For ten years now my cellular phone service has been with one of the giants of the industry. I won't mention the name, but its initials are: A T & T, and its logo is:
I am not technologically savvy—don’t want to be. I’m not up to snuff on all the doo-hickeys that are on my fancy phone. I mainly just want the blamed thing to work as a phone, give me my email and just let me go about my business. I don’t shop around for the best plans, although I am vaguely aware that I am “under contract,” which I don’t think is quite as beneficial to me as when the term was applied to, say, Elizabeth Taylor. Still, I’ve been pretty satisfied with my service. Until the first crack in my relationship with AT&T about six months ago. I'm writing now because it happened again...let me share...
My cell account is a “small business” account. I have had two numbers on it, one of which is used by my eighty-one-year-old mother. Ten years ago, she would not have had a cell phone (to use her phraseology) “on a stick.” Now she can’t live without it, fearful that surely the one time she leaves home without it there will be an emergency requiring its use. It is a reasonable practice, carrying a cell phone, and I am happy to provide her one. I have that “gotta have the cell phone” fever myself.
Some months ago, Mom left her phone at a restaurant. She had dialed her number and was relieved when someone answered.
“You found my phone!” she exclaimed, only to be disappointed when the call was disconnected. What we now had was a stolen phone. I called the company and had them disconnect the service to the phone. The next day Mom and I went to the phone store. I explained the situation, asking for a replacement phone, expecting to pay for the same.
“Well, you had no insurance on the phone,” the clerk said, slightly accusingly.
“That’s right,” I answered sheepishly. Clearly I was a numbskull for not having insurance; just another example of my ignorance in the cellular world. In any case, I knew I would be purchasing Mom a new device. It was fine with me. You take your chances and go; sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Whatever.
“That will be $220.00,” said the clerk.
“What!?!? Did you say $220.00??!!!”
“Yes maam,” he replied. “I know it’s a lot, but you’re not entitled to any upgrades; let me tell you what else you can do. You now have two lines on your account. For only $9.95 more per month we can add a third line to your account. But, of course, you will have to re-up your contract another two years. But this also means that your phone will only cost $30!”
Such a deal. Let's see: $10 (roughly) x 24 months extended contract = $240 PLUS $30 for the phone - $270!!! And I would continue to pay $9.95 for the original second line which would now be entirely useless! I’d say you could buy a helluvalot of “phone insurance” for the money he was demanding from me.
I don't think so! Instead, I stomped out with Mom in tow.
And, as mad as I was then, it did not hold a candle to how I felt after the next part of the story.
I drove to the local discount giant and went to their phone section, intending to buy Mom one of those pre-pay thingies I had heard about. She was cool with it, but fretting a little over the fact that her number would change. I didn’t blame her. It had been her number for years now, and changing it with all her friends would be a pain, not to mention memorizing the new one!
I shopped and felt just a tad overwhelmed, became logical and asked for help. I pointed out the phone I was interested in, and the young man retrieved one for me. Oddly, it was only $14.95. Still it was the one that looked like Mom could operate best.
“Is this a ‘for real’ phone?” I asked. “I mean, it’s cheap, what’s the catch?”
The young man explained that there was no catch. It just was not the trendy, nifty style that everyone pays a premium for. It was just a no-frills phone. Great!
Having found a friend, I bemoaned my situation and told the young man my woes with the cell company. That is when this clerk really became helpful.
“If you’ve lost your phone, take this one back to them and tell them to register this SIM card to your phone number. They won’t charge you because you lost your other one.”
And that is just what I did. I climbed back in the car with my $14.95 phone and drove to my cell provider’s store. Into the store I marched. At the counter, I pulled out my new purchase—still in its plastic clam shell—and said, “I lost my phone. Please register this SIM card to my number.” And they did. Gratis. No questions asked. Total cash outlay: $14.95 plus tax.
I left the store with a phone my mother could use and with her old number. For $14.95. But it was with no help from my phone company. In fact, they had tried to skin me. Now, what steams me is wondering how many people have been fed this line of bull and thought they had to swallow it? How many people thought, “Oh well, I’m under contract and, stupid me, I did not have insurance…”?
Fast forward to this week and another little encounter with AT&T. When my mother-in-law moved back here, I added her to the account. She left from her first trip here with the phone and used it the month she took in moving down here. Hence, when the blamed thing quit holding a charge and would not turn on, we were past the thirty day return/exchange period by two days!!!
I stood waiting for service on this for one solid hour last Saturday. Chatting with the nice man who greeted people (lulling them into thinking someone would be "right with you," I discovered that, while he could not help with my problem because he was only a greeter, he could tell me that they would be glad to send my phone off for repair. Of course that would mean my mother-in-law going without her phone. This was not going to happen.
I waited and waited and waited (lying in wait, so to speak, for the jerk who was going to refuse to replace the phone right then) and, finally, could not wait any longer. This is kind of how this cowgirl was looking (I wish, but you get the mood):
I turned on my heels and left, driving straight to Best Buy, where I purchased a comparable phone for $30, slipped her SIM card in myself, and Voila! We had cell phone usage.
I plan to package up the AT&T phone and send it in with a hot letter about both the junk of their equipment and the lack of service.
This little essay is a rant, alright, and I feel better for having articulated it. If it keeps even one of you readers or anyone you know from being taken by the cell company, I wish you would let me know. It would make my day and I invite you to circulate it to whomever you can think of who might need to know: Fairness is NOT the name of the airwaves game!
And, by the way, the phones work great! C
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