Weather Updates

Phone company finally gets into balancing act



Updated: July 19, 2012 6:12AM

D ear Fixer: I’ve been having a nightmare with AT&T since January. I have spent so much time on hold with call centers and sitting in their local retail shop — all while dealing with breast cancer-related surgeries, recoveries and radiation treatments and working full time.

Here’s what happened: I had Internet service through AT&T for years without problems. Then I had a lumpectomy in early January, which resulted in my diagnosis. I was going to need another surgery in late January, so I thought I should have a land-line phone.

I stopped in an AT&T store in mid-January and they set me up with a land line. I made it clear where the bill was to go (a post office box in Western Springs). A technician came out and set up the land line, but he also somehow disconnected my Internet service. This was just days before my second surgery.

AT&T said they could not reconnect it because the technician had pulled the wiring. Apparently, they were about to switch the wiring going into my apartment building. But the new wiring wouldn’t be in place until late February.

The people at the AT&T store were very helpful. They set me up with mobile Wi-Fi to tide me over. (Remember, I was dealing with surgeries through all this and needed to access medical websites to understand what was happening and to stay in contact with concerned friends and family.) The Wi-Fi got me through to the date AT&T said the new wiring would be available ... but of course the date kept getting pushed back. I rode it out, trying to be patient.

Meanwhile, AT&T was charging me for the Internet service they had disconnected in error. I had auto-pay and was so distracted by medical issues, I didn’t notice for a couple of months.

Then my land line got disconnected. It turns out the bills for that were going to the wrong address. In all the craziness of my cancer, I didn’t notice that I hadn’t received a bill. All I knew was my phone just stopped working.

While I was trying to get the bills sent to the correct address, I tried four times to get the Internet reconnected after the new wiring was in. I couldn’t afford to take work days off because of the surgeries, so I asked my landlord to let the technician in. Twice, they arrived after 5 p.m., after the landlord’s office was closed. Another time, the technician called me on my cell phone asking the address. I was teaching and didn’t get the message until after 5 p.m.

Finally, the land line bills started arriving. However, by then I was so frustrated, I had decided to switch providers.

I went back to the AT&T store and explained that the amount of money AT&T owed me for the cut-off Internet was about the same as they were demanding for the land line. The lead sales rep told me not to worry, that he would zero everything out. But unfortunately, he wasn’t able to. I started receiving letters from a collection agency.

I’m hoping you can help sort this out. I’ve written letters explaining all this to the collection agency and to AT&T, and still the bills keep coming. Help!

Anne Marie Smith, Hinsdale

Dear Anne Marie: We’re sorry to hear that along with fighting cancer you had to battle your phone company. Not a good situation!

The good news is we were able to take this off your plate so you can concentrate on getting healthy. The Fixer took this to local AT&T spokeswoman Mollie West in the hopes that she could find someone there who could backtrack and untangle this mess. It didn’t take long. Once they went through which services were being used and which weren’t, they determined you have a small credit of $13.05.

They’ve contacted you to settle up. Meanwhile, Team Fixer is sending warm wishes for a speedy recovery.

And now, a tip for other readers: If
you’re having a hard time fixing an
incorrect phone, electric or natural gas bill,
the nonprofit Citizens Utility Board may
be able to help. You can find CUB at

or (312) 263-4282 or (800) 669-5556.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.