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AT&T Slaps Family With a $19,370 Cell Phone Bill

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the hearts-and-minds dept.

Communications 725

theodp writes "Mama, don't let your babies send e-mail and photos from Vancouver. A Portland family racked up nearly $20,000 in charges on their AT&T bill after their son headed north to Vancouver and used a laptop with an AirCard twenty-one times to send photos and e-mails back home. The family said they wished they would have received some kind of warning before receiving their chock-full-of-international-fees 200-page bill in the mail for $19,370. Guess they didn't read the fine print in that 'Stay connected whether you are traveling across town, the US, or the world' AT&T AirCard pitch. Hey, at least it wasn't $85,000."

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News? (-1, Offtopic)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904609)

Shouldn't this be in the idleispants section?

Apple? (4, Informative)

dal20402 (895630) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904617)

And this is tagged "apple" why?

This is not about an iPhone just because it's about AT&T.

Perhaps some confusion about the brand Aircard (5, Informative)

weston (16146) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904657)

The branding "Aircard" is close enough to "Airport" some readers may assume it refers to Apple equipment instead of stuff manufactured by Sierra Wireless [sierrawireless.com] .

Re:Perhaps some confusion about the brand Aircard (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24904837)

Linux is a UNIX-based OS, and my favourite distro of it is Macintosh OS X, because it has the full support of a major corporation, unlike other distros, which are all operated by maybe one or two nerds in a basement together. The last thing I want is for a level 5 dwarf (haha) providing me my OS

Re:Perhaps some confusion about the brand Aircard (1, Informative)

shitzu (931108) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904901)

Linux is a UNIX-based OS, and my favourite distro of it is Macintosh OS X

OSX is not Linux. I guess you could even call it BSD before you start calling it Linux.

Re:Perhaps some confusion about the brand Aircard (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24904933)

BSD is Linux? I never knew, thanks!

Re:Perhaps some confusion about the brand Aircard (0, Offtopic)

shitzu (931108) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905051)

BSD is Linux? I never knew, thanks!

I never said that. I said you could call OSX a BSD rather than Linux. But i wouldn't even do that.

Re:Perhaps some confusion about the brand Aircard (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24905069)

Linux is a UNIX-based OS, and my favourite distro of it is Macintosh OS X

OSX is not Linux. I guess you could even call it BSD before you start calling it Linux.


Re:Apple? (5, Funny)

SuperKendoll (1359065) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904793)

Apple wouldn't let this happen with the iPhone. First of all, the superior ergonomic design and technological enhancements present in the iPhone make it practically impossible for iPhone users to experience negative situations. Secondly, if this somehow was possible, I'm confident Steve Jobs would step in and either set AT&T straight or foot the bill himself.

Re:Apple? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24905065)

Mod parent up, you cock-smoking teabaggers!

Re:Apple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24905137)

Thanks for clearing that up and defending your Apple.

Oh Noes! (4, Insightful)

k_187 (61692) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904625)

You charged me exactly what it said in the contract I signed said you would! How dare you.

I would think that in the interests of PR, AT&T might send you a text or something when you go international roaming and pass some threshold of use, just to warn you. But really, if you pay extra to call Canada long distance, don't you think your cell phone/data card would work the same way?

Re:Oh Noes! (4, Informative)

Twnki (1283800) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904671)

A high balance warning team that would manually evaluate out of pattern usage would be ideal in this situation. However even with a team in place or software to analyse usage, roaming usage on another provider or in another country may not be reported back in "realtime". There is often a delay in usage reporting when more than one company are involved.

Re:Oh Noes! (5, Interesting)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904701)

I blame the fine print. They are so verbose that you could be agreeing to anything.

Re:Oh Noes! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24904833)

You _are_agreeing to anything - and everything. One of the contract terms in almost all contracts is that they can change the terms. Granted, they must notify you and they aren't allowed to charge ETFs if you cancel because of it. But you are not allowed to 'lock-in' services just because they 'lock-in' two years of service. In short, you can't hold them to their own contract so long as they 'notify' you.

Re:Oh Noes! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24904853)

They must have missed the Power of Attorney clause.

Re:Oh Noes! (0, Troll)

vk2 (753291) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904949)

So? Don't sign it. It is exactly this kind of mentality that has brought down the housing market. I am not denying that there was mortgage broker/financing fraud involved in the current housing market crisis - but majority of them are people failing to understand the loan terms and/or believing that the market always goes up and they will find a bigger sucker to sell the house at an inflated price. Prime example of Darwin's theory. Family has only two options - learn from this and never sign anything without knowing what they are signing or get decimated financially by recklessly signing contracts that they cannot honor. News items like these are brought into limelight to create unwarranted sympathy to this family and ultimately get ATT reduce the bill. Remember Walmart? [foxnews.com]

Re:Oh Noes! (4, Funny)

The Creator (4611) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905159)

I blame the fine print. They are so verbose that you could be agreeing to anything.

Yes, but having to sign it in blood should have made them suspicious!

Re:Oh Noes! (2, Interesting)

squidfood (149212) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905177)

I blame the fine print.

When I got iphone it had international roaming turned off by default, with a specific warning along the lines of "if you turn this on, you may get fees." It seems pretty straightforward to me and it would take an informed click-through to activate it (I think?).

Read Contracts & Limits aren't carriers want (4, Insightful)

weston (16146) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904749)

You charged me exactly what it said in the contract I signed said you would! How dare you.

