From studio accounting to telephone billing :)

If you are based in US, or work within the entertainment industry, you probably know what is “studio accounting“.

And this post adds a funny billing system, that is one step ahead in adding creativity in a billing system.

In my consulting activity, I always find boring when systems are not aligned- and I do not mean just information technology.

I mean stupid things like organizations that set up campaigns, and then forget to inform everybody that the campaign is closed, and therefore their branches keep selling something to get a commission… after the campaign is closed 😀

Or leaving around in places that you control posters announcing… something that ended months ago.

A couple of lessons from practical experience, to help you look around, and see if your own organization let loose threads around 🙂

Back to studio accounting…

The system went this way.

Let’s say that you are a scriptwriter.

You sign a contract for a minimum (as a “retainer”), plus a commission on the profits.

Well, look at the results of many famous movies.

Despite grossing hundreds of millions at the box office (plus other channels), the net profit was… a loss.

Why? Because the trick was to use distribution companies, agents, etc that charged so much, that the studio made a loss.

Oh, well, of course, the profit went to the other companies… connected by different ownership methods to the studios.

I had experiences in the past with various telephone operators.

Like: an operator that claimed to charge 1 EUR/MB, and then somehow was able to charge 5000 EUR for 500 MB… in one night.

Moreover, if you read the documentation that I had posted before… all the supporting evidence of their claim that they ever disclosed was a line within a bill with the amount.

And the “watchdogs”? Either silent of “not competent”, thanks to a salami-slicing partition of responsibilities that has no relevance to the way our economy works.

You can more information when you buy a loaf of bread.

Something that, unless in EU we are heading for Weimar-style inflation, despite post-Euro price increases in many countries is still at less than 1/1000th that amount.

Or the other one, charging a fixed amount, but then… adding a “call fee” on GPRS, charging in 15min installments, plus a connection fee for each call… and splitting each call by “cell”; this way, few connections to download emails became in a couple of days over one hundred… hopefully limited only by the use of a “prepaid card”- about 150 EUR drained for something that should have been less than 10% that amount.

Today I discovered another twist.

Tired of the usual funny stories about my e-mail, I dropped the home connection, and got a mobile one.

Supposedly: the USB modem cost, plus 5 EUR/month and 1 EUR/day for up to 1GB/month, plus extra if you exceed.

Technically it works fine- sometimes, it is really fast.

And it is quite flexible: I can now use Internet again (as I did before) wherever I go, also if there is no Wireless coverage, or when I want to send e-mail messages and there are only “unprotected” Wireless available.

As in Brussels seem quite common the XXI century “data” peeping Tom (I catched more than once on open wireless people trying/being able to insert trojans or snooping- boring!)

As you can see above, the concept sounds simple: you pay a “Standing fee” of 5 EUR/mo, plus a minimal fee for each day when you are really using the connection; each month, the data allowance is reset.

And here comes the catch 😀

Let’s say:

  • I received the modem around mid-August
  • few days later, after I wrote that I was thanking them for the modem, but I was still waiting for the SIM card, I received the SIM card
  • their own software states that the card has been reset on 2009-08-14 at 19:33:35

What did I expect?

  • a “pro-rata” allowance, i.e. 50%
  • a bill covering August 14th-August 31st
  • an online phone system (they say to call) giving me the outstanding balance for the invoices and data allowance for the current month
  • an online monitoring system telling me the details of the consumption, and the balance available for September 1st-September 30th

What did I get?

  • an invoice delivered today (2009-09-07) dated 2009-09-03, covering August 10th-August 24th
  • a telephone system that, after sending you around up and down, finally tells you to visit the website to see the status
  • an online system that allows you to see an invoice that has no more detail than a single line for the consumption, and gives you simply that, as of today, you have been used 75.24% of the allowance, and that you have up to the 28th of February 2009 (I am not making this up: look at the picture below!) to consume the balance

I enclose the message that I sent in French (no accents, too boring :D) via the helpdesk system (more hoops and loops before you can sent a message).

What I am asking them?

Simple:

  • why their billing system is not aligned with both their software and all the other letters (plus the advertisement) that I signed
  • what does it mean the 28th February 2009 online
  • last but not least, how can I use their software and online monitoring system to get information that is aligned with the only singer out of tune- the billing system

The upside? I discovered this today. So, I assume that probably until sometime between the 20th and the 30th of September I have about 24% of the budget available.

Of course- unless I had to expend the budget only up to… the 28th of February 2009 😀

The online system:

And the message sent to the support:

Je viens de recevoir ma premiere facture- mais, au lieu d’une facture pour le mois d’Aout, je vois que la facture couvre seulement jusqu’a le 24 Aout.

De cette facon, meme si votre logiciel “mobile partner” donne des renseignments par mois solaire, le budget n’est pas celui de 1GO par mois solaire

puisque j’ai recu la carte mi-Aout, je m’attendais 50% du budget, c’est-a-dire 500MB pour le mois d’Aout.

j’ai vu que la carte a ete “zeroed” le 14/8/2009 19:33:35.

donc, la periode est:
– selon ce que j’attendas depuis votre site ou j’ai passe’ ma commande online, 14/8-31/8
– selon votre facture, 10/8-24/8
– selon votre site online pour le controle de la consommation, je n’ai disponible pour ce mois-ci (Septembre?) au 7 Septembre 2009 10:22, a consommer avant le 28 Fevrier 2009 (! regardez l’image; vous avez reverse le film de Rene’ Clair It Happened Tomorrow), que le 24.26% du budget

sur quelle periode, je ne sais pas…

j’ai essaye’ d’appeler par telephone, mais bien sur votre service n’est pas disponible: apres plusieurs menus vocales, je suis renvoye’ sur le site

selon ce que je vois, la consommation de la partie restante du mois d’Aout a produit une reduction du budget pour ce mois-ci du 40%

je voudrai bien recevoir une confirmation ecrite de votre methode de calcul de la consommation

il est bien drole d’avoir une plage de dates liee a chacun de votre point de contact avec les consommateurs (web, facture, pub)

le seul resultat? que, puisque votre logiciel, et, il semble, votre systeme online de verification de la consommation, raisonne par mois solaire, votre systeme de facturation est le seul que ne suit pas cette methode-la’

bien sur, je vais attendre votre confirmation, et pour le moment je vais ajouter sur mon blog cette semaine le rapport sur votre drole methode de gestion

je pense que cela pourrait bien interesser les differents watchdogs

en attendant votre clarification sur le “misalignment” entre votre logiciel, votre systeme de consommation online, et votre facturation, pour mieux comprendre quelle est votre suggestion pour utiliser votre logiciel au fin de bien assurer que la consommation est dans le budget de la periode de facturation,

salutations distinguees

Roberto Lofaro

PS pas d’accents sur mon clavier

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