Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • sirwired

    Pro Tip: Always, ALWAYS, open any First Class mail you receive. If you need to be officially “told” something (like the fact you owe money), mailing it via First Class mail is considered sufficient. (Barring those very few things requiring Certified Mail.) It doesn’t matter who it’s from, or if it looks from the outside like a stupid marketing pitch; you REALLY need to open it.

    If something comes in the mail via “Standard” mail, you can safely dispose of it. (Notably, Standard Mail is not forwarded if you change address.) “Standard” is just the new name for Bulk Mail.

    NOTE: Pay no attention to the “Pre-Sort” designation; that has to do with the rates the USPS charges the mailer, and has no affect on if you need to open it or not.

  • Regina Litman

    I remember one bank – actually, it was a savinvs and loan – I did business with in the early 1980s sent important announcenents via bulk rate but sent promotional mailings first class. Thus, I knew that if something came from them via bulk rate. it was likely about a new fee or an increase of an existing one or a decrease in interest rates. But if it came first class, it was probably an invitation to open a vacation or Christmas club account.

  • CenturyLink rhymes with stink – they’ve ripped thousands in recent years and as Qwest before that – and the only reason they softened is because Chris intervened.

    The long term answer is to take your business elsewhere.

  • MarkKelling

    Went through a similar situation with my employer when they decided to quit paying for internet completely. Their decision was based on their belief that everyone had high speed internet at their home anyway so they felt no need to continue paying for it.

    The notification of the change was buried in a weekly notice to employees that no one ever read anyway. Our process was a bit different where we had to file an expense report to get refunded for our internet cost (i.e. we had to pay the bill ourselves and then get reimbursed). There was a near riot when the expense requests started getting denied!

    The point of this is: Read the Associated Documents!

    There must have been some sort of memo from Mr Leeper’s company to the impacted employees about the change. I know in the current information overload we all experience every day, it is easy to overlook something small like this.

    Read your bills! It doesn’t matter who is responsible for paying a bill, if you get one sent to you (or even if it is only an online bill), read it. This situation would have been resolved long before it got to this point if the monthly bills would have been looked at.

    Look at you paycheck stub every time you get one! Especially if your pay varies. How else do you know if you are getting paid correctly? My paycheck never varies by more than a penny or two (the joy of being salaried! (not)), but I look at it every time to make sure there are no surprises, especially when it comes to accrued vacation and sick leave times.

    Glad an acceptable resolution was able to be reached in this case. Century Link can be flexible!

  • Peter Varhol

    Wow, Chris, I have no idea what to say, except that I hope you are able to continue as a consumer advocate. You do good work.

    My own situation is much less dire, but irksome. My employer insists that everything use the corporate card, and while the card is in my name, they control payment. I don’t like that at all, and am currently fighting that battle.

  • MarkKelling

    I can understand how that could be annoying. Hope your company is paying things promptly!

  • Rebecca

    I had totally forgotten about Christmas club accounts. But you’re correct. I’ve gotten important information that looked like junk plenty of times. I think a big part of this is that junk mail spends a lot of time and money on marketing to not look like junk mail.

  • Mel65

    My firm was similar. We are issued a corporate AmEx to use for travel. They pay directly within 14 days of our submitted expense report. But for those who procrastinate and don’t file ERs promptly, the firm monitors and at the 45 day mark they get a nastygram indicating they have an outstanding balance and need to file an ER. At 60 days, it’s escalated to a manager. So our company doesn’t pay until the ER triggers it, but they do stay on top of it. I hope yours does too!

  • James

    Let me see if I have this correct: I didn’t read that any late fees were attached, just six months of missed bills ($153) for which he’d already been reimbursed by his employer ($25/month: $150 for six months.) He makes a double payment ($51) redicing the amount owed to $102, then gets another bill, $127.50.

    That gets cut in half — $63.75 — and he has to pay a deposit.

    So, he’s gotten seven months of service (with interruptions due to late payments) for $114.75 — whereas an on-time customer would have paid $178.50 for the same service?

    Have I misread that?

  • mbods2002

    I almost threw out a replacement bank card because it looked like junk from my bank. I open everything now, just in case…

  • Centurylink is a traditional telephone company, providing Internet service through its copper network over DSL. Speed on such a network is limited to about 10MHz, and that’s if you live right next to one of its switching stations. Line speed falls off rapidly until you are about three wire miles (NOT as the crow flies!) from the switch, after which the service is unusable. You might find that a cable company, if available at your address, will give you much better service.

  • Bill___A

    If the employer was being billed, I’m surprised they did not get the late notices – in which case, they should have advised Mr. Leeper of the situation (that they should have advised him of in the first place).

