Editor’s note: This column appears regularly in The Chronicle, roughly around the third Wednesday of the month.
This installment of the column is published in two parts. Mostly that’s because Nelson wrote too many words this month. Part 1 of the column documented Nelson’s experience with AT&T customer service, as he attempted to get an unjustified service call charge removed. Nelson was ultimately successful in getting the charge removed.
Left unpaid, Nelson would have faced the standard legal methods available to businesses to recover payment from non-paying customers, including being turned over to a collection agency.
I hate to be accused of mincing words, so I’m gonna put aside my usual genteel beat-around-the-bushiness and just say it: What AT&T is doing is straight up extortion.
A person  with whom I have a very shallow business relationship sends me a letter demanding money, either in the form of cash, or in a greater sum of my time. If I don’t pay up, he is going to pass my name to his “collection agency,” who will then hound me until I give them the money they want, and do me lingering economic harm even after they get the cash.