I expect that in a world where most either read their contracts in great detail (and are sufficiently educated to understand the ramifications) or refused to sign anything that took them more than a minute to read, this would work out great. I'm not sure which plan you're advocating, though, and I expect either plan would actually impede carrier sales.

I would think that in the interests of PR, AT&T might send you a text or something when you go international roaming and pass some threshold of use, just to warn you. But really, if you pay extra to call Canada long distance, don't you think your cell phone/data card would work the same way?

I think the particularly telling piece of information is that if you want a plan where they do limit your charges and notify you when you reach thresholds.... you have to pay extra. They're called prepaid plans, and there are no surprises (well, within limits), but for common use cases, it's guaranteed you'll pay 2-4 times the amount a customer on a given rate plan will.

Why the cell phone companies can't combine the limits on prepaid plans with conventional rate plans is an interesting question, but I suspect the answer is not a technical limitation.

Re:Oh Noes! (-1, Offtopic)

zaidib5 (1352353) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904885)

another people like me not think so thank you mesothelioma cancer [1001info.net]

Re:Oh Noes! (3, Interesting)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904943)

Roaming is something of a scandal over here in the EU, where we pay astonishing fees to use our phones a couple of hundred miles away with the same company we're signed on to at home. The European Commission has acted against roaming charges before now. [bbc.co.uk]

In a similar case recently, a woman was charged £4900(c. US$10000 at the time) by Vodafone because she used a 3g internet connection to watch the Apprentice on iPlayer from France. Vodafone waived the charges in the end.

Re:Oh Noes! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24905027)

What planet are are you from? One where it really is OK to charge 6 months wages to send email using a system in use by millions of people.

Its a sign the markets aren't competitive, the corporations immoral and some individuals so brainwashed that they blame the victim.

Re:Oh Noes! (1)

fredmosby (545378) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905155)

AT&T does send you a text message warning you about the international rates when you enter to another country. He was using a wireless data card so he might not have received it. Before I went to Europe I had to actually call AT&T to get international roaming turned on.

I figured I would it use it to check my email and only look at emails that I knew were text only. But then my mom sent me one with three pictures attached to it, cost me $60 just to look at one email.

Re:Oh Noes! (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905205)

You charged me exactly what it said in the contract I signed said you would! How dare you.

Well it's clearly ridiculous.. In fact my parents rocked up a 4-figure bill when they went well over the limit for an entire year using the OzEmail internet service provider.
They signed up to get basic net access with very low limits and high over-limit fees when we first moved over to Australia, but forgot to change it, and a massive bill was racked up when everyone in the house got wired up to use the net.

OzEmail were kind enough to drop the bill down to a more realistic figure, and I don't think it's unreasonable to expect them to.

Unless it really cost them that amount to provide the data no-one should have to pay a huge amount just because they chose the wrong plan.

Re:Oh Noes! (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905207)

this is the definition of "malicious compliance" with the rules. The internet devices connect automatically, that's part of what you pay for. The malicious part is that they don't have good mechanisms to help manage your bill, something phone companies should have been held to task for long, long ago when companies were phone scamming and slamming. Phone companies should have put auto limits in place say $500 (that's 12x the standard phone bill) then cut you to an operator automatically if there were problems, that's the whole point of a 100% owned private network versus the internet, they can hijack your line whenever they need.. and don't when there are billing issues happening.

As a counter example, many credit card companies advertise they will call you if they suspect suspicious charges and most will stop your card ... heck you have a "credit limit" and they generally stop approving when you go over that. Phone companies choose not to implement such measures for their customers so these obscene bills are squarely the companies problem.

Disgusted (5, Insightful)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904635)

Some people here will undoubtedly react in this topic, saying that this family "brought it onto themselves" or "should have read this or that".

I'm saying I'm disgusted, utterly disgusted how these companies treat their customers. Why isn't there a procedure in place that calls the customer upon reaching some limit like $500 or $1000 and warns them?

Why not? I'll tell you why. Because this is how the world works. But I'm still disgusted.

Re:Disgusted (0, Troll)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904741)

Yes, because everyone needs to be treated like a two year-old. No, we can't expect people to act like adults and be responsible for their own actions.

I am disgusted with you and everyone like you, people who think that no one should be responsible themselves.

Re:Disgusted (4, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904815)

Nevermind the whole "treat them like a 2 year old" nonsense.
How about being on the lookout for apparent fraud patterns?

Re:Disgusted (4, Insightful)

Rachel Lucid (964267) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904819)

How does placing a cap in at, say, $500 worth of charges count as babysitting?

Who the hell actually WANTS to pay $500 worth of charges without knowing it?!

Re:Disgusted (1)

soarkalm (845400) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905005)

It's within the realm of possibility that some businesses routinely have $1000 cell phone bills. They may not want the bother of being in the middle of business and having the phone company stopping their service or pausing it for verification.

Re:Disgusted (1)

awyeah (70462) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905055)

Absolutely. One of my coworkers, who travels internationally quite a bit, is surprised when his bill is "only $12,000."

Re:Disgusted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24905105)

Absolutely. One of my coworkers, who travels internationally quite a bit, is surprised when his bill is "only $12,000."

You might want to look into United mobile [united-mobile.com] . They include free roaming to many, many countries.

Re:Disgusted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24904873)

Yes, because everyone needs to be treated like a two year-old. No, we can't expect people to act like adults and be responsible for their own actions.

I am disgusted with you and everyone like you, people who think that no one should be responsible themselves.

I agree that responsibility is a good thing, but I think this is going a bit overboard.

It is sad that you are so disgusted with the majority of the population. I may not agree with your point, but at least I can see it's place in the grand scheme of things.

