Columns

Ramblin’ Road: Can’t you buy with cash any more?

by Phyllis McCrossin

Phyllis McCrossin

I think I officially morphed into my parents this weekend, and it all started with a trip to a cell phone store.

Now, I realize my parents would never have been able to maneuver the technology road into cell phone use. My mother had a very difficult time managing their answering machine.

I recall a time a banking representative left a very lengthy, detailed message regarding a certificate of deposit rollover on the answering machine. Mom stood by the phone and made “raspberry” sounds. After watching her, I suggested to Dad they go into the bank and talk to someone in person. I also called the bank and asked that in the future if they had suggestions for my parents, they simply call and ask for them to come in.

I didn’t have anyone watching over me as I tried to switch phone carriers this past weekend.

I walked into a retail store Saturday looking for a major cell phone carrier. I explained I did not want a contract and I wanted to pay cash for two new cell phones. I should have known I was in trouble when the sales rep suggested I finance the phone for payments as low as $1 per month because it would be cheaper.

Am I missing something here? Did he miss something? I thought I had clearly stated I wanted no contract. He was trying to sell me a $300 phone (one of the cheaper phones available) and have me pay it off over 300 months or more. I’m not even certain cell phones last 300 months. Isn’t that kind of like perpetual payments?

(As an aside, I was offered $100 to upgrade my mobile Yahoo account for $39.99 a month. Can someone please explain the logic in that? Do people actually do it}?

Anyway, I left to think about it and came back a little while later. I selected my phone and they asked for my information to pull a credit report. No, I don’t want to finance anything. I want a no-contract, pre-paid account.

“We still run a credit report.”

What part of I don’t want a credit inquiry on my credit report did they not understand?”

Big sigh. “Fine,” I thought to myself. “Do what you need to do. I can’t go another summer driving in to town from the campground just to send my column to Dave Young (Townbroadcast) or try to check my balance at my self-serve bank. I would appear you are not giving me much of a choice.”

In order to switch services and take (port) my number with me, they needed the account number and PIN from my current phone company. It took 20 minutes sitting in my truck to get the information. I went back into the store (which by the way was locked due to COVID and one had to stand outside waiting for a customer service rep to notice someone standing by the door to unlock it).

“Your second phone has a separate account. I need that account number too.”

“You couldn’t think to tell me that before I sat outside in my truck?”

At this point I had enough and left.

The next day King and I went to a major box retail store to check out the deals they offered – from the same carrier as the previous day.

At least this time I was allowed to purchase the phone, along with a pre-paid card, which I was told I could easily update into an auto-pay account. Turns out it was (pardon my language) all bullshit.

I started the process at 11 a.m. on Sunday and finished up at 11 p.m. Twelve hours of my life wasted talking to customer service representatives from across the globe. I also spent a lot of time screaming obscenities at the automated system. It made me feel better, but the dog is now giving me a wide berth. In fact, both King and the dog are hiding from me.

I did have one of our sons offer to come over and help me. By that time I was so frustrated I told him for his own safety it would be best to just let me continue to suffer through the process alone.

It is now the early dawn of Monday and I think I have everything figured out… except for my address. I can’t get their system to change me from living on Preston Avenue in Dallas (where I have NEVER lived) to my P.O. box in Michigan.

I’m sure in 30 days when the company tries to pull an auto payment and the addresses don’t match, I’ll have to start over again.

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