Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

C: Fairness on the Airwaves?

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


The Texican said...

Good for you. If everyone lies down then "they" win. I have fought with AT&T on numerous occasions in the past over unexplainable charges and hard to read bills. I also had trouble with the return of equipment and repair policy on their dish television service. I no longer use AT&T, and as long as there is alternate service I will choose another option. I am about four hours from Devine, Texas and from where I live it is a short distance. Thanks for coming by and commenting on Pappy's Balderdash today. Pappy

KathyB. said...

Man, I hear one awful tale after another regarding cell phone bills...who says the old phone monopoly Ma Bell had was so bad, in retrospect.

I don't care for phones in general, but do carry one of those pay as you go phones in my car.I like pay as you go....no contracts!

Daisy said...

Oh my! Thank goodness for the nice clerk at the other store who told you what to do and how to get around the "rules" at the cell company. What a confusing mess. I have a no frills cell phone that is pay as you go too. I only have it for emergencies so it doesn't do internet or texting or anything else except just be a phone. That's OK with me because that is all I need it for.

Thank you for visiting and commenting at my blog. Hope you have a good week. :)

Vee said...

Gosh I hope I can remember all that if I ever need to. That's craziness!

Life is good! said...

it's nice to be nice to the nice- thank heavens you found someone nice in all of this craziness, and to bad the company with initials at&t chose not to be nice to the nice

Kari (GrannySkywalker) said...

We have AT&T service, too. As long as things are going well - no problem. But the first time you have an issue, it's a nightmare! We have 5 cell phones on our account. We just cancelled our home line because who needs one with 5 cell phones, right? Somehow, by cancelling our home line, we also managed to downgrade our internet connection and move our entire address. All without even trying. We got the internet thing straightened out (I think) but I'm holding off on calling them about the address change. I can't wait to see what address they come up with to mail our bill to. Should be interesting. lol


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this info, C. We quit AT&T many years ago when they became very visible supporters of liberal causes that we didn't agree with, but I'm guessing this might apply to just about any carrier. I have no idea what a SIM card is, but I now know it's a secret to saving alot of money ... thanks to you!

Anonymous said...

I surely know what your going through & we had insurance. We went to Verizon last Saturday & spent 2 1/2 hours there. My hubby had dropped his Blackberry Storm from his motorcycle of all things..lols. Of course he found it broken. We call the In. Co. & they tell him to take it to the closes store & replace in store for a $50.00 deductible yip that's right. & still the clerk there was rude. He took his own sweet time changing everything over & claimed he was having trouble downloading emails. Anyway long story short it is replaced. There insurance isn't that great.

Sorry for all your troubles, at least your mom will use her phone, my mom won't carry hers half the time & the other half she won't keep it charged..ugh!

Have a blessed hump day!


Leslie said...

I have AT&T also. Cell phone charges are such a rip off. Then what makes me mad is that even though we pay all that money to them every month we can't even get reception at home unless we go outside and hold the phone in a certain direction. I personally only used 3 minutes last month. My kids have the IPhone and they can only be used with AT&T so we are stuck until they get off our plan. The information you shared is good to know, thanks for sharing the valuable tips.

Hilary said...

Yay for you. I am constantly hearing of large companies.. particularly phone, cable, satellite etc. gouging people left, right and center. It's disgusting. Good customer service is a thing of the past for large corporations. I try to support the little guy when I can. It's worth the extra. This was a fine and informative rant.

Eggs In My Pocket / Yesteryear Embroideries said...

We don't have a cell phone....because it is just another bill....and from what I have heard...one I cannot control. We use prepaid card phones. We have to buy minutes on a card. Since we use the phones when we are on the road in case we break down or if the kids are coming home from a ball game.....they work out well for us.And since we live so far out away from any towns...cell phones don't work out here anyway. We have our regular home phone for longer conversations. I have heard of so many problems like what you have experienced. Blessings,Kathleen

♥~♥ Nine Acres ♥~♥ said...

That is great to know. I am with the other giant and they wouldn't tell you you can do that either.

kath001 said...

My dh still won't carry a cell phone, but our daughter keeps saying she's going to get him a Jitterbug. You know, the one they market for seniors. :)

A co-worker actually has one, so I've seen it up close, and it looks great. Nice big readable keys, clear instructions on screen in large print for the non-techies, a rubber gasket type thing around the earpiece that helps block out outside noise so you can hear, and I believe she said it's pay as you go, or at least very reasonable.

So he may get one for Christmas after all. His right to be unreachable is trumped by my need to reach him when I have a flat or something! :)

Anonymous said...

I use a pay as you go phone. No contracts. I only need it to go on the road. But it is true all the money we pay for sophistication is lost on the service end.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this info. It is amazing how business operates today and I believe they are trained to con us! So happy and grateful you ran across someone honest who gave you good info.

Vickie said...

Great rant! We're on AT&T, too, and they DO have their problems. I have to say customer service is terrible when you call. We have a small local shop that runs interference for you with AT&T phones and so I go there and let them straighten it out. We buy our phones there, too, but they're way too expensive. I'd love to let our contracts run out and do the go-phone thing!

Jody Blue said...

We have alltel and have been very stisfied, we have 5 phones (in-laws & out-laws!)on one bill and that is about $120 per month, the trick is that most of our extended family also has alltel and all those calls are free. When we recently re upped our contract a year after it was up we bought 3 new phones, with rebates they were about $50 and the 3rd one was $30.

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