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We Value You Enough to Exploit You

By June 24, 2011 May 28th, 2016 Personal Stories

I recently returned from a whopping two month stay in Atlanta, Georgia, where I lived with my sister. The trip, as a whole, proved extremely valuable – I had a lot of fun, and benefited from a refreshing change of atmosphere. I returned feeling better than I had in years, and that gave me a great boost towards beginning work as a freelance web developer. In fact, I am currently working full time on my own for-profit web application, one that I aim to release by the end of July. I’ll likely write more about this project and my Atlanta experiences in a later post, but today, I have one negative (but amusing) Atlanta experience that I’d like to share. It lies in the fact that I was still using my cell phone to communicate with people in Montreal, in addition to Skype. Cell phones rates are pretty expensive when you’re away from home, so I had purchased travel packs before even getting there.

Photo by Elvert Barnes

One day, I had to call my cell phone provider to have them re-apply a travel pack, as the first month had expired. I knew exactly what I wanted: 100 minutes for 50$ (the best offer they have, believe it or not), and so I asked for it shortly after authenticating with them. Upon hearing my request, the agent remained silent for a few moments, it seemed like he was looking into it on his end. After a few seconds, he said – you know what? Instead, how about 100 minutes for 40$? I immediately laughed and questioned the motivations behind the rebate. In response, he mentioned that I had been a valued client to them for a long time, and they wanted to show their appreciation. With this, I agreed, and proceeded to discuss other things with the agent. It wasn’t an overly generous offering to their loyal clients, but I figured 10$ was better than nothing.

Before ending the call, a question surfaced in my mind, and I decided to ask the agent. Being already familiar with my 100 minutes for 50$ plan, I knew that if I bypassed 100 minutes, the rate would remain at 50 cents a minute. I liked the simplicity in that – no need to worry about bypassing the 100 minutes. Given the fact that I had just agreed to 100 minutes for 40$, I wondered what would happen beyond the limit. Would my rate be 40 cents, instead of 50 cents? The agent told me he’d have to verify, and after about 15 seconds, he mentioned that the rate would be 98 cents.

Wait, what? Yes. NINETY. EIGHT. CENTS. Nice try, agent, nice try – but with those words he revealed the concentrated evil behind the 40$ deal. By failing to mention that crucial detail, he almost got me to accept a pretty bad offer. After the reveal, he did mention that the 40$ deal would be best if I knew I was going to remain under the 100 minutes – but I could detect that he was uncomfortable. He asked if I felt I would remain under 100, to which I said I would very likely go over. I told him to instead sign me up for the 100 minute for 50$ plan, and ended the call shortly thereafter.

A few things bothered me about this call, beyond the obvious deception that I almost fell victim to. First, if the agent had looked at my previous month’s usage, he would have seen that I went far beyond the 100 minute limit. From the way he spoke, and the questions he asked, it seemed like he truly didn’t know. The 40$ travel pack wasn’t a good match for me, and my usage would have reflected that.

Photo by Gunnar Wrobel

Beyond that, the agent failed to mention the full terms of the agreement. Whether the agent knew or not, this is a very important part of completing a verbal agreement. I usually have the habit of repeating everything I am told throughout the call, and confirming yet again that I understood the details correctly. This time, I didn’t, and it almost cost me… but thankfully my curious nature saved me in the end.

Finally, despite being uninformed about account history, and leaving out crucial terms in the agreement, it was all wrapped in a “you’re a valuable customer, and we want to show our appreciation” box. That, to me, is a tangy mix of incompetence and evil, to the point where I can’t help but see humor in it.