can get some real work done for our real (paying) clients. I am not sure, though, that there will ever be enough time in the world to understand why peopl behave in the manner this person did. It strikes me as a rather odd way to move through life.

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