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Case Study: Refunds on Overcharging

Last month we finally replaced my wife’s phone with Bell Mobility, due to it being “old” and it also didn’t work reliably (odd battery habits and tended to not answer a lot either). We chose the “free” phone (I can do a whole article on the concept of “free” phones, but I will hold off), so there would be no extra charge (however we did sign up for another 2 years with Bell Mobility, again, another article), at least we thought it was going to be free.

The young lady who served us told us that there would be a $35 “activation” charge (that’s not what it’s really called, it’s something like a Hardware Activation and Authorization Fee, but close enough for Jazz). Since I saw the young lady “activate” the new phone herself on line I asked what the charge was really for, and she said I could call a special number and ask for it to be refunded (given I was a customer of good standing). I smelled a chance to save some money, so as soon as I got home, I called the number but the chap who I spoke to (in Mumbai, I believe, since it was Saturday) said no such charge had been added to my account YET. He suggested calling back when my bill arrived IF the charge appeared.

That response alone suggested I should persist, so I waited for my Bell Mobility bill to arrive, and it did on Thursday, and sure enough there was the $35.00 charge on it (about a 50% price gouge on my monthly bill). I leaped into action called the number and got a very eager young chap, who introduced himself, and then proceeded to tell me that this charge was NON-refundable, and that there was no way I was ever going to get that money back, and that whoever told me I might get the money back was wrong and I (the customer) should go tell them that.

I was ready for this onslaught (previously I might have flown off the handle and question the young man’s parentage, but I have learned that never works), and I then proceeded to tell the young man on the phone:

  • I worked for the company that built their network and this activation fee was completely artificial, because all the work had been done in the store, by the young lady on her computer.
  • I was a customer in good standing for over 5 years, and if this monolith of a company views regular customers with such disdain, maybe their competitors would enjoy my business.
  • What else could he do for me, if this fee was truly nonrefundable, surely there was something else that could be done?

It’s always important to give your victim an “out” and he took it from there. He realized that I wasn’t just going to hang up and forget about it, so the young chap said he might be able to do “something” for me. A moment passed as he checked, and he came back and said, while he couldn’t refund my $35 fee, he could credit my account this month for $30 for my monthly bill and free call display and give me free call display next month, which added up to $35 total, and asked me if that was satisfactory? I said yes it was, and now I have been refunded my $35. I don’t care if you call it a “one time because you are a pain in the azimuth fee”, just give me my money!

The moral of the story? Stick to your guns, stay polite and point out that you are a good customer, and a lot of the time, folks will do good things for you. If they don’t want to do that, then be ready to move on to where someone appreciates your business (unless you are dealing with a a plumber who is fixing your flooded basement, then I am not sure how to proceed).

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