Friday 10 February 2023

GOW and the Telephone Company

In case that acronym is too obscure even after you've read the post, it stands for Grumpy Old Woman.

I've been trying to set up pre-authorized payment for my mother's telephone bill.

Once upon a time this could be done by sending a blank cheque with "VOID" written across the face of it to the company.

Apparently this can no longer be done. All thier pre-authorized payments are set up using online banking with a debit or credit card.

To arrive at this answer, I had to do the following:

1) I called the customer service line yesterday and spoke to someone who did not understand my question, so eventually I said I would go online to make my enquiry

2) I started a chat session today with, first, a chatbot, then with an employee who did not understand my question, and when asked to connect me with their supervisor, told me THEY WERE the supervisor and it wasn't the telephone company's fault they didn't accept voided cheques to set up PAPs, it was imposed on them by Canadian Payments Association

3) I checked the Canadian Payments Association online, which by the way is actually called Payments Canada and which still allows (as far as I can tell) the use of a voided blank cheque to set up pre-authorized payments

4) I sent an email to Payments Canada to verify suppliers can still accept this method and to ask if they are obligated to use it if the customer asks for it; they will get back to me within five (5) business days

5) I started a second chat session with the telephone company, got the chatbot, got the service rep, got nowhere, asked for their supervisor and was connected with a "case manager" from the "resolution team", who eventually told me that the voided blank cheque method is not accepted by them.

Okay, that's fine. They've made a decision to disallow one method of setting up a payment and I suspect they have that right, just as a company can decide they are not accepting cash or debit cards or credit cards.

But I think there must be a sizeable number of people out there who don't have on-line banking. It's not just the very elderly. It's anyone who doesn't have reliable internet or who just doesn't like technology. That may include quite a few baby boomers, and as we kept getting told, we are a huge freaking cohort at the moment.

I was hoping to make this easier for both my mother and myself, because she tends to lose the bills and end up paying late charges, and because if something happens that she can't or won't sign the cheques as her dementia worsens, I will have to pay them myself.

I am not picking on the telephone company for this one reason only.

I have dealt with them before on various matters and been dissatisfied with their faceless, soul-less approach to the people who pay their salaries, bonuses, and shareholder dividends (i.e., us, their customers). 

I fear I am shouting into the void, though.

I do realize the service reps are not to blame.

It's just so frustrating on the customer end.

Hence the blog post. I feel less like I am shouting into the void😄



How has your week shaken out? Doing any frustrating tasks? Lemme know in the comments if you like. Misery LOVES company, so they say. Hah.


dinthebeast said...

Sitting around waiting for my telephonic doctor appointment to reauthorize my prescription refills. Hopefully my phone will get enough signal to take the call in this room, as there is several inches of ice outside the door and I don't want to fall and have a medical emergency while trying to talk to my provider.
My phone company has set up auto pay when I didn't want them to. Sure, it's easier not to have to go online and pay it every month, but they keep taking the money before the first of the month and sooner or later, as I am poor, they will try to take payment before I have enough money in there to cover it. Is it worth calling them and trying to explain the situation, or should I just wait until it happens? Hard to say. Their customer service is not stellar.
Good luck with your mom's billing. You'd think that they would want it to be easier for you to give them your money, but they never seem to see it that way.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

Andrew said...

I am puzzled on two counts. I've never heard of this void cheque method and I am sure we never had it here. Can't you set up a direct bank account debit and the bill is automatically paid on its due date? I don't like giving such access to my bank account and only do it for our electric bill and we get a discount for doing so.

Your experience of trying to do something quite simple makes ours of making international hotel bookings and travel seem so easy.

Susan said...

These companies seriously underestimate seniors. We have the time to research what we have been told. Our generatio does not take things at face value. Collectively we have huge purchasing power and therefore clout. Keep it up G.O.W.

Marie Smith said...

Cable companies are infuriating to deal with. I can’t understand the bill. Nowhere do I see the price I was quoted in about thirty lines of numbers. One would think the billing format would be easier to decipher. Infuriating. I’ve got to phone again.

gz said...

Yes, they are banks whose local ( HA!) branch is not just an hour and more's drive's in a city centre...and to set up online banking you have to do it online...except when you have problems and actually doing it by Messenger as well helps...except we are at present the other side of the world, and the ID and password are now apparently, they are not, because I used them...once....before I came out here. And I have them written in front of me!!!!!
Oh to go back to dealing with a Human Bean!!!!!!

Mike said...

I pay most of my bills online anymore. Sometimes I have to write a check. When I do I take it to the post office and put it in the inside mailbox. But One thing I've never done is let any company take money out of my checking account. I want to see the amount I'm paying before I pay it. And I've heard to many stories about people not being able to stop automatic payments. I do have a few autopayments going to my credit card. I do not have a debit card.

Joanne Noragon said...

I received an e-mail notice that my credit card bill was not paid. Since I remember doing that, from one bank to another, I called first my bank than my credit card bank. I will omit the details; it was another frustrating call with no resolution. I called the other bank. Same thing. No one could find a reason my money did not fly from bank to bank. I sent it again. Then I tried to set up an automatic payment. There is no "automatic". Every month I must trigger the payment. They make me nutz.

