Friday, September 5, 2008

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

I've never been quite sure what that quote means - shouldn't bad deeds be punished, and good deeds be celebrated? Well, I'm getting a firsthand look at the punishment that comes with a good deed.

On August 22, I bought 450 minutes for my Tracfone, a prepaid cell phone. I have a double minute card on my phone, so I paid for 450 and should receive 900, plus I used a code that should have given me like 50 extra minutes or something. After doing the complete purchase, including credit card info, I got a screen that said the minutes couldn't be added to my phone and to call the toll-free number. I was walking out the door for Ed Week and couldn't call, so I swapped phones with Ryan for the week and left.

It's amazing how easy it is to put off a phone call to a customer service number to fix someone else's problem. I finally called today to get the minutes added. At first, it went so quickly that I was totally impressed - after typing in 3 or 4 20-digit numbers, the minutes were added and it was only a few minutes after I had called. Then I looked at the phone and realized that instead of adding 900 minutes, I had gotten 1,900 minutes.

The devil on my shoulder was jumping up and down, screaming "Shut up! Don't tell! Don't say anything!" And for once, I think it was out of self-preservation and not greed. Because it was 38 minutes ago that I said, "You know, that's more minutes than I bought" and I am seriously questioning my value system right now.

It seems like taking minutes off a phone is way harder than putting minutes on. Because Carlos, who I'm sure is a stand-up guy, is having one heck of a time getting this straightened out. He's had me enter buckets of numbers, deleted all of my minutes, added 1,818 minutes again, then deleted them again. I've been on hold for probably 30 of those minutes (so far) and the most annoying part is that Carlos asks to put me on hold for "up to two minutes" and then after the two minutes is up, he has to come back and ask me again to hold for another two minutes. Every two minutes for half an hour, thinking he's about to tell me it's all fixed but really just asking me to hold for another two minutes.

I'm up to minute 43, and Carlos just let me know that the agent he's working with has put him on hold, and could I hold until he's done holding. Sure, fine, whatever. I recognize that this is probably better than just being put on hold indefinitely for half an hour, convinced that you've been forgotten and that someone is off enjoying his lunch while you waste your baby's ENTIRE FREAKING NAP on hold. And it also seems to make Carlos feel a little bad that he has to keep telling me to hold, not that I'm trying to punish him, but there's enough pain here to spread around.

If I had known that "doing the right thing" was going to cost me, now 47 minutes with no end in sight, would I have still done it? The fact that I'm even questioning myself is a huge sign, because I'd like to think that I'm absolutely honest in this regard. It's easy to say you'll always give back the extra change, turn in the lost thing instead of keeping it, it's so clear cut what is right and what is wrong, and doing the right thing costs you nothing.

But what about when doing the right thing takes some serious effort, or at least, serious inconvenience? And doing the wrong thing wouldn't put anyone out anything - it's not like Carlos was going to get his pay docked for giving me a thousand extra minutes, or his till wouldn't balance at the end of the day.

The person who would be put out by me doing the wrong thing is me. My conscience wouldn't let me have a windfall like this, which is clearly a mistake, and enjoy it. I didn't buy 1,900 minutes, I only bought 900. Even though I'm not walking out of a grocery store with an extra $100 worth of groceries I didn't pay for, the concept is the same, and my conscience knows that. I'd be the one to suffer if I kept the minutes, and I'm the one to suffer for giving the minutes back. What the heck kind of world is this? Not an easy one, I'll tell you, but then again, doing the right thing isn't necessarily the same as doing the easy thing. Darn it.

At 50 minutes, Carlos came back and said that "management" is adding 910 minutes to my phone, and it will take 15-20 minutes for them to show up. So far, I've got nothing. I figured out that, at least the second time, it was my double minute account that is screwing things up - Carlos obviously tried to add 909 minutes and I ended up with 1,818.

If I had known what a hassle this was going to be, would I still have done it? Yes, but differently. I would have tried to deal with the whole mess through email instead of phone, so things could get figured out without me having to sit there the whole time. But I'll tell you this much - if this had been any other situation where some company's mistakes cost me an hour of my day (during nap time, one of the most precious hours of the day), I would be asking for some compensation. Like some extra minutes. Maybe not a thousand, but all of a sudden, the 900 minutes I paid for don't seem like enough. I let that go, because adding minutes clearly is not as easy as one would think for Tracfone.

But if "management" adds 1800 or 1900 minutes to my phone, I'm keeping them. It won't be unjust enrichment or greed, I think at this point I've earned it.


Anonymous said...

I loved how at the end you felt entitled to some kind of bonus minutes for being on hold so long - bonus minutes you had to begin with! Very funny.

rachel said...

I think they should have just said, "oh, that was our error - keep the minutes". I have had times like this where I try to correct some error like that and they look at me like I am a moron. "Why on earth would you be honest?" is the look on their face. Sad, huh?