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What Inept Billing Software Have You Encountered? 219

Posted by Cliff
from the you'd-think-they'd-be-smarter-than-this dept.
Chris asks: "I am a Sprint customer signed up for automatic payments, and over the past week I've found that Sprint has a computer system that does three ridiculously inept things from a programmers standpoint. First, they send a 'Do not send payment...this amount will be charged' bill then a 'Disconnection Imminent' notice for the same amount, within a week of each other. When customer service is called about this, everything appears fine to the customer service rep, and they assure the client that everything is fine. Finally, the computer system shuts down the customer's cell phone for lack of payment, even if the customer has a credit card on file and has given Sprint authorization to use it. What's the worst experience Slashdot users have found with billing systems that don't make any sense?"
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What Inept Billing Software Have You Encountered?

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  • No charge.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by rf0 (159958) <rghf@fsck.me.uk> on Friday October 06, 2006 @06:26AM (#16334539) Homepage
    I had an account with a small local company and due to a payment / full refund I ended up owing them nothing however their billing system didn't accept that so they sent me a bill for £0.00. So I ignored it until I got a nasty gram saying they were taking me to court for literally nothing. Despite repeated rings they still said that I had a balance. I ended up sending a cheque for £0.00 and then heard nothing more on it..

    • I had a worse experience with Web.com's (used to be Interland.com) billing system. When my account came up for renewal, my credit card on file was declined. (Never signed up for auto-renew, anyway.) After getting a couple of automated email messages about it, I entered a new credit card number.

      A week later, I still get phone calls at all hours of the night from some automated system identifying itself with an 800 number only. Some of these calls were between 3 and 4 in the morning. I assume the didn't check
      • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Friday October 06, 2006 @09:29AM (#16336163)
        My local library tried an automated phone system about 7 or 8 years ago. It would call you for overdue books and fine notices. A syntehsized voice would even attempt to pronounce your name in a call like: "John Smith, you have four library items due October 2nd. Return the items today to avoid additional fines."

        They didn't call at inappropriate times, as far as I know. It's just that the combination of the syntha-voice and the demand sounded more like a TV show kidnapping ransom call than a librarian. I don't think the system lasted very long in practice. Probably alarmed too many people.

      • by sammy baby (14909)
        Heh. Mostly unrelated, but: about ten years ago, I kept getting calls at 3 or 4 in the morning from what appeared to be a computer, by which I mean, I got the whining and screeching of a modem on the other end.

        After a few weeks, a conversation with someone about fax machines tripped something in my head. "Dude - of course! Fax machine!" So I started leaving my computer on every night, with the fax software that came bundled with it set to "auto answer".

        It was some company trying to sell me a vacation packag
    • Re:No charge.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Alranor (472986) on Friday October 06, 2006 @07:09AM (#16334783)
      Aha, fnorgby [urbandictionary.com], so this is where you've been hiding.

      Which one of these [snopes.com] people are you claiming to be?
      • by computational super (740265) on Friday October 06, 2006 @08:22AM (#16335371)

        Actually, he got the story wrong - the $0.00 check was supposed to crash the billing system, too.

    • A friend of mine had a similar thing happen. Except when he wrote the $0 check, they called him a few weeks later and asked him not to do it ever again, because it crashed their accounting system. Divide by zero.
    • Dish Network (Score:2, Interesting)

      by lamberms (173980)
      I had cancelled my Dish Network system and switched to Time Warner in March of 2005. The lady at Dish Network told me my account was cancelled. Fast forward 9 months later and I started receiving small bills every month. I went on the website and used their email support to ask what the deal was. No reply. I got another bill. I emailed. No reply. Finally, I ended up owing them $90. I told them there was no way I was going to pay it. Turns out they had just put my account "on hold" and then reactiv
      • Re:Dish Network (Score:4, Informative)

        by LordKronos (470910) on Friday October 06, 2006 @09:26AM (#16336111) Homepage
        They took me to collections and the dink to my credit was worth it to just not pay the money they tried to extort from me.
        You let them dink your credit? You should have fought it. If it's still on your credit report, you still can get it removed. Sites like creditnet.com are always willing to help people learn how to remove crap like this.
    • by neoform (551705)
      I've also been getting Invoices for $0.00 from Bell for about 8 months now. They've wasted plenty on postage, but wtv, their loss.
    • by 6Yankee (597075)
      Similar thing happened to me - I sent a cheque for £0.00, with "bugger-all" written in full, and got a very amused and apologetic phone-call. :)
    • Re:No charge.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dheltzel (558802) on Friday October 06, 2006 @09:24AM (#16336097)
      That honestly sounds too bizarre to be true . . .
      Except for the fact that I've seen such similar things myself:

