Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fun anniversary, then rain on my parade

I had a GREAT day on Saturday for my non-smoking anniversary. Got up early (too early after being up late at some friends' on Friday night planning a camping trip) for a teeth-cleaning and it was cancelled...after I was up, had coffee and was dressed! But that was ok. Crawled back into bed until 10. Yay! Then went to the gym, then to get my tax returns from my accountant, then went shopping for a new cell phone (I won $100 in our firm's Oscar pool and thought I would spend it for a new phone -- mine is old-fashioned and doesn't hold a charge well and I want something that I can be on-line with -- and on Facebook!) Went to Verizon and they were awesome. I got a great deal on a phone for my mom (I handle her account and she hasn't been able to see her old phone well lately...got a cool phone specifically designed for seniors) and a gorgeous pink Blackberry Pearl for me...all for $86...I was so excited!! More on this later...

I ran down to my mom's to drop off her phone and visit for an hour or so. Then went home to get ready for our special dinner. We went to a new place and it was fantastic! Delicious healthy food (well, except for that persimmon clafouti!). Loved it. Then we went home and watched "Milk" (excellent film) before bed. Just a great day!!

Spent most of Sunday when not at the gym putting info into the new 'berry. I loved it. LOVED it. Did I mention it was pink? ;-)

The Good One arrived on Sunday to spend some time with us and I always love that. :-)

Then, yesterday, I had to take my phones back... :-(

The long, sad story:

10 plus years ago (probably at least 12...more like 14): I signed up for cell service through this company which re-sells Verizon product (who, at that time, provided cell service for my firm). They gave me a "free" phone in return for my signing up for a two-year contract.

Intervening years: I added my mom to my account and they continued to give me free phones every couple of years...as long as I signed up for a 2-year deal with them. I tried to "get out" a few times, but the hassle just wasn't worth it.

The last time I signed up (in late 2006), the phone they "gave" me broke within 6 months. They refused to replace it for free...unless I signed up for 2 more years!! At that point, I realized what a racket this is and refused their offer. I got my own phone and determined to wait out the remaining time on the contract then switch to get a deal directly with a nationwide provider...not this cheap "re-seller".

I called this company a few weeks ago to investigate and they offered me a Blackberry for $300+...signing up for two more years, of course!! No, thank you! They confirmed that my contract was up (unfortunately, I don't have the name of the man I talked to in their customer service department and, of course, they claim to have no evidence of this call).

Rather than pay that, I decided to look into getting service directly from Verizon (I like their service). I have no problem with the 2-year commitment they require to get a good deal on phones. Since The Evil Re-seller doesn't have weekend hours, we couldn't switch the service right over, but we were all sure it would be dealt with yesterday.

I called The Evil Re-seller yesterday morning to make sure they were porting my numbers to Verizon and they told me I needed to speak with their "records department" mentioning that their contracts automatically renew for ONE YEAR if you don't give written notice of termination 30 days before the current term expires. I couldn't BELIEVE this (yes, I guess I should have more carefully paid attention and kept a copy of my contract, but I never had a real problem with them all these years...). But I left a message for the "records department".

No one called me back so after a few hours I called THEM back. Miraculously now the person in customer service had access to the documents that allegedly only the "records department" had access to earlier in the day. They told me about the automatic renewal portion of the contract and I asked them to fax me a copy.

Sigh...so, yes, the contract says what they say it does, but I think it could be construed EVEN WORSE for me...it talks about terminating before the end of the "initial term"...could they actually think they can hold me for THREE MORE YEARS after the first two if I don't terminate?! Yikes. After the events yesterday, I wouldn't put it past them.

Realizing that I was probably stuck (although thinking I might be able to fight and win if I had the time), I called them back to see if they could offer me what Verizon did (they had said they could earlier). Unfortunately, they couldn't...they don't offer the Blackberry Pearl.

Anyway...long story short, I sent them a termination letter yesterday to terminate my term, but it won't happen until late this year. :-( And I had to return my phones to Verizon (Verizon kindly refunded me and was appalled about The Evil Re-seller).

I am SO SAD. I loved my Blackberry Pearl. I feel very shallow for being so sad about this (I actually cried yesterday over it...SO frustrating!), but there it is.

While they MIGHT be strictly in the right, I think that after I have been a client for over 10 years and when the last phone they "gave" me in return for my 2-year contract BROKE, they might be a little bit more accommodating.

I am a pretty smart, well-educated-in-legal-principles person...if they put this over on me, how do they treat less fortunate customers?

Luckily, I posted a status on FB yesterday that said "I hate my cell provider and they are holding me hostage". Turns out one of my "friends" works for a consumer rights organization so I sent them my sad story and maybe, just maybe, they'll do something about it. I don't think it will help ME, but this contract is unconscionable and, I think under CA law, unenforceable.

So look for my "I got my pink BB" post in December...

(I was really upset and used that as an excuse to eat popcorn for dinner last night. Not good.)


Cindy...154 said...

I am sorry about the phone. I have been a hostage of AT & T for years. I better find out about my contract because I was wanting to let it run out and then switch. The free phone things gets me but I have been holding out... That stinks you had the phone already and everything!!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm convinced that most of the phone companies are Evil. You've been round and round with it for way longer than I would have managed, I think - so sorry you had to return your phone but happy DB saved the day :)

Vickie said...


We have let contracts expire (on purpose) with major companies with no problems. I am not familiar with the other/off brand providers. But this is a good word of caution for everyone!

You will have something to look forward to for Christmas!

Doc Manette said...

Grrr. I hope the consumer watch group can help you out. I see the commercials for the pink bb and covet one myself, but I am waiting until I am working before I sign on with another wireless carrier. I was with US cellular for many years and finally terminated at the end of my contract two years ago and went pay-as-you go (but only because at that time I NEVER used my cell phone) This past year, pay-as-you go turned into a $$$ nightmare because I had to use my cell phone all the time with lawyer and real estate agent.

LG said...

I really hope that the consumer group can help you (and others as you're right, there are others!). Grrr. On the bright side, you only ate POPCORN as a splurge. Just think you didn't have seven tequila sunrises and/or two plate of nachos to drown your sorrows! :-)

Bea said...

I am going downstairs right now and dig out my phone contract. I hate stuff like this. I always beat myself up for getting caught in the fine print. So then I have the crappy service and a bad self wounding. Don't do that. Cheers