In October, my hubby and I added our surrogate teenage daughter (who doesn't live under our roof but might as well) to our cell phone plan because she's 15, gorgeous, starting to date, and had no cell phone. Not the safest situation. For various reasons, her father wouldn't get her one himself so we added her to our plan (with his permission), ordered the free phone that went with it, charged her $15 a month, and, in a stroke of sheer brilliance on my hubby's part, signed up for unlimited texting at the same time.
My hubby did all of this online. One stop shopping...open your account page, add a member, choose a phone, adjust your family plan's minutes and texting options, and off you go.
In her first week, our daughter sent over 3000 texts. 3000. In one week. We warned her of the dangers of carpal tunnel and arthritis and marvelled that anyone could find 3000 things to say through texting.
And we congratulated ourselves on having the foresight to sign up for unlimited texting.
A week ago, our bill arrived.
1300 frickin' dollars? My hubby clutched his chest and rapidly scanned the bill...texts, texts, texts...thousands of texts at 15 cents each. He grabbed his phone and dialed our provider, all the while muttering things that sounded suspiciously like death threats under his breath.
Here is a transcript (as close as I can recall) of that conversation:
"Thank you for calling Idiots-Are-Us, my name is Tom, how can I help you today?"
HUBBY: Yeah, I just got a bill for $1300 from you guys and it's all these texting charges but I signed up for unlimited texting under my family plan last month. *hubby's tone is irritated but calm - this should be a simple mistake to fix*
TOM: Hm, well let me pull up your account information. *long pause because apparently one of the largest cell phone providers in America still has dial up on their customer service computers* Okay, Mr. Redwine, I see you added a phone line to your plan in October.
HUBBY: *wondering what this has to do with unlimited texting on his family plan* Yes and at the same time, I signed up for unlimited texting.
TOM: *gives a rueful little chuckle* Well, sir, you did but the package you chose was for just one of your phone lines. Your number has unlimited texting. None of the others do.
HUBBY: No, I signed up for unlimited texting for the whole family. It's right there on the same page as adding a line and increasing minutes. I had three options - $9.95 for 200 texts a month, $15.95 for 500 texts a month, and $19.95 for unlimited. *hubby's tone moves from irritated to angry*
TOM: Well, that only applies to one line. *manages to sound sympathetic and condescending at the same time. not wise*
HUBBY: But it's on the same page as signing up for more minutes. Are those only for individual lines too? *tone is stubborn, challenging*
TOM: No, that covers the whole family.
HUBBY: So what you're telling me is that I can sign up for minutes under my family plan and it works for all of my lines but ON THE SAME PAGE if I sign up for texting it only applies to one line?
TOM: *not recognizing his imminent danger of bodily harm* Well yes, sir.
HUBBY: Where does it say that on the page? *grabs his laptop and opens the page* It doesn't say that anywhere on this page. There's not even an asterisk. Why wouldn't I assume that if I could change my minutes for the whole plan, I could change my texting too? What kind of unethical operation are you running over there? *abandons all pretense at a civil tone of voice*
TOM: You needed to sign up for the fourth option. It's $29.95 and it gives unlimited texting to the whole family.
HUBBY: There is no fourth option.
TOM: Yes, sir, you need the $29.95 option....
HUBBY: Tom, listen carefully, I am looking at the page - on YOUR website - that I can use to adjust minutes and texting and there is no fourth option. I signed up for the only one that says "unlimited texting".
TOM: Well, the fourth option is actually located in our terms and conditions area. Didn't you read our terms and conditions before you accepted the changes to your plan? *manages to sound shocked that someone wouldn't think to search for a fourth option under terms and conditions.*
HUBBY: Your terms and conditions are 29 pages of dense legalese. No one is going to read through all of that and your company knows it. Are you telling me that you don't offer the option you know I need unless I wade through 29 pages of this stuff and somehow find out I need to choose an option you haven't even provided me yet? *hubby's voice has reached dangerous levels*
TOM: Well, sir, you really shouldn't try to adjust your plan without first having the proper training. *said, apparently, with a straight face*
HUBBY: *loses it completely* Are you serious??! Every bill I get from you guys has an ad encouraging me to conduct all my business with you online. Change my minutes. Add a phone line. Alter my texting. Online. Nowhere in your ads or on your page does it suggest that I need TRAINING to do any of those things. That's bait and switch. That's unethical and illegal and I'll tell you what we're going to do now.
TOM: Sir, if you could just -
HUBBY: *rolls right over him as if he'd never spoken* You're going to take away every cent of these charges and make unlimited texting retroactive to when I first signed up for it. And you're going to give me something in writing that states that you are taking care of all of that and I am not responsible for this stupidity on your part. If you don't do that, I will gladly pay the $400 cancellation fee and take you to court in a class action lawsuit and make millions off of you.
TOM: Sir -
HUBBY: You're going to buy me a new house.
TOM: I really don't -
HUBBY: You're going to send my kids to college.
TOM: That's not -
HUBBY: How many other people have you done this to? Offered them only three options, hit them with a huge bill, and then told them it was their fault for not realizing they needed to read EVERY FRICKIN' PAGE on your site to make sure you were being upfront with them? I bet most people pay it because for them it's not too much extra. I have a teenage girl on my plan and this is a mortgage payment. I will own your company when I'm through with you.
TOM: Now Mr. Redwine -
HUBBY: Did I mention that I'm the morning show host on the number one rated station in Nashville? I have thousands of listeners and they'd love to hear about this. And my wife - did I mention she has a strong internet presence? We can have this story across America in less than 5 hours. Get rid of this bill and change our plan.
TOM: I'm not authorized to do any of that.
HUBBY: Well read through your 29 pages of terms and conditions and find out who is and get them on this phone.
TOM: One moment sir. *sounding properly chastened*
HUBBY: *spends twenty minutes on hold listening to a running loop of commercials all stating that he should adjust his plan online because it's safe, fast, and easy. Hubby nearly chokes on the irony.*
TOM: Sir? I've cleared it with my supervisor. We're waiving the bill and making the unlimited texting retroactive as you requested.
HUBBY: Of course you are.
TOM: Is there anything else I can do for you?
HUBBY: Change your page so no one else falls for your little trap. Someone somewhere is going to sue the crap out of you soon.
Three days later we received a letter from them (mailed, apparently, three days after they sent our bill and one day before our confrontation) warning us that they'd noticed our texting was unusually high and to be prepared for a larger bill than normal.
Gee, thanks for the heads up.