How true it is.
Once upon a time there was a large telecommunications company with a long history of being broken up, then buying back bits that had been broken off, merging with other bits, and generally lurching around the marketplace with an endless stream of new ideas and no actual planning or followthrough. This left a hodgepodge of systems, calling plans, and policies that was a nightmare for anyone who had to deal with it, customer or employee.
I got a job working for them, and eventually found myself as one of the guys you talk to when you say “I want to talk to your boss!”
One day an agent came up to my desk and said that she needed me to take over a call because the customer was very upset about the price we wanted him to pay for a new phone. We went over what she had done so far, and what options were available, and she’d done everything she could to get him a good price, so I took the call.
While the customer was telling me how horrified he was that we were asking him to actually BUY a telephone, rather than giving him one for free to keep his valued custom, I was pulling up his account in the front end system that we used to make changes to and keep track of the features on the account.
While he was berating me for wasting his time rather than just giving him the (rather expensive) phone he wanted, I was pulling up his account in the system that handled the actual physical processes of allowing him to use our network, switches and towers and such.
While he was threatening to have me fired for not having solved his problem yet I was trying to pull up his account in the ancient program that handled the billing. I tried several times, to no avail. I just could not find it.
At the time I was very much into the technical aspects of the job, and this was a potentially fascinating issue. The customer was safely continuing to vent, having moved on to how he paid my salary, and was good for another 5 minutes before he would need a reply, so I went back to the front end system to look at his bills and see if I could track down why I couldn’t find them in the billing system. It was very powerful, very cranky, and very DOS like. Any new information or commands I could bring to my fellow geeks would win me much cred.
The front end system showed no billing information either.
A few minutes of judicious questions to the customer (reverse social engineering, as it were) confirmed what the systems showed: his account existed in the general access system, it existed in the tower and switch system, but it didn’t exist in the billing system.
For 17 months he had been receiving absolutely free unlimited service. No billing information existed, no bills were generated, so he received none. For 17 months. This is either a situation you would have resolved earlier to avoid problems in the future or one you don’t poke at because you don’t want it to end. Not this guy.
The phone being 17 months old, he decided he needed a new one. He decided he wouldn’t buy one elsewhere and quietly put it on the account, but would call the company that hadn’t been billing him to buy one from them. He decided he didn’t like the price that they were offering, and demanded to speak to someone higher up, because he believed he deserved a free phone to continue his free service.
The best part was the genuine hurt in his voice when I explained that not only would he not be getting a free phone, but he would be getting a monthly bill from now on. He really didn’t understand how we could do that to him, after he’d been a loyal customer for 17 months.