      A telco company that was a vendor for one of my previous employers had the audacity to send us a bill for 8 cents for an account that was being closed out. Since the cost to cut them a check was a lot more than that (and obviously, the cost for them to print and mail the bill) we ignored it. Several nasty letters later (they must have spent at least $10 for supplies and postage to collect their precious 8 cents), the company controller taped a dime to the latest bill and mailed it back. We figured that would be the end of it, right? No way, a few weeks later, we received a nice computer generated check for 2 cents. The controller pinned it to his bulletin board as a reminder of how stupid a computer billing system could be. He was also quick to point out at the end of the story, that the telco's accountants would have to keep reconciling that 2 cent uncashed check for a very long time, until someone manually entered a transaction to clear it.

      That dime was the best money he ever spent, at least in terms of "laughs per cent".
      • The controller pinned it to his bulletin board as a reminder of how stupid a computer billing system could be. He was also quick to point out at the end of the story, that the telco's accountants would have to keep reconciling that 2 cent uncashed check for a very long time, until someone manually entered a transaction to clear it.

        Frankly - if that guy was my comptroller, and I heard this story, he'd be fired for gross incompetence and igorance.

        • Except in rare cases checks 'expire' after 60, 90, or
      • by sumdumass (711423)
        I remember having a car break down sometime in the late '80s. Only had a handfull of pennies and a couple nickles with me from under the seats of the car. Went to a payphone and it ate my change and I couldn't make a call so i called the 800 number to report problems with the phone.

        Ended up walking about 5 miles to a friends house who called my dad and he came to fix the car. About a week later, the phone company sent a letter to my house and inside it was a check for $0.20.

        I would have been happy just to h
      • by mibus (26291)
        One of my friends has been receiving a "bill" from the local telco with 17c credit for the better part of a year now. Weird thing is, he's never actually directly had any accounts with them, only ever with resellers.

        We just want to see how much money they'll spend telling him about his 17c that he never actually gave them...
  • by Qzukk (229616) on Friday October 06, 2006 @06:32AM (#16334591) Journal
    What do you think they make more money from, you paying your bill on time, or you paying your bill plus a reconnection fee?

    Take a look at credit card company websites, if you're paying online, both of the ones I've used make you jump through extra hoops to reschedule your payment to transfer now instead of at the last second before the due date (that many more days of interest, plus the chance that something goes wrong at the last second, and bam! Late fees!).
    • Yeah, but these guys doing automatic billing don't get away with charging late fees due to their error, and they're not going to make it a problem because word will get out and people will stop using the automatic payments.

      I've had a few things like this happen to me, but I've never had service disconnected. I think the worst was software that wouldn't allow me to prepay. I get discount gift cards through work for my termite control service, but they only sell in $50 and $100, and my bill is $75 every thr
    • Never mind the fact that you can't schedule to pay the balance the same day each month -- I tried this (with a 5-day window for holidays, weekends, whatever) and Chase thoughtfully moved my due date up by 7 days, wuthout prior notice.

      All my charges on that credit card are for fixed monthly amounts, so I had been just verifying the bill amount each month, knowing that my payment would go on time...

      They were kind enough to waive the finance charges, but it took half an hour of my time.
    • by TopShelf (92521)
      That's an interesting point, which I just noted this morning while paying bills. Discover and Capital One assume same-day payment (as long as it's before a reasonable time like 5:00 p.m.) when you're entering a payment online, but MBNA (now Bank of America) schedules your payment for the due date, by default, and the earliest you can submit it for is the next business day. If you want it to post on the same day, they charge an extra $12.95! Talk about bull$hit fees...
    • What do you think they make more money from, you paying your bill on time, or you paying your bill plus a reconnection fee?

