I went into the Stanford Medical Center billing office today and presented my case. "Let's consider this scenario. I go in for a medical appointment. Four weeks later, I receive an overdue notice. The problem is that I never received a bill. This has now happened three times."
Customer representative "Freda" denied this, of course: "A bill was sent on February 15."
Freda: "We're aware that some Cardinal Care (Stanford) students have been having some problems with billing."
Me: "So, you know that there are problems with the system. Despite that, you continue to send out these past-due notices, even though you know that a number of them are incorrect."
Freda: "I have never seen your case before. This is the first time I've looked at it."
Me: "I know that you are not personally in charge." (Thinking: Look, idiot, do you represent the medical center or not? If not, I want to speak to someone who does. When I say `you' I don't necessarily mean you personally, I mean your organization.) "Why is the system not being fixed?"
Freda: "We're examining the problem as we get complaints."
Me: "You are depending on your customers to debug your billing system? I don't understand how that is a responsible choice."
Freda: "I'm not in charge of that policy."
Me: "I came in here before and complained, but nothing was done. Why wasn't my account flagged to be handled manually, since it was known at that point that something was wrong? I see that as a problem."
Freda: (non sequitur) "When you came in before you spoke to Julia and she issued a refund check for the money you'd overpaid. You didn't tell her that you had another appointment in a few weeks."
Me: (thinking: of course, did you expect me to stop using a medical service I've got pre-paid insurance for, just because your billing system is fscked?) "Well, yes."
Freda: "I've reset your `dunning cycle'."
Me: "So what will happen the next time I come in for an appointment? I don't plan to stop using the medical service."
Freda: "You'll get a bill a week later, and then if you don't pay you'll receive an overdue notice after four weeks."
Me: "What kind of assurance can you give me that this will happen this way? I'm getting to the point where I simply don't believe what your computer says. Isn't there some sort of auditing system that can be used to verify what it says?"
Freda: "Here's what we've got." (Swivels her monitor toward me and points to the lines that show the bills being sent.)
Me: (shrug) "Is that all you've got?"
Freda: "Yes. What can I do to help you?"
Me: "I think you've done all you can." And I got up and left, muttering about collective irresponsibility.
Do you think these people are actually malicious, or just really stupid?
(Now, admittedly, the conversation above is not accurate, but it's roughly along the same lines as what we actually said.)