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Disconnected number mistake causes dental dilemma

9:08 PM, May 20, 2013   |    comments
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In today's digital age your telephone number truly becomes part of your identity.  That is why carriers now allow you to keep your number when you switch from one phone company to another.

But what happens when the phone company incorrectly takes your number away?  A Knoxville doctor recently found out correcting the issue is more difficult than pulling teeth.

"Last week our main office number just stopped working," said Dr. Jason Kirkpatrick, a dentist based in the Bearden area of Knoxville. "We use Comcast for our telephone service.  We called and they said our number had been 'ported' out to another carrier.  I don't know telephone terminology, but it basically meant my number had been transferred to another phone company."

In Kirkpatrick's case, the number was transferred to AT&T.  Kirkpatrick tried to contact AT&T, but said the company's customer service would not help him because his is not listed as one of their customers.  When he contacted Comcast he was told AT&T had the proper paperwork to transfer his telephone number.

"I tried to explain to them I did not authorize a transfer, but was told they had the correct paperwork. Since the 13th, I don't have a main office number.  We have our secondary line and have tried to contact our existing clients, but new clients who just moved here or were referred to us by insurance have no way to reach us."

Kirkpatrick's main office number is listed on business cards, letterhead, and prescription pads.  Patient Tom McCarley said he has called the main number at the dental office since 1973, but received no connection during a dental emergency last week.

"I had a crown come out last Wednesday afternoon. And today's Monday and my mouth hurts," said McCarley.  "You call information and it says the line has been canceled, but there's no known line. So I've tried everything to try to get an appointment.  I finally came by the office in-person and they're going to try to fit me in.  I feel bad for them because I'm sure there are a whole lot of people that have tried to figure out how to get appointments or to figure out if these people are still in business."

While patients have been unable to reach the office, Kirkpatrick spent most of the week unable to reach someone who could help resolve the situation.

"Nobody wanted to talk to me.  A couple of people hung up the phone. Other people transferred me to somebody else, who said I'll transfer you to somebody else, and transfer you to somebody else. Really, both companies did that and the situation began to feel hopeless," said Kirkpatrick.  "You have a main line that you use to serve the community and it is taken away.  And when you lose that somebody has taken your identity. And that is a terrible, terrible feeling."

Kirkpatrick said representatives higher up the chain of command from AT&T reached him Monday afternoon.  He was informed a typographical error caused his number to be accidentally transferred.

"They were really wanting a number that begins 558 and my number is 588," said Kirkpatrick.  "I've been told they are going to work with Comcast to fix the problem."

In the meantime, Kirkpatrick remains on hold without a main office line.

"It should not take this much effort and the media getting involved for these companies to respond to a business and customer.  The main thing I'll take away from this situation is to sign with companies that have the best customer service, and right now I cannot really say that is Comcast or AT&T."

Until the main line is restored, Kirkpatrick's clients may reach him via a secondary unlisted office line at 865-588-5740.

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