How Valuable Minutes in Our Lives are Stolen

Just called a friend on his cell. No answer, so was time to leave voice mail. Well, actually, it was time to wait. And wait. Do you notice that with some providers, there’s a lengthy wait time before there is a beep to signal you can go ahead with your message? Usually that time is filled up with a lady’s mechanical recorded voice giving you instructions on what most people already know how to do. Worse of all, that voice seems unnecessarily prolonged and dragged out. For the person trying to leave a message, it’s painful to wait through all this, especially if on a monthly plan with not many minutes. Do some companies have a purposeful intention to bombard us with these slowed-down recorded speeches so we use up valuable minutes?

Also, when we dial in to check our own voice mail and messages, why does this count against our minutes? And, again, when checking our own messages, there’s that pre-recorded voice again listing all the options out to waste time. Fortunately, usually we can just press a number to skip this and get to the function we want.

I understand that instructions are very important, especially for newer users, and people who are new to this area. But, can they have a little bit more urgency to them? Or, can they not make these count against our minutes? Or at least bill us by the second, instead of always rounding up to the minute.

Which brings us to another related issue on billing. I again wonder if this is purposely done to increase the likelihood of taking more money away from customers. The monthly cycle for billing usually falls near the middle of the month or some number that’s not intuitively obvious. Well, at least not as obvious as it would be if it just simply started at the beginning of every month. Of course if the customer really wanted to, she can probably go online or check somewhere how many minutes she has exactly used so far in present billing period, but many of us do not and just go by feel and memory, and that brings wide smiles to those companies. When our body naturally goes from first of month to end of month, it is harder to remember from the 13th of one month to the 12th of another month.

My bank does this as well and I end up with all these charges of making too many withdrawals or transfers in a month, but of course it is according to their idea of a monthly cycle.

All this is no excuse as most can adjust and avoid unnecessary fees if they wanted to. But, it’s just a bit disconcerting for customers when having to consider whether these companies plan to do this to make things less obvious.

Most don’t argue over a few minutes here or there, or the exact dates of a monthly cycle but, over time, a minute here or there, multiplied by millions of customers here or there, and that becomes a lot of minutes lost by us, and a lot of money gained by them. Is that why so many things are just not clear cut and obvious up front? When I first sign up for services, I never get told about exact dates, cycles, and how minutes work. We trial and error, we use, we often just pay without being aware, and are not told about the exact rules unless we ask ourselves. And sometimes we don’t bother asking, or complaining, because it’ll just end up costing us more minutes, more time, more frustration as we wait…

-Patrick Law

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