Late last summer, while working in the office of the church, I got a call from someone who claimed to have some good news. He said it was just a “courtesy call” to inform me that our phone rates were being switched to a much lower rate than we were currently paying. By all impressions trying to be made, I thought I was talking with someone from our longtime current provider.The representative continued that there was nothing that I needed to do to get the lower rate other than answer a few questions.
Our existing provider had called about certain changes before, so at first I wasn’t too suspicious, although I have learned that even with them you need to be a little. Nonetheless, as the conversation progressed I did become much more leery. Finally, I asked, “Are you with AT&T?”
He said no, but he was with a company that handled service in some way for AT&T. It was actually a different telecommunications company, but even by the time I was to answer those few simple questions that he told me about I still hadn’t been given a straight answer on that. The first gentleman I talked with said that someone else would call me immediately after our conversation ended to ask the questions and get my confirmation to receive the great rate he promised.
It was during that conversation, although after I answered those questions, that I asked if our bill was still going to come from AT&T. At best I was obviously confused, but I’m pretty sure that I had been intentionally misled. At any rate, the woman I was now talking with confirmed that the bill would no longer come from AT&T because our phone service would be switched to a different provider altogether. The best I recall, she then asked if I was authorized for our “company” to be able to make this decision. I told her that I probably really needed to at least run it by our finance committee. I asked her to hold while I called our church treasurer on my cell phone.
After talking with our treasurer she and I decided that we shouldn’t switch without at least getting a little more information and conferring with our finance committee. While we were talking she did a quick google search of the company in question and immediately found complaints about them being … misleading.
When I got back to the call on the phone on my desk, I told the woman that we didn’t want to switch until we conferred further with our finance committee. At this point she transferred me to someone else, another representative, with whom I shared those same thoughts, and also concerns about the misleading nature of the initial call. She apologized for the “confusion” and assured me that everything would be canceled and she gave me her name and number to call if we actually did decide to switch.
A few days later I received an email from that company congratulating us on switching our church’s phone service to their company. I called them and told them that I was assured that our service would not be switched. The representative heard my concerns, and again assured me that it would be handled and nothing would be switched. I also called AT&T to make sure they knew about the situation and that we didn’t want them to allow this other company to switch us from them. The AT&T rep saw no problems on her end, but they can only go by what shows up on the screen in front of them.
A few weeks later we received a bill from the other company for a couple weeks of service charges and about the same time a cancellation notice from AT&T.
After another call and receiving more false assurances, by another representative, who admitted to my wife that some of their sales reps will say anything to get people to switch, we received another bill. I called them again and afterwards called AT&T to get the service switched back, which they did, but not without the other company hitting us with a $1700.00 early termination fee.
After going round and round and explaining the whole situation to their company representatives seemingly to no avail, I filed a complaint with the NC utilities commission. While waiting to hear back from that I finally received a message from another company rep who said they would waive $1500.00 of the $1700.00 fee. I called back again and spoke to someone else and explained the situation. She agreed to send me an email stating the above offer to reduce the penalty, but she also gave me another number to call to see if I could get someone to agree to a further reduction.
A few days later I called and spoke to someone else who eventually agreed to waive the penalty altogether, but not before she tried to intimidate me with the recording of me answering those “simple” questions on day 1 of this whole fiasco. As I listened to the recording of the woman asking questions and me answering it seemed pretty obvious that the recording was doctored. All you heard from me was “yeah, yeah, yeah, right”, even when the woman gave me the wrong address for our church and asked if that was correct. I know I didn’t say “yeah” to that, but corrected her and gave her the right address, which they obviously got “somehow” because the bill ended up at the right place. When I pointed out that “interesting” fact to the person who played the recording to intimidate me and reminded her that it was really what I was assured of after that recorded conversation by another of their representatives that was really at issue, and informed her that I had filed a complaint with the state, she began to stammer a bit, put me on hold, and supposedly got approval from her manager to waive the entirety of the penalty. She also agreed she would send me an email stating that. She didn’t!
Eventually, I received another statement that still had a bill for the services rendered and a $200.00 penalty, and shortly after that I received an email from the state saying that they concurred with that statement based on the recording they were given.
I was misled and given partial truths and false assurances from the beginning; and, conveniently, the company only had record of information that supported them. But not only did they distort the truth, they tried to suppress it and silence me through subtle intimidation. They were also relentless with the ruse hoping I would just give up and accept the new service, I suppose.
Sin and evil, wickedness and unrighteousness, on a smaller scale or a much larger societal scale, requires distortion and suppression of the truth to thrive (see Romans 1, especially v.18). In other words, wickedness thrives only under the cover of darkness. Moreover, deceit and the self-justification that goes along with it also requires a stubborn relentlessness to not give up on the lies. Societal evils around the world and throughout history that have been entrenched in cultures, even codified into law, have required relentless distortion and ferocious suppression of the truth.
Although so much more could be said, the basic reason human beings lie and suppress the truth is because we want what we want more than what God wants, whether it be driven by greed, sexual lust, self-gratification, the pride of self-justification, or mere comfort and convenience. In sin we seek to bury the truth.
On this holy Saturday, on the heels of Good Friday, we are reminded that the Truth was buried in the darkness of a stone cold tomb in Jerusalem some 2000 plus years ago; but He wasn’t buried for long. It appeared that the darkness had overcome the Light, but it only appeared that way.
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” (John 3:19 ESV)
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5)