Monday, August 29, 2011

Sending an Old Fashioned Telegram in Modern Times

[update] ATTENTION: is an extremely shady company.  Not only were they awful to work with (not returning calls, charging fees that were not published, charging per character to include the delivery address in the telegram message body without disclosing this charge up front, etc.), but I just received my credit card bill and found they charged the transaction as CASH, so I was charged additional “cash transaction” charges by my credit card company.  I can’t believe American Telegram can stay in business.  They are shady.  Their customer service is abysmal.  DO NOT USE AMERICANTELEGRAM.COM.

[update] I finally received some response from the company, by way of a “teen texting” style barrage of e-mails with absolutely no tact or sense of how to address customers in which they attempted to defend their actions.  For instance:

“If you could, please attach the screenshot to those you let know about your issues. [sic]   We have not changed our website in several years, meaning this information was presented to you when you checked out.   I am sorry you did not read it, but it was there, sir.”

Hilarious. p.s. The information to which this person is referring states clearly that the words in the destination address are included, not extra.  I assume this company’s “customer service” consists of a couple of people with absolutely no training except what they learned by arguing and pulling hair in grade school.

My dad is retiring, and we thought it would be clever to send him an old fashioned telegram on his last day at work.

Western Union used to be THE entity for telegram communication in the U.S., but they sent their last transmission on Friday, January 27, 2006.  Here’s a little history on Western Union’s telegram heyday.

So I began researching companies that still offered the service.  American Telegram seemed to be the most legitimate company still sending telegrams.   Following is my experience placing an order for a telegram:

First of all, I would highly recommend NOT using American Telegram.

American Telegram is pretty much a suck-fest.  I had a question about the telegram I wanted to send.  Their website site has a bunch of “call our operators!” banners everywhere, but no real answers to any of your practical questions (Do I pay for punctuation?  Do you use “stop” instead of a period, like a telegram should? etc.).  So I called, but got a message stating all operators were busy, and that I should leave my name and number and they would get back to me.  I did that, and after an hour of waiting with no response called again, as I needed to be sure my transmission was entered that day, for next day delivery.  I left my name and number again, but still received no response after another hour of waiting.

I probably should have taken this as a sign and abandoned American Telegram.  Instead, I decided to go ahead with the web form for sending a telegram.  The page clearly shows the next day service is $22.95 plus $.79 a word, and even if I was paying for the word “stop” (used at the end of a sentence), it should still have only been an extra $3.16 (four “stops”).  I typed in my 25 words (plus four “stops”), filled out the sender and recipient information, and entered my credit card number.  When I clicked “Process Telegram” I was taken to a sort of receipt page that stated my charge was for $22.95, plus 45 WORDS, plus tax (no mention of tax on the preceding page).  The bottom of the receipt showed:

Order Total:
Thank You! Your order will be processed very soon! Need to make a change to this order? We're happy to serve you. You may contact, or you may Call us at 1-800-835-3967 during normal business hours (PST timezone).

I immediately called the number on the receipt, received the same message I had previously heard, left my name and number AGAIN, and have since done that several more times… still with absolutely no response from American Telegram.

So… no confirmation page before taking your money.  No word counter on the form where you type your message.  No information on how punctuation and word count actually works.  No returned phone calls.  Mostly just a giant, suck-fest.

I paid $62.74 so you can learn from my mistake: DON’T USE AMERICAN TELEGRAM.

By the way, according to their phone message American Telegram evidently also runs Candygram, but their website makes NO mention of this service.  They DO, however, list a singing telegram service, but then inform you that it will be delivered by phone –so who cares?!  Anybody can call someone and sing to them.


Other telegram companies:

iTelegram (The International Telegram Service)

Telegram Stop

To be clear, Telegram Stop is more of a novelty service that is in no way legally binding or otherwise associated with most of the reasons one would send a telegram.  For $5.95 they will print and mail your message.  You also get a digital copy e-mailed to you.  There is no expedited delivery, and most messages will be delivered in 4 to 8 days.  You can’t deliver to any sort of live event, and you must give a street or P.O. Box for delivery.  Thus, the only real difference between Telegram Stop and sending a letter, is that you can choose their “styles” to print the message on.  In other words, Telegram Stop is pretty much a scam, charging you $5.95 to send a $.44 letter.


