Decades ago a long distance telephone provider jerked me around. Rather than name a specific company I’ll refer to them as “Jackasses”. Before moving overseas I requested a final bill to close out my account and paid it. “Jackasses” sent written confirmation that everything was hunky dory. I promptly forgot they existed.
A few years later I was back in the States and tried to set up telephone service with a different long distance company. Rather than be specific I’ll refer to them as “Motherfuckers”. “Motherfuckers” inexplicably declared I was a credit risk and demanded that I put up a cash deposit. Huh? After some sleuthing I discovered that “Jackasses” had added a small fee (a little over $5) to my “closed” account and never sent me a bill. The secret fee became a trap. It waited years for my return and when I dealt with “Motherfuckers” (which had merged with “Jackasses”) it became a reason to push me around. I tried to work it out but “Motherfuckers” wouldn’t budge. They wanted extra fees and deposits and possibly a quick grope in the broom closet.
This is when I did something right. Something so simple and logical that it’s unheard of. I stopped playing their rigged game. Which leads me to today’s Curmudgeonly Gem Of Insight:
“Sometimes the best course of action is to take your ball and go home.”
I never did get their long distance service. I never paid any extra fees. I stopped calling “customer service”. (Dial 1 to be put on hold and then ignored in Spanish… Dial 2 to be transferred to Tajikistan…) I never dealt with them again period. I swore that they’d never get a red cent from me and I’ve kept that promise.
After a year or so Motherfuckers Inc. decided maybe I was a good credit risk after all. They offered to hook me up under much more favorable services. They called. They wrote. They promised they’d respect me in the morning.
Which brings me to today’s second Curmudgeonly Gem of Insight:
“A company that fucks with me is banned from my life for eternity.”
I told them to take a hike. For reasons which I’ll never understand, friends have implied that my behavior was risky. Why? A company that has annoyed me has no place in my life. People are important. Companies are not. I do not ever grovel before any company. I have cash and they want it. I call the shots.
I’ve been told that I should lighten up because that’s just how the industry works. Which brings me to my next Curmudgeonly Gem Of Insight:
“If all of the companies in a sector suck then avoid the whole industry. It is never an American’s duty to pay money to people who piss them off.”
Over the years it has become a part of my lifestyle to make end-runs around the system. Calling cards, Skype, pre-paid cell phones, whatever. It’s not rocket science and my calls still get through.
In the long run it has served me incredibly well. I get service on my own terms. I pay more per minute but I don’t have monthly fees and random charges. I have never paid for a single minute I didn’t use. I get precisely what I pay for when and how I want it. As I should. I’ve probably saved a ton of money too.
My main motivation is listening to people talk about their phone services. As far as I can tell everyone hates their phone company. The only reason folks keep doing business with them is because people put up with obnoxious companies like they are the victims of Stockholm Syndrome.
When otherwise rational people get a new cell phone they’ll extol its many virtues like it’s the second coming of Jesus. “It has an award winning ring tone, it can get reception on Mars, the case is made of chromium and gypsy tears, etc…” Eventually the honeymoon is over and an already hefty monthly bill sprouts unexpected additions. Why? Any of a thousand reasons. Maybe they made a call out of plan, their kid sent more text messages than budgeted, there’s a “we just made it up” service fee, there’s a tax to fund the Spanish American War of 1898, there’s insurance on the phone, there’s a surcharge on the insurance, there’s a rollover charge, the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter is aligned with Mars….whatever. Bend over and cut that check pronto or they’ll compound late fees like it’s an Olympic event! People grump that “As soon as I’m done with this service agreement I’m dumping these losers!” It doesn’t happen. One way or another they’ll sign up again and wind up bitching about the new and improved way they get screwed next time.
It doesn’t have to be that way. If you like a company, do business with them happily. If not, dump them forever. It’s good for the soul.