Ronald Dorff, an 83-year-old great-grandfather who lives on social security, found himself nearly ruined financially after receiving a phone bill for more than $24,000 from AT&T.
Dorff, who still utilizes dial-up internet, called AT&T immediately when his bill went from $51 a month to $8,431. AT&T told him that they would send a technician out to fix the problem immediately. When Dorff heard nothing further from the phone company, he assumed that AT&T had done their job and didn’t worry about it — until the next month’s bill came.
His bill from AT&T was now $24,298 — more than what Dorff lives on annually.
Dorff again immediately called AT&T, who spent a great deal of time bouncing Dorff from one representative to another before finally sending out the technician they had initially told Dorff they would be sending out.
It didn’t take the technician any time to figure out what the problem was — Dorff’s dial-up modem had been dialing a long-distance number instead of a local number. So, in effect, Dorff’s home was making long-distance calls for hours at a time, piling up huge charges on Dorff’s phone bill. For the technician, it was a simple fix — but not so much for Dorff, who was still stuck with a phone bill of over $24,000.
When Dorff asked AT&T if the company would be adjusting his phone bill, he was flatly told “no.”
Even though AT&T had told Dorff they would be sending a technician out to fix the problem and then failed to do so, the company fully expected Dorff to pay the $24,000 phone bill.
As Dorff told the local CBS news station in an interview, “If they’re going to insist on me to pay the bill, my financial stability is gone.”
Dorff, in fear that one single telephone bill would absolutely wipe out his financial security, went public with the story, and AT&T, nervous of negative publicity, backed down on Dorff’s bill.
In a statement, a representative from the company said, “We have waived the charges and explained to him how to use a local number to reach his service.”
Dorff is relieved that the adjustment to his bill has been made, but worries that others may be facing similar problems with what he terms “bill shock,” adding, “And I’m sure they’re in the same situation I was. ‘What do I do? Where do I go?'”
When asked why the high fees had not been spotted and resolved earlier, AT&T said this is a “rare occurrence” and that they address such issues on an individual basis.
Dorff is not the first to suffer from “bill shock.” Click here to read about the man who was completely shocked by his dinner bill because of a misinterpretation.
[Photo by Hulton Archives / Getty Images]