During this past summer our tub with old fixtures and 1950s plumbing behind the wall was leaking hot water. I placed a cup underneath the faucet and based upon the number of cups filled per hour I found an online water usage calculator which revealed we would be paying about $80 annually for that drip! Wayne was unable to fix it himself because of the outdated valve and location of the washers behind the wall. We were able to find an excellent licensed plumber who specializes in older homes who did some major surgery/upgrades behind the wall and then put in brand new fixtures. That $450 repair still saves us $350 since we plan to be in our home for at least another ten years. Also, if a washer goes Wayne can now change it himself instead of having to call a plumber. That’s the good news.
Our gentleman plumber, along in his years, shared a story with us about his rotary phone that at the time seemed crazy: It was literally stealing money from him! It turns out your smart phone might be doing it, too and it happened to Wayne!
The plumber’s granddaughter was organizing his bills and saw that he was still being charged a monthly rental fee for his 1960s rotary phone! Amazing! I didn’t ask him how much he was being billed per month but over time that adds up to a lot of money! But more importantly, what kind of legal loophole is that? You sign up for something “for life” but aren’t locked in, then life goes on and years later you’re paying for something obsolete yet the billing department doesn’t adjust your bill to reflect the current reality. Apparently this isn’t very unique:
A widow rented a rotary dial telephone for 42 years, paying what her family calculates as more than $14,000 for a now-outdated phone. Ester Strogen, 82, of Canton, first leased two black rotary phones — the kind whose round dial is moved manually with your finger — in the 1960s. Back then, the technology was new and owning telephones was unaffordable for most people.
Fortunately I bought all of my rotaries at estate sales for a few bucks each, although I probably shouldn’t have bought as many as I did. (Arguably-ish one needs to coordinate phones and colors with the decor, no?)
Here’s where this story hit home and our wallet. Wayne bought his iPhone in 2013 and has been on the same phone plan since that time. Wayne leads a very busy life and I am the household budget manager and bill payer. His phone plan, which he had since before our marriage, was something to which I hadn’t paid attention. I just knew he was on auto-pay which I entered in my budgeting software every month. I asked him if I could take a look at his current plan.
Dear readers of my blog! Please check your plans! Since July 2016, Wayne’s month-to-month plan, for which he was paying $75 a month, had been reduced to $55 but they never adjusted his bills since he signed up for it at $75! We had been paying an extra $20 a month for a little over three years! I calculated that to be $760.
I was shocked and disheartened. I felt like I had let us down and Wayne felt bad that he never checked his plan. I do know that we are both so outdated that we trusted that if something like that was to occur that our bill would be automatically adjusted to reflect the lower amount by the nice people in their billing department. Yeah, I know, seems crazy but even this jaded New Yorker has a very naive side.
I called the local Verizon store and the young man (I know that’s an old lady thing to say, but that’s me) on the phone pretty much laughed at me and chided Wayne for not checking his account sooner.
After I temporarily checked out on YouTube (how many rabbit holes can you fall into on there?!), I prayed for clarity, acceptance of what I can’t change and took some deep breaths.
I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, after which I got my ducks in a row. Because Wayne is over sixty I know there are consumer protection laws specifically for his demographic. In Maine consumer contracts are unenforceable if they are found to be “unconscionable.” I bookmarked the FCC complaint form page after I printed off the paperwork to file a case in small claims if it came to that. I was not going to walk away from this! It was just wrong and immoral.
I’m very happy to report that I had a pleasant phone conversation with a representative from his phone service provider in response to my complaint. I responded very calmly to their defense that he should have checked his plan. I pointed out that the older generations aren’t as internet savvy as we are and they are more trusting which is why there are special laws to protect them. I was told in response that normally they won’t adjust anything beyond 180 days but she offered us a refund for two out of the three years! I gladly accepted. I wasn’t interested in going a full legal route to recoup the extra $240 or so. Time is money and angst is bad for the soul and complexion. Wayne and I are both relieved that we were able to recoup that much without having to put up a big fight.
If you have any “senior” friends or relatives with a rotary or cell phone, please share this post with them, and check your own phones and faucets for money leaks!