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The $15,000,000,000,000,000 phone bill

October 12, 2012|By David Lazarus
  • A woman in France received a phone bill for almost $15 quadrillion, or about 6,000 times her country's annual economic output.
A woman in France received a phone bill for almost $15 quadrillion, or about… (Shutterstock )

It's not exactly a news flash that phone companies frequently screw up people's bills. Sky-high charges in the thousands of dollars have become routine.

But imagine how Solenne San Jose felt when she received a bill recently for nearly $15 quadrillion.

Yep. Quadrillion.

As in about $15,000,000,000,000,000.

"There were so many zeros I couldn't even work out how much it was," San Jose told the Herald Sun newspaper.

She lives in the Bordeaux region of southwestern France, typically known for great wine, pastoral vistas and now completely loony phone bills.

To give some idea how big $15 quadrillion is, San Jose would have to pay nearly 6,000 times her country's entire annual economic output if she actually wrote a check for the amount (although there's a pretty good chance the check would bounce).

San Jose's anxiety level wasn't helped when service reps for her phone company, Bouygues Telecom, said they were powerless to stop the mind-boggling sum from being withdrawn from her bank account.

I'd have loved to see the bankers' faces when that transaction came down the pike.

Finally, though, the company conceded that, possibly, they'd made a mistake. San Jose's actual bill, they conceded, was closer to $150.

Bouygues Telecom blamed the mix-up on "a printing error."

I see it as the greatest stab at telecom chutzpah ever.

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