Insightful? Really?

Real responsibility is more than watch-out-for-#1 (5, Insightful)

weston (16146) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905211)

Yes, because everyone needs to be treated like a two year-old. No, we can't expect people to act like adults and be responsible for their own actions.

Real grown-up responsibility has more than a watch-out-for-yourself component. There's both an individual and a social component.

And a reasonably convincing case to be made that among others, most cell carriers don't take enough responsibility in helping people signing contracts understand the whole thing. Or that a reasonable person would find it highly surprising there are corners of the covered terms of service which if you wander into can subject you to fees 2-3 orders of magnitude larger than your conventional bill.

Think about it this way: when the people in question got the data service, do you really think they *never* asked what the service cost? It's highly unlikely. What is highly likely is that they asked, got the standard answer about the most common usage, and were simply not informed about the additional usage fees. They took an incomplete answer as a complete one.

You can argue that the contract is a complete answer, but here we have a problem: contracts are not intended to be effective vehicles for communicating terms of agreement to consumers, they're designed to be effective vehicles for specifying terms to the legal machinery. If you want to argue that the contract is the answer, you may as well argue the source code of a piece of software serves as a FAQ or Manual.

Re:Disgusted (4, Interesting)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905213)

Yes, because everyone needs to be treated like a two year-old. No, we can't expect people to act like adults and be responsible for their own actions.

I don't think giving someone notice once their monthly phone bill is approaching $1000 due to a handful of glorified roaming charges is "treating them like a two-year old".

Rational people aren't going to think that sending an email is going to cost them thousands of dollar just because they're out of the country. It's email, for crying out loud.

Imagine getting a receipt at a restaurant for thousands of dollars due to a few tea refills. If you're ordering some sort of special tea that costs that much, you'd expect someone to tell you, right? Would you accept it if they pointed to some fine print at the bottom of the back of the menu?

Now, from the article:

An AT&T representative said they're treating the matter seriously and looking into it. According to the company, they hope to have an answer for the family in the next few days.

It looks like AT&T is going to be sensible about this. That's a good thing. Remember how people kill people, and sometimes themselves? Getting fine-printed into thousands of dollars of debt is one of the things that can cause that. They'll probably kick it down to something the family is actually able to pay without selling their house or draining their kids' college funds.

Re:Disgusted (1)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904783)

Why not build it directly into the hardware? The first time they try to connect internationally, phones should pop something up to warn them.

Re:Disgusted (1)

puto (533470) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904811)

You have to call and ask them to enable international roaming for it to work, The reps get money for selling them a package, most people choose to be cheap and not accept it.

Re:Disgusted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24905217)

no you don't... they say you do, but you can just pop on with AT&T in europe and it works (as long as the phone supports the right gsm frequencies..) Granted voice is only a little more than $1 min and sms is 50 cents/ each...

but the international roaming activation is bullsh*t (quite possibly if it's an account in good/longish standing..)

Re:Disgusted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24904827)

I'm saying I'm disgusted, utterly disgusted how these companies treat their customers. Why isn't there a procedure in place that calls the customer upon reaching some limit like $500 or $1000 and warns them?

Why? This isn't a phone, it's a mobile internet access device for a laptop. There is no phone to call.

And even for international data rates, he must have used a lot of data to run up the bill that high.

When I travel internationally into other countries with my gsm cell phone, I get a nice automatic text message reminding me that I am roaming internationally.

Now, AT&T might have an email address or phone number on file for the customer, but the customer still might not get the message before they return from traveling. The phone number might be a landline and the customer might not be checking their email.

This is entirely the customer's problem for choosing the wrong data plan. AT&T even has some international data plans that give you unlimited data in most western countries for $75 or so. Many of my colleagues have that plan on their blackberries.

Re:Disgusted (0, Flamebait)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904829)

Some people here will undoubtedly react in this topic, saying that this family "brought it onto themselves" or "should have read this or that".

I'm saying I'm disgusted, utterly disgusted how these companies treat their customers. Why isn't there a procedure in place that calls the customer upon reaching some limit like $500 or $1000 and warns them?

Since when did personal responsibility jump the shark? I mean yea it's not very nice of AT&T but jesus christ people stop blaming those Big Evil Corporations when you screw up.

Re:Disgusted (5, Insightful)

photomonkey (987563) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904875)

I'd warn a lot earlier. Like when you're 50% over your plan.

Contract or not, this isn't a business game, it's a game of gotcha with customers.

Lure people in with words like "unlimited," "free," "included" and then trickily word an overly verbose contract to make exceptions for everything.

Re:Disgusted (2, Informative)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905223)

That is because they hire lawyers like this guy [yahoo.com] . but seriously,the personal responsibility guys can scream bloody murder all they want,but how is this anything other than piss poor service? If I suddenly start using over 100% more than I have ever used I WANT the company to call me to make damned sure i haven't been hacked. We have seen this SSDD over and over again,and it never ceases to amaze me how folks are quick to blame the guy when the simple fact is it is just showing how piss poor these companies are and how little they would care if your stuff got stolen.

