1999 INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST — TAPE #616, SIDE #1
Q: Mark Russell BellG: various GTE Internet recorded messagesE: Ernest Perez, GTE Internet representativeS: Stephanie Billings. GTE Internet representativeL: Ellen Russell
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: THIS CONVERSATION WAS RECORDED ON DECEMBER 27, 1999.)
G: Thank you for calling GTE Internet. Your call may be monitored or recorded for quality purposes. For technical support, press one. For billing, press two. For —
G: Thank you for calling GTE Internet billing. To speak to a representative concerning your dial-up account, please press three. To speak to a representative concerning DSL or Web hosting, please press four. To conveniently manage your own account and avoid excessive wait time, please visit www.gte.net and here you’ll find the means to monitor your usage, view your monthly invoice, change your password and many other tasks. If you’re calling in regard to a dedicated service, please call (gives number). Thank you for calling.
G: Thank you for calling GTE Internet. All representatives are busy at this time. Please hold for the next available representative.
( . . . )
G: . . . continue to hold. We’ll take your call just as soon as possible. Thank you.
G: Thank you for continuing to hold. A representative will be with you momentarily.
G: Your patience while holding is appreciated. We look forward to helping you in just a moment.
E: Thank you for calling GTE Internet. My name is Ernest. How may I help you?
Q: Oh hi. I have a billing matter I have to talk about.
E: Okay. Is it being billed to your credit card or telephone number?
Q: Telephone number.
E: Telephone number with the area code first?
Q: (gives number)
E: And whom am I speaking with?
Q: This is Mark Russell.
E: Mark Russell?
E: What’s the last four digits of your social?
Q: (gives number)
E: How may I help you?
Q: Anyway, well I had called when the complication first arose. I had received an amount that was much larger than usual and at the time I called and they said it was because there was a new rate where if you go over — I think it was 200 hours a month, you get charged a dollar per hour. So at that time I said that that wasn’t acceptable and I terminated the service. (“BUT THE”) And I — (at the) the phone company, GTE, now says that I have to call back to get the amount taken off of the bill on “their” end because they can’t do that. So I wanted to go ahead and have that done.
E: Okay. Okay, please hold, okay?
E: Okay. I apologize for that.
E: Okay, now the account has been closed as of October the 26th of ’99.
E: And I do show here that the account — the phone bills . . . cycle. Your October billing was $136.23. And then you have your last payment of $63.08. Did you go over the usage or what? What happened?
Q: Right. That’s when — (“THEY”) when I went over the usage, that’s when they informed me that they had changed their billing because when I had joined, of course, it said, “You have selected the following Internet offer: $19.95 per month* unlimited Internet access.” (prices do not include tax, ISDN not available in some areas) And so really that was the agreement that I had made. And then — until all of a sudden I got this huge bill which, (“RA[THER]”) you know, rather surprised me because it — I guess — I can’t remember the exact date when they had made the changeover. I think they said it was about a year before I had gone over.
E: Right. (“SO ANYWAY”)
Q: So, anyway, it wasn’t acceptable. (“AND [TH]AT’S”) I — when I called, at the time I just wanted to terminate service. I said that that was unacceptable. But apparently no one has taken the amount off of my phone company bill.
E: Okay. Okay, have you spoken to anybody from GTE Internet about this?
Q: Yeah well when I called it was just a very quick conversation. He (or “HE”) — you know, he didn’t really offer to make any kind of — (“HE DIDN’T”) he didn’t say I had to request to take it off my bill, (“HE”) he just — the matter just dropped.
Q: So I thought that maybe the phone company could take it off their bill but they explained that they couldn’t. They said actually that they would have somebody call me from Internet Solutions but no one ever did call me. So that’s why I’m finally calling.
E: Okay . . . (reading directions/pause) (“HERE’S WHAT”) What I could do for you today. Okay, you do have two outstanding charges. One — I don’t know — have you paid them?
E: Okay. $136.23 and $63.08.
Q: What was the second one?
E: $63.08. Okay, I could go ahead and, since this is the first time that you were ever informed about this . . . we did send out formal letters and Email saying yada yada yada. A lot of our customers overlooked that which I know . . .
Q: Well, it’s not really a competitive rate, is it?
E: It really — it really isn’t. Yeah, that’s true. I can go ahead and give you a credit for the first month but the other amount, $63.08, you’re going to — we’re going to have to hold you responsible for that.
Q: Well that’s ridiculous. That’s — I have my agreement right here. It says — I can fax it to you.
E: We don’t have an agreement. Okay, the thing about this is that there was no initial contract. We don’t have contracts. We didn’t . . .
Q: I have a letter right in front of me. It says, “You have selected the following Internet offer: $19.95 per month* unlimited Internet access.” (prices do not include tax, ISDN not available in some areas) Nothing was ever signed that changed that.
E: That’s right. You didn’t sign anything. You didn’t sign no agreement. That’s what I’m referring to — or no contract.
Q: Well it’s — I’m not going to pay that. It’s — that’s ridiculous. Give me the president of your company and I’ll just write a letter.
E: I’ll give you the customer relations —
Q: I don’t want that. I want the president of the company.
E: That’s — you have to go through them and they’ll give you that —
Q: No, I — give me a fax number for somebody in charge.
E: Okay. (gives number)
Q: (repeats) And, Ernest, what’s your last name?
Q: Perez. Okay — no, I mean this is ridiculous. I mean it’s not a big deal.
E: I understand.
Q: I mean I’m sure you get a lot of these calls and I don’t hold you personally responsible. It’s just that I mean I have my own website that deals with all kinds of fraud. It’s testament.org and so as an investigative journalist I’ve documented a lot of these various frauds that are done under corporations. Again, it’s that corporate mentality. I mean these are all things that you and I would not do personally but somehow when we think we’re doing it “for the company,” we think that, “well we’re not responsible. I’m doing it for the company and the company is ultimately responsible.” So, of course, if one of us is supposedly ‘Christian,’ this does go against the Christian ethic. So, anyway, so my website pretty much deals with this — you know, all this — the — anyway, it just deals with ‘all this.’ I have my conversations with the Blue Cross documented. All kinds of fraud. I mean my company fired me because I had a stock option and, you know, it was going to go into effect a year after it was given to me. And they fired me before it could go into effect because there was a merger and the stock ended up doubling. So now I can add GTE to my long list, my rather sad list.
E: (small laugh)
Q: I even actually worked one day for the company in the image keying department and it was just unbelievable. It was like a concentration camp. If you ever want to go to my website to see what it’s like, it’s really quite an eye-opening experience. Do you go on the Internet?
E: Oh yeah.
Q: Yeah, check it out — testament.org. So if you can give me any help —
E: I’ll give you the help. . .
E: I’ll give you the help.
E: I’ll help you out . . .
Q: Oh good. Because then I can finally have a nice story to put on my — on the Internet. Because I’ve had nothing but horror stories up until now. (pause/keyboard sounds)
The worst stories, by the way, are reserved for my media interaction with radio show people and TV show people (as well as newspaper and Internet ‘reporters,’ etc.). I mean because (“NO”) when you hear — when you’re in church and you hear “evil principalities” you think, “What does that mean?” Well now just welcome to 1999 and I think we all know what it means. These corporations. The corporation way of doing business. I went on one radio show and already talked a little bit about this with Barbara Simpson. She goes — I was saying that corporations are terribly evil and she goes, ‘as bad as demonic evil?’ And I said, ‘Well it’s the same thing.’ (“SO I”) She — of course, if you read a lot in my book you can understand behind that. Because I had a lot of bad karma. I was working for Paramount Pictures — (“AND I HA[D]”) had a lot of bad karma working in the Hollywood — you know how bad those movies are. (“YOU KNOW”) With the violence and the sex and uhhh. So much bad karma. I mean, you know, someone sees a movie and they think, “Oh the violence”—like “Bonnie and Clyde”—”Oh, isn’t that glamorous?” So they go out and they kill someone because they think this is glamorous. Well aren’t you a little bit responsible as someone who’s publicized the film? Yep.
E: That’s true.
Q: So it’s —
E: What do you think about the Columbine killings?
Q: Well that — I don’t know. But, you know, I don’t trust the media to report what really happened. What’s the most suspicious thing about that is they all keep saying the same thing. They keep reporting the same angle that they want the public to believe. And that’s what really makes me suspicious because they’re all saying the same thing.
E: Yeah, that’s true. (“YOU KNOW”)
Q: And it’s — I mean I could very well —
E: . . . kids in today’s society, you know, really have no focus on that.
Q: Yeah, well there is some kind of mind control going on. I mean it’s odd to me that the only people who saw the videos was that Time reporter. You know? I mean that’s sort of suspicious. I mean its controlled information and they always are always pushing the angle that they want sold. So the govern(ment) — the military has infiltrated the media and now they’re even trying to do it to spirituality because, as a spiritual author, I can tell you that a lot of other spiritual authors have military connections in their background, which I do not. I don’t know how I got so lucky as to miss out but thank goodness. That’s the one thing that I don’t have. Because I did work — I was a pornographer. I mean, you know, I had my fair share of mistakes and — (“NO”) because at the time when I was—you know, I did magazines — porno magazines—and I thought, “Well this isn’t really — this is sort of helpful to people.” In fact, I even heard about — where was it? In Scandinavia. Anyway, they did studies and porno is — was shown to be helpful to people. But, still, you have to keep in mind that the models really — they really get screwed up doing this. I mean it’s something suicidal. I mean even the drug deaths, (“AND ONE OF”) what-have-you. So I think the only acceptable form of pornography is really the cartoons — (“THE” “YOU KNOW”) the drawings because then it doesn’t really hurt anyone.
E: That’s true . . .
Q: So — but it’s taken me a long time to get to that realization, though.
E: (small laugh)
Q: Especially here in L.A. because you get — there’s free porno everywhere.
E: I can just imagine. (small laugh)
Q: Yeah. Ohhh. So if you go to my website you can see — I also have, like, photos of bigfoot and ghosts and things.
E: Okay now what I’m going to do is issue the credit of $143.32 and reflecting this is the account would only be paid from 1995 the monthly Internet fee. Okay?
Q: Okay, because I’ve already paid, of course, the monthly Internet fee.
E: So a credit of $143.32 was established today. The account is being billed to your telephone number. Are you — you’re not paying the Internet over-usage report, right? So every month they’re sending you a statement of the over?
Q: They — well there were only two months apparently that I went over. So, anyway, I called them at the time and I said, “Well I’ll just pay this amount. This is the amount that I agreed to pay.” So I figured it out — you know, the $19.99 or whatever — $19.95. (“SO”) I went ahead and paid that. And the other — of course, the other (phone) charges I paid. So I did that (“TW”) twice so far. (“BUT”) And then they said that they showed it as being contested but yet I did get another advance due bill. (“SO”) Even though they told me, “Oh don’t worry. We show that you’re contesting the amount,” I’m still getting — they’re still treating me like I haven’t paid the bill.
E: Okay. Let me get a residential representative on the line with us, okay?
E: Please hold.
G: Thanks for holding. During this special holiday season, we would like to wish you and yours the very best from all of us to you. Happy holidays.
E: I have Stephanie and she’s from the residential department.
Q: Oh hi, Stephanie.
E: And she’s going to go ahead and note the account.
E: Okay? I told her and explained to her that the credit $143.32 is going to be applied to your account.
Q: Actually, you know, I was just looking at it mathematically and I guess the $136.23 and $63.08 comes out to $199.31. And so I deducted the $38.90 from that and I actually got the figure of $160.31
E: $136.23 . . . $19.95 is $116.28. And then $63.08 minus $19.95 is $43.13. . . . They gave you a prorated amount. That’s why. . . . Okay, $46.99 and $116.28. Did I give you that? I thought I did.
Q: Well you gave me $143.32 so this is a little bit different from that. I don’t know why I get a different figure but.
E: That’s what the computer — the overusage?
E: That’s how much it comes out to. A total amount of $143.32. . . . Those are for the two months. For your October and your final billing, your November billing.
Q: Okay — because I just don’t understand, though. I thought it was — I mean I just checked the $19.95 per month and deducted that from the two amounts you gave me. Is there some other cost there that I’m not figuring in?
E: Um-uh. No (or “NO”) because it was $136.23 and $63.08.
Q: Right. So I deducted $38.90 from those and I got —
E: Why did you deduct it? $38.90 —
E: You deducted $38.90? $39.90.
E: It’s $39.90.
Q: Oh $39.90. Oh okay. (pause)
E: Do you come up with $149.51? I mean $159?
Q: Yeah, well that’s — that’ll do.
E: Okay. Well, (for) one reason or another, the computer — the computer generated the charges for me — as far as the usage.
E: And that’s what the amount comes out to.
Q: What does it come out to?
E: $143.32. (“K”)
Q: But I’m just saying — I’m just telling you I don’t know how you’re arriving at that figure.
E: I don’t know either. So (or “SO”) that’s (or “THAT’S”) — I don’t know because the computer is what (is) generating the credits for you. I’m not generating the credit.
E: The computer’s doing it and I’m not.
Q: Oh — I’m so glad Y2K is coming. (“IF”) I hope the whole system crashes. As far as I’m concerned.
E: (small laugh)
Q: Did you see the movie “Michael”?
Q: Isn’t that a — there was a weird scene at the beginning of the movie where Michael and Jean Stapleton blow up a bank. So, anyway —
E: Yeah. (or “YEAH”)
Q: — let’s hope it comes to pass.
E: (small laugh) Okay so, Stephanie, did you note that on the account already?
S: Yes, I did.
E: Okay. (“OKAY”) Does that give him any balance or anything on the account?
S: Yeah, he still has a — you are issuing a credit of $153.73 — 143.32. The balance on the account — hold on. (pause) Is $10.41 is what the customer needs to pay.
E: Okay, Mark?
E: Is that agreeable?
E: Okay. Okay, Stephanie, thank you.
S: You’re welcome.
Q: Stephanie, what’s your last name?
Q: Oh how appropriate.
E: (small laugh) (“THEY”)
Q: Okay, so I’ll send a check for $10.41.
S: That is correct.