Red said...

You may be shouting into the void but many people have your experience. Yes, I get rippin mad an some days when you spend much time talking to complete idiots.

jenny_o said...

Doug: Okay, I guess there IS something worse than not being able to pay the telephone bill directly from Mom's account, and that would be if they took it automatically without us having any say, as they did for you. Ugh. From the comments so far today, customer service and bill paying are bugbears for a lot of folks.

Andrew: The void-blank-cheque is exactly how we always used to be able to set up a pre-authorized payment. It's strange to me that you've never had that in your country; I thought it was widespread. I'm wondering if I could arrange PAP through Mom's bank. Otherwise, it's all just done on-line and Mom doesn't have a computer. If I had to arrange travel and hotels online my head would explode. My hat is off to you for doing that :)

Susan: Your points make me feel so much better!! Yes, we are not sheep, are we? I look forward to seeing what Payments Canada will tell me.

Marie: We used to have cable separate from our telephone/internet but now it's all in one bundle with one company and it's pretty easy. Good luck with your call; I hope you get it figured out.

gz: I used to find dealing with Human Beans at the telephone company was not any easier, to be honest! They didn't seem to have any ability - or authority - to think outside a narrow range of circumstances (which is not their fault, it's the corporate rules). I find other companies like fuel oil, the power company, etc. are much more responsive though. I hope you get your wrinkles ironed out!

Mike: Yeah, I'm wondering if auto-pay for Mom's telephone is really a good idea, given the dismal results of my communications with them. When Mom no longer needs the landline, how will I get the payments stopped? Bah, humbug!

Joanne: Ya done good. What happens to seniors who are less technically-inclined? Or who are in the first stages of dementia, before family realizes they need help? I cringe to think of the automatic payments being taken long after they should, or the interest charges in cases like yours where the payment to the credit card somehow doesn't get there on time ...

Red: I remember your recent post on something similar but it's good to have it underlined again that I'm not the only one having issues and frustrations!

River said...

What Andrew said, set up a direct debit at your bank, it's a great system, if your country has that option. If the money is to come from your mother's account there may be a problem if she isn't there to authorise it, but if you use your account there shouldn't be any trouble. I have a direct debit set up for my internet account they take the money every month and there's never been a problem.
Other bills, I pay online, I've had online banking set up for several years now and never had a problem. Cheques, (checks) aren't widely used here in Australia and haven't been for some time.
If you can get the direct debit set up, you never have to worry about a cheque in the mail not getting there on time, so there will never be any late fees. I also have never heard of the voided cheque method.

River said...

PS, to stop automatic payments when no longer needed you have to contact the billing (phone) company directly and tell them to discontinue. If you are the person who set that up, there shouldn't be a problem with it.

Diane Stringam Tolley said...

Ugh. When I have to talk to anyone, I have to work myself up to it. I HATE trying to sort things out with a stranger over the phone! I've had mostly good experiences, I admit-- the best with Amazon, if you can believe it. But I still break out into a nervous sweat at the mere thought of having to make the call!

jabblog said...

I understand your frustration only too well. There is no such thing as 'a quick call' these days and it's virtually impossible to speak to an actual human. So many assumptions are made and not everyone has internet access or is comfortable using it.

crafty cat corner said...

Have just been trying to fill in various forms this morning and decided to wait for my son to come to help, I think they deliberately make them confusing or is it me, lol
We are from a much simpler generation I think.
Hope you are well

Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

GOP (Grumpy Old Person) here too. I had to get a new SIMcard for my phone. My old one had expired, the new one needed my billing information.
BUT in order to pay for the SIM-card for a phone, you need ... ta-daa ... a working mobile phone!
Yes I called someone who basically told me "Yes this is the way it is, live with it".
Luckily I had a son with a SmartPhone able to assist me in getting the relevant codes. but what a totally idiotic concept!

Martha said...

I understand that there is a lot of technology used today, especially with online banking. But what I don't understand is why these companies aren't taking into consideration that there is still a very large group of people who are still around using an "outdated" system. These individuals can be accommodated without it being a problem for companies. Good luck with this! It is indeed frustrating.

Steve Reed said...

I must say I've never heard of the voided-check thing. Maybe that's only in Canada? We pay our phone bill via monthly direct debit. But I know what you mean about lousy customer service -- it's always disappointing when a company just doesn't seem to care enough about your business to want to work out a solution.

baili said...

Oh you seem to deal with quite complex things I think. But I think you are quite smart to step into deeper inquiries online. It is frustrating when Bill can pile up and double because companies have uneasy ways to approach. Here online billing is easy and many people are using online banking and payment services. Few apps are also helpful for those who don't have bank account.
I hope companies change their methods and make it easier for users to pay online.

Glad to hear from you always my friend!

jenny_o said...