I mean,has there EVER been a household where they went from using a $100 a month plan to suddenly using $$$$$ and when contacted said "Sure,we know we are going to spend $20K. That was the whole idea!". It is just another case of no common sense on either side. But considering these companies hire lawyers like the above that can make even the simplest contract into a minefield of gibberish and the simple knowledge that someone who intended to rack up those kinds of charges are going to be using something other than a home plan makes me think the company could at least cut off the connection until they called someone to verify what was going on. But as always this is my 02c,YMMV

Understanding Portland (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24904981)

Latte Town" was coined a few years back and is the most appropriate term for the City of Portland that I have ever heard. A Latte town consists of mostly white, educated baby boomers and young single people. The inhabitants of the town are usually newcomers who have priced out all the original inhabitants. These towns are usually expensive, pretentious, abound in natural fibers and are laid back on the surface. Latte towns like Portland pride themselves on their most cherished concepts of diversity and inclusiveness. Most Portlanders accept this myth as Gospel but upon close examination Portland's dirty little secret is revealed. Portland is an overwhelmingly white, non-ethnic city. It is as vanilla as it gets so it makes one wonder what all the celebrating of diversity is all about. Drive through any neighborhood surrounding the downtown area and the impression that you get is that Portland is nothing more than a series of elitist ghettos compromised of rich white homosexuals, rich white yuppies, rich white hippies, rich white trust funders, and rich white kids from the suburbs pretending to be street people. Where's the diversity? Well it doesn't exist but the average Portlander likes the concept and in their eyes the different shades of rich whites all constituent diversity. In a series of articles I will attempt to breakdown and explain these subtle distinctions between the various factions of lily white, latte people that make Portland what it is.

The Artist-Intellectual
The visitor or newcomer to Portland is bound to be struck by the sheer numbers that belong to this group. They seem to be everywhere and are in fact everywhere. They are the reason that all the coffee shops have tables and chairs. The artist-intellectual fancies himself as a poet, a writer, a musician, a filmmaker, etc. You get the drift. They spend most of their days idling around the coffee establishments that one finds every 10 feet. They are usually equipped with a notebook that they use for their poems, journals or their artwork. No one ever gets to see the contents of these notebooks. More often than not they have a beaten and weathered paper back copy of some book authored by Kafka or William S. Boroughs. They love to discuss their favorite subject, themselves. Given the opportunity they will prattle on for hours about their poems, art work or the film they are making. You never get to actually see any of their work but you do get to hear about it. Their lives are like one never ending semester in grad school. Initially I believed these losers but then got to thinking. What would an aspiring actor, artist, musician, filmmaker being doing in Portland Oregon, a latte town? Why wouldn't they be in NYC or LA? Because they're phonies, that's why. Here's how it works with these clowns. They flunk out of college in New Jersey so their parents send them to Reed College in Portland in hopes that they will get their act together. They drop out of Reed but stay in Portland while still on Daddy's tab or some trust find. One Saturday Josh or Seth drifts down to one of the hundreds of hippie craft markets downtown. Some hippie is selling didgeridoos that he made I between bong reps. Josh buy one and takes it home where he proceeds to get baked after which he blows a few sour notes into the didgeridoo. The next day he's a musician. Not really but that's what he's telling everyone at the coffee house and pretending is good enough for a Portland artist-intellectual, in fact it's everything. In three months he will switch his designation from musician to filmmaker and then onto to something else 3 months later. As long as it sounds cool he will keep this charade up and no one in his circles will call him on it because they are doing the same thing.

The Activist
This group is usually comprised of people that used to be part of the artist-intellectual group in Portland. They have gotten a little older and may have finally, after 12 years, obtained a liberal arts degree from Portland State or Reed College. They may still run in artist-intellectual circles but have latched onto some "cause" at this time of their life. An activist always lives off some sort of trust fund or inheritance. When you ask an activist what he does for a living he will actually say he is an "activist" with a straight face. I used to look in the want ads and at the state employment office but never once did I see an advertised job entitled "activist". The activist usually lives in some semi communal house with other activist and artist-intellectuals, the kind of place where people sleep on mattresses on the floor and where the walls are covered with hippie tapestries. Oh yeah there are always like 15 cats roaming around the house and it stinks of cat piss, body odor and patchouli. The activist is still a bum at heart but feels the need to pretend that he is productive and feels extremely self conscious about living off some one else's money but not enough to actually get a job. So the activist associates himself with the following types of groups: art councils, school-to-work collaboratives, environmental groups, preservation groups, community-supported agriculture, antidevelopment groups, and other ad hoc activist groups. Affiliation with these groups will change every 6 months or so. It all sounds cool and actually creates the impression that they work.

The Crone
The Crone is a middle-aged woman that lives alone with her two cats. She is extremely bitter and unpleasant to be around. Crones usually populate the SE and NW sides of Portland. Often you can see that the Crone was quite attractive in her day. You can easily envision her twirling around dressed like Stevie Nicks at some Grateful Dead show back in 1978 Nature and time have not been good to her. She's always had a bad attitude but at least in her younger days she had perky breast and booty to match. Nice T&A can go a long way for making up for a crappy attitude but now she's only left with the bad attitude and the Stevie Nicks get up. The Crone is usually involved in several crackpot wymn's organizations that promote some sort of radical and unrealistic form of feminism. They usually have names like the United Front of Sisterhood or Radical Wymin For The Extermination Of The Male Species. Crones usually have jobs in local government or at State Universities, places where their inability to get along with anyone has no bearing on keeping their jobs. I worked with a Crone at City Hall. She filed a sexual harassment charge against me because she was eavesdropping on a phone conversation I was having and I said the word "chick". She filed another sexual grievance against a guy because he displayed a family picture on his desk of his wife and four kids at the beach. His wife was wearing a bathing suit, one piece, and this sexually offended the Crone who viewed this as objectifying women. The Crone wishes she were a lesbian because she hates men so much. She's tried to convert but it never took. Now her only objective in life is to feed her cats, read Tarot cards and make every one else's life a living hell.

