memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

High phone bill

Computers never make mistakes (but humans do)

It was almost certainly the most astronomical phone bill in history.

An unemployed child minder in south-west France received a bill for £11,721,000,000,000,000  (that’s 11.7 million billion euros – more than 5,000 times the gross domestic product of France).

Solenne San Jose of Pessac, a Bordeaux suburb, had just lost her job and wanted to cancel her phone subscription, when the final bill arrived.

It took her days of wrangling with helpline staff at the phone company (Bouygues Telecom.) to stop it from being debited from her bank account. Initially she was told by shrugging staff that there was nothing they could do.

One said it’s calculated automatically.

Another told her she would be contacted about paying in instalments.

Several calls later an advisor admitted it was a mistake.

Yeah, right!

PASTEL SKETCH of Solenne San Jose on receiving her phone bill – by THOMAS MILNER

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