River: I think I'll look into your and Andrew's suggestion of going through the bank for the pre-authorized payment. It might just work. It seems odd that the telephone reps didn't suggest it, though. I will report back! As for stopping automatic payments, you're right. Although I wonder how responsive they'll be :)

Diane: "A nervous sweat" is exactly what happens to me, too! lol It can take days (even weeks, I'm embarrassed to admit) for me to get the intestinal fortitude to begin :) I'm glad I'm not the only one.

jabblog: Exactly. Most of the phone calls I've made in the last couple of years have involved a lot of waiting time in a queue just to speak to someone. And although I'm comfortable online - probably would prefer it, to be honest, because it gives me time to think - a great number of people in the county area of my region have deplorable internet access and others, like my mother, don't use computers at all.

Briony: Absolutely, and I really don't believe the forms NEED to be that complicated. I remember doing the paperwork after my husband died. It was one more stressor that bereaved folks just do not need and I often felt like I just couldn't handle it. My brother was the one who helped me; I'm glad you have someone to give you a hand with it as well.

Charlotte: It's almost unbelievable that the system can be so stupid and no one does anything about it, right? I'm glad you had help and were able to get it sorted out!

Martha: Exactly. You'd think companies would want to make it as easy as possible for people to deal with them and especially to PAY them :)

Steve: The voided cheque method is just a way of giving the supplier your banking details and writing "void" on it means it can't be mis-used. It seems like it shouldn't be that hard for companies to accommodate customers who still want to set up auto payments that way. I don't know if it's just a Canadian thing or not. I'm really surprised to hear so many folks haven't heard of it! I don't get out much, I guess - lol

baili: It's always good to hear from you, too, my friend! I'm glad there are a variety of ways for folks in your country to do their banking and make payments. We do have all the online methods and apps but I wish the companies would remember that a certain portion of their users aren't set up for that.

Diane Henders said...

I feel for you! Between the phone menus, the chatbots, and the primary contact outsourced to people who barely speak English, it's a miracle your post isn't roared out in ALL CAPS!

I wouldn't accuse you of being grumpy - you're just having a normal reaction to being forced to deal with idiocy over and over for what used to be (and should still be) a simple transaction. I'll stop now, because if I don't I'll start ranting. I'll just say this: Right there with ya, sista!

messymimi said...

It hurts to deal with these companies, and i try very hard not to have to. It's most frustrating.

kylie said...

I haven't had to deal with this kind of bureaucratic frustration in a very long time.
Quite a lot of years ago, when my daughters left school they applied for student financial support which was taking a long time to process and we desperately needed the money so i eventually posted on the social security facebook page, not so much as a matter of shaming the department where the people at the coal face are doing their best, but to bypass the normal systems. I don't know if it actually worked or if it was just our turn but the approval came soon after

Mary said...

If you lived in my area, you would be glad you couldn't send a voided check. The local police have warned us not to send checks in the mail. Try not paying a bill and see how that works. Evidently there is an ongoing scam at a central postal center in our area where someone/or more than one person who works in the facility is actually opening mail, taking out checks and using the info to gain access to accounts--or somehow changing checks and cashing them. The postal wizards in Washington haven't been able to catch the culprit(s). Obviously, even though I pay the majority of our bills online, there are instances when I must send a check. So far only one check has gone missing (in fact, it was a voided check situation, just as you describe--so I am familiar with what you are talking about). Eventually, I had to call the company, then go online and get the whole thing straightened out, but the missing check has never surfaced. I check the bank account every day to make sure there are no unauthorized checks. Such is life--complicated and messy.

Mr. Shife said...

Sounds like you deal with the same kind of issues I have with my cell phone company. I have had many heated and frustrating moments with AT&T over the years. I hope it works out better for you in the future but I am afraid the faceless, soulless approach to the customer is here to say. Take care.

37paddington said...

Modern life is exhausting. These things should be simple. I'm sorry they are so hard.

e said...

I am sorry you went through this, the last time I did, I spoke with a supervisor and let her know what happened. The situation was resolved in less than five minutes following my explanation.

jenny_o said...

Diane: It all seems to be Nobody's fault when something goes wrong (he's a real piece of work, lol). Responsibility and authority have never been more disconnected. I'm kinda glad it's not just me, but I don't like that so many people are having a hard time.

Mimi: That's it in a nutshell :)

kylie: I can imagine how desperate you all were for a resolution and I'm glad it came!

Mary: That's a scary Catch-22, isn't it? I'd be like you, watching the bank account like a hawk.

Mr. Shife: It seems much worse in companies that have a monopoly on a service. We have two main carriers in Canada but they're both hard to deal with, so that's no help. I know your frustration.

37p: It does seem exhausting, doesn't it? Bah, humbug!

e: I'm glad your situation was resolved. Maybe I should have asked for the supervisor's supervisor :)

Mr. Shife said...

Hi jenny_o. Hope your week is treating you well. Take care.

Mr. Shife said...

Hi jenny_o. Me again. Take care.

jenny_o said...

Hi Mr. Shife Feb 23 and Mar 9 - Thanks for dropping in! I'm not as disciplined as you are about posting regularly. Hmm. Now I need to think about that. Hope you have a great week!

baili said...

love you dear Jenny!!!
thinking of you with heart full of best wishes and prays!

Mr. Shife said...

Happy St. Patrick's Day, jenny_o.