Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Qwest for Phone Service

A couple of years ago, I tossed Qwest out of my home and banished them forever. It was a wise move that I have never regretted. The telephone service I get from Cox is superior in terms of meeting my needs and not subjecting me to unnecessary bundling. Now the only contact I have with Qwest is the mailings I get from them every quarter, offering me bundles of services I neither need, nor want, at a higher price.

I love it when they grovel.

My wife, who is originally from the Philippines, had her father pass away last month. Needless to say, with family members scattered throughout the US, we burned up the long distance lines. The conversations were plentiful and lengthy, and I was thankful that I had purchased the unlimited long distance plan where I pay a fixed price regardless of how much long distance calling we do.

The plan, unfortunately, does not extend to the Philippines, and I received an extremely expensive shock when I opened my phone bill.

Since the telephone infrastructure outside of the major cities in the Philippines is poor, about the only way to get a telephone without waiting years for a connection is to go cellular. So we started calling the cell phones of various family members, trying to get through. Most calls failed. Maybe the cell phone was turned off, maybe they were in an out of service area, maybe, maybe, maybe.

Shock number 1 was that I get billed for all of these calls that did not go through. One or two minutes at $2.44 a minute, billing pass through courtesy of MCI who provides the international service. All told, more than a dozen calls that were not connected totaling about $40. We called Cox and asked for a credit, but MCI refused, saying that they bill for international calls starting the instant the call hits their system, even if it is not connected to the end party.

Shock number 2 was that we received two operator assisted collect calls, that MCI bill out at an average of $7 per minute. Seven bucks a minute. That is obscene.

I'm trying to get hold of a live human being at MCI, but I surrendered last night after listening to 30-plus minutes of hold music, and after re-entering my phone number at least four times. I'll also have a chat with the Arizona Corporation Commission and the Attorney General's office.

Seven dollars a minute.

Obscene.

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