I like capitalism. I like the idea that businesses that provide good products/services, and good customer service can do well. If I get bad service, I tend not to make a big stink, I just spend my money elsewhere in the future. The way mobile phone businesses operate in the US makes that very difficult. We are forced to pay huge extortion fees to get out of contacts when we are displeased with the service that is provided through that contract. As I just found out, some companies even tax us on those extortion fees.
I had a contract with Nextel (Sprint). There were two phones, each with their own number, sharing a pool of minutes. My stepson lost his phone. I asked to have the number disconnected. I figured since we didn’t pay any extra to have his ohone on the plan, and this change would have zero effect on the sizeable amount of money that I was paying to Sprint/Nextel every month, that it shouldn’t be a problem. I was told that it would cost $200 to disconnect that line. When I explained that they would not be losing business, I was told that it didn’t matter. While this news did not make me happy, the way it was delivered made me livid. The attitude that came from the person on the Nextel end of the phone was essentially “What are you gonna do? You can’t leave it will cost you $400 to get out of two lines.” Now that was never said, but that’s the vibe I got. Never once was I told that they were sorry that they couldn’t do what I wanted. I was never given any sort of reason why they couldn’t do what I wanted. The fact that I was unhappy seemed to not phase them at all. That was my real problem with the conversation. Not that I didn’t get what I wanted, but that they didn’t care if I got what I wanted.
Now this is a no win situation for me and a no lose situation for them. My choices are: to keep doing business with a company that I have now determined cares more about getting as much of my money as possible than fulfilling my needs as a customer, or to pay the extortion fees to get out of my contract. They can’t lose. They either keep getting their high monthly charges or get the extortion fees.
I decided to pay the extortion fees and switch carriers. Nextel wouldn’t turn off my service when I asked them to, I had to pay for the rest of the month, so that added close to $100 to the extortion fees. Today I got the bill for the extortion fees, and it included TAXES and FEES on the extortion fee. I called to complain and was told that any charge that went through their system is charged the sales tax and Universal Service Fees, and it couldn’t be changed. (Read: screw you, you have to pay us, the lawyer or fight with the credit bureau isn’t worth the $500 we will eventually screw you out of before you can be rid of our bad service.) So no one actually said that, but that was the message, and he was right. The $23 in taxes and fees tagged on to the $400 in I-don’t-like-your-service-and-want-to-end-my-contract extortion fees, which were tagged on the to three weeks of service I had to pay for after I asked the service to be turned off, all cost less that the hassle of fighting to restore my credit after I don’t pay the bill. So again, I can’t win and they can’t lose. They can provide subpar service, and all I can do is pay the extortion and move on, hoping for better results elsewhere. But at least I can also tell my side of the story.