Monday, January 21, 2008

Corporate Responsibility

I bought a new cell phone a few months ago. It's small, lets me check e-mail, and lets me talk to people who are far away. In short, I've been pretty happy with it.

One thing that attracted me to said phone was the price tag. It was fairly inexpensive, and with the rebate, I was getting 1/3 off the price; plus, all I had to do was sign a two-year contract. No problem; I'm generally happy with my carrier, so two years is fine by me.

So a few nights back, I checked the rebate's status and discovered it was declined.


Following the instructions on the web page, I called the listed phone number, and was told to call a different number. Because apparently, the number listed was the customer service number; I didn't have a problem for them - it was the rebate they offered. Steam started leaking from my ears at this point.

I called the new number, and waited. And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

All the while, I passed time by looking up rival phone companies' plans and phones, and figured I would save them a lot of trouble by simply dropping them and going with someone else. Meanwhile, every six seconds, a recording came on, telling me how they appreciated my business. Right.

Finally, a human voice spoke through the phone. She asked for account information, which I gave, and when I asked why the rebate was declined, she said it was because I didn't sign up for a two-year contract extension.

"Wrong," I interrupted her pre-programmed sales droning. "I signed one the night I bought the phone. Check your records, because I'll fax them to you tonight if you don't find them there."

"Hmm. Let me check." A minute or so passed. "I checked and you were right, sir. I don't know why this happened. I'm expediting your check."

I thanked her and hung up.

Now, I may not be the brightest soul on earth, but two years ago, I purchased two phones through this company, and they tried pulling a similar trick. Unfortunately for them, I keep pretty good records and was able to prove that they were full of crap. It seems awfully strange that the same damned thing would happen to me a few years later. I wonder why they're losing business in droves.

I've long thought the cell phone industry in this country was a joke; phones that are way overpriced so that the discounts can draw in new customers; service that's lackluster at best; oh, and a small honesty problem on top of that. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to envision them declining all rebates automatically, gambling that a fairly small percentage of customers will call in and fight them.

I had already considered going to a new carrier when the contract was up; thanks to this little incident, I'm not considering anymore.


Anonymous said...

The telecom industry has quite a history of employing tactics such as you suggest here.

Let us know when your "expedited" check arrives. Hopefully, it'll show up faster than my NAV rebate from Symantec. For months, Symantec kept assuring me it was in the mail (by pony express, perhaps?). Fortunately, a terse little note to the BBB resolved all.

Student of Life said...

Sounds a bit like the insurance industry. Decline all or most claims and take your chances. Since most people don't like confrontation, they won't fight back, and you (the scumbag corporate assholes) make more money. Glad you stood up for yourself.