There was an interesting story on the news the other day concerning Iraq and a woman and her husband and their cell phone bill and it proves to be an interesting tale on the riches of entitlement. The husband was being shipped off to Iraq. The wife, lonely and alone without him, wanted to stay in touch with him every day so she would feel “safe.” Together they purchased an International cellular phone plan from Cingular.
Cingular told them, that while they had an International plan, her husband would be Roaming while in Iraq at a per-minute rate of $2.50 USD. “Roaming” means her husband would not be on the Cingular network and that is much more expensive than an “in network” call where you are always under the aegis of your cellular provider. They signed the contract. A month later the woman was presented with an inch-thick 8″x10″, single-spaced, printed-on-both-sides cellular phone bill from Cingular. The woman owed over $10,000.00 USD for a month of cellular calls to Iraq! The woman called Cingular to ask what happened. Cingular reminded her she was being charged $2.50 a minute because her husband was Roaming in Iraq.
The woman said she thought they would only be charged $2.50 a minute if her husband called her. She thought if she called her husband while she was on the American Cingular network they would be charged their regular rate not the $2.50 Roaming rate. Cingular reminded her it didn’t matter if her husband was making or receiving calls in Iraq — he was Roaming at all times while receiving or making calls because he was in Iraq. The woman then played her entitlement card and told Cingular she wanted a break on her bill because her husband was in Iraq and they didn’t have any money because they were only living on military pay. Cingular — who offers one of the most detailed bills of any cellular company — said they charged her nothing more than what she owed.
They reminded her it is expensive for Cingular to process calls into and out of Iraq because it is a war zone. The woman, unsatisfied with the facts, and wishing to play her entitlement card in a larger arena for her personal gain, went to a local television station in New York and pleaded her ignorance of her cellular contract. She claimed Cingular was taking advantage of a distressed wife longing for her husband in Iraq who might be killed any day. Her entitlement card was picked up by the television station. A story was done.
A dimwitted tale of woe was told. An inch-thick cellular bill was waved on television by an indignant reporter. Cingular was called out by the television station. The woman, teary-eyed and on camera, said she and her husband just said “hi” and “how are you” on their cell phones each day and over that month they only had one “30 minute conversation.” She went on to claim the bill was wrong and that Cingular had misled her about the Roaming charges.
There was more indignation from the television reporter and even more inch-thick-cellular-bill-waving and Cingular was contacted and shamed into lowering her bill in the name of patriotism and “supporting the troops.” Cingular, correct in all aspects, was trumped by the entitlement card and they lowered the woman’s Roaming rate to .99 cents per minute from $2.50 per minute for that single $10,000.00 bill. The woman’s new bill was $4,700.00 USD. She is paying the bill. If you do some quick math, a $4,700.00 cellular bill at .99 cents per minute roughly works out to 150 minutes a day over a standard 30 day billing cycle. 150 minutes a day is 2.5 hours a day talking on the phone to Iraq! That sure is a lot of “hi”s and “how are you”s in a day. You know who’s making up the per-minute $1.51 difference in the reduction of the woman’s Roaming charges? We are.
When one person doesn’t play by the rules and demands a favor or a do-over or a recalculation by playing the entitlement card, the rest of us pay for that entitlement in the form of higher per-minute fees and other add-ons and surcharges and that is not right. No one should be allowed to use Iraq, or any other war, as an excuse for getting bad behavior forgiven because it shames the whole mission and paints those who seek the entitlement as thugs and small-time and war profiteers.