      I had a sprint cell phone around 5 or more years ago. They were doing stuff like this all the time. Sometimes I would recive disconect notices in the Mail with postage stamps on hte same day as the bill. Someone at sprint change my plan without notifying me and free long distance turned into 10 cents a minute (something in that range) and nationwide coverage turned into roaming access

  • Excel (Score:4, Funny)

    by SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) on Friday October 06, 2006 @06:33AM (#16334595) Journal
    I've seen Excel being used as a billing system before.

    It was a resourceful effort for a family owned business with a "smart teen", but it goes against my beliefs that Excel should be used only for number analysis, not data management. A billing system is data management.

    Excuse me now, while I get back to my VHS tape collection worksheet. :)
    • Re:Excel (Score:4, Interesting)

      by proverbialcow (177020) on Friday October 06, 2006 @07:03AM (#16334753) Journal
      but it goes against my beliefs that Excel should be used only for number analysis, not data management. A billing system is data management.

      Which is the way it should be, but if something goes awry in the billing process and you have multiple charges and adjustments (like hotels, where your $10/hr front desk agent may have a great smile but the aptitude of the lobby plants), sometimes it's nice to mock up an invoice in Excel so you can make it look nice.

      Incidentally, I do work in a hotel that handles a lot of business clients. Billing mistakes often aren't noticed until it's time to submit for reimbursement, and a lot of them have very strict rules about what can and cannot appear on their bills. It's not an everyday occurrence, but it happens enough that it's worth keeping a template around. It's not perfect, but after two years of tweaking, it looks pretty dang close.
      • Incidentally, I do work in a hotel that handles a lot of business clients. Billing mistakes often aren't noticed until it's time to submit for reimbursement, and a lot of them have very strict rules about what can and cannot appear on their bills.

        Interesting. I've worked for a number of multinationals. I've also worked for hotels on backend systems. When you talk about businesses and rules about what can appear on bills, picture "Middle Eastern country, adult movies in hotel room".

        I have never encountered

  • I had an issue with automatic billpay and "paperless" billing with Verizon. Firstly every time I logged into my account in a given month it would NOT automatically pay my bill, without any warning. Second, I was "paperless" so I did not recieve a paper bill OR the guarunteed e-mail notifying me that a payment was due / had automatically been paid. After a late fee I returned to recieving a regular paper invoice with automatic billpay. I complained about the late fee but they did nothing, luckily it was only
  • Worthless dates (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mabonus (185893)
    My recent favorite is Comcast. I got a bill stating that as of Sep 25th my account was overdue and would I please pay for two months? After checking around my accounts I found that yes in fact, I had paid them and they cashed the check on the 10th or so. After calling the customer service rep I determined that the billing department must be getting their data in advance, and that little 'as of the ________' line just sounded good. No real meaning.
  • by theMerovingian (722983) on Friday October 06, 2006 @06:57AM (#16334727) Journal
    I had a similar experience with AT&T Wireless when I changed my phone number to a new area code. They tried to charge me like I had two different phones, and when I called to correct them they charged me a $300 fee for early closure of the first account. Then, I got really mad and cancelled the new-area-code account also (another $300 fee). It was a nightmare dealing with those customer service people.

    The whole experience made me so mad I quit my programming job and enrolled in law school. After my first semester classes, I sued them in small claims court. Of course, they promptly agreed to remove all the charges and fees in exchange for dismissing the lawsuit.

    I guess that means I am stubborn, $60k in tuition just to get out of a $600 phone bill.
    • I switched from Cingular to AT&T right when they were merging, worst service mistake of my life. AT&T was marginally cheaper and had the phone I wanted on special. I was happy with Cingular, but I figured that they just finished the merger, and I would end up with a Cingular contract (with roll over in a month or two). My first bill was for like $800 dollars, they charged for some 'no minutes' plan on all three phones (rather than the 1000 minute family plan I signed up for), It took me over two
    • Cancelled my AT&T land line a few months back - without any problems, I'm glad to say.

      Regardless, their online billing stuff happily continues sending "Your bill for $0.00 is ready - log in to view" emails each month until you log in and uncheck the email option.

      I mean, seriously, would it have been that hard to put an "if (balance > 0)", or "if (account == active)" test before sending?
  • by spencerogden (49254) <spencer@spencerogden.com> on Friday October 06, 2006 @07:34AM (#16334961) Homepage
    I used to have a Sprint phone. I had electronic billing. I haven't had a Sprint phone for 3 years, but I still get an email every month helpfully letting me know that my SPrint bill is ready online. I've called Customer Service and they have said there is nothing they can do about it. Good thing for procmail.

