It's starting to look like all of our efforts are starting to pay off; This weekend, after getting back from a little family vacation to Michigan, we came home to discover a veritable cornucopia of veggies waiting for us. We had actually already picked about a half-quart of green beans just last week, but in one week's time the plants we had were already full again. As far as I'm concerned, you can never have too many green beans. On the other hand, I think we may have overdone it on the jalapeÃ±o peppers; We picked about 20 peppers last night, and left behind at least half as many that weren't quite ready yet. If they keep up the same pace that the green beans have been taking, we'll be swimming in homemade salsa by the fall.
Unfortunately, the tomato plants are thirsty little devils and we're barely keeping them up; We did get a ripe tomato yesterday that I'm excited to try out, hopefully the rest of the plants will hang in there. The rest of the plants are coming along pretty well, with the green peppers getting to a pretty good size and the cayenne peppers are the right size, but not quite red yet. We've also got a couple tiny, baby eggplants just beginning to form.
Lessons learned so far:
Part of the "perfect storm" that convinced us to wait in line for seven hours on a perfectly good Friday was that, due to a legal technicality in T-Mobile's contract, we had an opportunity to cancel our mobile contract without any early termination fees. Unfortunately, while this process did end in no cancellation fees, it didn't end without frustration and perseverance.
The bottom line is that, effective August 29, T-Mobile is raising their per-message rate for text messages from $0.15/message to $0.20/message. In and of itself, no big deal; January and I already have a "text bundle" that should be sufficient for even the most popular teenager. The interesting part, though, is that this is a basic change to the contract we initially agreed to and, as a result, we're entitled to the cancellation of our contract without the standard exorbitant fees.
Well, today was the day I summoned up all my resolve, gathered up my contract, highlighted clauses, and hunkered down for a fight. I knew they weren't going to just let it go, and I'm really not very good at debating, but I definitely didn't want to get stuck with $400 in cancellation fees. Here's a rough timeline of my efforts:
4:39pm: Since my account was technically already "cancelled" -- apparently your account is automatically cancelled as soon as you transfer your phone number to a new carrier -- I was initially kicked over to the billing department. I explained that since they were raising their text-messaging rates in violation of the contract we have, I would like to exercise my right to terminate my contract without penalty. Julian looked over the terms of service, agreed very kindly that I was "100% correct" and wanted to know if I wanted to pay the balance of what I did owe. I agreed, and we settled up my outstanding balance, after which he said I would need to talk to someone in customer service to make sure the cancellation fee was waived.
4:52pm: So far so good. Julian was very agreeable. Of course, he just wanted to make sure I paid what I legitimately owed, so I wasn't likely to get an argument out of him anyway. Next up was Diana in the Customer Care department. This is the department that is responsible for waiving these fees, if the situation warrants. After speaking with Diana and explaining that their recent change in my contract was materially adverse to me -- "materially adverse" is they key phrase that needs to be invoked, according to all the blogs -- she asked me a series of questions that is apparently part of their standard script to determine whether or not a customer qualifies for exemption on termination fees. The two required items are that a customer a) does not have an unlimited text messaging bundle (which we don't) and; b) the customer must have gone over their message alotment at least once in the past three months (which we did not). Here's where things got tricky; Diana spent the next 45 minutes trying to convince me that because I have never gone over my alotment of 1000 text messages, I am not affected by their change in contract. I, in turn, spent the next 45 minutes explaining that if I were to go over my alotment in the future, I would end up paying their increased rate, which I did not agree to. We kept up this back-and-forth, with her occasionally putting me on hold, for the better part of an hour until she finally told me that there was no way she could waive the fees, because I didn't quality under their policies. If I wanted to press the issue, I needed to contact their legal department in writing.
6:09pm: After doing a little more research online and finding a few people who had a similar experience, I decided to get back on the phone rather than follow Diana's suggestion. I got Kim in the Customer Care department on the line, and at first things seemed like they were going to go much better; She read over Diana's notes, checked the Terms and Conditions, and agreed that it sounded like I was correct. She asked if I would mind waiting a few minutes while she confirmed on the legal stuff, and I said that would be fine. Two minutes later, a seemingly different Kim got back on the line. She said that it turns out that Diana was correct and that I did not quality for the fee waiver. We spent the next 10 minutes in the same back-and-forth I went through with Diana, me explaining that this change was materially adverse to me, her explaining that I have never gone over my text messaging in the past, until I asked if I could speak to her supervisor.
6:24pm: Kim got me in touch with her supervisor, Hillary, and we started down the same path. She sounded much more familiar with the situation than the previous Customer Care representatives; I'm pretty sure she had gone through this argument at least a couple of times over the past several days. After a little back-and-forth, she tried to argue that text messaging is an optional service that is not covered under the "materially adverse" part of the contract. When I asked her where, exactly, in the contract this is stated, she referred me to section five. Section five in my contract was dealing with the discount on handsets, and didn't match up at all to what she had. I explained that I was using the contract I had signed in the fall, and not the latest one, as it was the one I was under. She explained that whenever they update their contract, they include it in the latest bill and by simply paying your bill, you are agreeing to the new contract. I told her I would look at point 5 on the latest contract and get back in touch with them.
6:44pm: After reviewing the latest version of their Terms and Conditions, I came to the shocking conclusion that Hillary's "section 5" was the exact same wording as the section that presents the materially adverse clause, whichis what gives users the right to get out of a contract. There was absolutely nothing about text messaging being an "optional" service. I called up Customer Care again to have it out with them, when I got Jamie on the line. I fully expected that I would have to be forwarded on to a "higher up" to debate it out again, but a few minutes with Jamie explaining the situation, and she said she would be happy to help me out. Ten minutes on the phone with her, and our cancellation fees were waived and I was told to have a nice evening.
So while it was frustrating that the whole experience really just came down to calling back enough to get a representative who didn't argue the point with me, the real lesson here is perseversance. I do not like to be on the phone, let alone with strangers, let alone with strangers who are trying to take my money. The idea of spending two hours on the phone arguing over a contract makes my stomach turn. But because I kept at it and eventually got my point across, we don't have to pay $400 in early termination fees, and that is absolutely worth it. So the point is, don't let the customer care representatives bully you out of your rights here. Everyone I spoke with was absolutely polite, and I believe 100% convinced that they were in the right, but just keep hammering away at your point and stick to the wording of the contract. Just because they have certain "policies" in place to determine who qualifies for a fee waiver doesn't mean that those policies are legal under your contract. The contract is king, and as long as you keep arguing it, and possibly arguing it with several different people, you'll get your point across eventually.
The last time I mentioned the iPhone, I was less than complimentary to the whole situation. At that time, about a week after the launch of the first version, I had been forcibly exposed to this phone by at least four people and was, frankly, tired of seeing people "pinching" and "swiping" their phones screens. As I'm sure you know, Apple launched a new version of their phone this past week and, due to the perfect storm of the death of both my and January's blackberries, the arrival of our economic stimulus payoff, and T-mobile raising their text messaging rates, we decided to further expand our dependence on Apple products and pick up a couple. It also helped that January offered to buy mine for me. It's a pretty sweet deal, being married to my photographer sugarmama.
I'm not going to pretend like I wasn't eager to get ahold of one, but I do believe it was January's decision to show up on launch day and wait in line. We didn't go all-out, like some people I've heard about, but we did show up about an hour before the store opened. Surprisingly, the lines weren't too bad at that point; I would guess we were around #100 in line, and with 30-40 employees on the job I didn't expect the whole process would take longer than a few hours. I also managed to con Nathan and Jason into coming along, so at least we had some good company while waiting out what would eventually become seven hours of boredom interspersed with bouts of frustration and annoyance.
Really, it wasn't that bad of an experience. We only waited a couple of hours in the line, but the big hassle was once we got to the counter and were trying to activate our phones with our existing phone numbers. Apparently we initiated this process at the exact moment that the Pacific stores were opening up shop. The entire Apple/AT&T network ground to a screeching halt right about the time they were trying to port my number to my new phone, and as a result my phone number got locked into that phone without the account itself following with it. Four hours later, we were able to get the whole situation worked out and were on our way, but it was kind of a pain in the ass.
Now, as for the phone itself, I have to admit that it is pretty slick. The only complaints I can muster up so far are the lack of a "copy and paste" system for text and the inability to mark all of your email messages as "read" in one simple step. I have noticed that due to my annoyance with the phone being shoved in my face this time last year, I am super self-concious about using the phone in public; I don't expect people to fall all over themselves about it like they were with the first version, I'm really not interested in giving a tech demo to a perfect stranger. I just want a good phone that plays my music, and so far I'm happy with what I've got.