Tuesday, October 9, 2012

We Have You, So Screw Yourself

If there is one thing we will all learn in life, the fun is in the hunt. Once you nab your prey, well, all you have left to do is feed the entrails to the dog and chow down on the flesh, eating the face first of course.

You may think you know where this is going …

This morning, I was thinking about how much easier it was for our grandparents, or even our parents. They had a gas bill, an electric bill, a water bill, a mortgage, a car payment on the 1967 Mercury Monterey, and a bill from Ma Bell. That was it. Now, we have a cable bill, a cell phone bill, an internet bill, a landline bill, a creepy neighbor named Bill, etc.

Nana and Grandma leased their phones and kept them for at least twenty or twenty-five years. We buy a phone and traded it in every time Apple announces a new iPhone. What are they up to now? iPhone 9? If not, they will be by the time you finish reading this.

The only disadvantage Aunt Min and Uncle Is (yes, his name was Is) had was paying per call, both local and long distance, whereas now we have unlimited calling. Remember the days of scrutinizing the phone bill?
"Who is Feel Good Fanny? And, why does it cost $2.95 a minute to talk to her?"

Another thing they did not have to ponder was “bundling.” Bundting yes. That is when you bake a Bundt cake. I like Bundt cake. Good luck finding a Pillsbury Bundt cake mix with the the cream filling these days. I love baking a Bundt cake … then eating the whole thing in an hour. I don't even pop it out of the pan.

I learned the curse of the bundle a few months ago, when I had to replace my modem, which also brought up the question of how breaking up Ma Bell was really a benefit to any of us.

I have Comcast for my home phone, internet and cable. They have the worst customer service of any company. They cannot outsource to India because even in a country with millions of people needing a job, they cannot find anyone who wants to be associated with Comcast.

My modem went on the fritz, so I drove over to their office and exchanged it. When I got home, I followed their instructions then sat on hold for two hours while I waited for them to connect my new modem remotely. However, reconnecting the landline would require my setting up an appointment with a technician. Or, so I thought. Nineteen phone calls later, no two people gave me the same answer.

“We can connect it.” “No, we cannot connect it.” “We can connect it.” “No we cannot connect it.” “You need a technician to come out.”

I received three phone calls – on my cell phone because my landline was not connected – asking if I was pleased with my experience with customer service. When I relayed the situation with no one being able to connect my landline, they hung up on me. Seriously, they hung up on me.

I considered going with someone else, but apparently where I live nothing else is available except for the Dish, and only in a limited capacity because you have to use Verizon for a landline and internet, which is DSL, not Fios.

Explain to me why Ma Bell was broken up? Apparently, Comcast has a monopoly where I am. Competition means there are other companies offering comparable services, not other companies offering compromised services.

Are you still with me?

Meanwhile, I still had no landline. The technician finally made it to my home two weeks later, and do you know what he did? He wrote down the number from the back of my modem, called headquarters, stayed on hold for two hours, and the phone was connected – remotely!

Do you know what he told me? They can connect it remotely, but for some reason, they send out a technician because no one knows that, yet the technician calls the same stupid number customers call and goes through the same process of being on hold and punching random numbers and speaking to a flaming moron for two hours.

Were they serious!?! For the two weeks I didn’t have a landline, I could have had a landline. What do they care? I am already a customer. As far they are concerned, I can go fuck myself.

During that dark two-week period with no landline, I called Comcast and requested that the landline be disconnected (ironic when it was dead anyway), for I did not want to pay for a service I did not have. Get this, thanks to bundling, if I disconnected my landline (which was dead anyway; yes, I know I said that already), I would pay an additional $50 a month. In other words, it costs more to shoot a dead horse than to let it rot in your living room.

What the giant fuck!

Did Aunt Honey with her rotary dial phone go through this bull shit?

The only person I knew to have this much trouble with the phone company was Doris Day when she shared a party-line with Rock Hudson. Then again, who wouldn’t have wanted a party-line with Rock Hudson, or for that matter, Doris Day, in 1959?

In 1973, we upgraded to call waiting, and with call waiting, we got beige a push button phone, which was required if you upgraded to call waiting. Not the color, the push buttons. However, if we discontinued call waiting, they didn’t charge us more, and we kept the push button phone.

Ma Bell may have been a monopoly, but unless Ernestine was your operator, you didn’t get any bullshit. An itemized bill, yes, bull shit, no.

Which brings us to my cell phone provider.

I was the last of my friends to get a cell phone when I went wireless in 2004. I started with T-Mobile, and thanks to new phones every two or three years, I have been with them since. Again, every two or three years, I have needed a new phone because the old one broke or couldn’t keep up with the limited technology of a cell phone.

I would have been better off hanging a rotary dial phone with an antenna around my neck. At least it would have lasted a couple of decades. And yes, it would be a princess phone. Did you get a visual?

Being the last to get a cell phone means I am also the last to get a smart phone. Here is where that other aspect of communications today bites you in the ass.

“Special Offers.”

Have you noticed that once a company has you hooked and in a contract, they have no more reason to make you happy? Think Cuntcast.
Curiously, it is like any of my relationships.

T-Mobile advertises new smart phones for $1.99 as well as other promotions for new customers, but God forbid a customer who has been with them for eight years wants something. I wanted a smart phone, so I went to their store to ask about one of these offers. While waiting, I looked at smart phones ranging in price from Free to $199.99.

And, this is what I was told. “Mr. Stern, the offers are not available to existing customers. You will need to pay full price for a smart phone, and the service will be an additional $39.99 a month.”

Full price was more than $500. The additional $39.99 a month would be $50 more than a new customer would pay for the complete service.

In other words: We already have you locked in a contract. We have no reason to make you happy anymore. Roughly translated: Go fuck yourself.

I asked when my contract was up. They said eleven years. Do you know how old I will be in eleven years? Not forty-nine!

Then the salesman said, “You could buy another phone from another provider and have a new number, taking advantage of one of their offers and pay an early cancellation fee by ending your T-Mobile contract.”

I couldn’t believe it. I have been a loyal customer for eight years, and the salesman is telling me to go elsewhere?!?

Imagine if the salesman who sold me my truck said, “While this truck suits you perfectly, you should go across the street to that other dealer because he can make you a better offer, and we really don’t want your business. Besides, I was watching the game in the back room when you interrupted me to test drive that truck, and I don’t feel like doing the paper work today.”

Fortunately, I have overpaid my T-Mobile bill every month, and my early cancellation fee equals what is the credit on my account plus a month.

I left the store. I went to AT&T’s website and bought an iPhone for $0.99. And get this. My monthly bill will be twenty-five percent less than the one from T-Mobile for a cell phone … until it starts creeping up after a year the way they always do. But by then, they will no longer work to keep me as a customer, and eight years from now, I will cancel their contract …

For now, T-Mobile can bundle this!

Now, if I could just find a suitable replacement for Cuntcast.

If you are bundled or stuck in a lifetime contract, follow me, get on my mailing list or just buy my goddamn book.

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