Sunday, November 4, 2007

Internet Bill

For whatever reasons most of our utilities can be paid at the LQ. And by this I mean that a representative of the utility companies will sit inside one of the offices in the LQ for a period of time over the weekend. They do this partially because so many new people move into the LQ and thus need those services set up, but also so that we can easily pay our bills.

Amy and I made a mistake last week and forgot to pay out internet bill. So today I went down to the office where the internet representative would be and tried to pay our bill late. There were several numbers on the bill and I wasn't sure which one was the one I needed to pay, so I handed the lady the bill and pointed to the number I guessed was the right one. My hope was that she would read it and either nod affirmative, or point to the correct number.

As an added feature to my non-verbal communication I took the two hundred RMB bills out of my pocket and allowed her to see that I was ready to pay.

She said something that I couldn't understand, made no attempt to remove the bills from my hand and then pointed to another section of the bill. This particular bit was in English and said "prepaid." For a moment I figured we had somehow prepaid the month of October and I didn't need to pay anything now.

But then she pointed to a number and said some more things. I looked appropriately confused, but then waived my money around as if to say, whatever, I can pay that number if needed.

The lady said some more things and we were at an em pass. A few more conversations in two separate languages occurred while I continued to have my cold hard cash outstretched for her to see, but nothing really happened.

Next the lady got up and walked me to one of the workers at the LQ who speaks a little English. The two ladies conversed then the English speaker told me that I should have paid this bill in October.

This information I was aware of, and I told her so. Then I told her that as it happened I didn't pay that bill in October, but was happy to pay it now. She told this to internet lady and then explained to me that I would get a bill for November in the mail. At this point I'm completely aghast.

I thought this would be easy. Who knew that you could take a past due bill, have money in hand to pay it, and cause so much difficulty. I came in expecting that maybe she wouldn't be able to take my money and that I'd have to go to some collections office or something, but now it seemed like she didn't want my money at all.

Me and the English speaker talked a little bit more and I tried to explain that I had not paid the October bill, but was willing to do so now. She talked again to the internet lady and then internet lady made some phone calls.

The discussion then left points on October and November bills and went into something about the entire year. English speaker told me that when you pay for internet you pay for an entire year at a time. I seemed to recall something like this during our initial setup, but certainly didn't remember paying that much for it.

More back and forth and English speaker essentially told me it was all ok. I asked her again if I didn't need to pay anything and she said no. I was still utterly confused, but figured either we had paid extra and were ok, or that we'd eventually get another bill telling us what to pay.

I started to walk out when internet lady took my bill and headed back to her desk. Then she started filling out forms with my name on it. When she asked me for my phone number I knew I was in trouble. My guess was she was going to ask me to pay for the year. That's when I went for back-up.

I told her to hold on and got Amy. Her and I discussed the matter and realized we didn't want to pay a full year since we might not be here another full year. Numbers being the universal language we started writing dates down trying to tell her we could pay up until next June but not after.

That wasn't pleasing at all as you get a discount for paying a full year at a time and to stop service early means more money.

At this point I called Brian. Then went to an ATM to pull out a bunch of money. When I returned from the ATM Brian had sorted it all out. He simply told her we didn't want to pay in advance and just wanted to pay for the month.

We then paid and it was done.

My guess is this lady is a suave salesmen and was bent on selling us the whole year as it does give you a discount. Add to her salesmanship my total lack of Chinese ability and you get us both confused quick.

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