Being Honest Almost Cost Me Money

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer Travis.  Travis is a customer blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services, and also appears weekly at Enemy of Debt.  Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off $109,000 of credit card debt and the tips he’s learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family.

“Honesty is the best policy.”

I’ve heard this phrase a million times, but apparently my cable company didn’t get the memo.

In preparation to move into our new home several years ago, I called our cable company to inform them of our move date.  They assured me that they would activate the service at our new address one day before they turned it off at our old address to avoid any kind of interruption of service.  The account would simply switch addresses, with the addition of activation fees for the new location.

I thought for a moment to argue the activation fees, but the excitement of moving into our brand new home far outweighed my need to question my cable company’s business practices.

The first bill came, and it was obviously not the same amount that I had been paying.   I just assumed that it had to do with the activation fees, and other things they likely didn’t tell me about regarding the location change of my account. I had too many other things to worry about at the time, so I just paid the bill.

When the second bill arrived, I assumed the amount due would be the normal amount I was used to paying.   To my surprise, it was actually significantly lower.  I examined the bill line by line and discovered that they were not charging me for cable internet. By looking online, I found that they hadn’t charged me for it the previous month either.

I heard that voice in my head repeat the phrase, “Honesty is the best policy!” so I called my cable company and told them what had occurred.   They corrected the mistake in their system, and confirmed that my next bill would include charges for my cable internet service.

Unfortunately, that’s not the end of my story.

When bill number  three came, it was sky high.  My mind raced as I poured through the pages of the bill.  They certainly did charge me for cable internet that month, plus the two previous months.  I hadn’t expected them to do that, but it seemed reasonable since I did indeed use the service. So I wrote out the check and paid the bill, and expected month four to be back on track.


Month four’s bill featured broadband charges for BOTH our old address AND our new address.   It would take three more months to get my bill 100% accurate and to be refunded what they had overcharged me.  We were in our new home for 8 months before we received a correct cable bill.

Looking back at the ordeal, I certainly don’t regret calling to correct the initial mistake.  I couldn’t in good conscious accept having broadband service and not paying for it.  If I could do it all over again, I would have handled it slightly differently:

  • I would examined the first bill and caught the mistake immediately
  • I would have asked questions to ensure I knew what they were going to charge me for after the mistake had been uncovered.
  • I honestly don’t know how I could have avoided the double charge.

I do wish I would have played the “What are you going to do to make this right?” card after they screwed up my bill as a result of me being honest.  My wife certainly would have, but my negotiating skills are not as finely tuned as hers.

How about you readers, have you ever had a situation where being honest ended up seemingly not being worth it?  How did it turn out for you?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /


  1. Cable companies by far have the worst billing practices. They just pray you don’t realize them increasing prices. I have to check my bill in detail every month but I haven’t ever had them underbill me.
    Lance @ Money Life and More recently posted…Are Staycations Really That Cool?My Profile

    • After that I check my bill every month as well – in painstaking detail. Even if the monthly charge is *exactly* the same, I check it all over just to make sure it’s all the same, and that there isn’t any hidden text saying that some new charge is going to show up the next month. I’d hate to see an increase, then call them and be told, “Well, it was mentioned in your last month’s statement….”
      Travis @Debtchronicles recently posted…5 Ways to Shake up Your RoutineMy Profile

  2. Mark Ross says:

    That’s pretty kind of you to tell them that. I think you did the right thing, though, I also thought that they should have offered you some kind of a reward because of what you did.
    Mark Ross recently posted…Things You Should Avoid If You Want To Be RichMy Profile

    • Thanks, Mark – like I said, I kind of assumed after my initial phone conversation that they would just start charging me from that point forward. Although I can understand the back charging, one would definitely think that after they screwed up and overcharged me that they would do something to keep me a happy customer – after all, it’s not like they don’t have competition that I could leave them for!
      Travis @Debtchronicles recently posted…5 Ways to Shake up Your RoutineMy Profile

  3. Was the company AT&T by chance? I ask because I had similar run-ins with that company where they messed with my bill for months on end and at one point they had about $500 in bogus/faulty charges. They did EVENTUALLY get the issue resolved, but not before they had me so frustrated that I dropped their service. Good riddance!

    Sorry you had such issues with whatever company you were using. Sometimes these cable companies just plain suck.
    Denise @ My House, My Rules recently posted…Basement Organization: Workshop Area (Part 1)My Profile

  4. That’s good that you caught it and informed them.

    I once got let go from a company and they kept depositing my paychecks into my account. I kept telling them about it, but it happened for about two months. That actually worked to my advantage because when they finally got around to asking me for the money back, I was able to talk them into letting me keep a portion of it for my ‘troubles’ and the fact that I had documented proof that I’d contacted them on every occasion is what tipped the scales for them to say yes.
    Money Beagle recently posted…What You Need to Secure Your Golden YearsMy Profile

    • You were smart for documenting every discussion, Money Beagle. My wife watches a lot of those courtroom shows (Judge Judy, People’s Court, etc), and when things like this (or especially your situation) happen, it helps to have phone records and notes as to the gist of the conversation just in case the legal system has to get involved. Luckily that didn’t happen for either of us!
      Travis @Debtchronicles recently posted…5 Ways to Shake up Your RoutineMy Profile

  5. If that happened to me I definitely would’ve leverage the fact that I was honest with them. Not everyone is comfortable in that situation though and it sounds like you did the right thing!

    I’ve been in situations before at stores where the cashiers forgot to ring up an item and I’ve gone back to pay for it. Usually it works out just fine but in one instance I was pretty angry and had to stick up for myself. The cashier had forgotten to ring up one item and I had gone back to tell her so. She rung up the item but neglected to give me the 20% off that I would’ve gotten if she had done it right in the first place. She then had to call her manager over to do so, and over the mic told the manager that the customer had added another item after the sale. That’s when I got angry and corrected her and gave her a minor tongue lashing. When the manager came over she admitted it was her fault and not mine.
    Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen recently posted…What’s in Your Wallet?My Profile

    • People will sometimes do whatever it takes to make it look like the other person’s fault, that’s for sure, Christine – good for you for being able to make sure the manager knew what really happened.
      I was fine admitting the undercharge, and I was fine with fighting for fixing the overcharge mistake – there’s was no way I was going to live with a double charge forever. What I wasn’t comfortable with was forcing them to give me something for my trouble, to keep me happy as a customer. My wife is a master of that…I should have handed her the phone at that point. 🙂
      Travis @Debtchronicles recently posted…5 Ways to Shake up Your RoutineMy Profile

  6. I often have the opportunity to lead clients down a path which makes more money for me and less for them
    I have NEVER taken this path.
    Instead I show them what I could do if i was unscrupulous, how it would benefit me and not them.
    Then i explain how they will benefit from taking action in an alternative way.
    People recognise that fact that I could rip them off but don’t.
    The amount of referral work i get is what kept me going through the recession when a lot of my competitors went bump

  7. Cable and cell phone companies are the worst. I had dealing with both. I probably would have done the same thing, but would have been pissed if they continued to bill me incorrectly after I corrected their mistake. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be honest but honesty is the best policy.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted…Survivor’s Standouts-Baked Good EditionMy Profile

    • I’m glad I corrected their mistake, even if it was a huge pain to get everything straightened out – eventually I’m sure they would have figured it out….and judging by the fact they charged me for the two “back months” I would have hated to have gotten that bill if it took them 6 months or a year to discover what was going on. 🙂 thanks for sharing your thoughts, KK!
      Travis @Debtchronicles recently posted…Waiting For An Emergency Will Cost You MoneyMy Profile

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