Category: Criminal & Illegal

That Power Was Just A Rental

| Hampshire, England, UK | Criminal & Illegal, Money

(I am working for one of the major energy companies in the customer service department when I get the following call.)

Customer: “Hi, I think there’s been some mistake. I’ve got this letter but I think it’s an error or something, like maybe the system sent it out by mistake.”

Me: “I can certainly look into that for you. Does the letter come with a reference number?”

(The customer gives me the number. I pull up the account and ask the customer’s name, which is the same as the one on the account, so I confirm security details like date of birth and address to ensure this is the named account holder, and the details all match.)

Me: “What does the letter say? Because the only letters I can see that we sent are your welcome pack and the bill—”

Customer: “That’s exactly it! Why did you send me a bill?”

Me: “We’re your supplier. You used energy, so you have to pay for it.”

Customer: “What? No. I’ve been paying.”

Me: “Okay, let me just check the account to see if I can figure out what’s going on.”

(I check the account. There hasn’t been a single payment, but it looks like the customer is a new tenant who moved in a few months ago, so I check the previous tenant’s account. It’s not uncommon for old tenants to leave behind their payment cards since they won’t be needing it anymore and for new tenants to use it, either by mistake or because they don’t realise they need to get their own card. However, there are no recent payments on the old account either.)

Me: “I’m sorry; I’m not seeing any payments, but if I take some details, I should be able to trace them. First, how much did you pay and when did you pay it?”

Customer: “£600 on the first of every month since September.”

(I become a little suspicious, something isn’t quite right – this seems a ridiculously high amount to pay for gas and electric.)

Me: “Sorry, did you say £600? Six-zero-zero?”

Customer: “Yes.”

Me: “And you said you’ve paid this every month? It’s not the total of all your payments so far?”

Customer: “No, it’s £600 every month. So like… over two grand by now.”

Me: “Who told you to pay that much?”

Customer: “The landlord.”

Me: *starting to see what’s happening* “That’s your rent, isn’t it?”

Customer: “Yeah. I’ve been paying every month without fail.”

Me: “This is for your energy bill, not your rent.”

Customer: “I know. But I’ve been paying my rent, Why do I need to pay for the electric if I’m paying my rent?”

Me: “Does your tenancy agreement say that utilities are included in the rent?”

Customer: “My what?”

Me: “Your tenancy agreement.”

Customer: What’s that?”

Me: “It’s a contract outlining how much rent you pay and the conditions of your tenancy. You would have signed one before you moved in.”

Customer: “Oh. I think I signed something like that. But I pay rent, so I don’t have to pay for my bills. Everything is covered. You shouldn’t be sending me a bill.”

Me: “Unless your tenancy agreement states bills are included, you are liable for the balance. Do you have your tenancy agreement to hand? I’ll go through it with you and help you find the part which details what your rent covers.”

(The customer goes off to fetch the paperwork, and then comes back. I get him to read me the table of contents and I guide him to the page the information we need is likely to be on. I’ve dealt with enough new tenants and disputes of liability to know my way around a tenancy agreement – particularly as most landlords use the same standard template. It’s not uncommon for a landlord to charge an extortionate amount of rent and justify it by claiming it includes utilities but then not pay it, or put the tenant’s name on the bill to try and weasel out of it. I am concerned that this is what is happening to this customer. Then the customer reads aloud to me.)

Customer: “Oh, here we go, this says ‘rent is not inclusive of utilities.’ What does that mean?”

Me: “It means your rent does not include your gas and electric or any other services such as the Internet. So you have to pay this bill. We can discuss payment plans if you cannot pay it all in one go.”

Customer: “But… but I pay rent.”

Me: “I’m sorry, but your rent only covers you for the property, not any of the bills, unless the tenancy agreement says otherwise which yours does not.”

Customer: “You have my name on the bill… How did you get it? I didn’t call you.”

Me: “It looks like the landlord sent us all your details when you moved in.”

Customer: *smugly* “Well, I’m not liable for the bill. He is.”

Me: “I’m sorry, but we’ve already established that is not the case. You live in the property and are responsible for all the bills—”

Customer: “Look, I’m studying law at uni. I know my rights. I didn’t sign a contract with you, so you can’t bill me without my permission. If my landlord did it, well, that’s fraud.”

Me: “That’s not how it works with utilities, sir. We were your supplier when you moved in, therefore you or your landlord were obligated to inform us that you moved in.”

Customer: “But you don’t have my signature on a piece of paper giving you permission, right?”

Me: “Like I said, we don’t need it; we’re a utility company.”

