Playing the Cell Phone Game

Mauree Miller

Once upon a time, long ago, we lived in a world without cell phones. People had landlines. The options were minimal—just design differences. You paid a monthly phone bill, usually about $15 to $30. There were some plan options, but they were pretty basic. One downside was that if you had friends and relatives living far away, long distance could get expensive. But there were ways to watch your usage, take turns making long distance calls so that the expense was shared. Simple.

Now, with cell phones, the choice of phone type, features, and plan options can be complicated. With my last cell phone company, I had so many problems that I had a special manager assigned to my contract. About 70% of my bills were wrong, with charges that shouldn’t have been there, and figuring out the bill almost required a Ph.D. in Math. There were all kinds of corporate explanations—I was being billed on the “A” side, when I should have been billed on the “B” side. I still have no idea what that meant.  I didn’t care—just fix it! I obtained refunds for incorrect billing, and negotiated courtesy credits for my time and inconvenience. In the end, after working with my special manager, going to regional managers and up through executive areas, despite hundreds of dollars in “courtesy credits” I had to leave. It just wasn’t worth the angst with each bill. I finally made my way into the legal department, by networking with the management contacts that I found along the way. They let me out of my contract without charging the early termination fee. A win/win for all—I was rid of them and they were rid of me.

I’m generally happier with my current cell phone vendor, but I remain on the lookout for mistakes, inconsistencies, and unjustified charges, especially when it comes to plan changes.