The New Age Spiritualist
This could very easily be the official religious doctrine of Portland. All Portlanders fall into one of two groups when it comes to God. They are either atheists or they are new age spiritualists. You can hear them espousing their creed everywhere, "I'm spiritual but not religious", as if this automatically put them on the moral high ground. This belief system can best be described as spirituality without obligation. The new age spiritualist lives in a moral temperate zone where he picks and chooses tenants from all faiths that suit his lifestyle of the moment. Anything self sacrificing or too stringent is discarded and deemed "dogmatic" or "too religious". This way he can have the best of both worlds. In reality he gets little more than a set of watered down moral concepts that do nothing more than validate the liberal sensibilities that may be in fashion at the moment. For example, the New Age Spiritualist eschews judgmetalism. Particularly judgementalism that conflicts with their desires but he will embrace judgementalism when it comes to condemning cigarette smoking or individuals that don't have the right perception on the three R's which are racial sensitivity, recycling and reproductive rights. The new age spiritualist's home will be adorned with religious objects of oppressed people. Amazonian figures, Native American totems, Egyptian deities, animistic shells, or Shinto statuettes abound. The rules is that it's OK to display religious articles as long as you have no real association or knowledge of the said religion. A Crucifix would be seen as something a little too extreme.

The Dude
This is without a doubt the most ubiquitous character roaming the streets of Portland or any other Latte town for that matter. The Dude is usually a young white male that has great enthusiasm for games that are usually associated with extreme sports and the X-Games. He is called a Dude because this is the most commonly used word in his vocabulary. You've heard them before. They are the kind of guys that refer to everyone as 'dude' and use 'dude' as a noun adjective and a verb. When they say 'dude' they put a lot of emphasis on the "u". They say 'duuude' instead of 'dude'. Their aspiration is for life to resemble an extended hobby. Work is playful and play is something they pursue with earnest. Most don't work but if they must you can find them working at places that sell skateboards, snowboards and other thing that are of supreme importance to the Dude. Dudes are usually extremely stupid and have flunked out of all the worst community colleges so they rarely associate with the activist or artist-intellectual unless of course there is some sort of sharing of drugs thing going on. The Dude is held in high esteem in Portland because he is seen as someone who is bucking the system. He will quit a job in a heartbeat if the swells on the Columbia are optimal for shredding. He lives for the moment, the perfect wave and the perfect buzz. Priorities and responsibilities are no more than an after thought for these Portland cowboys.

These dirty repugnant characters are the status quo in Portland. They seem to run across three generations and are composed of people who came from privileged backgrounds because no one from the real world could possibly embrace the fairytale concepts that the hippies hold dear. The hippies day is a full day consisting of sleeping till noon, smoking pot, protesting progress and reason, playing hackey sack and seeing how long they can go without bathing before they become infested with ticks. The hippie's biggest fears are work and responsibility so they go to great lengths to paint the "system" as thoroughly corrupt in order to avoid growing up. In their eyes any participation in the "system" is "selling out". This allows the hippy to live a lay about life without any moral quandary. Hippies without trust funds and generous parents must do some sort of work in order to buy pot and overpriced organic hippy food. This is why Portland has so many "markets". These are closed markets in the classic Marxist tradition. The hippies sell their hippy crap to tourist and yuppies with more money than sense. Here you can buy beeswax candles, dream catchers, and soap dishes made out of bird feathers. Bring plenty of money cause this shit ain't cheap. All major credit cards accepted. Hippies are easy to spot in Portland. Just envision the crowd at the original Woodstock in 1969. That's exactly what you will see with the Portland hippy. They will usually go by names like Sunshine, Rain, Heather, Noah, Seth or Jeremiah although the varieties are endless. Some hippies are hard to spot. They are usually 40 and over and have compromised themselves with jobs. Make no mistake about it, they are still hippies and when 5:00 pm rolls around they ditch the suit in favor of Birkenstocks and hemp clothing. These are the ones that make sure that the hippy ethos is forcefully inserted in all spheres of Portland's civic, cultural and business affairs. They are the ones that ensure that Portland remains soft on crime and educational standards and hard on increased taxation, subsidies and cumbersome business regulations.

The Psycho-Feminist
This is usually a young woman in her 20's or 30's. She has attended college and has received some feminist indoctrination in how awful the male species is. The problem is that the Psycho-Feminist still prefers men sexually. Some how she must balance her desire for empowerment with her more natural desire to find a mate. The Psycho-Feminist is truly as confused individual. She really has no idea how to reconcile her place in the world. She cannot balance her professional aspirations with her private life and is in constant turmoil over making any sacrifice between marriage, family and career. If you have had the misfortune to have dated or married such a woman I feel for you. Once you get out of that relationship, and you must get out, you will need years of therapy before you are right again. The Psycho-Feminist will subject you to years of emotional abuse over her gender turmoil. She's not man but doesn't know what it means to be woman. One minute she will want flowers and doors held open for her the next minute she will be cursing you out like a drunken sailor for some perceived slight. This breed more often than not ends up joining the ranks of the Crones. You can usually find the Psycho-Feminist at Powell's Bookstore completely immersed in some feminist manifesto like "Our Bodies Ourselves". Guys do yourselves a favor and find a nice foreign-born girl.

