Free calls in the UK
When I was in Scotland last month I used my cell phone. I knew it would be costly (about $1/minute) but I didn't mind because all other options were more hassle, I perceived (I've since changed my point of view, but that's a matter for a different post). Anyway, I spent about 45 minutes on the phone with people and expected a $70 on top of the $40 I normally pay. I got the bill today and that's about what I found. The only anomaly was one call I made to 611, Cingular's customer service line, when I was in Edinburgh. The call lasted 11 minutes, and I remember the content:
Me: My phone says "SMS sent successfully" to a friend's phone but she doesn't receive it. Why?
Rep: Who's their provider?
Rep: That's the problem -- we don't have an agreement to deliver SMS messages to Virgin subscribers.
Me: So, it's not a technology problem, it's a business problem?
So that was 11 minutes of my life and cell phone battery that I didn't really feel gained me anything. Yet, because it was Cingular's 611 number, I expected it to be free -- it's just their built-in customer service number of subscribers. Nope. On my bill was the line item for 11 minutes to "441611", summing to $14.89 including international tax. Grr..
Hey, let's do something I don't normally do, I thought this evening; let's call Cingular and see if I can get this charged cleared. That phone call was much longer than any other one on my trip, I didn't expect it to have cost me anything, and had I expected it to cost me I wouldn't have happily waited on hold for 10 of those 11 minutes. So I dialed this evening and got myself to a human on the other end. Here's the surprising conversation:
Rep: What's your cell phone number?
Rep: What can I do for you?
Me: I called customer service while visiting the UK, I was billed for that call. I understand and expected to be billed for the other calls, but I'm unhappy just about that call to 611. Can you do anything about the $15 charge?
Me: Yes, it was on 5/12 at 9:20p, if that helps you out.
Rep: Well, I can't reverse just that one charge.
Me: Oh, okay.
Rep: (type type) Okay, I've cleared the roaming charges. Next time you're travelling, do keep in mind that ... (my brain tunes out while it's processing the first part of that statement)
Me: What's my new bill total?
Me: Uh, so, what did you do?
Rep: I can't clear just that one charge so I cleared all the roaming charges. Just know that the next time you're travelling you'll be charged for using your phone. You can make it less by signing up for something or other ... (my brain tunes out again).
Me: I see. I don't mind paying for all those other calls, I just wanted the $15 reversed.
Rep: I can't do that. (akward pause, then another explanation of how to reduce my international charges again)
Me: Okay, thanks.
Wuh. So I'm now in a weird position of feeling guilt that I may have cheated the cell phone company out of $70 of charges. Not the full $82 of roaming, mind you -- I wanted that $15 back. But the rest, I feel I really owe, yet the phone company rep really couldn't or didn't mind dropping. And, phone companies are only one or two companies back behind Big Oil as evil controlling corporations go, so I shouldn't really feel guilt toward anything I do that might short them $70. Still, it's sort of like buying groceries at the store, being shorted $0.25 in change, and having the cashier hand you back all your money and thanking you for your business and showing you the door.
This also spoils my planned comparison to how much I spent on wireless charges versus what fourpaws
spent by buying a phone over there.