(Long Island, NY) For more than a year and a half, I had a free wireless internet connection thanks to a next-door neighbor who left his network unsecured, allowing anybody in range to take advantage of his wireless signal. I didn’t hop on right away; I figured the only polite thing to do would be to ask permission first. He didn’t mind.
“Just don’t be downloadin’ any of that rodeo clown erotica on my connection.” He warned. I raised an eyebrow at him. “Sorry, neighbor, but you never know. Some people are weird.”
I figured I’d spend the rest of the day trying to shake off the implications of those three innocent words strung together in such a horrifying way. I thanked my neighbor and shuffled off like a zombie, wondering if I could drink those words off my mind later.
I made good use of my free internet connection, working long into the night submitting articles, doing research, and catching up with old friends and colleagues. I had it very good until the month my neighbor got a new job, packed up, and moved to New Jersey. I was stuck with no home internet connection. I panicked. I had gotten very spoiled. I worked from home, didn’t have to dress up, or at all, if I didn’t want. Now I was forced to go back to coffee-shop land, and would have to actually put on pants to write this column.
Senator Chuck Schumer’s recent announcement that he’d like to get five million so that everybody on LI can have free wireless internet access sounds great to me. But I don’t have time to wait around til the politicians finally decide whether or not LI gets the money. I had to take action. I needed to be able to write in a pants-free environment once more.
I decided to invest in the wireless/satellite/whatever service from my cell phone provider, whose name rhymes with “Splint”. I hadn’t dealt with them in so long that I had forgotten; a trip to the cell phone store takes about as long as buying a car. You have to stand around while they work up contract nonsense, explain all the latest deals to you. Even the ones you don’t want to hear.
I especially didn’t want to waste a lot of time with stuff like that as I decided to sign up while traveling. I didn’t have the brains to do it in my own neighborhood; I just had to do it “on the road”. I wasted time I could have been using seeing the sights standing around waiting to hear about calling plans and roaming. A writer’s need for instant gratification? Pathetic.
The most disturbing thing about my trip to the Sprint store, er, I mean, “Splint” store was twofold. The customer service reps know that the prices they quote you are before taxes. They tell you that your plan costs $59.99. They helpfully (to “Splint”) leave out the additional information about how much those taxes cost.
I got burned by this lack of information once before so I made sure to ask how much my TOTAL bill would be, tax included.
These people have it down to a science, just as slippery as any thieving used car salesman. “Oh, sir, I have no idea how much those taxes are.”
Another used-car-salesman tactic I absolutely did NOT like about my visit to Sprint, oops, I mean “Splint”:
I was actually ready to sign up for their internet plan in spite of the used car salesman trick with the sales tax. These people have me over a barrel, I need the internet to do my job, they already have me with cell phone service, and it’s stupid to go with a different cell phone company for this. But when it came time to sign the contract, there was no information about how much I was paying for anything. I was expected to sign a two year contract with no payment terms spelled out at all in terms of what plan I was getting, how much it might cost in TOTAL, nothing.
“Have you signed the contract yet, sir?” the rep asked.
“I am ready to sign but I’d like to see the description of what I am signing this two-year contract FOR.”
Of course the guy said he had no way of showing me that until AFTER I signed the contract.
Folks, I have to tell you, this is an extremely disappointing state of affairs. Sprint (oops, I did it again, make that “Splint”) knows better than this. If I wanted to sue them myself or initiate a class-action lawsuit for such shoddy business practices, I would have them lock, stock, and wi-fi barrel.
And to tell you the truth, kids, I am tempted to seriously consider such a lawsuit. It would naturally have to be class-action, where the legal proceedings affect all the customers of that company if the outcome is in “our” favor. But why is such a thing even necessary?
Wouldn’t it be nice if just once, a corporation did the right thing and treated its customers with respect rather than just assuming that we’re all a bunch of nitwits who don’t know any better? I am SURE such companies exist. They HAVE to.
But not “Splint”.
Of course, the corporate heads would just come back and say it was the bad behavior of a few rotten apples, force a few people to go thru some extra training, and change the employee handbook to discredit such practices.
Practices that the company has ignored until somebody made it inconvenient to continue ignoring.
The corporate heads would alter their company policy to make sure nobody ever again pulls such lousy stunts, but the fact is, this kind of thing should already be corporate policy. There should be full disclosure, prior to contract signing, of ALL charges, taxes, fees, service details, and etc.
But the fact is, they will keep going the way things are now until they are forced to change by said lawsuit, government involvement, or other means. I am weighing my options, wondering if class action is the way to go. I would settle for a public apology and a promise to change company practices, but something tells me that won’t happen.
The thing that really bothers me is that this is just one incident with one company among so many others. We can’t trust these people to do the right thing just because it’s the right thing to do. We have to force them to institute consumer friendly business practices through lawsuits, government regulatory agencies, and lobby pressure. It’s a sad state of affairs, and a bad commentary on our society.
Shame on you, “Splint”.