Tuesday, January 30, 2007

T-Mobile Reminds Me That the Customer Is NOT Always Right

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

shut up nick k thx

Here’s a story you won’t soon be reading on The Consumerist.

A few weeks ago, I bought this outdated but cheap T-Mobile pre-paid phone directly from T-Mobile’s website for $59.99. So far I’m absolutely satisfied with it–great reception, easy to use, long battery life, and dirt cheap refills.

I was less than thrilled, though, to see the price of the phone drop to $29.99 a couple days after I bought it.

Having successfully obtained a price-drop refund from Amazon.com just a few weeks ago, I decided to try my hand with T-Mobile and ask them for a refund on the difference between the price I paid and the current price. I knew T-Mobile didn’t have a policy about offering price adjustments after a purchase, but I figured five minutes of my time would be worth it for a chance to save $30.

Here’s the e-mail I sent to T-Mobile’s Customer Service:

Dear T-Mobile Customer Service,

I am writing in regard to a recent order (#*********) I placed for the Nokia 6030 T-Mobile To Go prepaid phone. I recently activated my phone and am very happy with my new service.

When I placed the order on January **, 2007, the phone was priced at $59.99. Just a couple days later, I noticed that the price of the phone dropped to and remains at $29.99.

I’m hoping that you would be willing to refund the difference between the price I paid and the current price of the phone. Please refund $30 to the credit card I used for this order. Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Sincerely,
Nick

I received an automated reply immediately stating that I’d hear back from a real person within 48 hours. Sure enough, I did. (Emphasis below is mine.)

Dear Nick,

Thank you for taking the time to contact T-Mobile regarding our promotions.

Before going any further, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for being a new T-Mobile customer since January 21, 2007. It is our pleasure to provide you with the best possible assistance for all questions and concerns you might have. T-Mobile is proud to be a leader in the field of wireless services.

We understand that you see our new promotion for the Nokia 6030 phone and like to get a credit on your phone purchase made earlier. This can be frustrating when you see the price change occur after purchasing the phone. We would be pleased to check for you.

Currently we do not have a price match available for our new promotions that come out. Sorry for the inconvenience this has caused.

If you have any further comments, questions, or concerns feel free to contact us at anytime. Did you know that you may check your minute usage and balance directly from your phone? Simply dial #999# to see the amount of minutes you have remaining and the dollar balance. Alternatively, our support number is 1-800-937-8997 or dial 611 from any T-Mobile handset at anytime.

As a valued customer Nick, thank you for choosing T-Mobile. We appreciate your business.

Sincerely,

Ray
Web Correspondence Specialist, T-Mobile USA

In short, the e-mail was a big “you’re outta luck” from T-Mobile.

At this point, I weighed my options. I could:

  1. Waste a few hours throwing a fit on T-Mobile’s Customer Service hotline, hoping they’ll cave to my demands.
  2. Register t-mobile-wont-give-me-my-money-back.com, post hourly about the horrible agony I’m enduring at the hands of the fiendish T-Mobile Customer Servile Representatives, and wait for the call from the New York Times.
  3. Throw in the towel.

Instead, I decided to go with Secret Option #4: Realize that T-Mobile is 100% right and shut my mouth. And no, that’s not the same as Option #3.

You see, T-Mobile has every right to refuse my price adjustment request. After all, as I stated earlier, they don’t have a price adjustment policy. While it would have been nice of them to offer a refund on the price difference, they certainly weren’t obligated to do so. In fact, it was probably unreasonable for me to request the refund in the first place.

Perhaps I’m a coward who’s deserting from the war between Big Business and Little Customers. Or maybe I’m a traitor for actually commending a company for sticking to its policies and not bending over backwards to meet my every desire. But T-Mobile won’t be receiving any hassling phone calls or lengthy demand letters from me. The only things they’ll be getting from me are a hearty thanks for promptly and courteously handling my situation, and my continued business.

Verizon, on the other hand, can continue to bite me.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Five Easy Ways to Never Be Poor Again

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , , ,

easy ways to break the cycle of poverty

I used to be poor.

I mean, not starving-on-the-streets poor, but more like are-we-going-to-pay-all-the-bills-this-month poor. Our checking account balance never exceeded three digits, and every dime of income my family made was already ear-marked for rent, food, or bills. It would have been very easy for myself and my family to incur a lot of debt while I was growing up, but we managed to eak out a humble existence and keep ourselves out of the red.

Now that I’m starting my own family and handling all of the financial aspects that go along with it, I’m realizing there are some simple things my family could have done better while I was growing up to move us closer toward middle-class living.

  1. Complete college. Getting a college education is the #1 way to break the cycle of poverty, and it’s something neither of my parents completed. While it’s commonly known that college graduates earn far more than those who just completed high school, few people know that the average income of non-college graduates is dropping every year. So do whatever it takes to get that degree–night or weekend school, community college, work study (and you should be able to do it without student loans).
  2. Own your home. I’ll make this brief. Renters are throwing their money away. Stop paying someone else’s mortgage and start paying your own. Turn that roof over your head into an investment instead of an expense and you’ll be on the road to a better life in no time.
  3. own your home... but not this one

  4. Put whatever money you can in savings. Put $100 a month in a 5% APY savings account and you’ll have over $15,000 in just 10 years. Do it for 20 years and you’ll have over $40,000. Invest in stocks and you’ll likely earn even more.
  5. Wait to have children. If you are barely supporting yourself, you do not want to bring a child into the world to share your meager lifestyle. Do the first three things on this list, and once you’re in a financially stable situation with an optimistic long-term outlook, then start having kids. And if you’re poor and already have kids, don’t have more. And yes, that means stop having sex because that’s where babies come from. The only pleasure you should be getting is through hard work, study, and watching your savings account balance grow.
  6. Swallow your pride. This is one thing my family did right. If you’re trying to start a better life for your family but the expenses of living on your own are keeping you from making any progress, there’s nothing wrong with moving back home with your parents (if they’ll have you). Even if you contribute to their rent or mortgage, it’ll still be much less expensive than paying it all yourself, and you’ll have a couple of years to build or rebuild your financial well-being. Just don’t fall into the trap of staying at home forever; keep working hard, get that degree, and save money.