Customer: *laughs* “Yeah, good luck with that, lady. You’ll never get a penny from me. I know the law; I’m top in my class. You need my signature, and I need to be fully aware of entering a legal, binding contract.”

Me: “So you’re saying you won’t pay unless you signed a legally binding document agreeing to do so?”

Customer: “That’s right.”

Me: “Your tenancy agreement is a legally binding document. Would you agree?”

Customer: “I’m not f****** stupid; of course it is. It’s a f****** tenancy agreement.”

Me: “Go to the next section, the heading should be ‘tenant’s obligations.’ Read me what it says.”

Customer: *pauses, groaning down the phone* “Fine. But I don’t see what an agreement you said was just for the property has to do with this bill…”

(Customer begins reading. The first line says they must pay rent on time and then the very next line is: Tenant MUST pay ALL utility bills. As soon as the customer reads this line they pause and the line goes quiet for a while.)

Me: “Would you like to pay the bill in full, or would you like to set up a payment plan?”

Customer: “You think you’re so f****** clever. This doesn’t change anything. I’m not paying the f****** bill, I never agreed I would, and I’m paying my rent so I shouldn’t have to! I know my rights! I’m a law student!”

(The customer started going on and on about how he knew his rights, how he’d never pay because he was paying rent, and how if he was paying rent it was illegal for us to charge him for energy. The call was going nowhere and the customer was getting more and more aggressive by the minute, swearing up a storm. In the end, I informed the customer of the consequences if he didn’t pay and informed him that unless he wished to discuss payment, then I would terminate the call because it was going around in circles. The customer then threatened to come down to the office and (his exact words) “smash your face in,” so I terminated the call, informing the customer as I did so as per company policy. The customer called back and asked to talk to my manager, trying to get me fired by claiming that I swore at him, called him an idiot, and that I threatened him. Obviously I didn’t, so I wasn’t fired.)

Should Print Them Out A Copy Of The Law

| USA | Crazy Requests, Criminal & Illegal

Me: “Thank you for calling [Store]. This is [My Name] in the print department; what can I help you with?”

Customer:” I need to speak with someone in the print department.”

Me: “Yes, I am in the print department; how can I help you?”

Customer: “Can you make copies?”

Me: “Yes, we can make copies.”

Customer: “So, can you, like, make copies of a large $600 book?”

Me: “Well, the first question I need to ask is: is the book copyrighted?”

Customer:“Yeah. I’m not gonna lie; it is.” *giggles nervously*

Me: “Well then, as reproducing copyrighted items is illegal without express permission from the publisher and creator, we cannot.”

Customer: “So since it is illegal, you can’t?”

Me: “That is correct.”

Customer: “Can’t you just do it anyway?”

Making Wild Claims

| OR, USA | Criminal & Illegal, Money

(I work in an insurance call center for mental health and substance abuse. We get some real gems, usually regarding unpaid claims. This caller is asking about two claims that were paid inaccurately with the wrong amounts and wrong provider name.)

Me: “Okay, I see the issue. The claim form asked for the doctor’s tax ID number, and it wasn’t included. Because of that, our system searched by her name and paid according to this incorrect doctor’s rates.”

(Keep in mind, the actual check went to the patient, my caller.)

Caller: “I put it in there.”

Me: “I’m looking at the scan of your claim forms and you put in their license number.”

Caller: “But I also put in the NPI [National Provider Identification] number.”

Me: “Right, but that’s not the Tax ID number. We asked for the NPI later on the form and you filled that out perfectly, but on this line we needed the Tax ID.”

Caller: *seeing his error* “Oh, well, the provider didn’t include that on her bill.”

Me: “Some providers don’t give it out unless you ask. But we do need it to pay the claim.”

Caller: “But you paid the claim already, so it’s no big deal.”

Me: “Well, it is to your provider. Our systems need to show who we’re paying correctly so she can prove it on her taxes, just in case. Also, the incorrect provider will probably ask us to reverse the transaction so she doesn’t get incorrect info for her taxes.”

Caller: “But you paid me. So it’s not an issue.”

Me: “Right, but that’s because you paid your provider. So technically we paid for your service.”

Caller: “Oh. So can I call her and get the Tax ID and call you back and have you fix it?”

Me: “I’m really sorry, but we can’t take her tax info from you verbally. She can call it in and I can reprocess the claim, or you can resubmit the claim to us with it corrected.”

Caller: *annoyed* “So you trust me to submit it by paper, but not by phone?”

