reprinted from Business World December 14 2004
Several years ago, Philippine Long Distance Company mailed to its subscribers a flyer announcing the launch of the EasyPay Scheme, which allowed a subscriber to pay his phone bill at an accredited bank near the subscriber’s place. The flyer said “You don’t have to go out of your way…there’s less hassle. Fast, easy, and assured phone bill payments. Only with PLDT EasyPay.”
I availed myself of the service, paying my bill at the RCBC Alabang branch, which is located just right beside the gate of our subdivision, three days before the due date. When the statements of the two succeeding months did not reflect my payment, I called PLDT. I was instructed to present the statement marked “Paid” and the corresponding cancelled check to the PLDT booth in SM South Mall in Las Piñas. That meant going way out of my way.
The people at the booth instructed me to submit photocopies of both stamped statement and cancelled check. As they did not have a copying machine, I had to look around in the cavernous mall for a shop that provided photocopying service. That was considerable hassle.
Five months after I had paid the charges through PLDT’s EasyPay Scheme, I received a disconnection notice for non-payment of the bill in question. The boast in the EasyPay Scheme flyer of assured payment was therefore nothing but a brazen lie!I wrote a letter addressed to the Billing Department, photocopies of the duly marked statement and cancelled check enclosed. I personally delivered the letter to ensure its receipt by the proper parties. All that hassle was for naught as subsequent statements continued to reflect an overdue account.
As I continued to receive disconnection notices in the succeeding two months, I wrote a friend, PLDT Senior Vice President Antonio R. Samson (yes, the same person who writes the column next to this), asking his assistance on the matter. I gave my office number. My apparatus had a voice recorder. I never heard from him nor from any PLDT personnel. The next month’s statement still showed an unpaid account. So what was supposed to be a hassle-free, easy-pay, assured payment scheme proved to be the extreme opposite.
In exasperation I had that whole episode printed in this paper under the subhead “Arrogance of monopoly” in that defunct column called ShopTalk. How I wish Publisher-Editor Letty Locsin would restore that column. It provided hapless consumers a useful foil with which to prod arrogant big business.
I got a letter from Tony six days after the piece appeared in this paper, hinting that the system was complex, which accounted for the delay in their response to me. Well, that was under the old ownership and management.
When the new owners took over management I had expected significant changes. There were, but not the kind I had expected. My name and two telephone numbers disappeared from the telephone directory. When I complained about it, they could only assure me that the “inadvertence” would be corrected in the following year’s listing.
When I didn’t find my name in the following year’s directory, I filed a written complaint with the PLDT Customer Service Office. I didn’t hear from it at all. Subsequent to the filing of that letter, I discovered that not one of the Alabang residents I know was listed in the 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 phone books.
I wrote Manuel Pangilinan in May 2002 telling him that a great injustice had been done Muntinlupa residents as people who wanted to engage their professional services or who wanted to do business with them were not able to contact them because their names were not listed in the phone book. He must have been too pre-occupied with the exploits of the Ateneo basketball players in the PBL tournament and of the Talk-N-Text team in the PBA conference at the time for referred my letter to PLDT Senior Vice President Tony Samson.
My old friend Tony wrote that due to the large subscriber base, PLDT puts out two directories as a single directory would result in an unwieldy and overly bulky book. The telephone companies of the major American cities have no problem putting out a single directory for their larger base of subscribers. Tony added that the two directories, one for Metro Manila and the other for Metro Suburban, are given free of charge anyway. For reasons of its own, PLDT classified Muntinlupa, as well as Pasig, Marikina, and Taguig as suburban.