Sunday, June 23, 2013

Class action lawsuits, oh joy.

Here is the 2nd time I was invited to join a class action law suit.

I used to use Sprint for my cellular coverage.  Their coverage zones were good enough, their rates were at least competitive with other services, and it was more or less a functional relationship, at least when I was willing to pay full price for massive amounts of minutes. 

But this was the late 90’s, early 2000’s and I was a corporate type guy, and I saw those relatively modest dollars as not worth worrying about.  No, it wasn’t until I entered graduate school, and spent all my savings, and struggled to find work as a newly minted educator that the trouble began.

Basically, I had to cut my minutes down, as the 70 or 80 dollars I paid each month became the difference between eating (well), or going out for a microbrew with a buddy now and again (I’m going on memory regarding the cost:  I DO remember that it was a number that would seem high even a decade later).

I had settled on some modest minutes figure.  There were plenty of nights and weekend minutes, and the phone had a ‘minute minder’ feature that kept a tally about how many minutes I’d used.  If I felt I was pushing it, I’d just turn the phone off during the day.

Until that fateful day.  I received my bill, and it included an extra $100 fee for “overage.”  I was driving somewhere, and phoned Sprint (I know, that’s terrible to use the phone in traffic, but let’s not pretend that I pioneered the concept). 

I was perturbed, because, it seems as if their minute minder feature was a joke.  A cruel joke, but a joke. But their more advanced, “keep you on hold until your battery fades and dies feature,”  while apparently in beta testing.   Worked just fine.

I called them back later, got through, and the conversation went a little like this.

I said to the Sprinter, “Hello, Yes, I’m a little perturbed that my bill was so far off.”

The sprinter replied,  “Well sir, it shows that you used (x amount) of minutes, and it’s ten cents per minute over your base program.”

I noted,  “Well, yeah, but I used the minute minder one week ago, so, three-fourths of the way through the month, and it indicated that I had at least half my minutes left.  I don’t really see how I could somehow use more than double my allotment of anytime minutes.”

The sprinter calmly explained that, “Sir, I’m sorry, but the minute minder feature is just an estimate.”

Channeling my inner Mark Twain, I replied, “When you’re off by a factor of 50%, it’s not an estimate, it’s a wild ass guess.”

My credit rating probably still bears the scars of my refusal to pay the overage charge.  And it was small solace when some years later, I received an invitation to join a class action  lawsuit against Sprint for their clever minute counting policies.  I didn’t bother, as it seemed tawdry, and small.

In point of fact, I’d rather join a class action lawsuit into their infuriating technology that allows them to keep me on hold for as long as it takes for my phone battery to die.

I’d be thrilled to join that lawsuit.  Anyway, that’s the story of the SECOND time I was invited to enter into a class action lawsuit.

Morrison Luke Smith