The Most Expensive Mobile Phone Bill I Ever Got… And When To Say WTF
July 1996 was the birth of my first-born. The size of a Mars bar, weighing in at 248 grams. I was the proudest man ever. The Ericsson GA318 was my first business mobile phone; it didn’t have a clock, camera, or a calculator. Why would it? It was a mobile phone.
Was I proud of my mobile phone? Was I ever!
I remember sitting on the top of a bus in London back then and letting it ring and ring, everyone on the bus would turn around and look at where the sound was coming from. And suavely I would take out the phone, for all to see me answer the call.
When I bought it, the salesman knew he had me the minute I walked in the shop. I had the silly look of a man who knew nothing about mobile phones. He spoke with such authority, 200 free minutes, 100 texts with all calls after that at 35p per minute.
And who made international calls in those days? No one did. Could you even do that—make a call internationally? Actually, you could. Guess who decided to make a call from Stockholm to London, one red-hot right ear and ages later?
As per usual, the network sent me a bill. It’s funny how you open a mobile phone bill and immediately look down to the bottom right-hand corner. My bill was £550… This is the time to say ‘WTF?’ The network had it wrong, surely—the salesmen never mentioned a bill could be this big. At some point in your mobile phone life, I’m sure you’ve had a bill from your network. Please tell me others have felt my pain.
In my early days of working with business mobiles, I cold-called a company and introduced myself. I was immediately put through to the managing director who promptly burst into tears. Her story unfolded that she had just come back from a two-week holiday in Italy. And to keep the ten-year-old quiet, she had given him the use of her Blackberry.
Several weeks later, her mobile bill arrived somewhat thicker than usual and it said: £12,000 ex VAT for two weeks. I’ll leave you with that one for a moment, whilst you mentally compare your biggest bill with hers. She was toast. What happened? A lot more crying I should imagine (she called me later and told me that she’d paid it).
Beat that you say.
OK, there’s the story of Celina Aaron’s mobile phone bill for $200,000, a South Florida resident and sister to two deaf brothers. She put her brothers on her call-share plan where you have a pool of minutes that any number of people can share from. So, off to Canada, the brothers go and I’m sure they took shirts, clean socks, etc etc. But what they did not take with them was a change to the calling plan, i.e. an international roaming bolt-on.
So, 2000 texts sent and a ton of data used. And I guess like me and the MD from Surrey, weeks later the bill landed in the hallway. These kinds of bills look almost parcel-like as you come down the stairs; your heart rate rises in proportion to the thickness of the envelope. $200,000 in one month, in one bill.
Well, the happy ending to this tale is that T-Mobile reduced the bill to $2,500 for Celina and allowed her six months to pay it off. Now that’s a sit-down-with-a-cup-of-tea moment. Mobile phone networks, business or consumer, can be brilliant. But packed in this post are cautionary tales.
It’s a great joy in helping people to lower their bill who have been furious at their overspend every month, angry every month that their bill is high again. Didn’t we have this conversation before and the network said I’ll see a drastic reduction in next month’s billing? And lo and behold, it's Groundhog mobile phone bill day AGAIN.
Here are some tips on how not to say WTF: