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BT sets heavy mob on El Reg

Distraught staff receive counselling over unpaid bill

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Several members of Reg staff are this afternoon receiving counselling after BT set the heavy mob on Vulture Central over an unpaid £200 bill.

The drama unfolded this morning when Register supremo Linus "Fish Fingers" Birtles received an alarming phone call while out-and-about enjoying a double latte mocha-choca decaf with Armenian organic nutmeg sprinkle. The call - from BT's Bromsgrove debt collection heavies - demanded immediate settlement of a 200 quid amount relating to our account at Farm Street, London.

Suitably confused (we do not have, and have never had, premises at Farm Street), Linus called the strong-arm boys, who agreed to not to kick our front door down while the matter was resolved. A further call to BT revealed that the said cash was for a redirect service set up to field calls from the former Vulture Central luxury executive suite in London's Maddox Street. True enough, we had set up such a service in September 2002, but Farm Street? What did it all mean?

Linus then learned that the redirect service had been suspended in July 2004 over non-payment of bills. Protesting that he had not actually seen any bills, Linus was informed that they had been duly sent to the said Farm Street. All well and good, except that Farm Street is the BT exchange at which the redirect was carried out. So, BT had been billing its own exchange and when staff there - perfectly reasonably - declined to settle the account, started with the Tony Soprano-style phonecalls.

In fairness to BT, the telco has agreed to a 50 per cent discount on the outstanding amount given that we could not have been reasonably expected to collect our bills from the nearest exchange. For our part, we concede that we should have realised that the clock was running on this one and acted accordingly - although Linus is adamant he would have cancelled the service had he got a piece of paper indicating that it was still costing him money.

There's a moral in here somewhere - something involving a wise Chinese man with a long beard talking about dragons - but this will come as little comfort to the hacks who witnessed the entire dialogue who are as we speak sobbing quietly into a beer while colleagues console them. ®

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