The Sensitive Male
Nature abhors nothing more than the sensitive male yet he proliferates in Portland. You will often be out at the Saturday Market and say to yourself, "Another lesbian couple!?" Upon closer examination you noticed that the more feminine looking partner is not a lesbian but is fact a man, the sensitive male. This is a guy that is really in touch with his feelings and it is not below him to gently weep after reading a poem or a love story. He usually "is not really into sports". He prefers careers in the "healing fields" like massage therapy, teaching yoga or some sort of new age mumbo-jumbo therapy. He is devoid of any passion or a sense of humor. Regular guys horrify him. He is disdainful of them and feels that his sensitive approach to life is superior. A psycho-feminist usually scoops him up and she controls every aspect his life. Eventually he decides, after years of dream remission therapy, that he is a homosexual and he leaves her. The sensitive male likes to read Iron John Bly and participates in events allied with the Men's Movement. He can usually be found pounding on a drum in the woods with other sensitive males. He is best personified by the hippie school teacher Mr. Van Dreesen on the Beavis and Butthead cartoons. Wymn in Portland prefer that all men go down the road of sensitive male and throngs of counselors in the mental health and educational professions have made it their business to castrate young men by turning them into these cream puff, pussies knows as the sensitive male.

adical Marxists: No Life, No Critical Thinking Skills, No Class!!
This week the country will get to witness firsthand the #1 reason why Portland sucks - Radical Marxists! On Thursday, GWB (our duly elected president) will be in town for a fundraiser (good heavens!). Predictably, there will be hordes of smelly, ranting, screaming protesters greeting him, reinforcing the well-earned stereotype that Portlanders are childish 60's throwbacks. First of all, let's get one thing clear - no left-wing protester or group is ever what they claim to be (despite the kid-gloves treatment they receive in the local media). Many of these groups are often Trojan Horses for more sinister, anti-American groups such as the World Workers Party (a Maoist Group that supports the likes of that shitstain-with-a-pompadour, Kim Jung Il). Calling your 'gang' an 'Organization for Peace and Justice' does not change what you really are (pro-Communist garbage). But don't expect the local new personalities to tell us this. It's not on their teleprompter. The most notable thing to look for will be the complete lack of critical thinking skills. Many of these dregs have announced that they will be working to 'educate' people about the president's policies before his visit ('educate,' of course, is a convenient euphemism for 'convincing the stupid.'). Anyone who isn't a mouth-breathing Mongoloid is already pretty aware of who George W. Bush is, and how he has responded admirably against the Islamos that want to kill all of us (liberal sympathizers included, by the way). Why would you admit on television that you are seeking out people who don't know what the fuck is going on in the world to help you with your cause? The activists hope (and are often correct) that they will find some unplugged, ignorant, urban-legend-believing street trash who will agree with them that Bush 1) "Stole the election" (despite the numerous Florida recounts after the election which proved conclusively that Bush would have won with or without the Supreme Court decision) 2) "Ruined the economy" (despite the fact that the bubble burst under Clinton in 1999) and 3) gives "Tax cuts to the rich" (despite the fact that everyone gets tax breaks - everyone that is who fucking pays taxes in the first place!). As a result, the professional protester does not respond well to having his or her 'logic' questioned. With no real facts or debating skills to back them up, they will ignore any challenge posed to them and immediately fall back on their "I have a right to dissent" shtick. In fact, in order to avoid being challenged at all, they will noisily chant, scream, block traffic, blow whistles and bang drums (there's even a 'No War Drum Corps' if you can believe it)! This ensures that all Bush supporters are drowned out, and none of the anti-Bush troglodytes will ever have to defend his or her uninformed positions. Their newest tactic will be to stage 'Die-ins' in which the protesters will pretend to actually care about dead U.S. soldiers. This is actually true - the protesters DO hope that our brave troops come back soon (so they can spit in their faces and call them 'baby killers'). Finally, the ignorance of these people will lead them to conclude that since Bush is so poorly received here (and the likes of Hillary can come and go in Portland with no security concerns) then people must actually LIKE Hillary more than Bush. This overlooks the obvious, inescapable truth that people on the Right are actually more tolerant, accepting, and civilized than leftists are. When a Republican president comes to town, he is greeted with violence, hatred, drums, whistles and shit flinging (literally). This has earned Portland the well-deserved moniker of 'Little Beirut.' On the other hand, when a prominent Democrat or Greenie comes to town, the worst they can expect to encounter a well dressed person holding a sign.

