Those who are involved in the industry often try to justify themselves with the rationalisation that they are merely satisfying a demand, but Buddhism teaches awareness of Wrong livelihood, the trade in things which will cause harm to other beings … From the Buddhist perspective, the trader is not immune from blame for the damage caused by these things.
–Bhikkhu P.A. Payutto
The following scenarios are based on real-life events. Names of the retirees have been changed to protect the innocent.
A Miami resident named Evelyn decides her AT&T monthly bill is too costly. She calls AT&T to cancel her account, and then calls Supra Telecom to start a new account.
AT&T promptly cuts her service off, and Supra Telecom charged her a fee for reconnecting the line … MEANWHILE, two weeks later, Evelyn’s phone line STILL WASN’T WORKING! She was reduced to using a neighbor’s phone to attempt to resolve the issue with Supra Telecom.
MEANWHILE, Evelyn’s son (who was out of town on business) couldn’t get in touch with his mother. Worried, he asked his wife to find out what was going on. When she reported back, the son authorized a new cellphone be sent to his mother immediately.
MEANWHILE, Evelyn — having come from a generation that respects corporations — paid AT&T and Supra Telecom for phone service that she had not used FOR TWO WEEKS!
Evelyn is a retiree living on SSI and her husband’s (God rest his soul) paltry union benefits. She can’t drive. She can barely walk. She refuses to eat food from Meal on Wheels because she doesn’t eat red meat for health reasons. She has no savings — having come from a generation that believed the government Social Security plan and the Union her husband was part of would take care of them, due to their hard work.
MEANWHILE, AT&T and Supra Telecom, acting as modern day Scrooges without the ghost redemption, continue to squeeze Evelyn for every penny she has!
Patricia and Ronald live in a pleasant 55 and older community in Boynton Beach, living off their retirement pensions and a couple of condo rental properties.
Times have been tight lately, with the recent hurricanes followed by the housing market downturn. They’ve had to slash rental properties, while eating higher maintenance fees after the storms.
Patricia sees commercials for Vonage, and their $19.99 per month phone service. For weeks, she pesters Ronald about switching — after all, their current phone bill is over $70 a month. Ronald knows a little bit about computers, having learned how to operate them at his last job. He can check his email, and even navigate a travel site to order plane tickets. He suspects that Vonage will be trouble. After a few weeks, he gives up and agrees to try out their phone service.
TWO WEEKS LATER, Ronald is on the phone with his nephew, asking him if he has time to come over. The nephew, who had been out of town on business and was in the middle of packing stuff for an impending move, dropped what he was doing and came over.
FIVE HOUR LATER, the Vonage system was up and running.
All’s well that end’s well, right? Another happily ever after? You won’t say that after you read what the nephew went through to get the Vonage service running!
FIRST OF ALL, Ronald uses AOL dial-up internet access. When Ronald contacted Vonage originally, the sales representative informed him that AOL offers high-speed internet, and that she would contact AOL on his behalf to activate a DSL line.
Anyone from Generation-X with half a brain knows that’s a bogus claim, but Ronald comes from a generation where….
ANYWAY, when the nephew called AOL to follow-up, the call center guy from India whom we’ll call Mahatma informed him that AOL no longer OFFERS HIGH SPEED ACCESS, and that the offer was only in selected areas. Luckily, Mahatma had the numbers for Comcast and AT&T on his computer screen, and gave the numbers to the nephew.
The nephew decided to call Comcast, since the home owner’s association already had cable television in Ronald and Patricia’s home as part of their maintenance fees. Unfortunately, Comcast did not have Ronald and Patricia listed as the residents in their condo, requiring Ronald and the nephew to go to Kinko’s to fax PROOF that they were the living there.
After waiting an hour for a call back from Comcast (on the nephew’s cell phone, of course), they were informed that the account had been updated. This sales representative, who we’ll call Santos, was knowledgeable.
Santos: “The only way you can get the rental cable modem today is if you go down to the Comcast office.”
He provided directions, told us what to ask for, and when the office would close.
Ronald and the nephew went to the office, picked up the cable modem and free installation kit, went back to the condo, and had everything up and running within an hour.
Next, the nephew tried the Vonage equipment. At first, he could only get one phone to work. You see, the Vonage modem connects to a phone jack on the wall, and provides phone service to the entire residence. Unfortunately, the phone inside the room where the modem is doesn’t have anywhere to plug in! The nephew, after pondering the situation for a moment, asked Ronald for a splitter. He attached the splitter to the modem, attached wall phone jack and stray phone to the splitter, and Viola! All the phones in the house had a dial tone!
Ronald turned to his nephew and said, “I could not have done this without you.”
And that is precisely the problem.
Vonage made an offer to a retired couple without properly explaining the logistics of setting up the phone line. Heck, they sold Vonage service to people who didn’t have high speed internet access!
I’m not laying the blame on the Vonage sales rep solely (how that person sleeps at night, basically stealing money from unsuspecting elderly folks and giving it to her corporate masters, is beyond me). Vonage OBVIOUSLY condones promoting an offer that is TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. All you have to do is watch a Vonage commercial, and you’ll see the evidence before you. They don’t stress the fact that you need a high-speed connection.
Another problem with Vonage: the sales reps should not be allowed to use throw away lines like, “We’ll call AOL to set-up high speed access for you.” That is a lie on two fronts. One, AOL doesn’t offer high speed access, and two, even if they did, I’m sure AOL would require the customer to call to set up the account.
The sales reps are encouraged to stuff say that, I’m sure, b/c the potential customer already has the service … they want to make the transition to Vonage SEEM as smooth as possible.
While we’re on the topic of high speed access: since Vonage’s business DEPENDS on high speed ISPs, wouldn’t you think the sale reps would have the names of the companies that offer those services on their computer screens, depending on the area? AND wouldn’t you think that the sales reps would be TRAINED to explain that the customer MUST set up high speed access prior to ordering Vonage?
I know Vonage is desperate, still recovering from their disastrous IPO and uncertain about their future … but come on! Misleading customers about how easy and cheap their service is doesn’t help the business, either!
One last thought — Motorola, the company that built the modem, should be ashamed of themselves. They should have a splitter built into the thing. Their design is idiotic.
The only good thing about Vonage for Ronald and Patricia, to be fair, is that they can make international calls to the old country. Of course, the nephew did not verify this claim, and neither did the writer of this article….