Disputing Bills: Do You or Don’t You?

Monday, August 6th, 2012 by from Thrifty Mom's Two Cents

woman with a grocery list

Two similar situations happened in my family over the past few days.

The first: we had to call a handyman to repair something in our home. The handyman quoted a service fee. He showed up and found the problem; then he left to order the part. At the time of the second visit, a second part was replaced; and a few days later, we received a whopper of a bill, which was twice as much as what we’d expected to pay.

The second: a family member had to go into the hospital. She should have been in as in-patient, but she was written up as being in for outpatient services – despite the fact that she was admitted to the hospital for a three-day stay. She received a bill stating she was outpatient and, because of this, owed for her medication: a whopping $800!

While she is still dealing with people to fix this bill, getting the run around from most departments, I, luckily, have resolved my issue. Apparently the quoted service fee was a per-hour charge and not a one-time fee, which wasn’t explained when I called. (As a note: Always ask this question! We’ve only had repair people who charged a flat fee for service calls, not an hourly rate; I had no idea this was something I should ask.) When I questioned this, the company deducted the extra hourly service charge and charged us only for the flat fee I was quoted on the phone when I made the appointment.

The other issue: the second part we needed cost about four times what it would in a home improvement store. After researching this, I was able to explain to the company we wanted their part removed so we could purchase our own at the store. They came out and got the part, deducting the cost from our bill, and my husband picked up another similar part at the store for quite a bit less.

In the end, we paid half of what the first bill stated, which is what we had expected to pay in the first place.

Companies make mistakes on bills. I’ve had this happen in my business, and while I hate having to call people to straighten out bills, I always do. Prior to calling I list:

  • “Times New Roman””>what it is I feel is wrong with the statement,
  • “Times New Roman””>what steps I’d taken prior to calling to fix the situation, if applicable, and
  • “Times New Roman””>what I feel I’d like to see done to rectify the problem.

I do so politely and respectfully, because I know the person on the other end probably wants to do his or her best to fix the problem. I assume if I’m acting cordially to them, they will do the same in return.  

I know others who are afraid to make these types of calls and prefer to pay the extra fees rather than confront the company. But why should you overpay when there is a problem on your bill? Or when you are overcharged for something that you know you can buy for less somewhere else?

How do you handle it when you get a bill that is much higher than you anticipated, or when you find out a company has asked you to pay more for an item than you would have paid elsewhere? Do you call and talk to someone at the company, or do you let it slide and pay the fee?

What do you think? Disputing Bills: Do You or Don’t You?

Kathy MurdockAuthor

Kathy Murdock works as a full time writer and web designer. Recently planted in the middle of the deep south from the busy streets of Los Angeles, when she's not coding Wordpress websites or writing about women in business and thrifty motherhood, Kathy spends time photographing alligators, playing with her family, and running. ... More

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3 comments

  1. Avatar of Mom2two12 Mom2two12 says:

    Well my husband and I have an emergency fund for occasions like that! It doesn’t hurt our everyday account and we never touch it unless something like that happens. I have called a number of times when I think the bills is a mistake and the majority of the time they do make a mistake.

  2. Avatar of nydia rivera nydia rivera says:

    I call and straiten it out! When I saw a $34 charge from a clothing store that I had shopped 3 weeks previously, I called my CC company and that place, letting them know that they were committing fraud!

  3. Avatar of ErinF ErinF says:

    Good to know about clarifying whether a quote is for a flate fee or hourly rate. We have some repairs that need to be done before the baby arrives, so this will be valuable information.

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