ALABAMA - BellSouth Mistakes Are Open Phone Book : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Title: BellSouth mistakes are open phone book


PATRICK HICKERSON News staff writer

Earlean Smith listens to BellSouth customers from all over the Southeast every day. Some folks want their pagers activated. Others have pressing questions about their bills.

Too bad Mrs. Smith works for the North Central Alabama Sickle Cell Foundation in Ensley.

March, new phone book month for many Birmingham area communities, was a rough one for BellSouth. A series of public goofs afflicted the company: running incorrect help numbers in bold, quarter-inch high type, entirely omitting thousands of listings for a fast growing city, and putting a furniture company's display advertisement in the massage parlor category.

Mrs. Smith said the Sickle Cell Foundation's phone problems date back years. Since the foun dation moved to its Avenue I offices in the early 1990s, the staff has answered calls from people looking for BellSouth.

Mrs. Smith believes Bell South operators have been switching customers needing assistance to the Sickle Cell Foundation's line. Now this year, BellSouth actually printed the foundation's number as a help line.

"It's all day long every day," Mrs. Smith said. "Our people can't get through because we're answering BellSouth calls," she said.

Mrs. Smith said the foundation receives a minimum of 10 calls every day - more at the beginning and end of month because of billings queries. "Probably got as many as 30 calls the first of the month," she said.

The phone company has acknowledged the errors but is mystified by their cause.

"We understand they're having a problem, and it's been going on for quite a while," said BellSouth Advertising & Publishing Corp. spokeswoman Lynn Bress. "We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience."

The Sickle Cell Foundation's phone woes are just one BellSouth blunder.

The White Pages omitted 5,000 Trussville listings. To correct the error, BellSouth began distributing a 24-page supplement to its 475,000 Birmingham-area customers Friday.

WinsLoew Furniture in Hoover sued BellSouth in Jefferson County Circuit Court after the version of the Yellow Pages in over-the-mountain cities such as Hoover and Vestavia Hills listed its advertisement under "massages."

That same Yellow Pages contains a page 2 display ad - under the bold heading "We Want Your Business!!!" - listing three help numbers.

The first, for residences, lists the Sickle Cell Foundation's phone number. The second, for businesses, actually is an entertainment business.

The third number belongs to Alma P. Bell of Rising-West Princeton, who has received BellSouth customer calls for three to four years. The calls tailed off before resuming last month.

"Since the new directories were out," she said. "It has started."

BellSouth has offered to change her number, and she's considering taking up the offer.

Ms. Bress said the phone company is investigating the reason for the error-plagued month. BellSouth is tackling all the wrong numbers, checking phone routing procedures and examining phone books for errors, she said. And BellSouth detailed a live operator to answer the foundation's phone line to assess whether calls are for BellSouth or the agency.

By Friday afternoon, Mrs. Smith had answered yet more BellSouth calls - but these were from technicians attempting to fix the problem.

"Oh, they've been working feverishly," Mrs. Smith said.


-- (, April 01, 2000

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