I Say: Hello Paper, Goodbye Green!

Switching to paperless billing has its downside and unintended consequences.

I spent 46:16 minutes on the phone trying to access my own records from MCI – in the end, I still don’t have access to them.

Several years ago, I made the huge mistake of switching our MCI account to paperless billing.  We get an email every month telling us we can “view the bill online.”  It’s pretty much the same each month so I never bothered until August 3rd when I actually needed some detailed information from the account.  I had no idea MCI kicks you off their online account manager if you don’t use it in over a year.  I then requested a “temporary PIN” within 24 hours by phone; when I hadn’t received it, I called customer service and learned that MCI’s computer doesn’t leave a temporary PIN on an answering machine.  I then requested the temporary PIN by mail which should take from 7-10 days, but took 14 days.  I couldn’t access MCI’s website at all on the day I received the PIN, so, the next day, after entering all my information, I was alerted the temporary PIN had expired.  After 46:16 minutes, I learned MCI inadvertently sent me the wrong temporary PIN and I would have to start the whole process over again.

Not only don’t I have access to my own records, but I had to waste almost an hour on the phone earlier in the month and again this week, and had to endure an interminably 3-minute conversation with a computer “voice” asking me what my problem was so “she” could direct me to the right person.  Well, after three tries, she couldn’t understand what I was saying (it was probably my Brooklyn accent), so “she” finally transferred me to a live person who had an accent I could barely understand.

I have dozens of accounts online and not one of them knocks you off if you don’t access them in a year.  I’ve never had to wait 14 days to get a PIN number in the mail.  When I’ve had a problem in the past, the company sent an email with a temporary PIN.

Here’s another reason I really hate paperless billing.  And all you tree huggers out there can hate me all you want but I LOVE paper and here’s why.

My cousin, who lived in NY, passed away recently and made me Executor of his estate.  Well, he, for his own reasons, preferred paperless billing, which meant I had no idea who provided his utilities, telephone or cable because he had no paper bills in the house.  I had no way of accessing any of his accounts online to know when and what things needed to be paid.  I had no idea if his automatic payments were being paid or by what account.  He left some hieroglyphic passwords around which enabled me to begin deciphering everything.  I had to take each piece of information, like a puzzle, to figure it all out.  If I hadn’t been as close to him as I was and knew a little bit about how his mind worked, it would’ve been an impossible situation.

I’m not sure if people who use paperless billing really know what a mess they could be leaving for their loved ones.  There’s definitely something to be said about leaving a “paper trail.”

So, after all this wasted time with MCI, I still don’t have access to my records.  This week, we cancelled MCI and went with another company whose customer service line was answered immediately by a live person.

I don’t get it, but if you do, God bless you.

Author Bio:

For over twenty years, Leona has tried to heed her husband’s advice, “you don’t have to say everything you think.” She’s failed miserably. Licensed to practice law in California and Washington, she works exclusively in the area of child abuse and neglect. She considers herself a news junkie and writes about people and events on her website, “I Don’t Get It,” which she describes as the “musings of an almost 60-year old conservative woman on political, social and cultural life in America.” It’s not her intention to offend anyone who “gets it.” She just doesn’t. Originally from Brooklyn, and later Los Angeles, she now lives with her husband, Michael, on a beautiful island in the Pacific Northwest, which she describes as a bastion of liberalism.
Author website: http://www.idontgetit.us
  • Teddi

    I had not thought about the issue with accessing information from a loved one who died.  Having been through some recent family deaths and having to take care of business, I appreciate the forethought of someone else having to access your information easily.  All the relatives I had to deal with recently were still paying bills by paper, but if not, plans put in place ahead of time would have been important if we were talking about paperless.

  • George Brockman

    Is “MCI” a new acronym for the Federal Government?

  • Ron F.

    Thanks for confirming why I have refused to go paperless.

  • Roger Ward

    Sounds like your paperless billing problem is really an MCI problem.  Whenever I encounter such a problem with a vendor, I vote with my feet:  as long as we remain relatively free and competition affords us a choice, I’ll use that choice to make my life easier.

    As far as being the executor of your cousin’s estate, I offer the following:  in one easily portable file box, I have everything that relates to my life —  lists of bills, passwords, accounts, any debits/credits, my will, a notarized letter of instructions regarding my wishes after death, etc.  In the event of fire, flood, earthquake or other natural disaster, the file box can easily be grabbed on the way out the door.  Of course, if there’s a fire while I’m away from the house, that’s a problem.  Hmmmm.

    • wally

      You state that your information is in a file box. I hope it is a safe that is tied into the structure of the house. Maybe you should consider a secondary source such as a bank safe deposit box as well. As to paperless, we should have some type of paper record as a back up because even the best electron systems can fail. Nothing is perfect.