Phone line, redefined

New customer comes into this Australian pilot fish's store to buy a computer so he can get on the Internet -- and $499 later, he's happily on his way.

Well, for a little while. "Less than one hour later he came back into the office ranting and yelling that I sold him a computer that doesn't work with the Internet," says fish.

"After managing to calm him down, which took almost an hour, I asked him what type of Internet connection he had so that I could diagnose the problem. He indignantly replied, 'You mean I have to buy a computer and pay for an Internet connection as well? This is just one big scam!'"

The next hour is taken up with fish explaining that the customer needs to subscribe to an Internet connection and pay monthly for it, then helping him through the process of getting him signed up.

Do you have a phone line at home? fish asks. Yes, customer says, I make calls from it every day. Fish explains the local telco will charge a $59 fee for connecting Internet to an existing phone line, and the customer happily signs the contract.

A month later, the customer is back -- furious and waving a piece of paper. Fish leaves his staff meeting, sits down with the customer and asks what's wrong. Customer throws the paper at him.

It's a bill from the ISP -- and at the top is a $299 charge for a new phone line installation.

You did tell me you have a phone line before we signed you up, right? fish asks. "Yes," customer says, "and here it is" -- and throws a mobile phone across the table.

I meant a phone that connects to the wall, fish says. "My phone does connect to the wall," customer says.

It takes another 20 minutes of explanation before fish gets customer to understand that a mobile phone isn't a land line and the ISP charged him that much because he didn't have a land line in the first place.

"He then started saying he wanted out of the contract he signed and wanted the invoice waived because his dog ran off after the phone line went in and he decided that the Internet chased the dog away," sighs fish.

"It was at this point that I politely asked him to leave my office and not look back. I did however get a call from the ISP later that day with a simple question: 'Is that guy for real?'"

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