    • by Aladrin (926209)
      Brighthouse does the same thing, but with snailmail. I get a 'bill' every month, even though my credit card is in their computer and auto-billed. Idiots.
  • by DoctorDyna (828525) on Friday October 06, 2006 @07:45AM (#16335029)
    Back when I worked at the callcenter for Sirius Satellite Radio, we used a web based solution called TimelyBill. It was absolutely terrible. I was one of the senior agents, that is we took calls from agents on the floor who needed help (or had a customer asking for a supervisor) and also ran the local intranet knowledgebase site. Half of the site was devoted to helping agents understand the software.

    Ultimately, I was fired from the callcenter partially because of the way that the billing software worked. The service that they (Sirius) wanted us to push were the annual plans, which the customer could save a bit of money on in the long haul, but the terms dictated that the annual plans had a $75 cancellation fee. I'm sure if there are any Sirius customers that have been around for a while that read this, you probably know all about it. It worked like this:

    1.) Customer calls to activate a satellite receiver of some kind, chooses annual plan to save a few bucks. Cost is about $143 bucks, at the time.

    2.) Customer uses the service for a few months, and then something happens to the radio, I.E it breaks, it gets stolen, the customer decides to upgrade to a new radio.

    3.) Customer calls in to the callcenter to inform us of the change in receiver, so they can get their plan transferred to the new unit.

    4.) Agent stops the service on the new unit. Now, this is where the magic happens. If the agent is seasoned, and knows what they are doing (or, just plain gives a shit) they remember to credit the account for the $75 cancellation fee. The old service is terminated by TimelyBill. If the customer used the service for, let's say 6 months, they end up with a credit on their account for un-used service, about $70 bucks.

    5.) TimelyBill waits until the customer's billing cycle date (the day of the month that they activated in) to make any adjustments to the account. On that date, the customer's account would be debited for a NEW annual plan $143 bucks, which collided with the credit for $70. The customer's credit card would be charged again, for the diffrence, about $70 bucks.

    6.) Customer calls back. "What the fuck are you charging me for?" Asks for a supervisor.

    7.) Senior agent spends, on average 30 minutes attempting to explain to the customer what the system did, with usually around a 30% acceptance rate. The other 70% of the time, the customer becomes infuriated, doesn't understand, and usually screams a few cuss words or an insult, and hangs up. I actually had a customer one time ask where we were located. When I told him we lived in New York, he proceeded to tell me "No wonder the terrorists attack you assholes, you all deserve to die. Im happy they keep choosing you."

    8.) Customer (in my case) writes a letter to the corporate office, insisting something be done about the terrible supervisor who handled his call.

    So, in my case, terrible software can actually cause you, even though you are not directly responsible for it, to loose your job. Especially with a company like Sirius, who at the time that I worked for their callcenter, was a fairly new company, and hadn't really set their policies in stone, so everything was always changing. We went back and forth several times about the billing system, and wether or not the customers should be refunded anything, and even if they should be given back cancellation fees when they cancelled. When in doubt, I guess, fire a peon.

    Anyway, moral of the story: Avoid TimelyBill (OmniOSS).
    • by Spazmania (174582)
      The other 70% of the time, the customer becomes infuriated, doesn't understand, and usually screams a few cuss words or an insult, and hangs up.

      Seems pretty straightforward to me: Its simple fraud. Instead of transferring the existing annual plan as directed, you start the clock over on a new annual plan.
      • Sounds about right.

        with usually around a 30% acceptance rate

        I'm sorry, who tracks "how many people 'buy' this story?". Replace 'acceptance' with 'gullibility' and you have a more accurate name for the metric being tracked.

  • In an undisclosed country I lived in, we got cable for home and since it was a startup it was ridden with problems.

    Their billing software was totally automated, it didn't send us a single bill for 2 years long. They must have gotten wind of it and hosed their database or so since I started receiving bills afterwards but they were way off. The first one charged me around $180 (monthly was only $45) extra so I called them and they were going to update it. So I got a bill with $45 + 180 = $225 - $180 = $45. Ne
  • by Mr. Shiny And New (525071) on Friday October 06, 2006 @07:54AM (#16335103) Homepage Journal
    Bell Canada's OneBill system takes the prize in my book. The idea is that the phone company gives you one bill for all of the services provided by their various sub-companies, i.e. television (ExpressVu), local phone, long distance, and internet (Sympatico).