NewTraSweet said...

WOW. How can they charge tax without explaining that? Tax for what state? At what rate? Do they put the said "tax" into their pocket? Do they also tax out of state sales (illegal)??? Why haven't you filed a Better Business Bureau alert against these scammers?

Anonymous said...

Are you a mentally ill loser who cannot read? It's obvious from their website that you are charged for the address. You must be a complete moron to have missed that obvious point. Then you go blaming the company for your own mistake? What a moron!

The Invisible said...

"Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you a mentally ill loser who cannot read? It's obvious from their website that you are charged for the address. You must be a complete moron to have missed that obvious point. Then you go blaming the company for your own mistake? What a moron!"

Brilliant! I love how perfectly this comment illustrates my point regarding this company's behavior. Who else but someone involved with the company would leave such an impassioned comment on this issue? These people behave like third graders! (this is the *exact* same type of response I received via e-mail regarding my complaints) And I assure you, the language, at least at the time I used the service, was definitely not clear. Not only that, but as mentioned, my credit card was charged without any verification whatsoever of the costs I had incurred (what I would be charged for the text selected). Not only is this bad business practice, but it is right on the verge of illegal (charging someone's card without first letting them know the exact -or even approximate!- amount you'll be charging them for a service).

Anonymous said...

I found this article by searching "AMERICAN TELEGRAM FRAUD" since like you I was charged a cash advance fee of $10.00 on top of the telegram charge. When I called the bank to dispute this, I was told it is a cash-like transaction and the way that the company is set up the charges can not be disputed. Even though the telegram was not delivered. Even though $10.00 rip-off charge for a "cash advance" when the only cash that was advanced was from my credit card straight into their bank account. So there's no way to fight them, once they have your money you can't dispute the charges. That is how they remain in business. Disgusting.

The Invisible said...

Not only that, but they'll tell you this practice is fully disclosed (that for some BIZARRE reason they charge your transaction as a CASH ADVANCE instead of a PURCHASE) so you are charged a fee and often a MUCH higher (cash advance) APR on the purchase. Not to mention the rest of their shady charges in regard to every letter of the address to which you are sending, etc.!!! Have you tried complaining yet? Did they treat you like third grade bullies yanking on your pony tails and calling your mother names? I can't believe these people can remain in business.

The Invisible said...

oops... forgot to finish my thought in that first sentence... they tell you that this practice is fully disclosed when the information is ONLY disclosed in a document that you cannot access without them SENDING you a link (which they will do only AFTER you complain)!!!

Anonymous said...

I was hesitant to use the service after reading this blog but I felt it was the only legit company in the US (and i needed to cancel a contract ASAP). I can't say I had the same experience as you, and I think others should know just to be fair to the company. The customer service person I dealt with was very professional answering all of my questions, and they handled my contract cancellation without any issue (they even sent me PDF copies of the entire process as soon as I placed the telegram within a couple minutes). I cancelled a > $10k contract with this service and it really saved my butt otherwise I would've been shit out of luck. I honestly had no issues at all.

I specifically checked about the extra charge you're talking about, and it didn't happen to me. When I talked to them I asked them about this blog and they explained that charge only happens with a few banks because they are required by law to process the telegram a certain way which some banks think is money transfer or something (but the guy told me the bank would reverse the charge if it happens because it's the banks charge).

It sounds like you disagreed on some word charges, but I too read it the way they explained it and wasn't all that confused to be honest, but maybe they could make the language better? I can sortof see your point, but to me personally it wasn't all that confusing.

Anyhow, I appreciate your blog for the heads up because it made me follow up cafeully, but I have to report they did a satisfactory job exactly what I needed.

I'm all for calling out bad companies but this one really did do a good job and saved my butt.

The Invisible said...

