French phonebooth disaster
January 5, 2008 10:09 AM   Subscribe

We called the USA from a France Télécom phonebooth. Following the instructions on the poster, we dialled *808 and gave our Visa card number. Turns out they charged more than $100 for a call lasting about 10 minutes. Is there anything we can do to contest this?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 to Work & Money (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm aware we fully deserve to get scammed for not checking the rate. I just want to be pragmatic.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:10 AM on January 5, 2008

Sometimes those posters are surreptitiously placed by third parties trying to trick people into using their over-priced "service." Was this actually France Telecom you ended up using or does it look like a scammer?
posted by the christopher hundreds at 10:17 AM on January 5, 2008

Call your credit card company and tell them that you never made the call. A bit unethical but considering its a foreign phone charge they'll probably just issue you a chargeback.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:18 AM on January 5, 2008

It was on the official France Télécom thing. I guess that's the only reason they still maintain phonebooths, lol.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:20 AM on January 5, 2008

Googling confirms that *808 is a standard France Télécom service.

You can contest the charges pretty easily if you think there was fraud involved, but it sounds like you just used the service without knowing the rates.

Like damn dirty ape said, the credit card company will probably believe you if you lie. They want to keep you happy as a customer so they probably won't make you do much to prove your story. Doing this is unethical though, so whether or not you decide on doing it is up to you and your personal moral standards.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:27 AM on January 5, 2008

I wouldn't lie--you presumably had other charges on your credit card while in France. It's going to look awfully suspicious if you deny having made that phone call.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't dispute the charge--you clearly should. I'm just saying that trying to argue that you never made the phone call is not only pretty unethical, but it seems like it might not be that believable.
posted by fogster at 10:31 AM on January 5, 2008

Especially if you called your home phone number and your bank just happens to have that in your customer record.
posted by IronLizard at 10:46 AM on January 5, 2008

It was to someone else.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:47 AM on January 5, 2008

If we happened to have multiple cards with the same account number, there might hypothetically be some room for confusion and plausible deniability there (if I was a dishonest person which I am not). No?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:52 AM on January 5, 2008

I'm assuming the card was issued in the U.S.?

Don't lie about it. Tell the card issuer that the rates were not disclosed in advance and are unconscionably in excess of the fair market value for a 10-minute call, and that it is unreasonable to expect you to pay the full amount. It probably won't work, but it's worth a try.
posted by grouse at 11:00 AM on January 5, 2008

It's a US card.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:03 AM on January 5, 2008

after blithely revealing your visa number in a strange phonebooth in a foreign country to whatever was on the other end, you should count yourself lucky it didn't get maxed out, and no, don't lie about making the call, that's an incredibly dumb suggestion.
posted by bruce at 11:23 AM on January 5, 2008

Part of the reason the bill seems outrageous is the fact that the charge has been converted back to US currency, and the dollar isn't worth squat right now.
posted by 45moore45 at 11:33 AM on January 5, 2008

€68 is still outrageous for 10 minutes.

Using coins at a BT payphone, you could make a 10-minute call to the U.S for £20 = $40.
posted by grouse at 11:42 AM on January 5, 2008

Come now, bruce, France is a normal, developed country with laws & such. I would expect this in some banana republic, not Europe. I guess this is payback for the "Freedom Fries" nonsense.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 11:45 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

You beat me to it Teatime G.
posted by Dr.Pill at 12:08 PM on January 5, 2008

Suck it up and pay it.

You used a payphone to make a phonecall to a foreign country, using a credit card. This is pretty much the most expensive way to make such a call. It would have been much cheaper to buy a phonecard, which are for sale in every tabac in the land.

It's annoying that it cost so much, but you have used a service and must now pay for it. Fundamentally, it is your own fault that you didn't know the cost in advance.

To contest it now, just because you have decided you don't want to pay, would be unethical.
posted by tonylord at 12:33 PM on January 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

We told the card company the truth, and they put the charge in dispute and gave us a US phone number for the people that charged us. Those people say there was a $15 connection fee and a per-minute fee of around $8. The card company will send us a dispute form but I doubt it will achieve anything.

Learn ye from our folly.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:33 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I had a heart attack when a friend of mine told me she'd paid over a hundred for the pleasant little call we had for around 15 minutes or so (calling Egypt from the States, not using a credit card and not on a payphone). We got calling cards after that.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:51 PM on January 5, 2008

Hope you get thing set right, else you should have just got a "pre-payed" phone card from any "Tabac/Journaux" shop out there.
posted by zouhair at 9:52 PM on January 5, 2008

The exact same thing happened to me a few years ago. I called my GF from a payphone at a train station in France, did the most convenient thing. Charged it to my credit card. Over $100. The only difference from what happened to the OP is that I checked the rate - after I made the call. Felt pretty foolish. And believe me, that $100 hurt.

I say take the $100 lesson. Could have been much, much worse, and now you know.
posted by miles1972 at 11:23 AM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Perhaps consider threatening to cancel unless they reduce their charge? If you're a good customer, this might work...
posted by Malad at 12:07 PM on January 7, 2008

For future reference, if you need to make a phone call to the USA in France, go to a Tabac and buy a French Telecom Télécarte (50 or 120 units). I don't know the exact price, but it's much cheaper (I'd estimate about 50 euro cents/minute).
posted by helios at 5:38 PM on January 13, 2008

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