    The problem is "OneBill" is actually a separate company, which means that in order to send the bills on time they have to get the billing information so far in advance that bill payments, and credits, don't appear until the NEXT bill.

    For example, ExpressVu was charging me for a PPV movie even though I had a credit for $50 of free PPV for signing up with them. Problem is, the credit wasn't being applied correctly, so when I received my bill it said there was a $5 charge for PPV. So I called ExpressVu and they credited my account, except that they aren't scheduled to send an update to OneBill for 30 days, so the credit doesn't reflect in my OneBill balance, and consequently if I don't pay the amount it says I owe I will be penalized and charged interest (and, theoretically, risk disconnection of service).

    Not only that, but the system is even dumber when it comes to disconnecting features you don't want. I didn't want to pay for the movie channels that I'd had for free since joining (as a promotion), and I was told to give 30 days notice to terminate them. I called 32 days before my trial was up and explained that I didn't want the channels after the trial ended. So far so good. Well, I receieved my bill for the month after the trial (remember, TV service is paid in advance) and there was a charge for the movie channels. Even though my service was disconnected on time. So I called the OneBill people and they fixed my bill. But on the NEXT bill ExpressVu ALSO fixed my bill, so I got credited twice. Later on when speaking to a rep about the PPV problem, they explained that in their system, the "stop collecting the fee for Services" message isn't sent to OneBill until the service is disconnected, but the service isn't disconnected until the day it's supposed to be, except OneBill sent that bill out already, because they get their updates 30 days in advance. Dumbest thing ever. Needless to say, I never got around to calling them telling them of their second mistake in the billing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by gregmac (629064)
      Oh Bell..I have so many stories.

      One of my friends' mother was in the hospital with cancer. He had a DSL line installed for her so she could use her laptop to use email, IM, etc. She unfortunately passed away several months later due to complications. He cancelled the DSL account, and then a month later, noticed that there was still a charge from Bell on his credit card. He called bell, and they told him they had no record of his account anymore, and no record of the charges, and he should take it up with hi
  • My first year grad school roommate bought a computer by mail back in the days when this was not very common, nor cheap. It was a blazing 386SX-25 IIRC, nicely tricked out from some no-name box assembler you could find in the back of PC Shopper. He paid the bill via CC and everything was fine, until he got a bill for $0.01 two months later. He ignored it at first- it had to be a mistake. A month later, he got a "Please pay, bill is overdue" for $0.01. He called the company on their toll-free line and as
    • by Bandman (86149)
      Something like that happened to my grandma. A medical bill came for $0.35. She sent them back a quarter and a dime, and never heard another word.
  • Dell had a problem with multiple remit lines on a check. For those of you who do not know, remit lines are the break out of a check to pay multiple invoices. This way I could pay 300 invoices with one check. Dell tends to credit the whole amount to one lease structure (we have several hundred due to Dell's efficient billing scheme) and cut us a check for the remainder of the check. Following that, they send us a nasty gram about not paying on the other accounts.

    This happened to me on two personnal DFS acc

    • BTW, I have no problem with people who have English as a second or third language. I even don't have problem with non-english speakers. I do have a problem when they are not fluent in English at all and are put on Phone Support duty.

  • Many years ago, I got hoodwinked / pressured into signing up for the credit card "payment protector" plan. Essentially, they would bill me 1% of the previous month's balance for the program, and charge that to my card.

    So after a few months of not using the card, I finally charged $169 to it and promptly paid it off. I got a bill in the mail the next month for $1.69, charged to my card. That was entirely 'payment protector premium. I was a bit steamed, but I paid that off anyway... ...the *NEXT* month, I
  • Similar story as the thread's opening one about Sprint, except without the account being deactivated. I have a pay-as-you-go plan with Virgin Mobil where you have to "top-up" your balance by $20 every 90 days to keep your account active. I have auto-top-up configured which tops up by $20 (+$1 fee) from my paypal account whenever 90 days passes (or my balance runs low.) And I still get emails like "Better top up now or your account will be deactivated" and "90 days has passed without topping up, so your p
  • by Stavr0 (35032) on Friday October 06, 2006 @08:56AM (#16335787) Homepage Journal

    Never. Let. Them. Get. At. Your. Money.