If you ever find yourself living somewhere between starvation and subsistence, you’re probably not doing at least one of these things. Once you start doing all five–and if I can do it, anyone can–chances are you’ll never be poor again.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Punny Money’s Grand Coupon Experiment, Finale

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

time to retire the scissors

It’s been a while since I’ve reported on our progress using coupons to save us money on groceries, and there’s a good reason for that. Okay, maybe not a good reason as much as a really bad one: we gave up on coupons.

The reasons I gave earlier for why I suspected coupons would not work for us are still valid. Clipping coupons took too much time and just isn’t suited to our two-person, generic-loving, produce-munching shopping lifestyle.

I tried my best. I really did. I bought newspapers every week, sometimes even if it meant a trip to the store on a day we didn’t need groceries. I poured over them, desperately trying to find coupons for items we use. At some points I was tempted to clip coupons for chips or TV dinners or other things we don’t typically eat, but this would’ve translated to spending more money than normal to save a little.

Several weeks went by where I clipped fewer than two coupons from the Sunday paper–not even enough to cover the cost of the paper, let alone the time I spent doing the clipping. That’s when I decided to call it quits and throw in the scissors.

I hesitate to call this experiment a failure because it simply proved the hypothesis I had going into it that coupons aren’t for everyone. And while I respect those for whom coupons are a saving grace on shopping days, I also encourage everybody to closely examine their grocery spending and make sure they aren’t just buying products because they have coupons for them. If you are, then you’re simply spending in order to “save.”

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Your Comments on the Top Five Companies We’d Be Better Off Without

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics:

A lot of insightful comments were made during the “Top Five Companies We’d be Better Off Without” series, so I’d like to take a moment to highlight some of the best ones.

On Sony (#5), Jeremy says:

I refuse to buy anything Sony. There is nothing worse than paying a premium for a piece of garbage that you can get for much less elsewhere. Not to mention their stupid new formats they are always trying to force on people. … How did Betamax work out for you, Sony? That format really took off. … I look forward to blu-ray resulting in the same fate.

Zing! What happened to you, Sony? I remember the fun times I had with my Sony Walkman and PlayStation 1…

Regarding Wal-Mart (#4), David says:

Wal-Mart is surely my #1…they put small businesses out of business, cheat employees out of healthcare by keeping their hours down, force manufacturers to cut corners in order to meet price points…

But paigu begs to differ:

I live in an area where people really do think of Target as “Tarzhay” and Walmart as “ugh, I’d never set foot in there.” But you know what? Sometimes I just want to be able to run into a store, grab some groceries, folders, and socks in one swoop, then go, without being distracted by huge BRIGHT red signs and dots and ads full of smiley uppercrust white folks cavorting around with their luxury Target items. I don’t need a store that tries to improve it’s own image by using models to sell toilet paper. Walmart is nofrills shopping, convenience, and low prices.

I’ll admit, if there were a Wal-Mart in our town, we’d probably go there much more frequently than Target. Fortunately I don’t think there’s an undeveloped patch of land big enough in Rockville, Maryland to fit a Wal-Mart.

While some felt as I did about McDonald’s (#3), noonebutmme highlighted some of the charitable efforts of the Golden Arches:

McDonald’s has created a $2 million matching fund to match donations raised by the Ronald McDonald House Charities canisters in McDonald’s restaurants and donations made within the company to help employees in need. … Following an initial $2 million commitment announced immediately after hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, Ronald McDonald House Charities converted canisters in McDonald’s U.S. restaurants to accept donations for disaster relief.

When it comes to Verizon (#2), Clever Dude shares my pain:

You hit the nail on the tele-head. After dealing with the fools that they call sales people each telling me something totally different and totally wrong about the phones and services I was researching, I just caved in and bought the one that looked the coolest…

Commenters took the most issue with my #1 choice, the United States Postal Service. As Lazy Man and Money put it:

I’m not convinced the flat rate thing is bad. If I had to pay variable pricing for locations and weight, I could never figure out what it would be and would have to go to the post office (or equivalent) to figure out how much postage is required. That’s going to cost me more in time, gas, and effort than a few 39 cent stamps…

In light of this, I went outside yesterday and personally apologized to my mail carrier for writing the article. He said he’s never heard of this site. I’m not sure why he’d lie like that. Must be some sort of postal conspiracy.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Punny Poll #17: Is Your Income Keeping Up With Inflation?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

Last week’s month’s year’s (oops!) Punny Poll asked you to decide who could possibly replace Bob Barker as host of The Price is Right when he retires in June of this year. Nearly 40% of you said that nobody could replace Bob, and I couldn’t agree more! But if Price is to continue, the more popular picks for its new host included David Letterman, Marc Summers, and Regis Philbin.

yellow dude just got his annual 27-cent raise

Despite our company stock being up over 50% in the last year, I’m sure our annual raises next month won’t reflect that increase. In fact, I’m concerned the average raise of people at my rank won’t even beat last year’s inflation rate of 4%.

How about you, hard-working Punny readers? Whether it’s through raises or other sources of income, do you expect 2007 will bring you more money than last year?
[Read more...]