Cheating is the system, or how my phone bill woes demonstrate what destroyed the economy
Jesus H. motherfucking Christ, am I pissed. I canceled my Tmobile contract back in February, roughly the day my contract obligations ran out, because I wanted to get an iPhone and be on AT&T. I must have asked the woman who canceled my phone a dozen times if it was really, truly over, and she assured me that the phone would be shut down. My mistake was believing that it would be so simple, and throwing the beaten-up, barely surviving phone away. But since I had a) called ahead of time to warn them I was canceling and b) I was reassured a bunch of times that my contract would be canceled because I canceled it.
You can imagine my surprise to get a bill from Tmobile for $52 for a month of service that happened after it was canceled. Of course, it had no minutes on it, due to it being canceled. But there it was—$52 about to be debited from my checking account for a phone I don’t use, because I fucking canceled it.
When shit like this happens, I get catatonic from cognitive dissonance. On one hand, I’m livid. There’s very little doubt that the phone companies have some sort of internal process to make sure to “forget” these sort of cancellations, knowing as they do that a certain percentage of customers will just keep paying the bill without noticing, because it’s an automatic debit. Due to this, some motherfucker deserves the wrath of a screaming, pissed off Texan. However, I’m also aware the the person assigned to absorb this wrath is a peon whose complicity in this dark system can be forgiven due to economic necessity. I do not enjoy yelling at relatively blameless customer service people who probably get drunk with their coworkers on Friday night and talk about how much they hate working there precisely because they’re told to “forget” to stop billing people and then they get yelled at for it. However, I was shaking from anger at this blatant sleaziness, so I was rather short with the poor woman who picked up the phone. Luckily for both of us, she knew immediately what was going on and shunted me directly to a manager. Who says he fixed the problem, but now I have to watch my stuff like a hawk to make absolutely sure, because god only knows what rules that poor guy is working under.
Is it possible that someone actually forgot to cancel my service? In the same sense that it’s possible that the pope forgets that condoms have been scientifically proven to stop the spread of HIV. The second I put my complaint on Twitter, a bunch of people on Twitter and Facebook said that the same thing happened to them or someone they know. At best, Tmobile (and other phone companies with the same problem) deliberately refuse to install software that automatically shuts down everything when a customer service rep cancels the service. But I wouldn’t put it past them to apply pressure to “forget” to cancel services, especially those with automatic debits.
But of course, I sound paranoid for saying this. We all need to believe that the collective corporate behemouths are somehow prevented—either through regulation, fear of reprisal, or their better angels (since the rich are morally superior, right?)—from looking for every avenue to take money from us. But in reality, using some bookkeeping tricks and some dishonest ploys to get to the point where you’re basically stealing is probably even preferred, as it seems so creative, and the guy who comes up with it gets called a wunderkind. But the collective unwillingness to believe that they are in fact out to screw us is, I suspect, why the Obama administration is going to keep shoveling money over to bankers who probably intend to wipe their asses with it. They can’t be that base and evil, can they? Yes, yes they can.
Let’s face it. There’s almost no way they can lose by charging me for shit I explicitly didn’t buy. I’ll be lucky if they actually do take the charge off my account like they said they will without me calling and screaming until some poor customer service representative gets tired of me. Because what can I do but scream? Hiring a lawyer to get $52 out of them is stupid. If it gets sent to a collection agency, the stone wall between me and justice will get thicker, and should I ever wish to do something like sign up for electricity or a phone without paying hundreds of dollars for a “deposit” I’ll never see again, I’ll have to pay that $52 to get it off my credit history. I dread to tell you the things I’ve just paid to get it off my credit history so I could get a mortgage in the past without being shifted into some subprime piece of shit. Let’s just say that I paid off bills that my then-boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend racked up (Or did she? Perhaps she was getting the same kind of screws put to her.), because otherwise they were going to get way more money out of me in interest payments. The system is set up to be extortionist.
This is no doubt why the lenders getting behind these various toxic assets, as well as those who bundled them and those who insured them, thought it was no big deal. They’ve been squeezing the little guy for so long that the schemes to do so got bigger and bigger, because they made the mistake of thinking the little guy would always decide, at the end of the day, that it was easier to pay than to fight. The logic on a lot of mortgages is that people will pretty much sell their children to keep their houses, you know, and if you doubt it, I suggest asking any mortgage underwriter exactly how they rank what bills get paid first when trying to figure out if someone’s going to be good for a mortgage payment. What they failed to take into account is that there is a point where you can no longer get blood from a stone. Or that people who will spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to clear up a credit history littered with unfair charges, open theft, jacked up interest rates, or other creative schemes to be like, “Whoops, you owe us a shit ton of money” will start to balk when the price tag reaches into hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is exactly what happens when you jack up the interest rate on a VRM or someone buys a house only to see the property value cut in half. What’s the price of a good credit history? Apparently, it falls below the $200,000 mark.
When so much of your economy is built on manipulating the basic enforcement techniques to get money people genuinely owe you to get all sorts of money they don’t, in a just system, owe you, things are going to fall apart. But sure enough, without most of the public realizing it, we moved to a system where people were selling stuff with no value, using outrageous forms of usury to squeeze blood from stones, and just generally trying to use deceit and extortion to make money instead of offering goods and services for a price, which is apparently not fun enough of a way to make money. But as long as the government refuses to regulate and even bails people out for this crap, there’s no incentive to quit.
I mean, Jesus, at least GM was basically trying to make money by selling cars instead of bullshit.