    Push not pull: If automatic withdrawal or credit card billing is optional, do not opt in. If you don't want to deal with manual payment, you can setup your own transaction to send them a payment automatically.

    Minimize the liability: If they insist on 'pull' transactions, opt for credit card billing, using an expendable credit card with a very low credit limit i.e. less than $500.

    Paper billing: You can't accidentaly lose paper to a drive failure or virus/malware. Tangible stuff with big yellow highlighter that says "PAY ME" is easy to see on a kitchen fridge.

    • I stopped doing any automatic payments last year. Paper billing forever.

      It was mainly because I had trouble remembering when things were coming out, but it has the added goal of no automatic withdrawal SNAFUs like this thread is all about.

      Sure, I have to sit down and write a bunch of checks a few times a month, but I need to plan my budget anyway.

    • Paper billing: You can't accidentaly lose paper to a drive failure or virus/malware.

      No, but you can accidentally lose it to a fire or a coffee spill or letting it sit unopened beneath a stack of catalogs for a month and a half.

      Pick whichever medium works best for you. Myself, I keep my email inbox a lot more organized than my physical desktop, so I choose electronic billing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by taustin (171655)
      Minimize the liability: If they insist on 'pull' transactions

      Then take your business elsewhere. I have never allowed someone to pull an automated payment, and not been ripped off. Not once.
    • Even better-- MBNA has a service attached to its credit card accounts called "ShopSafe". This allows you to generate a unique CC number for each purchase you make, set a maximum withdrawal amount, and set an expiration date for use. This way, if an employee of some vendor steals your number, he's out of luck. It won't work.

      I mention this in connection to bill payments (pull payments, in your terminology) because you can also create something like an "open purchase order"-- that is, a vendor can withdr
    • I would much rather have the other guy chasing me for money than have me chasing him.
       
      If I want to dispute a bill for any reason, I am in a better position when they don't already have my money in their pocket.
  • In the summer of 2000, I did a short stint at the Sprint campus (KC), working in their DP.

    One Monday, I was brought a problem to work on. Apparently, this one discount program could not handle duplicate records, and they wanted me to handle the program change to do it. Evan gave me a sample data file to use.

    Cool, so I made the change, then after testing the sample file, went back to the manager and asked for a larger test file (the one I was given had 3 records in it, two of which were the dups). Didn't
  • Time Warner cable, the broadband service provider I cancelled over a year ago, sends me a bill notifying me of a $5 credit every month. Multiple calls to their hell desk and customer disservice inevitably result in 1) they can't find any such thing 2) Oh, there it is!

    What happens next varies. Usually, they promise to get a refund check out. Once, they told me there's some form they have to fill out to get a refund sent, and promised to do so, or send it to me, whichever was the case. I suspect they've s
  • I've had an AT&T GoPhone for a couple of years; it's a pay-as-you-go deal. Then AT&T wireless was sold to Cingular. I was recently told that Cingular was "cancelling" the service, but it basically amounted to them forcing me to replace my AT&T SIM card with one from Cingular, fine. I was told to call a special 800# to get it sorted out, and I procrastinated a couple of days. Well, by the time I went to do it my monthly bill had come around and my phone was blocked from sending or receiving calls
  • In the little farm town of 1000 people where I grew up in Wisconsin, the village clerk who was responsible for sending out the water bills. About seven or eight years ago, the clerk retired and a new one came in. The new clerk discovered that the old clerk hadn't been billing half the town for water for almost ten years. So she sent out bills to half the town for about $10,000. Of course they refused to pay. Meanwhile the other half was pissed because their bills had been artificially high for 9 years
  • Maybe ACID compliance *is* important. Maybe any programmer or DBA that designs a system that violates the 'once and only once' rule *should* be drawn and quartered. Maybe database design is a serious endeavor not to be left to amateurs.

    Most of these problems can be attributed to 2 major causes:
    1) Multiple databases used by different departments with no gauruntee of proper synchronization. This violates 'once and only once' and probably ACID, since multiple updates may not go as one transaction.

