Holding a captive audience
Being an avid member of the communications generation my cell phone has become such an intregal part of my life that when I am without it I rather feel like I am missing an appendage. And while that confession lends itself to a perhaps sad commentary about my life, it is nonetheless true.
So when my less than trusty phone (I own the chocolate which is an evil little device) died last week I panicked and ran to the nearest dealer.
The young man who assisted me during my time of need was very helpful and I should have known that things would only go downhill from there. I listened as the phone company representative on the other end of the line grilled him as to what horrible thing I had done to such wonderful device in order to make it seize up. After the young man assured the rep that I had neither beat my phone with bricks or submerged it in water on a daily basis he submitted to the fact that I would get a new phone. But it was only when I got to speak with the powers that be at the company that I realized just what a captive audience I truly am.
The man on the other end of the line was less, than shall we say, fluent speaking the English language and sounded like he was talking to me through an underwater tunnel. He quickly informed me, almost giddily, that I would not be getting a new phone but a refurbished one. And when I asked about getting away from the wolf in chocolate clothing, even to a cheaper phone than my own, he informed me that this was only the second one that had failed on me and I was not due for an upgrade until October of 2009 if I wanted a different device.
He continued to tell me in a less than understandable voice that the company would be shipping the phone next day air to my office but since the warehouse was closed for the day (this is Thursday at noon mind you) and I would not be getting my refurbished phone until the next Monday.
I hate the word refurbished, it really just means somebody else's piece of junk that they have slapped back together doesn't it?
I thought about getting angry and telling him just how horrible I thought this service was but then I came to the startling and bothersome realization that there was really nothing I could do. I guess I could have paid the fee to terminate my contract and kept the melted piece of chocolate but that would just have meant selling my soul to another company as I really was going through cell phone withdrawal at this point.
So instead of freaking out I ask the the rep where the nice guy was. You know the guy who sold me the package in the first place, the one who assured me that rainbows and golden calves would surely follow me all the days of my life for choosing their service.
He ignored my sarcasm and asked me if there was anything else he could do for me. Knowing that there was not I submitted to my captor and accepted the terms of my confinement.
While I have made a huge, raving deal about a very small thing it is not the situation with the phone that bothers me, it is the fact that once many of these companies get you in their clutches the nice guy is replaced by an indifferent, barley English speaking, tyrant.
And it is not only cell phone carries that exhibit this behavior.
In the last six months I have seen my mother get burned by a TV rebate that was $500 when she bought the set and $200 when she got it home. I have seen a co-worker and good friend spend countless hours on the phone trying to convince a computer manufacturer that they had sent him the completely wrong computer and I have seen my father-in-law purchase a $5000 custom website and get a template that could not be used.
But now for the big question, What do we as consumers do about this? I would like to say we should raise up as brothers and sisters in arms and throw down the evil communist pigs. But the reality is our addiction to talking, text/pix and flix messaging, email, streaming video, Itunes, Myspace and Youtube has made us the junkie in a junkie-pusher relationship.
The fact is when you really need a fix you will pay the man to get it.