Q: And — I don’t know why I’m sending it but I’ll send it in and let other people worry about it. Okay, thank you.
S: Thank you.
( . . . )
Q: What’s disturbing about that call is that, apparently, they know how much money I paid to the phone company, which also happens to be GTE so all this B.S. about GTE Internet Solutions and the phone service GTE being separate only applies apparently when it’s in their interest.
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: $153.72 WAS THE “AMOUNT PAST DUE” FROM MY GTE TELEPHONE NUMBER ACCOUNT SUMMARY.)
Q: As a P.S., I might say that I don’t think that Mighael is going to use Y2K as an opportunity to destroy technology in a single day. He’s far too loving for that. But, as you can see, sometimes I don’t always express love and I guess that is a mistake. But I’m only human, after all.
( . . . )
Q: So what I think that scene was symbolic of in the movie “Michael” — Jean Stapleton, of course, has the word ‘Satan’ as an anagram in the name. And, of course, you have ‘Ra’ and — what else do you have in John Travolta’s name? (“WELL”) ‘Ho’ — we won’t go into that here. Let’s see — so anyway — and ‘Ta,’ of course. Earth. But that’s an interesting symbol. Michael and Satan together—maybe with the help of ‘Ra’—getting rid of the current financial system in a more peaceful way hopefully than some movies have suggested such as “12 Monkeys” or — well, anyway, who knows? Every movie is channeled in some respects. It’s just unfortunate how many of the movies are channeling negative things these days.
( . . . )
Q: Do you think that they helped me with the bill because they think I’m a psychopath? That’s one thing about the Holy Bible that I just don’t buy into after my experience. I think the disciples back in Jesus’s time all thought he was a psycho back then and then later the story evolved so that the desired metaphor would he presented. When, of course, Jesus I’m sure would’ve said everyone is the son of God or it’s something that we all can aspire to — the main metaphor being the Son of God/the Angel Mighael’s love for humanity and all of His sacrifices over the eons. He’s put up with a lot of B.S. from me — not all of it documented on the tapes. Anyway, I think I’ll pick up my mother.
( . . . )
Q: So let’s see what songs there are on the radio.
Love, I don’t like to see so much pain
So much wasted and this moment keeps slipping away
I get so tired of working so hard for our survival
I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive
(“In Your Eyes” performed by Peter Gabiel)
Q: So here I am to pick up my mother. Where is she? I guess she’s going to be late today. Oh here she comes. She always gets mad if the radio’s on when I pick her up. How was it today?
L: Well I didn’t have any TV. They put me in the one that doesn’t have a television.
Q: Glory hallelujah.
L: So I told them that next time I come to put me where there’s a television. Well why? There’s only — most of them sleep. Why not put me — I mean I never sleep.
Q: They should give you Internet access to get some good information for a change.
L: Well sometimes they’ll get a movie and put it on but I never watch the movies. Like they had . . .
Q: Trust me, the Internet is a good source for information.
L: Guess what? When I —
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: AFTER I TURNED OFF THE TAPE RECORDER, MY MOTHER TOLD ME THAT SHE HAD FOUND A CHRISTMAS PRESENT WAITING FOR HER THAT HAD BEEN LEFT FOR HER BY HER DOCTOR.)
Q: So I finally made time to write my letter to the California Department of Insurance Claim Services Bureau. I’ll read it to you.
To Whom It May Concern,
Enclosed is correspondence—including a letter denying liability from Anitra Sims of 20th Century Insurance Company—documenting a wrongfully denied claim. This seems to be a blatant case where an insurance company is ignoring the responsibility to repay damages. The form letter I received even makes reference to “injuries and/or damages alleged by you” when no injury was claimed. Evidently, denying obvious liability has become a common business practice for the insurance company.
My car was struck in the front driver’s side door by the right tip of the insured vehicle in the driveway area of a parking lot. The company’s stated reason for denying any liability for the claim specifies “we have determined our insured made a left turn into a driveway, proceeding to turn right into the parking space . . .” As you will see by the details recorded in the attached, the other vehicle was not “proceeding to turn right” into a parking space at the time of the accident. This explanation does nothing to deny that the other driver struck my car when he failed to see my vehicle. The company arrived at a net cost of repairs for my car totaling $1,223.55.
Adding insult to injury, at the time I received the letter denying liability for the claim, I found in a separate envelope a “request for free rate quote” application.
I hope you can help me with this matter.
Mark G. Russell
Q: And I’ve enclosed all of my details and maps regarding the accident. In this case, I think what really happened is less negligent than this new story that’s come up about turning into a parking space. Of course, it would be just my luck to have a car hit me that was driven by an attorney. So I guess now I’ll have the chance to document—perhaps as a whistle blower—what happens with my correspondence now with the Claim Services Bureau of the California Department of Insurance. I’m a whistle blower where the injustices find me. I don’t seek them.