Jennifer Danny | Lessons from a Cell Phone Bill

Jennifer Danny

For the last few months, every time I receive an email about my upcoming cell phone bill, I must call, sit on hold, and wait at least 20 minutes to speak with a representative. At first, I thought OK, I’ve updated the account and they cannot seem to get it right, so I’ll have to walk them through this. But after five months, one would think that they would have corrected everything. 

Let me give you a little back story. The saga of this begins with my mother-in-law and her cell phone carrier and monthly cell phone statement. Regardless of the plan she initially set up, there were ongoing issues, and I would be the one to help to resolve it. 

Finally, after a few years, she asked me if she could add my cell phone number to her account and she’d get a discounted plan. I of course obliged. Well, you should know that I have three cell phones, one with my husband and family, one for work and the one with my mother-in-law was what I called my “burner phone,” an LG flip phone that only was used for extended family members who had memorized my number so that in any emergency they could reach me. 

When I say, “burner phone,” think Walter White from “Breaking Bad,” not because I was in the same biz as Walter, but because this phone I only use for texting or calling. I have had that number for over 20 years. Call me sentimental. 

My husband gives me grief over why I have three cell phones, to which I say, one of them is strictly for work and provided by work, and the other one is the iPhone on our family plan, and the one with your mom’s plan is what she wanted me to do, and I have it linked to many things.  

About three years ago, she had a landline phone repair guy come to her house and what followed about 15 minutes after the repair guy was a salesperson who seemingly knew she was having her landlines, two of them, repaired for reasons unbeknownst to us. The salesperson got her to believe that she needed a different cell phone plan with a competitor, and he came prepared with a brand new bell-and-whistle iPhone and said he could lower her monthly bill, she then asked him if she could get a new cell phone case to go with it, and he said, “Sure, let’s go to the cell phone store and I’ll help you get everything set up.”  

And off they went in her car, with him driving, yes you read that correctly. He drove her car with her in it to the competitor’s store. When I finally found her, after a couple of hours of trying to reach her, she told me what had happened, I said, “What?” Who is this man, what is his name and what is his phone number?” 

She gave it to me, and mind you I was at work, so I took my cell phone outside, and stood by the birch trees in our parking lot, where many a call I had made throughout the nearly nine years I have worked there. Both hard and good times and to me, the trees are a sign of comfort, they never falter, they never waiver, they are there for me. 

I took a breath and called him, and it went to voice mail. I left him a message: “I’m Jennifer Danny, and you were just with my mother-in-law, and sold her a new cell phone plan, not on our current carrier, but you also drove her in her car to the local store, I repeat YOU DROVE HER IN HER CAR and I need you to call me back immediately.” 

So, I stood outside for a couple more minutes and voila, my cell phone rang. It was the guy. 

I answered and said, “Hello.” He immediately tried to defend his actions that he simply wanted to give her the best deal. I asked him how in the heck did he know to visit her on the very same day the landline telephone repair guy was there and what a kawinkydink that was. I asked him why did he get in her car and drive her to get a cell-phone case for a phone she didn’t need that he sold her?  He told me he was insured to drive a car.  I thought….what? And then I asked him how old he was, and he replied, “26.” 

I said, “Do you have any elderly family members?” 

He said, “Yes, my grandparents.” 

I then said, “What if someone had taken advantage of them, sold them something they didn’t need or didn’t order?” 

I continued, “I understand you are young, in sales and want to do well, but you must do it with integrity.” I asked him to please learn from this experience. He apologized and we ended our call. 

About six months ago, my mother-in-law didn’t need her cell phone anymore. She had moved into an assisted living place and the landlines there were sufficient because her caretakers were available 24-seven. Ah, it was the end of an era, no more calls from her cell to my burner cell asking me to call her and asking me to help her with various and sundry things. Again, the end of an era, but a necessary end.  

And then my task was to get her name off the account and to put it in my name to keep my line active so she wouldn’t be charged any longer.  

Initially, I was told my monthly bill would be approximately $35 per month. That seemed fair for the “burner phone plan,” and soon after my first bill arrived and the $35 became $68, month after month, and each month I would call customer service and wait on hold until someone would get on the line. They’d correct it, and finally I signed up for auto pay and was told I’d get a $10 monthly discount. Well, that didn’t quite work out, because I still needed to call and remind them. And the conversation would go like this: “Hi, I signed up for autopay and I get the email notifications that I am on autopay and that my payment of $68 will be deducted on the 8th of the month, BUT when I signed up I was told autopay would save me $10 each month, can you please help me to get this corrected.” 

Last month I got my email notification that my bill would be automatically deducted and of course it was the $68, not the $58. I was fed up, so I mustered up the strength and called, although this time I decided I was going to give the representative a piece of my mind. 

When the rep came on the line I started complaining, and prefacing that I knew it wasn’t his fault, but I couldn’t understand why each month I had to call? My voice was elevated, and I was frustrated, and I told him I needed someone, anyone to help me so I don’t have to call every month.  

He told me he was sorry I had to go through that, and this would be the last time I would have to deal with this. He told me he was going to reach out to his manager, and make sure this was taken care of and that I would receive a credit on my next bill. I calmed down, my voice became the regular sweet Jen and I said, “Thank you!” I told him I appreciated his kind help, and that I didn’t mean to be so agitated at first. 

He told me my voice was so kind and comforting. I asked where he was from, and he said the Philippines, and that he still lived there. I said, “Oh, wow, my neighbor is from there and he is one of the most genuine people I know.”  

He said, “My sister’s name is Jennifer, too, and I miss her.” As his voice cracked, I told him it was OK, it’s been a hard couple of years, and I hope you get to see her soon. 

I thanked him again and wished him well. After I hung up, I thought, OK with all the hardships in the world right now, maybe this was a another “lesson” that I needed to learn. I felt a little guilty that I may have overreacted, and while it was never my intent to be deliberately off kilter as I communicated my dismay over my cell phone bill, I was reminded that you get better results when you are sweet, than when you are sour.  

And the following week, I got my email for my upcoming “burner cell phone” monthly statement, and as I clicked on it to open it, I paused and thought, “Well, whatever, if I must call again, so be it.” And to my surprise, it was $20 less, just as he had promised. 

In my heart I thanked him, and I hoped it was only a matter of time until he got to see his sister again. 

Jennifer Danny is a Santa Clarita resident.

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