The Scam

There’s a dying widow in Nigeria who needs your help, dearest one, to rescue her late husband’s fortune, about to be purloined by greedy bankers. Somehow she found you, and somehow she knows your good character and will split the fortune for your (unspecified) assistance, after you send her a few thousand dollars for expenses from the large (but worthless) cashier’s check she is going to send you. You won’t fall for this but if your sweet old Aunt Tilly does, you may as well invite her to occupy your spare bedroom now that she’s been wiped out.

Even in my dark PC past I hated Norton anti-virus software, but somehow I now have dozens of expiring subscriptions to renew, just send us your info…

IRS wants to talk with you, a $5,000 TV is being billed to your Amazon account and shipped to NC, your unpaid parking ticket is about to go to a nasty collection agency, but we can stop all this, just send us your info…

Most of us can spot those scams a mile away. But what about brands we trust? Solid gold brands? Maybe even right here in Santa Monica.

Cell Phones?

Most of us hate our phone companies, for one reason or another. All of them. I’ve had three family phones with a company for about 15 years, switched halfway through but came back for the good reception and customer service.

Our go-to local shop has been the cell phone store on Main Street that carries a name brand. But we haven’t been at all happy with the service there, for years, and the last time I went my wife admonished me, whatever you do, don’t deal with one employee. He’s bad news.

Just a few months before she took her new i12 in for activation and  downloading from her old phone, buying a charger, case, etc. She came home grinding her teeth. When I got there, as luck would have it, it was that guy who called “Next!” (Never had any trouble with anyone else there.)

Oh, you think I just didn’t get along with him, eh? Rubbed me the wrong way, or vice versa? I could list half our complaints with the guy over the years, but I would have to write five more columns. This is from my experiences, and my family’s. Misunderstandings, maybe? Miscommunication? Possibly.

But, no, it’s how he operates. And with his manager’s silent approval. But how could a rogue operator continue at a big name company?

Because —


who you think

I know, the logo letters are up there big as life. But it’s a different company, an “authorized retailer.”

Franchise stores which sell products and services, but are not subject to a lot of the corporate rules, customer service told me, on three separate occasions.

They work on commission. How much can they sell you? Whether you need it or not, or if it costs you big time in the end and makes you (unfairly) hate the company. But you don’t think about that, because you think you are in good hands, in a company store.

For example, that data transfer from your old phone, which you can easily do at home for nothing, costs 50 bucks at a franchise store. The dude charged my wife for it some months ago, and told me he was required to do it for mine too. Not so, and in violation of their training, I was told by corporate. He also sold me a flat charger, for the “employee discount price” (approved by his manager sitting nearby) of $30 not $50, but I had to pay cash… And then he would not give me a receipt. I would have to return later for that, but he didn’t produce any kind of receipt  until my  third trip there that day. That charger is so inconvenient to use once you put a cover on your phone, no one would. He had previously sold my wife a bogus charger too. Is there a back room full of them, all sold for cash/no receipt?


But all the rest of his sales shenanigans pales to this: I decided to get the phone because there was a special limited time offer to reduce the price by more than $300. There will be monthly payments of such and such, he informed me. No, I want to pay it all off at once, first bill, I said. I can do that, right? Well, he hedged, they want you to go with the monthly payments. But I can pay it all at once if I want… Well, I guess so, he said, not telling me what he knew full soon as I did that, I would find the full price of the phone charged to my bill. More than $350 extra. I found that out in time, by calling (real) customer service when I got home. Good thing.

Upon returning to the store on Main Street, I asked about that. He didn’t seem concerned that his “advice” nearly cost me 350 bucks, only that “those people at corporate stole my sale,” he said, with no recognition of his deception. “Are you serious?” I asked. “You were trying to make a sale with false information that would have cost me a lot of money.” He repeated his lament of a lost sale and told me they were wrong about what I would have been charged, and that he was right.

“Considering the way you have deceived my wife and me for years, not to mention just today,” I said, “I think I will take their word over yours.”

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at