Glad to hear you had a different experience (though I kind of suspect you are actually someone from this company). However, the true measure of a company is not only how they behave when making the sale, but also how they behave when any problems arise AFTER the sale. These guys were unbelievably juvenile, to the point that I couldn't believe they actually run a company. If after reading my post and reading the comments (including the one that is SUSPICIOUSLY passionate to be from a stranger) and you still want to use their services... have at it. I have posted only my experience, how the company behaved and responded to my complaint regarding their shady business practices, and the facts regarding their disclosures (including disclosures that you are not privy to until they send you a private link via e-mail -it's not accessible via their web site; you must have a direct link to the document). What company on EARTH keeps their policies inaccessible to their clientele until AFTER there is a problem?

Anonymous said...

Hi - I read the blog as I did a google search looking for a Telegram company. So I was a bit leery about using American Telegram but they did a great job for me, helped me improve the content of the message and explained how the whole process works.

Sorry your experience was not a good one - I suppose that may happen now and again since no business can be run perfectly.

I needed a contract canceled quickly and it all worked out for me. It was helpful though to call and talk to them because the additional information they provided was very helpful and better than just reading info off their web. Anyway, for me, things worked out pretty well.

The Invisible said...

So weird how many Anonymous people are suddenly posting about the great experience they've had with this company! [eye roll]

Anonymous said...

Total ripoff. This place sucks

Anonymous said...

We were happy with the service.

Our church sent a telegram for sympathy to a funeral home. The family let us know they received it at the funeral and were very thankful.

We called american telegram to do another one for another church member family who lost someone and they asked us to write a positive review since we were happy with the previous telegram.

They did a good job on the 3 we've sent so far. We'll keep using them. If they drop the ball I'll report back.

Anonymous said...

These American Telegram Jerks Ripped me off for 105$ for a SAME day delivery telegram to be hand delivered... oh i heard the same bull about how they havn't updated the site in years that's why it never allowed me to confirm the charge before they charged my card... We outta sue this prick he obviously has done this plenty of times...the site charged me the 105 before letting me know it was going to be that outrageous.. But then they had the nerve to call the recipient and tell them they could not deliver it that day even though I had ordered at around 5am and it would be delivered by post tomorrow! I called to promptly cancel as it says on the site they will cancel an order and since they admitted they couldn't deliver it as it was paid for youd think for sure no problem... Well this jerk told me no he couldn't refund me that he would email my telegram and have a hard copy delivered tomorrow.. I paid 105.15 for a 3 short sentence telegram that wast even delivered as it was supposed to be... They stole my money and sent a freaking email I could have done myself for 105$. I am pissed to say the least.. The jerk on the phones there makes up excuse after excuse.... BULLSHIT COMPANY Filling a dispute today although he swears he will win the dispute.. The jackass didn't do what I paid for and charged me in a very shady manner!

The Invisible said...

So, to reiterate: you paid $105 for them to send a same-day *E-MAIL* (wow, what a fantastic service!) and then send something by USPS to arrive the next day. Sounds about right. In *NO WAY* is this a telegram. It's an e-mail and a letter for more than $100. It would be hilarious if it weren't so damn despicable.

Anonymous said...

I went with the other company on the net itelegram and they fucked up just as bad.

The itelegram site led me to believe my telegram would be delivered on a certain day, but i found out after the fact delivery is "usually", and their bullshit "guarantee" is only based on "reasonable delivery times". it's all in the fine print.

When i found out it wouldn't be delivered by midnight like I needed, I cancelled it with my credit card and did it through american telegram instead and they got it there the same day with a local courier and emailed me a PDF of the signature of delivery.

So, avoid itelegram too. In my case americantelegram at least got the job done (had to cancel a contract by midnight).

who knows how any fucking telegram business stays open in 2015 anyway.

iTelegram said...

Hi "Anonymous",

We (iTelegram) are happy to respond to your post and clarify this.

Our guarantee is same business day on every contract cancellation telegram. Period. If we did not meet that delivery time we absolutely would have issued you a refund.

