What Did I Learn From A $134 Increase On My Cell Phone Bill? Free Was Not Free.

In a time of unrest (coronavirus, economic difficulties, racial injustice, and more), I did not expect to experience what I did with my cell phone company on May 2nd, 2021.

I’m a business owner, a woman of color, mother of two, whom I homeschool at home, a wife, and a novice gardener. As you can imagine, I have plenty of avenues to use my energy, money, and time. And, I know people are hustling during these hard time; companies and families are desperate to maintain and sustain.

For several weeks, I had been experiencing some issues with my cell phone. People couldn’t hear me even with my speaker volume turned all the way up, and some of my calls were going straight to voicemail.

So, on Sunday, 5/2/2021, I called my cell phone company and told a customer service representative I wanted the iPhone 11. The conversation was going very well. The customer agent shared she was new, and she had a very kind voice and was polite.

Then, she told me she wanted me to have the best possible deal and put me on hold several times to speak with her supervisor. Upon returning to the phone, she told me I qualified for a free mobile hotspot with 2 gigabytes. I wasn’t concerned about getting something for free. I am all for no additional cost items, especially with being a “loyal customer,” and I have qualified for free stuff in the past. Plus, my mother gets deals from the company all the time, and in the past when a customer representative promised me the best deal, I received a lower bill for the same, if not better service.

But, on 5/2, my call with my cell phone company was a wake-up call experience. The customer representative told me that I was getting my iphone 11 for $25, a free mobile hotspot for 2 gigabytes, with no additional costs, free shipping and activation. She also said that she would remove the insurance she put on my phone without asking me. Before, during, and after reviewing the contract, on a “recorded call”, I repeated the transaction back to her, and she confirmed everything above, including no additional costs and “free mobile hotspot.” I was skeptical, but why should I be? The company always owned up to what they promised.

On 5/7, I called to activate my phone and inquired about my bill. I ended up speaking with two customer service agents. One customer service agent informed me that I accrued a bill of $212 with $37.25 of it related to the mobile hotspot (3.75 per month plus 18.50 for monthly service) and insurance for my iphone11 (15.00). He told me that he removed the insurance charge for my iPhone. The second customer service representative filed an internal complaint and ordered me a return kit for the mobile hotspot.

Today, 5/11, I received an email from my cell phone company notifying me of my May bill right before homeschool. I learned that my total bill was $280.58 ($90 of it was for the mobile hotspot). I chose to delay homeschool and call my cell phone company to get the issue resolved, and I ended up calling one of the merged companies. I was transferred to the President’s office. Then, I was transferred to an analyst who not only apologized several times, but gave me her contact information and credited my account of the unwanted charges.

The experience reminded me of the time I needed transportation for the start of my nursing clinical rotation in undergrad. I’m sure I looked desperate as I sat in the car salesperson’s small office in Fairview Height Illinois, hoping to get a car and a decent monthly payment. Initially, the car dealer started my monthly payments at around $230.00. Each time the salesperson returned from his manager’s office, he started his spill with I know you said you can pay this, but could you pay this?”

At some point, while the salesperson was away, I walked by the offices to see if I could locate him, and there he was joking with another man about how he was leading me on. I wanted the purple car, and I got the car, but the next salesperson didn’t have the same fun.

Early on, as discussed in previous blogs, I learned the importance of telling the truth. I ‘ve had my share of people underestimating who I am and what I was capable of, and I’ve been successful in advocating for myself and others. What we say and do have a direct and indirect affect on others. Lies can disrupt peace of mind and taint trust.

So, what did I learn from this experience with my cell phone company?

1. Listen to my gut. Alarms kept going off even the day of the call, but I wanted to trust the company. I thought maybe it was me being a little paranoid.

2. My word means something. Whatever I say I’m going to do, people expect it. My mother would tell us don’t make promises we can’t keep.

3. When I’m in doubt, check it out. In my former life, I encouraged my nursing students always to take the time and check medications out before they gave them. If they received any information or orders contrary to their innate feelings, review them with the appropriate personnel.

4. Make sure my word is the same on paper. The contract contradicted what the customer service representative told me.

5. Get things corrected as soon as possible. I didn’t want to pay the bill and then fight for truth later. Often my mother encouraged us to “nip things in the bud.” You always have time to make things right.

I feel stronger. I advocated for my rights to be treated fairly.

Why am I sharing my recent experience with my cell phone company?

  1. Because no one should have to go through this. Business ethics means telling the truth, and if we are not sure we are giving our customers correct information, then stop and make sure. No sale is worth tainting integrity.
  2. Follow your gut. If you do not have a good feeling about something, check it out as soon as possible. Don’t stop until you have resolved the issue.
  3. Always inquire sooner than later. Go higher up if need to (supervisor, President’s office, etc.). You are worth it!
  4. We teach others how to treat us. If I had said, oh well, I’ll pay the price. No worries. What does that say to the cell phone company? Better yet, what am I saying to my Self, and how I want to be treated.

Make this lifetime great!

Timika S Chambers

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