Yesterday, I called AT&T to inquire why my bill was suddenly about $100. The answer was, as it always is, that I had been in a promotional period and it had ended. Mind you, these promotions are usually a year long, so one is lulled into a sense of certainty that the high bill one is paying every month will go no higher. Then BAM! Secret year anniversary is reached and you owe $100. Considering the number of movies I watch on Netflix in a given week, this is probably a bargain (thanks, internet), but that doesn't mean I can readily afford it.
That is how I came to have a very long conversation with Shanti, who wanted to know how she could make me feel like a valued customer. Shanti offered me a phone/internet package for half the cost of my current plan, however, it would require me to purchase a new phone and a new modem--neither of which I want. (This is where I admit that I don't have wireless internet in my house. This is where I further admit that I fear I will get cancer if I have a wireless modem directly under my bed [which is where it would have to be connected].) Shanti told me that in my new wireless world, I would be able to connect up to ten devices without lowering my speed. I was sorry to tell her that I have no devices, but on the bright side, I did make her laugh. I enjoy making customer service representatives laugh.
Ultimately, I agreed to have cancer-internet, but I will not agree to have their special phone, as I am quite attached to the (lousy, but very fetching) phone I already have. This compromise will bring my bill back down to the high rate I have already become accustomed to paying, but not the still lower rate I would pay were I willing to join the 21st Century.
To pay what I was already paying, I must buy a modem that I do not want for $100. Shanti agrees that that is a high price. That is why she is pleased to offer me a $100 rewards card that I may use to offset this cost. Why, one wonders, can she simply not charge me to begin with? Mysterious are the ways of commerce. I was then given the option to have a technician come install the new cancer modem for a fee of $99. I declined. No problem. I am also able to install the cancer modem myself. For $49.
I think that bears repeating. I may opt to personally install the $100 modem that I do not want. For this privilege I will be charged $49.
Rather than making me feel like a valued customer, this makes me feel like an enraged prisoner. Those feelings seem very opposite to me. They might want to look into that.
In closing, Shanti reminded me not to text while driving. I told her that I was certain it would not surprise her to learn that texting while driving is not one of my personal shortcomings. That's what comes of having no devices. It makes me a bit of an oddball, yes, but it also significantly decreases the chances of my running you down in the street. Perhaps I should charge for that service. I'm thinking $49 is about right.
My favorite sentence from NPR yesterday: "Puffery is not actionable."
That is what keeps you from being able to sue your local diner for saying they serve "The World's Best Hamburger." I would like to think that the joint commons of sense and decency would keep you from suing anyone for that, but this is America, so we need a law. And, as luck would have it, "puffery" turns out to be a legal term. Hooray.