I-Team: Maine woman stranded during Hurricane Harvey gets $4,500 cell phone bill
BRUNSWICK (WGME) - A Maine woman affected by Hurricane Harvey is now dealing with a big bill from her cell phone company.
She was traveling internationally when she got stranded with her kids and had to use her cell phone to try to get back home.
Erika Weidner and her kids were supposed to be in Costa Rica for just four days doing research for the non-profit Weidner runs, but then Harvey hit and they got stuck. Their flights back home through Texas were canceled.
The frustration and minutes on the phone all added up.
"I got on the phone immediately while in the airport trying to connect to United," Weidner said.
She has an international calling plan on her phone for emergencies, but all the roaming fees added up.
"Over 8 hours trying to get help and figure out what we were going to do next and how we were going to get home," she said.
When they finally got home five days later, Weidner got a bill from U.S. Cellular for more than $4,500.
"I thought it was a joke. I didn't know a cell phone bill could get that high," she said.
At first she laughed and then she cried.
"I don't understand how they could possibly do that to someone. I've been a customer for 20 years," she said.
When she called to question the bill, U.S. Cellular offered to reduce the bill by $500.
"When they told me they could adjust $500 it's like I was kicked in the teeth. That was even more of a joke," she said.
That's when the CBS 13 I-Team stepped in.
"Our Customer Care Team worked directly with the customer to significantly reduce her bill," said Matt Kasper, director of sales for U.S. Cellular in New England.
Weidner got an email offering to reduce the bill, as a "valued member" down to about $1,000.
"It's still a very big bill. I'll have to work out a payment plan," Weidner said.
In the statement sent to CBS 13, U.S. Cellular said it encourages customers who are planning to travel internationally to contact their carrier for usage and plan options while they're abroad.
In this case, the customer did that and got a basic international plan in case of an emergency.
She said she didn't anticipate a hurricane would severely impact their trip and ability to get back home.