Monday, January 26, 2009

Phone Bait: Don't Be That Guy

I hate it when I make stupid mistakes, but at least I get to write them down so maybe you will heed the warning: Don't Be That Guy!

Today's Don't Be That Guy is about cellphone plans. Cellphones are great! I got rid of my landline long ago, since it makes no sense at all to have both a landline and a cellie. But, from the standpoint of the phone company, cellphones are even better than great ... they're bait! - shiny things that attract the unwary fish on which they feed.

I noticed this last time my lovely wife needed a new cellphone. Her old one had died, and at the T-mobile store they were offering what she wanted at what looked like a reasonable price, which included a two-year phone contract. Only after I got home and thought about it ... much too late ... did I realize that we were basically cows locked into the T-Mobile milking machine for 24 months. They could have GIVEN us the phone and it would've been a good deal for them. It's as if Mina Harker PAID Dracula to bite her.

A few months later, my own phone died. I went to Costco, because it has never screwed me over, not once on anything. Their phone display was T-Mobile and they had the gPhone for immediate purchase. "Cool," thinks I, "That uses Android, an open source operating system so no doubt there will be a lot of add-ons and programs and games and such." I noticed that I was committing myself to a two-year contract but since I asked for the cheapest plan, I figured it was all o.k.

Three months pass. I haven't gotten a bill, but I don't think about it. After all, who waked up in the morning thinking "What bills should I be receiving today?"

One evening, coming home, I find a note from The Lovely Wife. "I'm at Two Bells with my mom; your phone doesn't seem to be working." I immediately headed for Two Bells, confirming on the way that my phone indeed had stopped working. It seems they'd shut me off because ... without having received a bill ... I'd run up several hundred dollars of charges and ... not having received a bill ... hadn't paid.

I talked to T-Mobile and I discovered that the plan they'd sold me had, other than weekends, only 300 minutes a month, or about 10 minutes a day. Unfortunately, soon after I discovered the phone's "speakerphone" feature, I'd figured out I could attend meetings of the various groups I volunteer for by phone. I was being efficient by doing my volunteer service remotely, and completely oblivious to the fact that it was costing me 40 cents a minute.

Well, there's not much to do about it now. I'm sure the contract says exactly what the phone company rep says it does. And I'm sure complaining that I hadn't gotten a bill will get me nowhere. If I HAD gotten a bill that first month, I would've noticed the charges piling up, and stopped; but I don't recall every having such insanely high bills from a cellphone before, so I didn't have monitoring minutes high on my list of priorities.

I've learned. The cellphone is just a way to hook us into an expense contract with Tmobile. It's not a bad phone and the add-on applications are o.k. but basically it's bait for the unwary, and the hundreds-of-dollars phone bill was just Tuition in the School of Life ( I hope I get a good grade! )

Meanwhile, you reading this: don't take the bait. Don't take the cool phone, whether gPhone, iPhone, xPhone or whatever ... unless you REALLY analyze your phoning patterns and plan ahead to spend according to your habits. Or you will pay the same price I did: Don't Be That Guy!

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