Yeah, DEFINITELY sounds like a snail-mail problem

IT manager pilot fish is responsible for internet connectivity at dozens of sites across the U.S. -- and the networking ranges from cable to DSL to fixed wireless to T1, with a different provider for each location.

"We apparently had not received or paid an invoice for one location in quite some time," says fish. "Usually if we are even a day late making a payment, I get a nasty-gram threating to disconnect service.

"But I hadn't been contacted by this very large telecom company and, since the service was working fine at that location, it never came up on my radar screen that we had not been paying them."

Then one day a past-due notice arrives. It's for $975, which means the $75 monthly bill hasn't been paid for 13 months.

Fish calls the vendor -- and after only 30 minutes in a voice-response phone maze, he finally connects with a human customer service rep.

We'll certainly pay the amount due, fish tells the rep, but I need to get actual invoices, because our accounts-payable people won't pay on a past-due notice alone. Can we get copies of those?

"The rep told me that would be fine," fish says, "but we would need to pay a service fee for the copies -- or I could log onto their web portal and get them myself.

"I told the rep, 'No, I'm not going to waste my time trying to figure out how to log onto a website and print bills. And since you never sent us the invoices, I am not going to pay a service fee to have you mail or email them to me."

Rep's response: The telco did mail the invoices, and if fish never received them, fish needs to contact his postmaster.

Let me get this straight, fish tells the rep. You were able to mail us a $975 past-due notice at the same address you sent previous invoices to. Our address is showing correctly in your system. We have received maybe 50,000 pieces of mail at this address in the past year. Yet you think our postal carrier has decided to not deliver only your invoices for this one account?

Eventually the rep agrees to print and mail the invoices to fish at no charge, and puts fish on hold to make the arrangements.

Reports fish, "After nearly 20 minutes, the rep came back -- and said there was something wrong with his billing system, and they hadn't produced an invoice for us in the past 13 months."

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