REALITY: Me vs. The Big Guys

Oh I do love small victories, and this one turned into a big one for lotsa little folk like me.

A couple years ago I was a payment behind on my SBC yellow page advertising for the frameshop.  I usually paid three to six months in advance at a time, but often just the $33 monthly charge if times were slim.  A small retail business is a feast or famine situation, and if I took in a lot I’d sit down and catch up all the bills if they had gotten a month or two behind, and pay in advance if possible. 

SBC hit me with a $25 late fee on a single $33 monthly payment.  I sent them $33.  The next month, having applied the payment first to their late fee with the balance of $8 towards the past due, they hit me again with another $25 fee and despite phone calls, they racked up $100 late fee charges.  This, even when I sent the final four months’ advertising charges in advance to pay in full the contract balance.  This, when two letters stating that a $25 late fee was most likely usury and quite illegal, and that I had no intention of ever paying this.  Nevertheless, they kept billing me for the $100 (which they showed as advertising charges, having paid their own fees first), and only when the annual contract was up for renewal and I refused to sign did they magically wipe out the charges. 

Yesterday I received notice as a possible participant in a class action suit against SBC Yellow Page Advertising to the tune of close to $4,000,000 and a ruling against the company meaning they will have to pay this out (in most cases, $.50 on the $1.00 credit or up to 78% of charges paid as credited to your advertising account).  That’s a lot of $25 late fees people paid.  Me, I get nothing because I refused to ever pay them and when they wanted my continued business, they waived the unpaid fees to clean the slate.

I’m not a fighter, will go a mile out of my way to avoid argument.  But I stand firm on grounds of principle, and have been known to spend a day in small claims court to win my rights.  I took great pleasure once in allowing an accountant who overcharged me after filing a late tax return (his fault) and getting me in dutch with the IRS because he told me I’d owe nothing more then I got hit with several thousand dollars owed.  He wanted his last $75.00 (I’d paid him $75 more than he’d estimated already.)  He had a lawyer spend the day there with him (at what hourly fee?).  I only brought a book to read.  At the end of the day, I walked out owing nothing, but finished the novel just in time to go before the judge. 

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