Sunday, 5 August 2007

"Phones" published August 5

There are three things in life which never happen. The first is having an overwhelmingly positive response when someone calls while you are on deadline to check “you’re happy with our service.” The second is having an overwhelmingly positive response when you’re on deadline and that person is calling from Telecom. And the third is being haunted by that phone call for months, day and night, dreaming and awake, so scary was your conversation.
Her name was Tania or Stacey or something like that. I told her I was unhappy paying hundreds of dollars a month for a phone line, broadband and two cell phones. I told her I couldn’t understand my bill no matter how many times I tried to analyse it Why is it that when you flick it over it is upside down and you have to turn it around and then you forget what you were looking at? And why is it 20 pages long? Why do 1D, 1W, 9D, and 9F in the “type of call” column all mean “mobile to mobile” What’s the difference? What do all my “plans” actually mean? I can’t remember. Tania or Stacey “pulled me up” on her screen. There was a silence. “It’s your cell phone, you’ve already spent $100 this month,” she announced.
“But I don’t use it that much, maybe you need to put me on another plan.”
Silence. Pause.
“Umm, look I’ve got to go into a meeting, I’ll call you back in an hour.”
Tania/Stacey never called back. I waited with an anticipation I found hard to justify to myself in my most confident moments. Why did it matter? Surely Tania/Stacey wasn’t keeping anything from me, like the fact that I was being ripped off and Tania/Stacey’s job was to upgrade me to spend more, not save me money. A nagging feeling planted itself on my shoulder from that day like some consumer time bomb ticking away. In moments of reason at 4am as I lay awake pretending to read but really wondering why she never called back I thought that perhaps the meeting she was called into could have been her last because she was fired for going too easy on the customers. Or maybe she was pregnant and working from home to make ends meet and she went into labour and obviously couldn't call me back.
There was nothing for it but to consult the kids. Not that any of them is particularly skilled in translating Telecom phone bills or was at all interested in a discussion as to why Tania/Stacy never called back. But they did know about Other Network charges. The fact that all my girlfriends, and therefore the ones I chat to are 021 people. When you’re an 027 calling 021 costs more than my life is worth.
“Change to Vodafone,” they announced on their way out the door oozing their particular brand of youth, vitality and cool.
But therein lies the rub. At the caravan only 027 works and I need that for my nifty email connection so that I can work and no one knows I’m actually down there. It’s amazing how many business conversations you can have in the gaps between seagull calls, crashing waves and camp mates dropping off buckets of kiwifruit.
Then Matt, the kids’ friend who just flew up from Dunedin for the holidays gave me the solution. Two phones. One for my 021 friends on prepay the other my 027. It’s not the most environmentally friendly option, he pointed out, but it saves you money. And as he actually flew the plane he just arrived on, I figured he knew a thing or two.
So the two phone option was adopted at the cost of $110 which I would no doubt save in a matter of weeks.
“Gosh it’ll be a bit embarrassing when both of them go off at the same time while I’m out at lunch,” I chortled to my daughter as I headed out to lunch.
“Has anyone seen my extra phone?” I yelled the next morning.
It was gone. It disappeared at lunch and SPQR report that it hasn’t turned up in the little draw under the cash register which so often minds the things I leave behind. I had used the phone for 24 hours.
I now have another one bringing the total money saving exercise into the red at -$220. Which will actually take months to make it worth my while even with my $6 Best Mate deal.
That’s the sort of thing I like to think Tania/Stacey would have warned me about if we’d ever got to have our chat.

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