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Bad cell phone service is worse than fake death

August 23, 2007|By TIM ROWLAND

Commentary

I can't think of a better way to tell you what happened, so I'll just lift the lede straight out of Kim Hart's story in the Washington Post:

"Fed up with dropped calls and a string of defective cell phones, Corey Taylor said he became irate when he learned he'd have to pay $175 to get out of his long-term contract with Verizon Wireless. So he resorted to a rather extreme measure. He faked his own death."

Wow. He da man.

Unfortunately, it didn't work - but what a way to make a statement that the rest of us only wish we could make.

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Actually, this is a tough issue for me. My opinion of cell phones and their habitual users is pretty low to begin with, so I tend to think cellaholics get what they deserve. If you're obliviously text-messaging away, with your back to the oncoming bus - oh well.

But cell phone company behavior is so raunchy and absurd that it tips the scales back in favor of the little guy, no matter how many red lights he might run while gabbing.

To begin with, you have to sign that two-year contract. For awful service. I mean, it would be one thing if you were signing a contract for two years' worth of lap dancing, but with cell phones you are wedded to a product that, at any given time, may or may not provide satisfaction.

If you back out of the contract before the prescribed two years, you have to pay. Get that? You have to pay not to use the service.

It would be like calling up The Herald-Mail to cancel your subscription and hearing them say, "Fine, that will be $10,000, please," not that I'm trying to give our circulation department any ideas.

What I don't understand is this: If you break the contract, you have to pay up. Fine. But if they effectively break the contract by failing to provide the service they say they will provide, how come WE can't charge THEM $175? I'll tell you. Because the one thing that phone companies are very, very good at is stuffing money in the pockets of politicians.

As a matter of fact, that $175 probably goes straight to Congress, so it will continue to look the other way. There is no other explanation.

I had an account at a bank several years ago, and one day - I don't know what got into me - I decided I wanted to cash a check. Clearly, this is not the function of a bank, and they told me so. They told me I would have to wait three days. I said I was prepared to wait longer than that - like forever, and I closed my account and left.

It was that simple. They didn't charge nothin' and I didn't even have to fake my own death.

Not that I am above it. No man who has ever been involved in an unproductive male-female relationship is. But Corey Taylor's experience demonstrates that if you are going to fake your own death, you have to do it right. Somewhere, I figured, there has to be a good tutorial.

So I turned to a little thing I like to call the World Wide Web.

Sure enough, I found "Alan Ford's Guide to Faking Your Own Death." It contains lots of valuable advice. Sometimes, Ford writes, faking your own death can be just as simple as publishing your death notice in the local paper and showing it to your relatives.

He warns against faking your own death if you just want a few days off work, only to return at some later date.

But when I read his advice to death-fake your way out of a marriage by "trying to be as silent and still as you possibly can in order to give your partner the impression that you've passed away. While you're eating breakfast, try to move as little as possible" - well, I feared that perhaps Mr. Alan Ford was not taking the endeavor as seriously as I had hoped.

And you have to be serious to fake out a Big Cell Phone Company. Although it does make you wonder how Verizon, et. al., is smart enough to track down one lone scofflaw, but not smart enough to ensure your service isn't disrupted every time it's drizzling in New Zealand.

In fact, the whole cell phone industry is getting to be such a joke that "Verizon" is in danger of becoming one of those names that you just can't say without laughing, like "Walla Walla," "Titicaca" or "Lou Dobbs."

And do they care? Pooh. They enjoy it. They have no shame. Matter of fact, one of the "featured advertisers" on the Post Web story ripping apart the cell phone industry was - you guessed it - Verizon.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com.

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