Tuesday, September 06, 2005

SBC: A story

Let me tell you a story about the telephone company. I call this little story, "I Want My Two Dollars! Two Dollars!"

Once upon a time, Carter lived in Ann Arbor, and he used either a calling card or a cell phone for long distance calls. So for the land line, he had local service from Ameritech, which changed its name to SBC, and no long-distance service at all. Carter was perfectly happy with this arrangement, and no one else seemed to mind much either.

Then he moved and when Carter called SBC to transfer the phone service he was told that they must select a long-distance provider. If you had tapped the phone line when Carter made that call, you would have broken the law. But you also would have heard a conversation something like this:

SBC Rep: You must have a long-distance provider selected.
Carter: But I don't use this phone for long-distance. In fact, I don't even use it for local calls! All I use it for is dialing up my ISP, which I get free.
SBC Rep: Dialing up to the internet? {Insert DSL sales pitch here}.
Carter: No. I'm not going to pay that much ($25 for the phone line + $25 for DSL = $50 to get online!). And I don't want a long-distance provider either.
SBC Rep: Tell you what. SBC has a long-distance plan with no monthly fee. So you only pay for the calls you make. If you don't make any calls, it won't cost you anything.
Carter: (Still pissed off about the hassle he just got from the gas/electric company, and tired of arguing.) Fine. Give me that.

So Carter moved to Livonia, and never used the phone except to connect to their ISP. In fact, most of the time the phone wasn't even plugged into the jack! Then Carter moved again, to Holland (the small city in western Michigan, not the small nation in western Europe). SBC didn't hassle Carter about transfering his service this time, and Carter didn't even think about the long-distance, which they had never used, and never paid for not using.

Well, the months went by, and then one day Carter noticed something on the back of his phone bill. Amidst all the irrelevant information and advertising was a little notice saying something to the effect of:
Dear customer, unfortunately for you, we have decided that we just aren't making any money off this long-distance plan. For some reason, the people who choose this plan (no monthly/annual fee, high per minute charge) don't really make a lot of long-distance calls. Who could have predicted that? So we're discontinuing this plan. You can stay on it as long as you want, but we're going to start charging you a $2 monthly fee.

As you can well imagine, Carter wasn't too happy about this. So one morning when the phone in question was inexplicably out of service, in addition to calling in the service request, Carter decided to take a minute to talk to someone about this.

Carter: Good morning! I noticed on the back of my recent bill that my long-distance plan is being discontinued and you are going to charge me a $2 monthly fee until I change or cancel the service.
SBC Rep: That's right.
Carter: Do you have any long-distance plans without a monthly fee?
SBC Rep: No, yours was the only one and now it's gone.
Carter: In that case, I'd like to cancel this long distance service. Seeing as how I never use it and didn't really ask for it - I was told that I had to have a plan - I am really not interested in paying for it.
SBC Rep: Sure thing. I do need to let you know there is a $10.44 cancellation fee.
Carter: (Blowing his top.) So let me get this straight. For a plan which I didn't want, have never used, and will never use, you are going to either charge me $2/month or $10 to cancel it!
SBC Rep: Those are the charges, yes.
Carter: I will not pay either of those fees. Those were not disclosed when I signed up for this plan and I have never agreed to them. I want you to cancel it at no charge.
SBC Rep: I am telling you now that if I cancel it you will be charged.
Carter: Fine. Then let me talk to your manager.
SBC Rep: I am an account manager [Note: if you don't know this is fancy language for salesperson].
Carter: If you can't do this at no charge, then I want to talk to your supervisor.
SBC Rep: My supervisor will have to charge you for this also.
Carter: I am sure there is someone in the company who can waive a $10 charge.
SBC Rep: $10.44. And no, there isn't.
Carter: (Having a creative thought.) What if I cancel all my phone service? Would you still charge me?
SBC Rep: No.
Carter: So you're telling me that SBC would rather lose me completely than just lose my long-distance service?
SBC Rep: (Getting frustrated.) Let me transfer you to someone in customer service who may be able to help you.
Carter: (Wondering who I've been talking to all this time - customer disservice?) OK.
SBC Rep: Before I transfer you {Insert DSL sales pitch here}.

That's right, after all that she actually had the nerve to try to sell Carter DSL (and at $15 above SBC's advertised price)! So eventually someone in customer service picked up Carter's call, and told him that despite what he read on his statement, and despite what the first person told him, there would not be a $2 charge. Did Carter believe her? (Give me a break! Would you believe her?) Of course not. So being a sensible person, (and mistaking Rep #2 for a sensible, if uninformed, person) Carter thought it might be a good idea to pin her down.

Carter: If I do get this $2 fee, will you reverse it for me?
Rep #2: You won't get a $2 fee.
Carter: I understand that. But another rep just told me I would.
Rep #2: I'm sorry they must have been wrong.
Carter: Obviously someone is wrong. I'm worried that it's you. If I get this $2 fee, will you reverse it for me?
Rep #2: You won't get a $2 fee. (Can you say 'broken record'?)
Carter: I understand that you are telling me I won't get a $2 fee. So if I do, it's a mistake, right? So if I get this $2 fee you will fix that mistake and reverse the fee for me, right?
Rep #2: (Not sounding entirely sure.) Right.
Carter: Great! Talk to you in a month when I need that two dollars back!
Rep #2: (Stunned.)
Carter: [click.]

Carter has learned his lesson. Next time he moves, he is not going to get a land-line at all. He will just going to get broadband from the cable company. The cost is about the same as a phone line + DSL, and the cable company won't give him shit about my long-distance provider.

Tags: , ,

No comments: