In the meantime, I have one of those phones that you just keep adding minutes and then use them up and add more. It is a great system, even when you fall on the ice, break your phone (was in my purse and it hit just right and ended up in pieces that could not be reassembled) and a couple, three, bones in your foot.
Replacing the phone was easy, including having the tech support people transfer my minutes and telephone number to the new phone. Way cool. I added minutes at that time because I was in the store and it was convenient and I just happened to have enough extra cash to do so.
A couple of weeks ago I bought a new minutes card and finally got around to adding the minutes to my phone. Truthfully, it is only because I noticed that there were only 59 minutes remaining that I thought about it. So, I united phone and card and scraped off the security code on the back.
Except, only 4 of the 20 numbers could be read. What the frakkity-frak? So, I found the contact number and called, explained my predicament and, 28 minutes later, the only way that they would consider helping me...no any actual promise...is if I fax the front and back of the defective minutes card, the receipt, the serial number of the phone and my name.
I do not have a fax. I do not have access to a fax, and I asked for some kind of alternative way to get that information to them. E-mail? No. Send photocopies through the regular mail? No.
So, I am off tomorrow to find a place to fax everything, the photocopies of those things as well as a letter to them. I will not share the part of the letter that details yesterday's experience and my admiration for their tech support people and the supervisor to whom I spoke.
But, there is something that they do not understand or know about the majority of their customers.
I know that those folk are just like me, using that company's phone and minutes because they simply do not have any resources that would allow them to use a decent phone and plan. We cannot afford a Jitterbug or Consumer Cellular product. We cannot go to AT&T or USCellular or T-Mobile or Cricket or any other provider.
So, Trakfone, I would like to share some information with you.
Many of us:
- Have and use your phones because we cannot afford any other phone plans.
- Lack the discretionary income to just buy minutes for our phones any old time we like. We have to save our money in order to keep our phones filled.
- The reason is that we lack the ordinary resources that ordinary people take for granted. Even the most frugal among us have a little bit of cash that they do not have to stress about using. Some of us who have income just over the upper limits for receiving social service support still need to have a phone. Some of us are the chronically underemployed, are in recovery (bless their hearts) and/or are homeless and living in shelters or are using the resources they have to take care of other family members. Another segment of your customers, and I am guessing that there are fewer of us than the other segments are people like me. Women like me, who are survivors of domestic abuse, and who have little or nothing because what we have is just what we managed to grab as we fled our abusers. For me that means a few clothes and my cat. Surviving should be enough, I guess, but it not always is.
- Do not have facsimile machines, which is the actual name for fax machines, which I know because I have worked in businesses that use them. We do not own them or have access to them, and I suspect that most of your customers do not have the extra cash to throw around on faxing fees, should they be fortunate to find one.
- Your tech support woman, the one who told me that her best advice to me was to contact the store where I bought the minutes card and ask to return or exchange it for a minutes card that is not defective. Shame. Not for the lack of ability to help me, but for knowing that the minutes card could not be returned or exchanged because she knows all of your policies perfectly. And, because I trusted her I did exactly that and called the store.
- Cannot afford to waste the 23.01 minutes with your tech support people, which is partly my fault for asking twice to speak to someone who might be able to help me or help me find an alternative way to help myself. We also cannot afford the extra 5.23 minutes on a cruel wild-goose-chase calling a store that your representative absolutely knows is unable to help me because if they want to sell your products they have to abide by your rules and policies. All of which your tech support woman knew.
And, lest you think me unsympathetic to the fraud and loss-prevention issues experienced by companies, your included, I am not stupid or unsympathetic. I have a retail and social service background and I am well aware of how some people will go out of their way to totally rip you off.
I also understand that you have absolutely no way of knowing that I am not one of those people, especially since the defective minutes card causing all of this angst is the most expensive one you sell.
But, you have to help me regain those minutes, because I simply cannot afford to lose the $80.26, plus tax, I spent to get those 900 minutes that you have yet to decide if my documentation will change your mind about responsibly dealing with your defective minutes card. I had to save to buy that card.
Of course, not all of that would fit on the single sheet of paper that carries my letter to them. One page of letter, one page of photocopies of everything else is probably going to use up the rest of my cash for the week. Actually, it will most likely cost me only $3-4, and I do have more cash than that. All that really means is that I will be making salad dressing instead of buying a bottle of my favorite from the market.
But...but...but, this is about much more than my stupid phone and the not-stupid, but still unhelpful company who runs the plan.
This entire experience, all 28.24 minutes of it, has been a real eye-opener for me, a person who has held the belief that the past couple of years, decades truly, have opened my eyes as open as it is possible for eyes to be.
If I am struggling this much with my resources, then the difficulty and lack of help for others must be exponentially greater than I ever imagined.
What if you did not have enough money to put minutes in your phone until you were nearly out, and if you get a defective card like I did, you do not have enough minutes to call them or search around for a place to make photocopies and send faxes?
What if, like one of my clients last week, you finally get your food support card and go to the store, buy groceries and then have them stolen from another resident of the shelter where you live?
What if you are like the woman I see at the library and who I see walking past my flat on the days when I am home and happen to be looking out of or near a window and she catches my eye, and about whom I recently learned that she is cast out of her brother's house every day because she is developmentally disabled and his wife is tired of dealing with her when he is not here?
What about all of the people, just here in my community, who do not have a portion of the resources I have? I struggle and I worry about paying my bills and my rent and buying enough food each month, without the extra stress of falling ill or needing to take CoolCat to the vet or when that piece of crap car breaks down again, but all of that is minor when compared to this city, full of people for whom life is a much greater worry.
Even in the midst of the phone mess I had the awareness that this problem is not the end of my world, that I am so fortunate to have come away from my other life as well as I have and that I truly do not have anything about which I have any reason to complain. Big picture, this phone mess is just a small inconvenience. And, this is greatly informing me that I should be paying more and better attention to of more issues regarding the people I am trying to help at my library gig and the shelters.
This kind of thing touches and makes tremble an array and range of societal issues that may never be solved, but need the best of intentions and the best efforts of all of us if we are to have any sense of pride or responsibility or connection to others in the place where we live. I care about the whole world, I really do, it is just that the only difference I can make, am capable of making, is right here, where I live, with the people who enter my sphere of awareness. And, hopefully my help should that be possible.
I find it amazing that something as relatively insignificant as the bother this phone is causing me just brings me back around, so circular in my experiences and how I continue to grow and survive. It is not so much that I no longer feel alone, I feel connected. Yeah, connected, something I never had the chance to be. I like it. It carries responsibility, but I like that, too. I am pretty much like just about every part of this new life.
In a world of heartbreak and terrorism, disasters both intentional and natural, broken lives and families and spirits, I have a good life and it is in my best interest to not waste what I have and can share.
And, all it took was a defective minutes card to open my eyes, and more importantly, my heart.