The Unconscionable Tyranny of the Phone Company

Walter Rhein

Whoever said death and taxes were the only inevitables in life left out paying bills to the phone company. In the theory of the free market, corporations are not allowed to make your life intentionally miserable because one of their competitors will instantly swoop in and steal all the business. Well, the existence of the phone company is a definitive proof that no free market exists anywhere in the world, because all phone companies, everywhere, bend over backwards at all times to make your life miserable.

I recently spent a few months in Lima, Peru, and, of course, and that means a double dose of battling with phone companies. First there is Verizon back in the US, and then I have to deal with Claro in Peru. Both of these companies are equally evil, but their evil manifests in varying subtle and diversely infuriating ways.

Let’s start with Verizon. I always suspend my phone service when I go abroad because you save a hundred bucks a month doing so. I realize that’s chump change to some people, but I figure that if all I have to do to make a couple hundred bucks is log into a web page and check a box, it’s worth doing.

Well, as recently as a year ago, this procedure used to be easy. You’d log in, hit suspend service, and then get a bunch of irritating options from Verizon which were clearly not what you wanted. Things like, “Are you sure you don’t want to keep paying the full price for the next few months so that you can upgrade your phone sooner?”

Yes idiots, I’m sure I don’t want to pay you $300 for no service. Where do I click? Assuming you didn’t click on the wrong thing (which was the only reason Verizon had that option at all, because somebody figured out that 10% of the population would inadvertently click on the wrong button and make an additional 40k for Verizon each year), you could set a date to reactivate, and that was it.

Now, however, the suspend service option is no longer linked on the sign in page. It exists, but you have to know where it is because they’re not making it easy for you. For the record it’s, but I think you have to be logged in to make it work.

Again, Verizon is hoping that you’ll try to suspend, get frustrated looking around on their page, and not bother to do a google search to find the link that activates line suspension. Also, you are only able to suspend your service now for a month at a time, which is irritating. Verizon is a bunch of money grubbing punks, you’d think with all the taxpayer funded subsidies they probably get, they could make it easy for you not to pay them when you aren’t actively utilizing their service.

But anyway, I got my Verizon account suspended and then tried to use my Claro account in Peru. My phone in Peru is a pre-pay deal that is far less costly than my American account. You get little cards for $3 or so dollars, charge up your phone, and you’re good to go. I typically spend around $20 a month, which begs the question, why can’t I have the same system in the US? I probably can, feel free to lecture me in the comments.

Well, the irritating thing about Claro is that their customer service is literally the seventh circle of hades. You go into one of their offices and all you do is get a number and wait. Then there are people who sit behind glass windows and refuse to make eye contact with you as they stubbornly insist there’s no way to do what you want done, no matter what it is. Last year, I endured the process of getting my pre-pay chip, and did so after an infuriating four or five hour wait in the Claro branch of Plaza San Miguel.

I was hoping I could just pump some money into my phone and use it again, but lo, because it had sat idle for 10 months, Claro suspended the service. Just consider that for a moment. Really, what problem is it to just have the line be active? How much money does it cost Claro to have my phone up and running without me currently using it? Wouldn’t they lose more money by deactivating all these chips because people might go and get a new chip elsewhere rather than reactivate?

Again, it’s that case where it would be easier and more profitable for them to do nothing, and instead they do something to make your life more difficult. The best thing for me, as a customer, would be to return to Peru and talk to ZERO people from the phone company and get my device up and running again. However, yesterday, I went to the mall and talked to two people (which is infinitely too many) and neither of them could get it going because I hadn’t bothered to bring my ID with me.

This has changed over the last few years as well, because you used to be able to just throw your phone in storage and they wouldn’t shut it off. Last year, there was some big nonsense about kidnappers and such using pirate phones in crime, so the solution was to just make everybody have to jump through an unreasonable set of hoops all the time. Seriously, how many kidnappings have been averted because I’m not required to waste six hours talking to some imbecile at the mall who refuses to make eye contact with me?

So, here’s my pitch, if any of you happen to be affiliated in any way with a non-tyrannical phone service, please, please, please take advantage of social media, get the word out, and sign me up for a number.

Actually, that applies to any start-up corporation that exists outside the psychotic mega-city of our current oppressive regime. However, my assumption is that any time anyone decides to rise up and create a product that’s actually to the benefit of the customer, that person is squashed like a bug pretty quick. After all, if the phone company already actively does things to irritate their own customers, just imagine what they must do to any perceived competition.

To heck with it, I’m training some pigeons.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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