Sometimes they tell the truth by accident…

I work for a company that I will refer to as ‘Levy Pants Company’ (a very clever reference on my part to Peter O’Toole’s ‘Confederacy of Dunces’).  We have a relationship with a vendor of communications services that I will call ‘Acme Communications.’  Acme’s billing is so notoriously full of errors and overcharges that ‘Levy Pants’ employs a ‘billing negotiation company’ I shall call ‘Clawback Enterprises’ to negotiate our bills for us.  As far as I understand the process, in Acme’s billing agreements, Acme specifies that it is dependent upon the customer (Levy Pants) to determine whether or not the bill is accurate… which is where ‘Clawback’ comes in.  ‘Clawback’ uses billing specialists (most are former employees of companies like Acme) to look through the bills and dispute errors unfavorable to Levy Pants.  Every over-charge that is successfully dismissed nets Clawback about a third of what Levy Pants would have otherwise overpaid.  Acme’s usual strategy to fight Clawback is to simply ignore requests for disputes and to continually send incorrect invoices in hopes that Levy Pants pays them… where they land on my desk and I immediately forward them to my associate at Clawback whom I will call ‘Laura.’

I’m just a paper handler in this transaction. Most of the charges on these bills are for items I don’t understand that are supposedly used in places that I have never visited.  It’s like some massive and uninteresting conceptual art project or corporate avant garde performance piece.

Put another way, Acme Communication’s bills are so notoriously filled with overcharges that companies like Clawback exist just to dispute them.  This is insanity worthy of Twain or Swift… but overbilling may well be a growth source of revenue for Acme ‘cause they just keep doing it. 

Periodically, I find myself in a three way conference call with representatives from Acme and Clawback. During these conference calls, I’m usually just trying to puzzle my way through the massive spreadsheets that Laura from Clawback has emailed to me about how fucked up the bills from Acme are that week and while they talk I try to figure out what the shizzle the Acme and Clawback people are arguing about.

In our last conference call, a manager from Acme (whom I will call ‘Risky Business’ because he gives the impression of having the personality and moral compass of a drunken teenager) said something so jaw droppingly honest that I had to stop and pinch myself. First, he announced that our usual account representative (whom I will call ‘Denise’) had recently and unexpectedly left Acme.  You could practically hear a pin drop in the meaningful pause that followed, and the reason for her hasty departure from Acme was not offered (my impression is that an Acme account representative serves as a human firewall between angry customers and people like Risky Business, so Denise may not have enjoyed a high level of job satisfaction while at Acme — just a guess.).  Mr. Risky Business sounded hurt and confused that Denise would leave him in the lurch like this… but most shitty bosses seem to feel hurt and confused when their browbeaten, tired, underpaid and suddenly liberated employees shout, “FUUUUUUUCK YOUUUUUUUU!” as they sprint out the door into the sunshine with the glee of a condemned man given a last minute pardon. But then came the shockingly honest part.  Risky Business told us that his higher ups wanted him (Risky Business) to take over managing the account for Levy Pants and negotiating with Clawback, but he wasn’t going to do it because, in his words, “Your account is just too screwed up, and it would really mess up my numbers for the year.” Yes. He admitted that Acme had served Levy Pants Company so poorly that he didn’t want to take responsibility for the mess that he had a role in creating. He was also confessing that the current meeting was meaningless since it was supposed to be between company representatives and he was specifying that he was NOT our company representative… which is the business equivalent of saying, “Did I mention that I have herpes?” right after you have finished fucking someone.  Laura, our billing expert from Clawback, finally broke the silence by snuffling into a Kleenex (she was nursing a cold), and asking who would be handling the Levy Pants account.
At this point, Risky Business seemed relieved that no one had screamed, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?” at his accidental candor. Instead, Risky Business assured us that Acme would be assigning a new representative to the account as soon as possible, blah blah, blah and then went back to spouting the Acme company line that the tens of thousands of dollars in overcharges were really nothing to worry about and would soon be resolved while I listened with half an ear and thought about lunch.

7 Comments on “Sometimes they tell the truth by accident…”

  1. The labels you added to the blog post are so appropriate, it makes me cringe.

  2. Stephan Poag says:

    Alex: If you work for a company like Clawback Enterprises, you have my admiration. If you work for a company like Levy Pants, you have my sympathy… but if you work for Acme…grrrrrr!

  3. Malcadon says:

    Ah, capitalism. Where everyone whats to make it big quickly, but no one whats to take responsibility for shit.

    If their is a fetish for forming the Ouroboros-Möbius-Strip vision of the human-centipede, where everyone's heads are in eachother's asses, then it would be capitalists who would form it into a business model. =P

  4. That's…that's something, all right. I'm going to add it to my list of “terrible work stories”.

  5. Stephan Poag says:

    Justin: The situation used to cause me some anguish since a part of me still believes that I should try to do the job I am accepting money for, and, by extension, others should also want to do the same. Thus, a part of me is naive enough to think that Acme should be ashamed of billing for stuff they didn't do or provide… and 'Clawback' shouldn't NEED to exist because companies that send out bills should at least make the attempt to send out real bills and not fictional ones. But after complaining about it, someone told me, “That's very funny — you should write that down,” so I did.
    If all we can do is laugh, we ought to laugh.

  6. Ωmega says:

    Peter O'Toole is an actor. John Kennedy Toole wrote 'Confederacy of Dunces'.

  7. stefan p says:

    Peter O'Toole is an actor. John Kennedy Toole wrote 'Confederacy of Dunces'.

    Ha ha. What a dunce I am.


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