Wednesday, May 15, 2013
In Las Vegas we bought a SIM card for our phone so we could make domestic calls without paying a bomb. The plan was pretty straightforward - for $2 a day we got unlimited voice and text calls within the US. Sure we had to shell out $40 bucks for the card, but compared to paying through our Australian provider it was a bargain.
It stopped looking like a bargain four days later when I checked the account and saw that we had used up $47 of our $50, not the $8 I expected. A quick stop at the T-mobile web site confirmed my worst fears. This phone company made it very, very hard for you to find a phone number to call them and discuss your problem.
Eventually LK did what any sensible person would do and googled it and the number popped up. Problem solved. Well, not quite.
When I got through to the customer support rep, I was asked the password for my account. "I wasn't given one and there is none on the contract I am looking at," I told him. Then I guessed that if I had in fact set a password, it would have been the one I use for e-mail.
"Nope," he said.
I tried my birthday. "Nope."
Then he offered a hint. "It's kind of like the first four digits on the keyboard," he said. I could virtually hear him winking over the phone.
"How about 1-2-3-4," I suggested and was told we could now review my account.
"You deposited $50 four days ago," he told me, sounding suspiciously like me when I had told him a few seconds earlier that I had deposited $50 four days ago.
"But then you changed your plan from $2 a day to pay-as-you-go," he told me, "and your new balance is $6.45."
"But I didn't change my plan," I told him. "In fact, I went out of my way to make sure I got unlimited calling for $2 a day."
He, of course, insisted that I had changed my plan. Ever the quick thinker, I said to him, "You may have noticed that I had no friggin' idea what the password for this account was. Would it have been possible to change my plan not knowing the password?"
It was a challenging question, I know, but ultimately he conceded that it was not possible to change the plan without knowing the password. He asked to put me on hold while he spoke with his manager.
Just as an aside, I wonder if it is incompetence, lack of concern or a deliberate attempt to drive customers over the edge, but why is it whenever a phone company puts you on hold you listen to music that is muffled and full of static? Anyhow, back to the main story, when my new bff returned he said he had tried to convince his manager that they should restore my $50 deposit and put me back on the $2 a day plan I had signed up for. That is, honor their contract with me.
"Unfortunately," he added, "my manager would have been willing to do this but when you change plans you only have 48 hours to change back, and this has now been 4 days."
"But I didn't change plans," I started to say but immediately realized that once you start repeating your arguments to the same person who has already heard them two or three times before, you have lost the game of customer service roulette.
I changed tack. "Well, I think I am going to have to speak to your manager. Not to insult anyone, but it's pretty obvious they have a few screws loose and I would like to try to tighten them."
I was put on hold again. But rather than have you metaphorically listen to the slightly off-station music, I think it would be better to tell you how proud I was of myself. Let's face it, as one liners go that's a pretty good one. And I didn't have to pause, didn't think of it four hours later, didn't even skip a beat. Nope, it was a good one-liner and, best of all, it served its purpose. When my friend came on the line again, he told me that his manager had agreed to restore my deposit and put me on the $2 a day plan.
Not all one-liners work as well, of course. Take, for example, when LK and I drove from the west coast of Florida to St Augustine in the northeast. We were only an exit or two away from our destination when the "Last Rest Stop for 40 Miles" sign showed up.
To be honest, in my 20's I wouldn't have even done a mental check on the state of my bladder. Nowadays, though, I have learned that it is far, far better to go before you really have to than to be stuck in a construction line when you cannot wait another minute. So we pulled into the rest stop.
LK didn't need to go so stayed at the car as I climbed out. Climbed isn't really the word. Slid? Hobbled? Fell? Something like that. Regrettably my knees had forgotten how to ben while walking and my first few dozen steps were taken very slowly, not altogether different from what Boris Karloff was like playing Frankenstein if he took a couple of valium before shooting the scene.
However, never underestimate the restorative power of a good pee. By the time I left the men's room, I was walking more or less normally. OK, it wasn't all that fast, but I can't remember the last time I did walk all that fast. Which is, of course, one of the other reasons I now stop before the urge to pee hits me.
As I got back into the car, LK was laughing. Not a ltitle giggle, either. Nope, a great big guffaw, the sort of laugh that makes you feel as if you have done something absolutely outrageous.
"Oh, I'm not laughing at you," she said. Which made me feel a little bit better. But then she paused. "Well, maybe a little bit at you but mostly at the other men here." Which made me feel a little bit worse.
She then pointed to the various men walking around this Florida highway rest stop. As you would expect, most were senior citizens. Almost to a man, they were walking slowly, with stiff legs, limps and halting progress.
"As I sat here," LK said, "all I could think of was that I was at the Rest Stop for the Walking Dead." And then she started guffawing some more.
I saw the humor - even if it was a bit on the mean side - but told her I felt I had walked into the men's room like that but had exited more or less normally.
"Oh no," she said. "You were definitely doing the zombie walk in, but you got back to the car so fast I wasn't even aware you were out."
That made me feel better, but I told her the whole thing wasn't very nice.
"I've had to be nice for more than a month. I'm entitled to not be nice in the privacy of our car," she said. "And besides, that's a pretty funny one-liner I came up with. This really does look like the Rest Stop for the Walking Dead."
I had to agree, but in my heart I knew that there's one liners that get your phone service restored and then there's one-liners that get you laughing. I still don't know which I prefer.