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The man with the plan

April 25, 2008
By Bob Seidenstein,
A couple of weeks ago when I answered the phone, a young man gave his name, said he was calling from Verizon and asked to speak with a guy whose first name was Bob and whose last name sounded like “See-dee-yun-stay-yeen.”

Normally, I would’ve given him my standard telemarketer rap about not being home, but his mention of Verizon caught me up short. Since Verizon has my phone and computer account, I figured maybe this wasn’t just another hustle. And the more he talked, the more I figured he was legit.

He said he could offer me a new plan that’d have more options than the one I currently have, plus it’d save me money.

Get more stuff for less money? Who could resist that? Not me, certainly.

But something else appealed to me, namely the kid himself. I know that sales is always a hustle of some sort — often flim-flam, if not out-and-out rip-off. But this guy came across differently. Not only wasn’t he smooth — he wasn’t even very grammatical — all in all, he seemed like it was his first job and he was doing his level best to do it well.

A lot of the time he wasn’t even sure what he was doing, so he’d stop and say he had to check with his supervisor. Then I’d hear him call out, “Hey, Ray, I gotta talk to you about this here,” which was followed by a hushed confab between the two, after which he’d get back to me ... till the next time he had to talk to his supervisor, and so on and so forth.

The call had lasted about 15 minutes, but not in vain — I was on the verge of signing up for the new plan he’d offered me, when just as I was about to give him the go-ahead, the line went dead.

I was at a loss: One minute I was about to seal The Deal of the Century, and the next I was listening to a dial tone.

I recovered quickly. It was no biggie after all: I’d just wait until he called back. So I waited … but he didn’t call back.

Not called back by the phone company? How was that possible?

After about 20 minutes and still no call, I started to feel like an old maid on Valentine’s Day.

After another 10 minutes, I could take the rejection no more and called the Verizon sales department, where I got an operator to whom I told my tale of woe.

“But what I really wanna know,” I said, “is why he didn’t call back. He sure called me once. Besides, you’re Verizon — you’ve got everyone’s phone number”

“Strictly speaking, we do,” she said. “But the telemarketers are hooked up to a computer system that’s on a rota. They don’t know who they’re calling or what number it is until it appears on their screen. And once that’s gone, as far as that name and number are concerned, they’re as lost as the babes in the woods.”

Alas, the poor babes in the woods! Once she mentioned them, my heart went out to the poor telemarketer in the woods. But though my heart went out to him, it didn’t stay there; I still had serious business to conduct — like a new and improved phone plan.

Better … and cheaper!

I mentioned that to the saleswoman, and she got right down to it, quickly finding me a plan that seemed as good as the one the fellow had offered me.

“So this is everything I had before, and it’s cheaper?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “It’s more than you had before … and it’s cheaper.”

Then she ticked off all the new features.

“With the new plan you’ll get faster Internet hook-up, unlimited local and long-distance calls, Call Waiting, Caller ID —”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “I don’t want Call Waiting or Caller ID.”

“You don’t?” she asked. “Why not?”

“As for Call Waiting,” I said, “I figure if someone calls and the line’s busy and they’re someone I should talk to, they’ll call back.”

“OK,” she said. “But what about Caller ID? Don’t you want to know who’s calling before you pick up your phone?”

“I already do know.”

“You do? How’s that?”

“Because I’m a simple country boy — a lad of the streams and mountains.”

“Yes?” she said. “But I don’t understand what that has to do with not wanting Caller ID.”

“It’s not that I don’t want it,” I said, “I don’t need it.”

I paused a breath, then went on.

“If I get a call somewhere around 5 o’clock, it’s the Nudge of the North. If a call’s at 7:30, it’s the Amazon Queen. Kookie never calls before 9 o’clock or after 10:30, and my brother only calls on Friday night or Saturday morning, except maybe an odd one here and there during the week. And beyond that, almost no one calls. So scrap Caller ID, too, OK?”

“Sure,” she said. “And since we’ve got a great deal on cell phone plans, how would you like to include yours in the plan?”

“I’d love to,” I said. “And as soon as I get one, I will.”

“You don’t have a cell phone?” she asked, incredulous.

‘No,” I said. “But I will, as soon as I retire and move to Florida.”

“Oh,” she said, “and when will that be?”

“Never,” I said.

She got my subtle humor and laughed a bit. Then she went back to business.

“So with this new plan,” she said, “you’ve got a high-speed Internet hook-up — much faster than before. You don’t want Caller ID or Call Waiting, so I took that off, but you’ve got round-the-clock, unlimited local and long-distance calling. And it’s all 15 dollars less a month.”

“Sounds great,” I said.

“Oh yes, I almost forgot,” she said. “With this plan you also get unlimited calls to Puerto Rico and Canada. Isn’t that a great deal?”

“Sure is,” I said.

“So is there anything else I can do for you tonight?”

“There sure is,” I said.

“Oh?” she said. “And what’s that?”

“Find me a friend in Puerto Rico … and another one in Canada.”


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