Wiggers: Sportin' Wood in the 'Hood
The second reason why Portland sucks so badly is the large, growing class of people politely known as 'wiggers.' I don't think I need to explain the origins of that term. We've all seen 'em at the mall: white boys with their overly baggy pants down around their ankles (well, at least low enough to show us all their Jo Boxers). Many teenage boys in Portland's 'burbs dress this way, despite the fact that this look has been around for over a decade now. This is hardly surprising, given the fact that the 'Grunge Look' (which began 13 years ago) remains quite prevalent as well. Hell, in many parts of Southeast Portland and Milwaukie, you will still encounter people with FEATHERED HAIR!!! Unless some sort of time portal to 1981 has opened up on the Eastside, there are some serious fashion problems going on in that part of town! I have a theory as to why the wigger look has increased in popularity as of late - it is being supported by the well-funded NAMBLA lobby. It's worth noting that many wiggers are related to the "Closet Fags in the O.C." group (guys that wear cowboy hats in Oregon City and beat up gays, but that's a topic for another day). You often find 'wigs' tooling down 82nd Ave, rap music blasting from their low-riders, with speaker systems normally reserved for mid-sized movie theaters crammed into the back seat. Since the distortion is so bad, only the base line is audible (actually 'felt' would be more accurate). There is nothing particularly surprising about the fact that 'gangsta rap' is far more popular with this lot than with 'inner city' kids. The wigger hero, of course, is Eminem. He is their GOD (followed closely by J.Z. and Fiddy Cent). Oddly enough, as geeky, stupid and unemployable as these losers are, the handful of attractive straight women in the Portland area are extremely attracted to them. Further analysis reveals that since most women have the "fag hag" gene, it naturally follows that they would be fascinated with wiggers, for wiggers are in fact gay whites who are secretly in love with black men. Although he lacks any of their 'hipness' Michael Moore is actually the biggest wigger of them all (as evidenced by his "black men would never have allowed those terrorists on 9/11 to take over their plane" comment last year in the U.K.). Thank Christ that at least HE's not from Portland! Some important wigger words to know are "yo," "home boy," "zzup," "whatup," "dog," "ho," and "bitch." Speaking of bitches, yes there ARE female wiggers, but oddly enough, not in Portland. You'll find all female wiggers either in the Deep South, or in Chicago (making their mandatory appearance on The Jenny Jones Show). As with the males, female wiggers are primarily attracted to black men. So the next time you white suburbanites spot a kid at a mall trying to hit on girls, quitely and discreetly call him over and tell him "pardon me, sir, I didn't want to say anything, but your underwear ISN'T showing). He'll thank ya for the advice.

Hey Meester, want to meet my seester?Shitty Schools: Habla Escola Crappo?
Portland's Shitty School System. Schools in Portland are some of the worst in the nation. Due to unrestricted 'drunken sailor' spending on social programs over the last decade, the Portland school board is now faced with its biggest funding crisis in history. Due to this (and an almost sexual fixation with 'diversity' and political correctness) Portland public schools are simply gawd-awful! Let me first start by comparing Portland schools to their neighbors-to-the-north, Vancouver (or 'The 'Couv' as it is affectionately known). Vancouver, WA (in fact, Washington State in general) has a program called 'Excel,' which allows top students the opportunity to be challenged with a more advanced curriculum (I bet you could tell by now that I'm white, couldn't ya?). On the other hand, Portland public schools pander to the lowest common denominator - 'smart' students get crapped on, while 'slower' students get frequent trips to the zoo and free breakfast. It has always been this way. In addition, Washington does not grease up and bend over every time some racist 'we're not doing well as whitey' group pops up out of its cave. In The 'Couv, we have a good mix of White, Asian, Black, Middle Eastern (gulp) and Hispanic students. As someone who is bilingual, I realize the importance of teaching children a foreign language. However, I'm not down at monthly school board meetings, demanding that the schools cater to my children's special 'cultural needs' or teach them in Japanese for half the day. Nor does my wife insist on making Emperor Akihito's birthday a statewide holiday (as opposed to some 'communities' in Oregon who will soon get that commie Caesar Chavez crammed down their throats). Why is it that you NEVER, I mean NEVER see Asian students presenting themselves as 'victims of the system?' You will never see the school board in Portland tell the Afro-Hispanic Mafia that since people from China, Japan, S. Korea, Vietnam, Laos, etc., can come here and do well within a generation there is no need to create a special program for anybody?? The reason is that they are ballless pussies. Rather than state the obvious, the Portland school board curls up into the fetal position whenever the race-baiters snap their fingers. True, black students are often stuck in crappy schools in crappy neighborhoods (talk to the Democrap teachers unions about why they are so violently opposed to black students being able to choose their school - they're the ones holding them back). The next time I see a group of 'Hispanic students for educational equality' rallying in downtown Portland, I'm going to call the school board and make a logical suggestion. If they really do want a 'magic pill' solution for their shitty grades, we should pass a law requiring that Mexicano parents spend as much time and effort with their kids as Whites and Asians do. They could amend the law to require that these students think farther into the future than next weekend's gang initiation rape party. They could also (and I'm really going out on a limb with this one) insist that Hispanic students actually REFRAIN from having babies until they're out of high school. (OK, I knew I would push my luck eventually). Something needs to be done, and fast. If Portland schools continue to shorten their school years, according to their own so-called 'community leaders' the Homeys and Esses will have no choice but to go out and commit crimes. Apparently spending ones free time learning a skill or studying during the summer is just too goddamn white (again, Asians don't seem to say this, but the libs do have a convenient, albeit racist, theory about why Asians succeed - I'll have to tell you about that some other time).

Re:Understanding Portland (1)

millennial (830897) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905149)

I.... I think I've just seen God.

Re:Disgusted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24905011)

You're assuming that they'd want people to stop using their most expensive and most profitable services.

Seriously you can't tell me that mobile intl' web traffic is more expensive than mobile domestic web traffic when wired intl' and wired domestic is the same price AND there are landlines between the two countries. Unless he's roaming, in which there should be some notice saying "You are now roaming and this will cost you a shitload of money"

Then again, everything in mobile is a rip unless it's unlimited. Until someone forces them to add more capacity.

Re:Disgusted (1)

TimothyDavis (1124707) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905035)

IANAL: But I am sure there is precident where a company cannot charge such an unexpected amount of money for the services. I cannot think of a technological reason why this surcharge should apply. For $20,000 the guy could have probably hired a limo driver to deliver the printed emails back to portland by hand.

I can't imagine that AT&T wants to have this situation - I am sure they would rather keep this customer long term, and not scare away the rest of us who realize the implications of this.

