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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Talking to A T & T

My April resolution is to begin regularly posting assertiveness incidents on this blog again.

At the end of March on a Monday I arrived in my neighborhood to find my street blocked off by large trucks. My house is in a neighborhood which is a U of three streets off of a main road. So I turned around, went back to the main road, and entered on the other leg of the U. At the bottom of the U (my street) again there was yellow tape stretched completely across the street. I could see large trucks in front of my house, power lines lying in the street, lots of activity.

I walked up to my house to find that a gigantic tree had fallen in my neighbor's yard. Her tree fell away from her house into the street (a huge old oak tree), taking two telephone poles with it as well as the transformer box for our section of the street. Brown, gasoline-smelling liquid was in the street, flowing from the smashed transformer.

Of course, I had no power, the telephone lines had been pulled down (no phone, no computer) and my cable TV (which I couldn't run without the power anyway) was a downed line as well. I let the dogs out and promptly set up for a very dark night.

I put a candle and some matches on the bookcase by my door. I put candles in my bedroom. I got a flashlight and put it in my purse. Then I promptly left and went to dinner and a movie, hoping that the power would be back on when I returned.

Georgia Power worked into the night. I returned in the pitch dark, lit my way with flashlight and candles. I used my laptop for a while, borrowing an unsecured neighbor's wireless and then went to bed.

We didn't have telephone service until Wednesday, but all the work took place outside.

I got my telephone bill and was shocked that I had been billed $85.00 for "I&M labor basic mtnc - reprd" I don't pay for the inside wiring rip off charge that the phone company likes to bill thanks to Clark Howard's good advice. (see March 19, 2003)

I searched the AT&T webpage to find how to contact them and found an email link. I wrote:
"This repair involved all outside work - nothing inside - why is there a charge since it does not involve inside wiring and the repairs were the result of a tree falling on the line?"

This is a simple assertive statement: "This repair involved all outside work - nothing inside."

The question "Why is there a charge....." puts the ball in the lap of the other party and gives them all the power. However, I didn't want to be too pushy since I didn't know what "I&M labor" meant.

If I had been more assertive, I would have said, "I would like you to remove this charge since this repair was the result of a tree falling and involved absolutely no inside repair. I was not even at home while the repair was being done."

Today I was pleased to get an email from a nice person at AT&T responding that AT&T was removing the $85.00 charge. I would have liked either an apology or an explanation, neither of which I got, but I am pleased nonetheless. Dealing with a large corporation like AT&T is often a losing battle and this time I was the winner.

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