Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Whole Story….

Read this article on J Robert Giles’ website…..CLICK HERE

I can never make the claim that I am not a stubborn man. For the most part, my beliefs are set in stone. I’m mostly human, so the occasional change in behavior is required, but it’s more of a course correction than an overhaul of my entire genetic code. I’ve come to realize that most often the changes in behavior required in my daily life are the result of discovering “new evidence” of some kind. I discover that an actor I previously despised actually shares my political opinions……oh, shut up! Let me have my dreams! How about those times when a band you hate releases a song you can’t get out of your head? A TV show with a premise you considered limited turns out to be one of your favorite series once you finally give it a chance? An athlete (let’s call him “Neon Danders”) gets traded from a team you hate to a team you love and all of a sudden he’s your favorite player? Sometimes, even the smartest and most logical men on earth need slight adjustments to their initial opinions on things. (No, I do NOT consider myself to be a member of that group. Save your anger!)
Another example is my initial opinion of the Occupy Wall Street morons. When I first heard word of large groups of capitalism hating crowds gathering in NYC, my first question was, as it always is; “Will this allow me to get a cup of Starbuck’s coffee for under $2.00?”  Once I found that these unanimously uninformed slackers were simply rioting because they wanted something that belongs to someone else I quickly lost interest in their cause. Then, when they started making my primary employer their sworn enemy, and when Obamunism teachings started to surface in the hypocritical songs coming from the drum circles on Wall Street, I wrote them off. They’re boisterous, yes, but they are not justified in their demands or their behavior.  While those are the best examples I can think to which most of us can relate, it’s often the little; seemingly insignificant things that remind us of just how true the old “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” adage really is. This morning, as I perused the day’s headlines looking for items to spark rants, ravings or the opportunity to do the right thing (couldn’t resist); I stumbled upon the story of Celina Aarons.
We can all relate to Celina’s story. She opened her cell-phone bill and got quite a shock. We’ve all been there, right? In fact, just 2 months ago I received a cell-phone bill that embraced me with the news of my oldest step-daughter’s record setting texting month. (21,652 text messages SENT in one month! Yes, she lost her texting abilities for a while!) Celina’s was a bit more shocking. See, I have a plan that allows me to text and download and talk as much as I want. My whole family is included and our monthly bills are usually pretty predictable. My step-daughter was punished for the amount of time she had wasted that month, not the monetary impact her social life had on my bill. Ms. Aarons was greeted with a balance due of $201,000. Now that would get my attention! So, why didn’t Ms. Aarons have such a plan?
She did. She had a plan (not with the same carrier as mine) that covers not only herself, but also her two brothers. Her brothers are deaf and they communicate by text message. Surely, it’s just a glitch in her carrier’s billing system. Nope. When Celina contacted her carrier, she was told that the amount due was correct. Now, I don’t know about you, but after I changed my undies, I would have been demanding a few upper level supervisors get on the horn and explain to me how my bill jumped from an average of $175 a month to $201,000. I imagine you would have demanded a few answers too, right?
Of course you would. Celina got her answers too. Turns out that her brothers had travelled together to Canada during the billing period. While there for over two weeks, the "Roger" in "Minnesota" deaf siblings sent over 2,000 texts. They also downloaded videos and other large bits of data, sometimes incurring over $2,000 in data charges for one video. The amount due is correct. No matter how mad you have ever been in dealing with “Roger” from “Minnesota” during a call with your carrier, can you imagine how furious you would be after that call. Surely there is some kind of mistake, right? There has to be. There’s no way two weeks in Canada could equate to $200,000 in texts. Our freaking government couldn’t manage to pull that one off, let alone two hearing impaired brothers from Florida. How can they possibly expect anyone to pay that?
At this point in the story, I was thinking of sending this info to the the uninformed masses in NYC. Let those misguided souls get wind of a big, bad, corporation sticking it to this poor little “one percenter” like that. At least then they would be fighting an enemy that deserved the negative publicity and their voice would carry legitimate weight where it is currently lacking. Well, it turns out the company came to their senses before the story was released…….somewhat. The carrier giant agreed that $201,000 was a tad much to expect from an individual subscriber in one month. They reduced the amount of her bill to $2,500 and gave her six months to pay it.
Now I’m left in unchartered territory. I literally switched sides three different times in the course of reading that article, but there is blame to be spread around both sides of the argument. Not necessarily at the individual subscriber, but cell phone users as a whole. The blame cannot be leveled entirely at the carrier either, but there is plenty of blame to hurl at the industry in general. I seriously don’t know what side to take.
On the one hand, Celina should have known to check with the carrier before travelling to another country. America assumes that since most of our celebrities, and hockey players come from Canada that it’s just another state. It’s not. Canada is a country and they have their own government, money, infrastructure and accent. The cell-phone carriers have had to work out huge, complicated legislation in order to provide service to subscribers in that country. Naturally, the governments have taken every measure possible to make sure they receive every penny possible from our wealthy capitalist corporations. Those expenses are then passed on to the consumer and that's the system we live in. If you don’t like it, get out. We demand advancements in design, technology and speed but we expect it to be free. That’s not how it works, hippies! Anyway, Celina should have contacted her carrier and switched to an international plan during her brothers’ trip.
On the other hand, the carrier should have alerted Ms. Aarons LONG before her monthly bill was equal to the average 30 Year Mortgage. As soon as the carrier’s systems discovered that activity was taking place in a foreign country, Celina’s cell-phone should have burst into flames. They should have sent her so many messages her phone had the equivalent of an aneurism. New rules for cell-phone carriers go into effect soon that will alert subscribers when they are approaching spending limits, etc. Shouldn’t that have been the practice all along? Carriers who now act as if they are doing us a favor by enforcing this law should be publicly apologizing for the convoluted fee structures to which they have adhered until now. The hidden fees and absurd charges in cell-phone bills are maddening and would be immediately fixed if politicians were forced to pay for their own wireless phone bills.
I guess the main point you can take from this rambling journey is to always have some spare undies handy when you open your cell-phone bill.
As always, thanks for playing!

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