However, having checked our order and delivery logs we can tell you that the story you've told here is a fabrication. We have not missed a contract cancellation deadline in over three years (and that was a weather issue which we still refunded, and we also provided the company with a statement that the contract cancellation was filed within the cancellation period - short story: the client still got the contract cancelled).

Since your post berates our company and then praises American Telegram, whose service is slower and more expensive than ours, we can only conclude that you are a shill for American Telegram.

May we recommend you direct your efforts at improving your own service instead of attacking the competition?

As for how "any...telegram business stays open in 2015" you've essentially answered that question yourself: we earn our customers' business by doing it right and taking the high road, and knowing that scammers will always get called out - and in the end go out out of business.

You've just proved how very low and unscrupulous American Telegram is (as if any more proof was needed).

Anonymous said...

i did a telegram with american telegram today. it went fine got delivered already.

i told the operator Robert that i read these reviews ahead of time and he explained to me the charges are per word, not per letter like this blog says.

they did exactly what they said theyd do for the price they advertise on their website.

i doubt ill ever need to send a telegram again but they did fine in my case.

Jason W. said...

Another satisfied customer.

Did a contract cancelation with them. When they gave me the report it was delivered they asked if I was satisfied with the service. When I said yes they asked if I would say so here.

I was satisfied with the service. I called a operator pretty late at night and they got it delivered first thing in the morning. They e-mailed me a adobe document first thing with the signature. Not sure why everyone else had such a problem they were fine. Maybe they changed ownership or something.

Anonymous said...

"American Telegram is pretty much a suck-fest" LOL thanks I needed that!

Wilson said...

I did a contract cancellation and it worked fine. I paid for a next day delivery and they did it as a same day instead to the company and had a signature in my email within 5 hours. Not sure what they could've done better in my case. Person I talked to on the phone was nice and answered my questions without any pressure. The pricing was pretty easy to understand.

Anonymous said...

American Telegram posts its own fake reviews here and elsewhere. Here are some REAL ACTUAL reviews from people who have been ripped off by American Telegram for almost 30 years:




LA Times Newspaper:

Sun-Sentinel Newspaper:,6840747&hl=en

Caveat emptor.

Unknown said...

I understand if somebody has a nostalgic feeling toward telegram.
Telegram is classy and timeless.
It has attributes that neither email nor SMS can comepete.
It is,however, becoming very highly impractical to send a telegram since other means of sending message become so much cheaper and easier and much much faster.
The guy was right to send his father a telegram on his father's last day of work.
The gesture is thoughtful and sweet, not to mention it is (very very) classy.
However he should be more careful next time to see how the telegraph company will charge him.
But if I were him, I would not be too upset with the whole experience.
The most important thing is his father got this beautiful telegram.
The extra money that he believed he was overcharged occurred once and only once.
I would not be too upset about it, if I were him

John said...

What a complete and total joke of a "service" these scam artists are!!!!

I paid over 100 dollars for a "hand delivered" telegram. Know what that is? They print it on a poorly designed yellow sheet of office paper that says telegram at the top and fedex it for you!!! INCREDIBLE! 100 dollars to print out a piece of paper and put it in a fedex envelope! How is that a business!!! Its not even a nice paper stock. Fedex dropped it at the door under the mat and my recipient didnt notice it for days. Hand delivered telegram service my a**!!!

Called customer service and talked to a lady who seems to be the only employee all of the times i called, .. she can barely speak intelligent english!!! then hangs up on you for asking questions she doesnt like and loses her temper. Is this ran out of a garage with free workers they pay with 1 meal a day? lol!


Anonymous said...

Agreed with previous comment.

I sent a telegram to my son's opening night and all they did was send a fax to the box office. What? I could have done that myself. My son did recieve it but not for days after his opening night and it was on fax paper and hard to read.

For this privilege I paid over $100. I was hoping a actual telegram messenger would deliver the telegram back stage like the old days. All they did was fax it over.

