Monday, August 28, 2006

Caller Beware

Some post are funny. I’ll write one in a day or two that is funny now. But, it wasn’t when I lost my cell phone at the airport.

Some post are informative. I’ll write one in awhile about going through security at O’Hara international airport three times in an hour. Trust me this is something you want to read about, rather than experience.

Then there is this post. It falls into the Public Service Announcement category. It uncovers one of the greatest scams of our time.

This picture shows two objects. One is my cell phone, which I lost and later found at O’Hara airport. That in itself is a miracle. The other is a phone card. That's the scam.

When I thought my cell phone was lost at O’Hara, I realized I had to make two phone calls. The first was to my daughter. She dropped me off at the airport at 4:30AM and like any nervous father, I had asked her to call me when she when got back to her apartment. I knew she had tried to call and probably got a little worried when I didn’t answer. The second call was to Cliff when I landed in Omaha.

I went into a gift shop at the airport and bought a 30-minute phone card, at a cost of $15. That’s fifty cents a minute. But, if you need to make two calls – you need to make two calls. Both calls could easily be completed in thirty minutes. So, after breaking into the package to get my card I followed the instructions on the back.

1. I dialed in my phone card number. (No problem)
2. I then entered the menu of instructions, “For English press One, for . . . (This is where I remarked in a rather loud voice, “Why the %^$& do I have to push one for English?” Of course, the automated voice on the other end had no answer.)
3. I was prompted to enter my pin number. (No problem)
4. Then there was a message telling me how I could donate a phone card to help the needy. (This is where I stated in a rather loud voice, “Right now I am the needy.” Again, the automated voice on the other end didn’t care.)
5. I was then asked to enter the phone number I wished to call. (I did)

Here is the phone conversation that took place:

DOR: Hello.
Ralph: Tiff, this is dad. I lost. . .
DOR: Dad, Kat at mod three has your phone. She answered when I called.
Ralph: Who’s Kat?
DOR: She works for United and is at mod three with your phone.
Ralph: Where is mod three?
DOR: I don’t know. Maybe you could call your phone and find out.
Ralph: Yeah. Did you get home okay?
DOR: Yeah, I just worried when a lady answered your phone.
Ralph: Talk to you later Tiff

Now, Tiff had a good idea. I had no idea where mod three was and calling my cell phone wasn’t a bad idea if Kat would answer. So, the phone card process started again.

1. I dialed in my phone card number. (No problem)
2. I then entered the menu of instructions, “For English press One, for . . . (This still really frustrated me but I pushed one.)
3. I was prompted to enter my pin number. (No problem)
4. Then there was a message telling me how I could donate a phone card to help the needy. (I didn’t say anything but still felt I was one of the needy.)
5. I was then asked to the enter the phone number I wished to call. (Which I did)

This is where the scam began. Another automated voice came on and in a rather stern voice informed me, “You do not have enough remaining minutes on your card to complete this call.”

I had made one phone call with my thirty-minute card! That is when I read the back of the card and noticed in four point font a statement which reads, “A surcharge of at least 13 minutes (subject to increase) applies to all pay phone calls.”

Now, that’s a crock! Where do they think most people will use the phone cards? Pay phones!

So, if you need to make one phone call a thirty-minute phone card at a cost of $15 should do it. Just remember to push one for English.


Blogger Cheyenne said...

How totally unacceptable. And they call it progress? Is there nothing sacred anymore? Sheesh. And we thought the price of gas is high.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

That is a ripoff!! I have seen those cards before. You just can't use them at pay phones for some reason. Otherwise, they are nice.

Glad you found your phone!

6:59 PM  
Blogger Aravis said...

Incredible! It sounds as though you've had an eventful time of it, and I'm looking forward to reading more. Glad you found your phone, finally!

11:40 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Welcome back, Ralph. We hear you had a good time. Also that you spent a lot of time in airports lately.

Next time you lose your cell phone call it first before doing anything else. Whoever has it will answer and just go get it. That's what I do.

How to call your cell phone without buying a $1 a minute card?
Borrow one from a friendly stranger. That's the way.

11:46 PM  
Blogger Miki said...

That is the worst thing that I have ever heard of! I would be so enraged that I would write a letter or an email to ATT telling them that you were stranded in an airport, just where the %#@@ were you supposed to call from??? That is like going to the ER with your insurance card in hand for an EMERGENCY TREATMENT, DUH, and getting a bill three months later from a DR that tells you he/ she isn't on your plan! WHAT? The HOSPITAL is on the plan, it was an ER visit! NO no NO. you have to pay! Anyhow, glad that you eventually found your phone, and mod three! I would think that they would have had you paged in the airport, being helpful and friendly employees, right?

3:50 AM  
Blogger Cliff Morrow said...

Hearing it in person the morning it happened and watching the smoke rise from Ralph's head...Priceless.

6:08 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

AT&T probably has no idea why pay phone vandalism has gone up since they released that card.

7:20 AM  
Anonymous DOR said...

Cliff, you heard it after the fact, you should have heard his voice when the phone was still with Kat. That was truely priceless.

11:03 AM  
Blogger Christa said...

WOW. That's a TOTAL scam! However this was a FABULOUS post! You made me laugh outloud on the "I'm the needy one" bit. hee hee! :)

9:13 PM  
Blogger TamWill said...

AT&T stands for A Trick and Thievery! Terrible rip-off!

Glad you got your phone back. Funny post :O)

4:52 PM  
Blogger MiddleClassVoter said...

That's almost as bad as making a call using my credit card using a company called "Faircall" at the Cincinatti airport. Total cost for less than two minutes: $18.21 Hopefully I'll be back through the airport again and can post a few choice comments on their avoid this $18 scam. I was NOT told how much the call would cost even though their customer support insisted all operators inform customers before placing calls...they offered a whopping refund of $7.98 (how the hell they came up with that figure I don't know) although they didn't not want to refund one cent until I started calling them thieves and a few other words I can't write here...lessoned learned don't forget one's cellphone or call collect, it would have been cheaper by far.

7:46 PM  
Blogger dave said...

Blame the federal government, specifically the FTC, not AT&T or other calling card companies.

The reason for the surcharge is that the FTC mandates whenever someone calls an 800# from a payphone, the owner of the 800 line has to pay around $1 to the owner of the payphone. The idea being that otherwise the owner of the payphone is not getting paid for calls being made on it. So

8:35 AM  

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