Friday, December 5, 2008

Terror Cell

I wasn’t taking this terror cell threat seriously until just recently. You always think, "This could never happen to me"—then out of the blue a terror cell sneaks into your life and tries to destroy you. It all started two years ago. I guess this is why they call some cells "sleepers."
My 17 yr. old daughter wanted a cell phone. I tried to discourage her but she said we were the only people on the planet that still had zero mobile communication capabilities. I tried to prove that we could still communicate with the rest of the planet. I drove quickly to the nearest pay phone. As I pulled up, there was nothing but a black hole with a single wire dangling from it. I said in astonishment, "I wonder why they took the pay phone out." My daughter quickly chimed in, "Because dad, the phone guy came to get his money and there was only a quarter—and it was YOURS."
So for Christmas we bought her a cell phone and a two year contract. When she opened the box on Christmas morning she didn’t laugh when as a joke I had a very official looking contract wrapped around two tin cans with long strings attached.
So for two years everything seemed to go smoothly—that’s how sleeper cells work.
Recently we renewed her contract for two more years with Alltel. I shopped around a bit and they seemed to offer a pretty competitive service so we decided to not only stay with them for two more years but also add a second phone and join the ranks of maniacs who talk and drive at the same time. If life was fair a vehicle’s license number would be the driver’s cell phone number. That way when they were doing something real stupid you could call them and give them a piece of your mind.
So for twenty bucks and a two year contract we were given two phones that do almost everything. We can play video games on them, take a picture of our cat and send it to our family in Arizona, surf the internet and email our friends—quite amazing. All I really wanted to do was talk to people—you can’t do that! Unless you are standing underneath a cell phone tower our phones get about the same reception as the Dick Tracy wrist radio I had in 1957. My friend Donnie could hear me on his wrist radio only if I was yelling really loud.
I visited my once friendly Alltel office and explained my problem. They agreed that my phone was not known for great reception and said they would give me a Motorola. Someone in line said, "The thing was probably made in China." I said, "Actually, the problem is this is the only model on display that is built in America."
When it was finally my turn to sit down with a representative and get my new phone, they wanted another hundred bucks for two new phones. That’s when it happened. The sleeper cell was activated. I was their latest target. The "bait and switch." This shell game is as old as time and still working on modern day cell phone customers all over the world. With the first volley of protest I was given my options, buy new phones or put up with our bad service for two years—YOU SIGNED THE CONTRACT, FOOL.
That’s right. If you cancel the contract, lousy service or not, they can charge you two hundred bucks as a cancellation fee.
I tried to use the analogy of the car lease. Say I lease you a car for two years and you go home and it won’t start. You come back and tell me your car doesn’t start. I say, Oh, you want a car that starts, that’ll cost you another five grand." Wouldn’t you just assume that when you buy a car it will start? He said, "Well, you can’t buy a Chevy and think it’s going to run like a Cadillac."
I took my phone and headed home to call Scott Ford. Scott is the CEO of Alltel. I found his name and number on the Internet. It didn’t give his cell phone number because Scott probably doesn’t get any better reception than I do.
I was never allowed to talk with Scott. They assigned me Agent #15809, code name "Anthony." I tried a different analogy on Anthony since the car scenario didn’t work on the lock stepping, company policy branch manager. This time I tried lawn mowing. Say you sign a contract with me to mow your lawn for two years. I show up and butcher your lawn. I do a completely horrible job on your beautiful yard. But you signed a two year contract with me so you are going to have an ugly yard for two years. Does that seem right?
Anthony said he would send me two new KX-1 phones. I told him not to send them until I checked them out with consumer review on the internet. He gave me his phone number, again not a cell number, and I told him I would call him back.
I now have two new phones that are not made in America. These two are made in Mexico. I was hoping for Chinese phones but Mexican phones got me a step closer to communication devices that actually transmit voice signals.
Did you know they want to charge you ten bucks to transfer all the phone numbers you have in the phone they give you that doesn’t work to the phone they gave you that they say will work? I find this whole cell phone industry surreal—and they seem to think I ask too many questions.
Have you ever looked at your bill and wondered about the charge for calling the information operator. We’ve never called an information operator. The charge is not part of the call breakdown showing date and time of call. It’s a separate charge altogether with no history. So if you can’t prove you didn’t make that call who do you think is right? RIGHT!
No matter who your service provider is—land or cell phone—you should be learning to read your 12 page bill. After I cleared up all my problems with Alltel phones I had a new crisis—my bill showed up in the mailbox. After spending two hours deciphering the accounting labyrinth I discovered they had over billed me $ 102.13 for product and service I didn’t ask for, I was never pitched to buy and had absolutely no need for. This unregulated industry is a regular wild west show. Think about this. One of the charges is phone insurance! They automatically charge you sixty bucks a year to insure your $ 19.95 phone. If 1% of the people end up with a bill like mine and don’t catch that one bogus charge for just one month, that's a nice company bonus. With 12 million subscribers, Alltel stands to rake in millions of bogus bucks. That’s just one of the charges you have to find and tell them you want removed from your billing.
—Keep Smilin’, Dick E. Bird

1 comment:

dylan72986 said...

Dick, I would suggest using the website (by a company called Validas) to you and anyone reading to combat the kinds of unwanted wireless charges that you wrote of. In my own case, I saved over $230 per year off my Verizon Wireless bill by working through Validas. My savings are no exception here given that the average Validas customer saves $487 annually. In fact, I was so impressed with these results that I took a job with the company.

Here's a quick breakdown of how it actually works. Validas analyzes your online cell bill for free and calculates how much money you could be saving. It turns out that eight of ten wireless customers are paying more than they need to for their plans. Validas fixes these discrepancies by tailoring a customer's plan to fit their specific needs. If you choose, Validas provides your personalized cell bill adjustment report that is emailed, for five bucks, to your wireless provider in industry specific format so you can actually implement these cash saving changes. If Validas can save you more than $5 on your bill, this obviously provides a very cost effective solution.

Validas is rapidly becoming known as an advocate for the wireless customer. Check out a feature about the company on The Big Idea with CNBC's Donny Deutsch at Any cell subscriber who wants to cut costs should consider Validas. It’s free to consult and you only stand to save.

Happy holidays and good luck in reducing your wireless expenses.