  • Fishplate

    I didn’t do the arithmetic, but I had the same question: Why does he deserve to have half his bill forgiven? I don’t see where he didn’t receive half his service.

  • Mel65

    Thanks for doing the math! Something seemed off to me, too, but I can’t math this early in the morning :)

  • Bob Davis

    Very true. After we switched to FIOS our bills looked more like FIOS offers than bills. Missed, I think, at least one payment.

  • Blamona

    He didn’t notice the extra money on his paycheck?

  • joycexyz

    If your employer is reimbursing you for Internet access, seems to me you can use any provider you want.

  • joycexyz

    I believe he said his paycheck varies.

  • William Leeper

    I must admit fault, but I never download my pay stub. Mostly because I am the one who approves hours, and the system auto calculates the pay and someone at the home office generates the deposits. Unfortunately, being hourly my pay varies by up to $50 each paycheck.

    Had I actually opened the bills though, I would have noticed the issue, but I didn’t as I got a bill each month even when they were paying it. I was told that the notice about reimbursement went out in the weekly newsletter, which I rarely read as it’s usually 10-12 pages of crap.

  • William Leeper

    Yea, I’m rural, I had like 2Mb service and CenturyLink is it.

  • William Leeper

    They never interrupted service except at the 6 month mark. And I was on a discount rate that I signed up on years ago. Unfortunately, after 4 years of service, I knew exactly what was happening with the billing and 3rd party payment, so no I didn’t look at any bills.

  • William Leeper

    My pay varies from $25-$50 on each check just due to variances in hours worked as the company pays “to the minute.”

  • William Leeper

    CenturyLink is the only provider where I live unless I go with a cellular hotspot, and reimbursement was limited to $30 monthly.

  • taxed2themax

    Here how I see it .. the issue starts with the OP… this is not a business-originated mistake/failure/issue, but one that is consumer-originated .. regardless of who pays the bill, the account holder – the OP – is ultimately responsible to insure that it’s paid and on time. There appears to be no dispute that (for whatever reason, none of which are controllable by the company) the bill wasn’t paid.. and given that, I think it’s fair for CL to move to disconnect and other contractually permitted remedies.

    As to the follow on agreement.. it’s my opinion that anytime you make an ad-hoc side agreement with a business, you need to get that formalized, commonly by getting an email confirmation as to what’s been agreed upon or not. I’d place this responsibility on BOTH sides, but I tip the burden of responsibility to the moving party — who asked for the ad-how agreement, the consumer.

    I’ll side step the issue of whether or not there was such an agreement at all, and/or what it said (and just for me based on what I call balance of probabilities, I think there was, but must hold out that facts don’t support, or denied my belief)…. but… what is then disclosed is that the payment that was made in accordance to the claimed side agreement — was late. There is nothing mentioned that disputes the claim by CL that this payment was late… again, responsibility to get payments to the business on time is the consumers (and there is no claim of force majeur or uncontrollable postal delays)

    So.. now I’m left with a case of an unpaid bill.. then an (which I am opening under the assumption exists) ad-hoc agreement to rectify the matter — and that agreement wasn’t fulfilled and due to issues not controlled by CL.

    To me, CLs demands on the onset seem well within the bounds of reasonable. I agree with Chris that business do pull out recorded transcripts when it favors their case, and that’s why I favor consumers take reasonable measures to cover themselves – get it in writing/email.

  • The Original Joe S

    Late payment: Was it mailed on time? Once it’s in the hands of the postal service, it’s considered delivered by law. Of course, a proof-of-mailing chit would be useful……

  • taxed2themax

    I know the IRS uses postmark day as date of payment/filing, but I was not aware that Federal (I am assuming you are referring the Federal Statues here) law explicitly says that the day/time of posting then becomes the date of delivery and as such would usurp what would otherwise be written unto contracts etc. For my own education, can you cite the Federal Statue that addresses this?

  • The Original Joe S

    Nope, I can’t. It was told to us in a business law course in college by the prof who was a lawyer. More years ago than I care to admit.
    Instances where this is inoperative include applications for federal jobs which state that the application must be in their office by a certain date. I’m sure there are other exceptions. It’s possible that contract terms might override this as well. However, to my recollection, payment of a bill is covered by this statute, unless the tariffs of the company which are on file state otherwise. Even then, it might not matter in that contract terms which are at variance with the law are unenforceable.
    A lawyer could likely tell you the straight story on this.

  • cscasi

    Great!

  • wilcoxon

    The problem is that there may not be an elsewhere. I live near a major city but still only have the option of CenturyLink or Comcast (both bad). Within tiny areas of the city, there is fiber available but not in other areas of the city or in any suburbs.

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