    2) A badly no
    • You are dismissing the effect of mergers and corporate reorganization as a factor in database design. Good DBAs are perpetually responding to the decisions of bad managers.

      If you insist on killing people over it, you should at least make sure you target people in the appropriate pay grade. Otherwise the problem just gets worse. Killing DBAs is particularly bad form.
  • I recall when A&T Wireless moved their payment center from Los Angeles to somewhere in Arizona. And didn't update their billing software to put the new address on the payment coupons in the statements. For so long that payments started being returned as undeliverable (forwarding addresses are only good for a year). Got three months of free service, after the Public Utilities Commission got involved.
  • For years, I'd get a $0.04 tax bill for a little sliver of land behind my house (long story short, there was a mis-surveying when my house was built, and to "fix" it while allowing enough space for a flag lot next to mine I was deeded a sliver about 2000 sq ft (my lot was 1 acre, ~40,000 sq ft). Every year, the county would send the 4 cent tax bill, and I'd pay $0.3x cents to mail in my 4 cent check. (School taxes actually were noticable, all of $4/year.)
    • We were on automatic billpay with our mortgage company. Takes some of the stress out, right?

      So, the annual adjustment happened for taxes/ins (escrow), and there was a small increase. And the automatic bill didn't get adjusted, so they debited the old (smaller) amount. $50ish difference. Fine, we called them to fix it, and gave them a payment over the phone. Apparently this happened to a few thousand people who's accounts were charged the day they updated the escrow, or some such. That solved it, right
  • by DrJimbo (594231) on Friday October 06, 2006 @10:55AM (#16337297)
    30 years ago I was working in a physics lab at a major university. The man in charge of the support teams that were helping the scientists bought a set of tires on his gasoline company credit card. He paid the entire amount for the tires the next time he got a statement. But the tires had been put on an automatic payment plan stretched out over four months so the company only charged him for one tire that first month and gave him a positive balance for the other three tires. He didn't use the card for anything else and at the end of the four months he had an outstanding balance due to the interest that had accrued even though he had paid off the amount in full when he got the first statement.

    Repeated phone calls to the company got him nowhere (which just goes to show we have no need to out-source customer service since we are perfectly capable of providing terrible customer service domestically). Back in those days the billing systems were just getting computerized which was why this mistake was made and also why this man was having a hard time getting his problem solved.

    Back in those days the companies actually sent all of their customers a punched card [uiowa.edu] in each monthly statement and the customers were supposed to send this card back with their payment. Well, this man knew all about punched cards since he was in charge of several computers that still used them. So he simply punched in an end-of-file on a blank card and sent that back instead of the card the company sent him.

    A couple of weeks later he got a phone call from the company asking him what he did and why he did it. He explained and they said they would correct the problem as long as he promised not to tell anyone else about the trick he had pulled.

  • Sprint's billing system kept my account active for about six months, despite repeated cancellations by me. The software wasn't really the culprit, of course; they deliberately make it difficult to cancel an account. This wasn't a contractual obligation; I just wanted to cancel after several years of service.

    I have Virgin Mobile now. Their software warns me when it's time to "top up", and I haven't had any problems.
  • by revarf (96889)
    1) When we went to purchase our first home, the credit report showed my wife in default on her student loans, despite her being in grad school and having a deferal. The bank holding the loan claimed that they had been unable to contact her for over a year, despite using "all resources at their command." When we asked why she was still getting her checking account statements at the apartment we had been in for over a year, the until then surly manager sat in stunned silence, looking a bit ill. He pulled up
  • I was carrying a balance on a Citibank credit card, with auto-pay each month for about $100. A couple months ago I just pay the entire amount via check, thinking surely they wouldn't process the automatic payment when they see I paid myself. Well, they did, leaving me with a credit balance - which of course takes weeks to process. How hard would it be to check the balance right before processing the auto-pay to verify if there's still a balance on the account? This is assuming they're not doing it on pu
  • I had an account with hosting company ServerPronto.com, cancelled in early 2004.

    Just a few weeks ago the fraudulent suckers billed another $70 onto my credit card! I haven't done business with them in over 30 months!

    I told them it was fraudulent and that I'd fight it, and they replied "We have already notified our merchant bank of these issues" and that they would not refund the money.

    Pre-emptive attack, nice.

    So far they have my money and I only have the satisfaction of complaining on Slashdot...

