Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A wireless rip-off

I’m pleased to say my senior fitness program went very well for me yesterday. The rest of the day was what one might call ‘uneventful.’ Today I’m sort of stuck in the house as I’m expecting a package to be delivered by UPS sometime today. Many years experience in this house tells me that the package won’t arrive until sometime after 4 or 5 o’clock in the evening and that, this time, is almost a good thing. Today my group of fellow retirees has its last Wednesday of the month lunch session and I’ll be there. Gator Wife gets home about ten minutes after I have to leave so I have confidence the package will be covered.

There is a business complex behind my house and UPS delivers there by mid-morning. Since I’m the next driveway, one would think the truck would just come here next. Nope. It usually doesn’t get here until very late in the afternoon. A driver once told me he had to deliver all his business packages first and then make the home deliveries. Besides, he explained, he had a better chance of getting the receipt signatures on home deliveries at that time.

Apparently the other delivery services don’t share that philosophy. When they have packages for me, they get delivered just about whenever the service enters the medical complex behind me.

I did have a telephone conversation yesterday that might be interesting. I got the bill for my cell phone service and on it was a “data” charge. I’ve never had a data charge before and, in fact, have never used data services. I do not have data included on my plan. But there was that charge for data. So I called the company.

Negotiating through their phone tree was an interesting experience. I just love it when they say, “Your call is important to us.” If my call were important to them, I wouldn’t have to spend so much time with three different menus to finally get a human being.

Let me quickly point out the human was just about as nice, pleasant, and helpful as anyone could possibly be with a somewhat irate customer on the line. After I explained I didn’t understand the data charge, she pulled up my account and bill and explained I was charged for several text messages. Since I don’t have a data plan, I have to pay for them per message.

“I don’t do text messaging,” I explained. She said those charged on this bill were all incoming messages. I had absolutely no idea I had any incoming text messages. “Wait a minute,” I pleaded. “Do you mean I have to pay extra for incoming text messages that were neither solicited nor wanted nor used nor read?” It was a simple answer. “Yes.”

Thankfully, my ICD kept my heart beating normally, but I’d bet my blood pressure was a little off the scale. To say I was not a little angry would be a very mild statement. I let her know what I thought of that total rip-off. I asked her how much longer I had on my contract so I could start planning a switch.

She remained very calm and pleasant and said that since I hadn’t even read the messages, she’d take them off the bill and asked if I wanted all text messaging blocked. No brainer there since I don’t text message. So she accomplished that for me.

I could hear the smile creep into her voice as she asked my one final question: “Since your plan is no longer offered and you’re grandfathered in, would you like to upgrade to a modern plan that includes data services? It would be only a few dollars a month more.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” I said and thanked her for her patience and cooperation and wished her a good rest of the day. The call ended.

I still find the practice of charging for unwanted incoming calls a telephone company rip-off. The technology now exists for companies to send messages to cell phones of passing people with sales offers for the passed business. I can’t imagine how really urinated off I’d be if I were passing store and got charged for a text message the store sent telling me a “terrific offer.”

I think I’m also happy I don’t have teenagers texting all day long every day. How in the world do people pay for it? My suspicion is those data plans aren’t cheap.


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