Me: “If you submit it to us on a claim, that’s a claim submission. If I tell you to go get it from her and call back, I’m soliciting her tax information from you. And that’s potentially fraud, and I’ve been told by my supervisor that our company is against fraud, even at the expense of our customer’s convenience.”

Caller: “Okay… Sounds like you’re punishing me for making a simple mistake.”

Me: “On the contrary. If you put in the time to get the claim submitted to us correctly, you will be rewarded with fraud-free payment of your service. If you decide not to, your provider could potentially sue you and us. So submitting the claim again is the opposite of a punishment.”

Caller: “Goodbye.” *click*

Presented With A Minor Problem

| Wellington, New Zealand | Criminal & Illegal, Food & Drink, Underaged

(A woman walks up to the counter with two twelve-packs of Vodka Cruiser RTDs, one light orange (passion fruit flavour) and the other darker (exotic fruits flavour).)

Me: “Hi there, just those for today?”

Customer: “I actually only want one of them; my friend told me to get the orange Vodka Cruiser, but these are both orange. If it’s the wrong flavour can I come back and swap it for the other one?”

Me: “I’m sorry but our return and exchange policy only covers faulty products.”

Customer: “But she’s, like, only just outside. Can I buy this one and if it’s the wrong one come straight back in and swap it for the other one?”

Me: “No, our exchange policy does not cover that. If your friend is just outside, she can come in and decide on the flavour herself.”

Customer: “Well, she’s 15, so she can’t buy booze.”

Me: “Is she your daughter?”

Customer: “No! Do I look old enough to have a 15-year-old daughter?”

Me: “If that is the case, I cannot sell you any alcohol.”

Customer: “Why not?! I’m 25. See, here is my I.D.”

Me: “You have just told me you will be supplying the alcohol to a minor. I cannot sell you any alcohol.”

Customer: “Well, can I buy this for myself, then?”

Me: “No, because I know you will be supplying it to a minor.”

Customer: “Don’t be such a b****; I’m allowed to buy booze!”

Me: “Not for minors you aren’t. I cannot sell you any alcohol, and I must ask you to leave.”

(Customer walked out of store yelling abuse and profanity.)

The Standards Of Falling Are Really Falling

| UK | Criminal & Illegal, Liars & Scammers

(I’ve been put through to a woman who would like to make a complaint about a department store of ours in the north of England.)

Me: “Hello, this is [My Name]. I understand you would like to make a complaint?”

Customer: “I was assaulted in your shop. How much money are you going to give me?”

Me: “My goodness. I’m terribly sorry to hear that. Are you all right?”

Customer: “No. Just tell me how much money you’re going to give me.”

Me: “I’m afraid I don’t deal with compensation; I can only log the complaint and begin the investigation.”

Customer: “You can’t help me! Put me through to someone who can get me my money.”

Me: “I’m as high as you can go in respect of what you want. Once I log the complaint however, and it has been investigated, we will contact you to begin the next step.”

Customer: *sighs* “Okay.”

Me: “Thank you. Could you please tell me which branch of [Store] the incident occurred?”

Customer: “Why do you need to know that?”

Me: “We need to know where it happened so we can investigate. Statements and CCTV footage of the day the incident occurred will be sent and checked.”

Customer: “Oh, umm…” *mumbles*

Me: “Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

Customer: “…[Branch].”

Me: “Thank you.”

(I take the rest of the details and log the complaint. In general it’s a slipping on a wet floor where no signage was displayed, and, more seriously, the behaviour of the staff which injured her left eye. A week or so later I bump into one of our investigation team.)

Investigator: “Hey, [My Name], did you log the case for [Customer]?”

Me: “At [Branch]?”

Investigator: “We had the footage come in yesterday. You’ve got to see it.”

(He takes me into his office and shows me the footage. It shows a woman, presumably the customer, walking past a wet floor sign. She notices it, looks around, and produces a collapsible walking stick from her bag. She lays down on the wet floor, pushes the sign under a stand with said walking stick, and starts shouting. A worker comes and tries to help her up, and in the process the woman pokes herself in the eye with the handle of her walking stick. She’s eventually taken to the storefront and an ambulance is called, but she flees the store before it even arrives.)

Me: “…”

Investigator: “Ridiculous, don’t you think?”

Me: “She was hesitant in giving me the details.”

Investigator: “Well, here’s why. The store manager said she tried it a few years ago, but the cleaner hadn’t even started mopping yet. She just got back up and started shopping.”

(I haven’t heard much of the case since then, but I imagine a counter-case for fraud is being built against her.)

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