If you need to send to a theater don't waste your money. I don't see how this is considered a service. A service in seperating you from your money maybe lol!

Anonymous said...

If American Telegram Company really steal so much money from people it will catch up to them one day.

William said...

This company is a special kind of scum. My grandmother passed away and I could not attend the funeral so I thought I would send a telegram to the family. I paid over $150 thinking an actual telegram messenger would arrive with a professional looking telegram and my family would know I was thinking of them.

You know what these assholes did? THEY FAXED A LAME LOOKING COPY to the funeral home! My cousin took a picture and sent it to me. ALL THEY DID WAS SEND OVER A FAX that printed out on crappy fax paper and asked the funeral home to leave it with the family.


This service is an ABSOLUTE SCAM.

Richard said...

Internet be warned! Please do not use this company!

First their site was confusing so I called the 800 number and heard a dog barking in the background so they must be running it out of their house. The person I talked to stuttered over her words a lot and got short with me when I didn't understand.

I placed my order online and found out AFTER THE FACT that my card had already been charged before I even saw my total. WHO DOES THAT! I could not believe how much they charged either. Almost $200 for a telegram (which NEVER ARRIVED BY THE WAY!)

I tried calling customer service over the weekend and it took days to get a response. By then I was told its too late and my telegram was already processed. When I called my credit card company to complain I was told it was processed as a MONEY ORDER so I could not do anything. This was NOT A MONEY ORDER. When I finally got someone on the phone I was told the sale is final and no refunds. Of course!

I searched the internet and found all of these customers here with similar experiences. It just tears me up inside! What an absolute terrible scam of a company. In my 63 years of living I have never felt more ripped off from a "business", ever. Please just drop a letter in the mail or use someone else. Don't give these crooks your credit information.

DJ said...

American Telegram

California Corporation # C1474848

Registered Address

Business address (Mail box)
1470 Encinitas Blvd. #181
Encinitas, CA 92024


Complaints should be sent to California Attorney General

cc: Better Business Bureau

cc: FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center

WTF said...

Another blessed customer who was ripped off then told the charge was processed as a money transfer. This was absolutely not a money transfer. How have they not been turned off yet? Someone should call their bank and complain!! Something is not right here. Don't use these people, its a scam. Makes you wonder how they sleep at night knowing they get by ripping off unsuspecting customers.

Jon said...

Add me to the list.

They claim my telegram was a money order. My bank charged me extra fees and won't reverse it.

Like everyone else said, my "telegram" was nothing more than a fax. They charged me $150!

Use a different service!!!

Anonymous said...

This company has been a nightmare to deal with.

My telegram was never recieved. I KNOW that because my recipient (who I trust more than these clowns) told me she never recieved it. So I called my credit card company to get my money back. They told me it was a money transfer. Huh? The hell it was.

I kept fighting the charge and got my money back. Then they took the money AGAIN claiming the telegram was "left at door" and they did there job. No you didn't! It is a simple house that is easy to deliver to, and absolutely nothing was left at no door. A hundred bucks down the drain by crooks.

Anonymous said...

American Telegram website is full of lies it says international telegrams are hand delivered really they are just mailed and took over a week.

Anonymous said...

It's genuinely funny that American Telegram are trying so hard to save their business by writing fake reviews on this blog.

David said...

I cannot in good faith recommend american telegram to anyone.

I read over these comments, and basically experienced the same thing. It seems like all they are doing is reselling common delivery services for a massive markup.

I (foolishly) thought an actual "telegram man" would deliver my telegram, and that must be why it is so expensive. Nope.

People -- please -- you can send their version of a "telegram" yourself for much, much cheaper. I don't know if I would necessarily say they are a scam, but it doesn't seem like they are adding any value at all other than printing out your message and using one of the common letter delivery services for you (and charging $100+ to do it).

It is like someone is offering to send letters for $59.99 when a stamp costs $0.49. Just dumb. There's just no reason to use this service.

I do feel comfortable saying they are shady, for sure. You were warned.

Anonymous said...

Very funny and entertaining to read about such a scam!