C&P still looking for cause of phone outage Businesses suffer losses in disruption

June 28, 1991|By John Rivera

The massive telephone disruption Wednesday caused more than mere inconvenience and aggravation to some Marylanders.

The day after the disruption, residents and business owners were relieved to have their phone service back, but many were angry at the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. One man, who is president of a telephone answering service, said he wants the phone company to reimburse him for business that he lost.

"We were devastated," said Clarence Taylor, president of TASCO Telemessaging Services Inc. of Baltimore. "I quite frankly intend to forward a bill for our losses at our five offices.

"You can imagine the difficulty it caused our customers, especially when they rely on us for their business," he said.

Mr. Taylor's company, which provides paging, voice mail and answering services, charges customers a basic monthly fee for a set number of calls. But any calls above the base are individually billed to the customer, he said, and because the month has almost ended, many customers would be paying these charges.

And on top of this lost revenue, his operators were sitting doing nothing most of the day.

"Of course, we couldn't let them go," he said, "because we didn't know how long we would be down. Two hours? Three hours? Three days?"

Cab companies lost business too.

"A number of our customers who rely on us for service every day couldn't get through," said Mark L. Joseph, president of Yellow Transportation Inc., which operates taxis, buses, vans and limousines. He estimated telephone orders for cabs dropped off about 50 percent.

Courier and delivery service came to a grinding halt, as well.

"A lot of our couriers work on beepers, so we couldn't beep them for their next pickup," said Bettie Mundorf, operations manager for the Courier Group in Columbia. The company does a lot of business with real estate companies, and one result of the delays was that several house closings were delayed because the couriers couldn't be dispatched to banks to pick up settlement checks.

That meant couriers had an extra heavy load yesterday. "We had a busy morning because of not doing things yesterday," Ms. Mundorf said.

It was also a busy day at the Computer's Edge/Logical Device Repair store in Timonium. "From the first thing this morning, it was non-stop," said company President Lynne Singer. All morning, she said, she had been talking to unhappy, angry people, who were probably much angrier the previous day.

"I have a lot of customers under maintenance contracts, and I'm sure if they were down, they were screaming," she said.

Wednesday, nine customers who were having computer problems gave up on the phones and carried them into the store. "Because if you can't get through, you just come in. And we had a lot of people come in," Ms. Singer said.

A spokesman for the statewide emergency management system was at a loss yesterday to explain why so many Maryland residents called 911 during the phone disruption. Many apparently called just to see if the system was still working. Some of these callers would simply hang up when the dispatcher answered, which forced the dispatcher to call the person back to see whether anyone needed help.

Robert Gould, a Maryland Emergency Management Agency spokesman, said that many of these calls came from people who consider 911 their lifeline and panicked at the prospect of having it cut off. The calls poured in despite radio and television broadcasts asking people not to do this.

"Human nature being what it is, it's like telling Joey, 'Don't touch the stove.' Joey is going to touch the stove to see if it's hot," Mr. Gould said.

"You listen to the radio, and you hear it, but people say, 'I want to find out for myself.' "

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