TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Need Help With a Telephone Mystery

Re: Need Help With a Telephone Mystery

Jay C. James (
Tue, 24 Jan 2006 10:13:52 -0800

John McHarry <> wrote in message

>> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: There was an instance in Chicago
>> several years ago where the Probation Department of the Cook County
>> Court system printed up legal notices which were mailed out to all
>> the probationers -- millions of notices -- with the wrong number on
>> the form. Getting them (court officials) to even _listen_ to the
>> problem, let alone correct their stupid notices took a real act of
>> God, believe me. They just were not going to change anything
>> about their system. Now if you know Chicago, almost everyone gets
>> swept up in their system at least once; many folks more than once.
>> The trouble was sort of serious; all probationers were expected to
>> call that number (or at least the correct version of it) to do
>> something or other. It finally took a lawyer (whether he himself was
>> on probation or simply the counsel for someone else who was on
>> probation is not known to me; it could have been either way) to go
>> raise so much hell with them and get their damn forms reprinted with
>> the correct number. I think the attorney had to offer to file suit
>> against the court itself to prompt the correction of the form. PAT]

> Isn't this a variation on the sweet old lady who got caught in something
> like that, and Telecom Digest published the correct number and asked
> readers to call asking for her? After we brought their switchboard to its
> knees, they fixed their mailings, put an intercept on her number to filter
> her calls, and cleared the situation. It could well be both happened.

This may be more RISKS related, but ... at a previous employer, we had
a complicated faxing solution for IC chip orders, and one of the Field
Sales Engineers entered an incorrect number into the customer
database. The fax number was subsequently never displayed, but the
Customer Name And Billing Address was -always- displayed, thus hiding
the incorrect fax digits. So, resultingly, 40-50 times a day a poor
retired backcountry couple was inundated with beeps and boops and gave
up hope on using the telephone regularly (a relative had a serious
health issue and getting phone calls after midnight was frightening)
until I audited the logs and noticed the connection errors and
redials. I called them to apologize and on behalf of my former
employer, and then offered to pay their phone bill for a month or so,
while requesting a change to the database form to always display the
fax number along with the Customer Name And Billing Address.

Bottom Line:

They could have found my desk line by 'dialing around' the displayed
ANI, I now suppose, but ideas like that dont occur in those circles
even though they knew enough to "*69" the displayed number anyway to
try to reach someone.


[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I am reminded of the outlaw fax machine
at the First National Bank of Chicago back in the 1970's. It was
_supposed to_ call around to the various branches of the bank in the
hours just after closing time each day and poll each branch for a
report which was prepared by the branch and left on their fax machines
for the polling process each day. Trouble was, the doofus who did the
poll programming at the main bank (telling that machine what places to
poll each night) somehow screwed up the programming and got one or two
too many '1' or '0's in the dialing string. Ergo, the fax machine
would faithfully at 6 or so each evening make a call to _Germany_
and get no where despite several tries. Manwhile it was about 2 a.m.
or so in Germany, and these poor people at a residential number were
getting at first quite annoyed, then later on scared by these calls
coming in from somewhere. '*69' did not yet exist, at least not in
Germany. so the only recourse the folks had was to file a complaint
with Bundespost. Bundespost tracked it back to the United States and
asked AT&T to get involved on it. AT&T tracked it down to Illinois
Bell out of Chicago, and filed a complaint with them. In rather quick
time, IBT found the source of the problem, but their fatal mistake was
to simply ask the bank to correct the problem.

Of course, as in any bureaucracy, the bank simply ignored the
request. When a second request came though from Bundespost about a
_month_ later, that the problem was still going on, AT&T passed a
second request on to Illinois Bell. This time, after getting no
response -- or only a very non-committal response from the bank,
Illinois Bell sent a registered letter to the bank, to the attention
of the Vice President - Telecom informing him if the problem was not
cured, pronto, Illinois Bell would simply disconnect the offending
line and leave it disconnected. That brought the VP-Telecom down to
the department in a hurry, with the proverbial axe in hand, ready to
chop off someone's head if necessary or smash up the offending fax
machine. The problem _did_ get cured, believe me, you.

And, ah, the bureacracy! Since telephone bills, especially with
international calls on them always run a month or so after the fact
in arriving, and since large institutions like the bank always get
around to reconciling those bills a month or two after that, some
two or three months after the incident, when First National Bank got
a phone bill with several pages of one to three minute calls to the
same number in Germany over and over and over, by then the doofuses
at the bank had long since forgotten what they had done wrong to start
with (did you ever try to punish a dog or cat even an hour after it
had done something wrong? ... by that time the poor animal has 'long
forgotten' whatever it had done wrong), quite naturally bank took the
posture, "the phone company really screwed up our bill" and tried to
avoid paying for their mistake. As usual, in those days, telco always
wrote off customer mistakes, since they were easily bullied around on
the payment of bills. PAT]

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