    I do not r
    • by Jerf (17166)

      that they would not refund the money.

      Did you try reversing the charges anyhow, despite what they said?

      I doubt they can tell the credit card companies in advance that a transaction is legal and just ignore the cardholder's reversal attempt, because theoretically a charge from a company already says that. At least at first glance, this strikes me as part of a fraud attempt to convince not to even try to reverse the charges, which could well end up being completely successful.

      Depending on how pissed you are yo

      • Part of the problem is that it ~was~ 30 months ago.

        The burden of proof is on me to prove that I don't owe them the money.

        I think it's bad mojo to charge me 2 and a half years later even if I ~did~ owe them the money then. But getting emailed a receipt 2 weeks ago is the first I've heard of it.

        There is no way I can prove it, and I don't have the time to anyway.

        The most I can or will spend on it is 5 minutes here or 5 minutes there tarnishing their name in cyberspace.

        My 5 minutes are up...
        • Just dispute the charge. They have to prove that the charge is legit, and a charge out of the blue smells of fraud or incompetence.
    • by Spazmania (174582)
      So call your credit card company and dispute the charge. By law the credit card company has to cancel it. But here's the really good part: the company that made the charge is issued a "chargeback" and has to pay a fee for it the same as if they had bounced a check.
  • When my girlfriend had her own place, she had phone and DSL through Verizon. She moved in with me about 20 months ago, and cut her phone service off a little over a year ago when the lease expired on her apartment and she was done moving stuff out of there. Nothing more came of it... ...until 2 months ago, when we suddenly got a Verizon Wireless bill for her brother at our address. (He had just gotten a new cell phone with them.) He doesn't know our mailing address, and Verizon doesn't have any record of my
  • Sometimes I think "software error" is deliberate.

    My co-worker had a bell cellphone with a companion plan. Essentially this means that both he and his wife have phones which share a plan/minutes/etc. As part of the plan, he can call his wife's phone any time and vice-versa.

    In theory anyhow

    In practice, he would have to call the cellphone company after every bill, wasting at least 1-2 days worth of lunch break, and explain to them how it had decided to bill his phone, or his wife's for a companion-call t
  • Back in the dot-com days the company I worked for contracted with an expensive full-service managed hosting company. At the time the servers were running NT and there were stability problems. When one of the bank of servers crashed, someone at the NOC had to go reboot the system (simple press of the reset button - 0.1 hours tops). Then we got a monthly bill with huge charges for going over the alloted remote-hands time.

    Turns out we were getting billed for 1-2 hours of time for every reboot. When a server di
  • Some years ago I purchased a cheap 20" TV box from a big online store, and I was informed it would arrive in some days. That would be it were not for the fact that I received a 10% discount coupon from an affiliate of the store. I though: "Nice! Since the TV wasn't sent yet, I'll try to apply this coupon to it." But an attendee told me the policy of the site didn't allow for discount codes to be applied to finished sales. So he advised me to cancel the previous purchase and purchase the TV again, this time
  • Hands down... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mstyne (133363) <mike@alp h a m o n k e y .org> on Friday October 06, 2006 @02:29PM (#16340537) Homepage Journal
    Modernbill [modernbill.com] is most definitely the worst billing software out there. I'm amazed at the amount of people who use it.
  • I've been getting a bill every month for almost 3 years now from Suncom. The amount is $0.00 I'd love to know the total amount they've spent on paper, printing, envelopes and postage.
  • About 5 years ago, Verizon had a silly system for handling acount plan changes in the middle of a billing cycle. If you changed your plan in the middle of a billing cycle, the computer would do this:

    • Figure out the average number of minutes you were allowed to have per day in each plan.
    • Multiply the average for each plan by the number of days you were in each plan
    • Give you the calculated number of minutes for seperate period in the beggining and end of the plan.

    For example, I once upgraded from a 300 mi

  • has a billing system/customer database based around Personal identity numbers [wikipedia.org]. That's pretty usual in Sweden, so that's not a problem. The problems started when I moved, but didn't cancel my subscription (I shared the house with my sister and her boyfriend - and they didn't move out of there). I didn't think more about it and sent in a form for a new connection at my new flat. When I was connected (I'm on a special net - I pay for physical connection to one company and have the possibility to choose from fo

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