A friend of ours has fallen on hard times of late.
He lost his job and as he looked for other employment, he suffered a heart attack. More heart procedures followed and his unemployment benefits ran out.
We tried to help with some of his bills, as did his LDS bishop, but it was tough making ends meet for him and his wife and three kids. We were looking hard for places where he could cut back his expenses and live more simply.
One of the obvious problems was an elaborate cellphone, Internet, TV and data plan he had just renewed with one of the major providers.
I contacted the phone service provider and explained the situation several times to different people as I was transferred from one department to another. Finally, I said to a supervisor in the customer service department, “Look, this man can’t work — he’s in the hospital awaiting further heart procedures. His wife is also disabled. The last thing they need right now is this family cellphone and data plan that is costing them nearly $300 a month. It is money they don’t have — it is a bill they can’t pay. I can help them with their past due amount, but how can we cancel their contract? Surely you must have a hardship clause or an emergency medical provision that will allow them to turn their phones in and cancel the contract.”
She finally told me that I should put it in writing, and get verification from his doctor, and send it to — believe it or not — the “deceased notification” department.
“No, no,” I said. “He’s not dead, he’s just in serious condition in the cardiology department at the hospital.”
“I know,” said the supervisor, telling me that is the name of their department that handles this type of thing, and that the doctor will have to certify that he is either dead or that he is terminally ill or that his condition will prevent him from ever using a cellphone again for the rest of his life.
So, as promised in the headline of this article, here is how to get out of your cellphone contract: Die.
The inflexibility and inhuman “these-are-our-procedures-and-I can’t-do-anything-about-them” mentality is bad enough in itself, but when you add it to the unbelievable bureaucracy of some of these large utilities and TV or cellphone providers, you get to a point where it almost drives you crazy. You have to laugh, or else you would cry.
First, there are the recordings with nine options for the nature of your problem, and then you hit the number closest to what you are calling about and then there is another recording with five more options.
Finally, you get frustrated and hit the “0” button about a hundred times and then, if you are really lucky, maybe you actually get a live person on the line. But of course that person is reading from some script and has to have your account number and password which you can’t ever remember setting up, and then after you explain your issue he transfers you to some other extension and you get cut off. You call back in and go through the whole thing again and this time you ask for a supervisor and hold for 10 minutes before she comes on and gives you the whole same run-around all over again.
Next time, here’s an idea: Go online instead of trying to call in, and turn the project over to your 13-year-old, who will negotiate through the maze on the utility website and get you somewhere.
And again, if you really want to get out of your cellphone contract, just contact the “deceased notification department.”
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."