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|| News Item: Posted 1999-05-17

Travel Tips: Bargain for Long Distance Phone Service
By Captain Ron

So here I am sitting in my office. Carefully I adjust the tilt mechanism on my $1k, high-technology, state of the art, ergonomic high back executive chair, put my feet up on the desk, reach over and open up my monthly phone bill from MCI World Com... I proceed to fall out of the chair...

$465.00, HOLY SHIT!!!

Yeah, I was on road for a month, and yeah I made a few calling card calls, (ok, a lot of calls) BUT $465.00? I scanned the bill carefully and discovered (10) billing errors; calls made from Champaign, Illinois. The problem was, I've never been to Champaign, Illinois! When I pointed out this fact to the customer service rep at MCI, she told me I had to send a copy of the bill to them before they would consider issuing a credit. I blanched, "hey wait a sec, when I was using AT&T, they issued me credit right over the phone". The MCI rep didn't miss a beat, "we're not AT&T" to which I replied "you're right, cancel my MCI calling card and while you're at it cancel MCI as my LD carrier". HA! She wasn't ready for that one!

My next call was to AT&T to establish LD service and get a calling card. "I want to come back" they love hearing that. They were so nice and friendly, I asked them for my old calling card number back, and they said sure no problem. (WARNING, whenever they say "no problem", rest assured, it's going to be a problem) The AT&T rep explained all the different calling plans and I picked one that was only .25 per min. using a calling card. The nice lady then told me how I was going to get all these nifty credits for switching to AT&T. Sure enough, when I got my bill there were all sorts of codes and mysterious credits that equaled the amount that those scum sucking, bottom feeding weasels at GTE were charging for simply entering a few keystrokes to switch carriers.

Life seemed to be pretty good. I noticed that now, when I made a call from home, I'd hear a "chime" and then "AT&T" gee, I feel all warm and fuzzy now. Actually I was also feeling rather smug, cause those tube steaks at MCI were calling and making all sorts of offers to switch back. "We'll give you 5,000 United bonus miles. "How much a minute for calling cards" I quipped? ".85 to set up the call and .45 a minute."

"Piss off," I replied.

A few days later, I went on the road and being the hard working, diligent employee, I decided to check my phone mail. That's when the trouble started. I dialed the ATT 800 access and entered my account number... zip, nada, nothing, I try again, to no avail. I then call ATT customer service and they spent the obligatory 5 minutes verifying my identity. "We're sorry sir, that PIN number is not valid" I repeated the account number and PIN number to her again, and after some cajoling, she admitted the numbers were transposed.

"Well can you change them back?" I asked. "I'm sorry sir, but that account number is already being used" "how the hell can that account number be already in use? It's my damn phone number!" I tried begging, "look lady, I've got to keep track of PIN's for my bank account, computer network access, frequent flyer account, hotel points account, online stock trading account, etc. ... and I can't even keep those straight." "Sorry
sir, we cannot issue the account number you're requesting" (WARNING, flashback alert) "fine, cancel my AT&T calling card and while you're at it cancel AT&T as my LD carrier" HA! She wasn't ready for that one!

Of course neither was I.

So, I'm out on the road and without long distance service. How the hell am I supposed to check my phone mail and return calls?

CELL PHONE? Yep my 5-year-old, beat to shit, analog Motorola Micro TAC.

See, in the old days (pre-AT&T One Rate) I hated using my cell phone on the road because those greedy scum sucking, bottom feeding weasels at (insert the name of your carrier here) would charge $1.00 per minute for roaming and whap you for LD toll charges as well. BUT now we have AT&T kicking in doors, out here on the West Coast. (Actually they bought LA cellular, it was the only way for them to get a foot in the door of the LARGEST wireless market in the WORLD) With an advertising blitz touting their one rate, no roaming, no long distance, everybody, and I do mean everybody was dumping PACTEL, AIRTOUCH, and SPRINT.

To counter this, AIRTOUCH started offering a National Home rate plan that let's me use my bundled minutes on the road, with NO roaming fee, and .10 a minute for LD.

Ok, so now I have a temporary Long distance fix. How about long term.

"Hello... MCI? I'm thinking about switching back." Now get a load of this! After calling MCI, (3) different times to bait them, I get a rep that offers me a calling card, with a $8.95 monthly fee that will get me .10 a minute rate! "Hey that's a pretty good rate, but how about United bonus miles?" I asked, "well sir, how many miles have we offered you?" (ALERT, ALERT, engage greed mode) "10,000 miles was your last offer" (I lied, it was 5k) "ok, sir 10,000 miles if you sign up today"

UNBELIEVEABLE! They went for it hook, line and sinker.

I am now a happy MCI World Com customer again, with a calling card that has a reasonable rate and an account number I can remember, plus an extra 10k in my Mileage Plus account. (God I love telecommunications deregulation!)

(Capt. Ron spans the globe in search of best rate plan.)

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