Re:Disgusted (1)

Dragon of the Pants (913545) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905117)

I'm one of those people. I'm not going to attack the family, but I do think they should pay the bill. The anti-corporate spin on this story is what's sickening. Look, everybody knows that roaming charges from cell phone companies are huge. It's bee that way for years. You can be disgusted all you want, but don't act like these people are the innocent victims of fraud. They're not.

Lesson learned (2, Interesting)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904637)

You know AT&T is going to abuse the rules. Bring along some CDs to burn and mail home next time.

Re:Lesson learned (2, Interesting)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904763)

Abuse the rules? Umm the contract stipulated the charges, its not ATTs fault the customer ran up time and got an automated bill for 19 grand.

I doubt a human saw the bill as it was printed, packaged and mailed all automatically.

Sure its insanely excessive, but they did use the service fair and square. I also would be wiling to bet if they called ATT and rationally talked to them, the bill would go away.

Re:Lesson learned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24905015)

Sure its insanely excessive, but they did use the service fair and square.

I wonder if we'd ever see a statement like that in a discussion of RIAA lawsuits.

"Sure the fine is insanely excessive, but they did steal the songs."

All too common tale (4, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904641)

This sort of thing has been going on for decades with cell phones and roaming. It is all too easy to get hosed by unexpected charges. They really should be forced to inform you anytime the fees on a call will exceed 10 times your normal per minute fee BEFORE connecting the call or in this case Internet connection.

Re:All too common tale (2, Informative)

puto (533470) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904839)

As I have posted before as a former ATT employee, who handled escalations. International roaming is a feature you have to call and add to the account, they make you aware of the fees, and try to sell you a package that will reduce themm and when you do not buy it, they note it. People in this case screw themselves.

Re:All too common tale (4, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905093)

Bullshit. My gf just went to india, germany, and russia and texted and called me without tell AT&T anything.

This is another customer 'gotcha.'

Re:All too common tale (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905151)

One nice thing about tales like this, though, is that it lets us know to be wary of such things and to contact a network representative before traveling to another country to find out the rules. I took a trip to Mexico a few months back and I stopped at my local Verizon store to find out what the rates would be if I used my phone down there because, frankly, I didn't know.

I tend to agree with the GP, though, that it is good customer service to notify your customers when you see billing patterns which are out of the ordinary. Sometimes things happen. If my bill topped $1,000, I'd appreciate a call from Verizon saying, "Hey, we're noticing this and we'd like to let you know..." By doing that, you have customers who are happy with you rather than customers who are annoyed when they get a huge bill and have to call you to find out what's going on (and what can be done about it).

I've been a Sprint long-distance customer for years and one thing that impressed me back in my youth was the time I got back from a vacation and there was a call from Sprint asking whether or not I'd made a bunch of very expensive phone calls to the middle-east and South America. Very proactive, versus waiting for me to get an enormous bill and having me have to call and complain. I appreciate service like that.

Re:All too common tale (2, Interesting)

hurfy (735314) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905225)

I believe when i looked these plans up a couple days ago (slashdot is a tad slow again) you have to add an '5GB north american data plan'

That 5GB is still US only however. The 'North American' portion is 100MB of data they add on. This ONLY costs $49 more than the 5GB US plan !! Almost twice as much to be able to send a few emails home. Pretty sad when stamps are cheaper than your email...Burn to CD and overnight your letter and photos home. How long to use up 100MB surfing slashdot i wonder...

10 to 1 says rep does not spell this out very well if you call and ask about it. How many of these plans could they sell if they did?

at&t will ask for $2000 and settle for $200 and still make over 50% what do you bet? Nice business model if you have the balls.

PS. Please use Vancouver B.C. to refer to that other Vancouver ;)

Re:All too common tale (5, Informative)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904963)

In the European Union, thanks to Commission intervention, mobile firms *have* to text you to inform you of rates whenever you arrive in a new state.

So? (0, Troll)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904673)

Are we suppose to be outraged or amused? I really don't see the point in this story aside from maybe a cautionary tale.

Slow news day, I guess.

Too bad.. (4, Insightful)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904693)

Too bad that our FCC does NOT require reasonable access and reasonable charges on OUR public airwaves.

Instead, the FCC whores out our frequencies for billions of dollars, and we then get re-charged for using those frequencies. What a crock of shit.

Question: How much did the roaming agreement with that "roaming carrier" cost AT&T? 10$? 100$? ... Free (peering agreement)?

Re:Too bad.. (1)

puto (533470) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904731)

Rogers communications rapes everyone who roams in Canada. All cell phone companies in other companies will put the screws to the roaming customer.

Re:Too bad.. (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904769)

That's not what I'm getting at...

If AT&T => Rogers roaming is equal to Rogers => AT&T, the overall cost would be 0$ due to peering agreement. Then one would be at the mercy of your OWN phone company. In actuality, what is the peering agreement per minute? What is their actual cost?

Re:Too bad.. (1, Informative)

puto (533470) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904871)

But the problem is that to enable international roaming, you have to call ATT, they add it, and make you aware of the charges, it is all noted in the client file. They even push a add on that you can cancel after your trip that will lower the fees. Dumbasses refuse itm and stuff like this happens. When I roamed on the BellSouth Network in Colombia SA, I did not expect to call for free.

Re:Too bad.. (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904777)

You seem to have forgotten something. We are going to access OUR public airwaves and connect to what?

That is right, THEIR equipment.

Re:Too bad.. (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904911)

You're either not bright, or just trolling me.

I'm not arguing about using their equipment at all. Screw their equipment.

Instead, it's illegal for even me to make a receiver for certain channels. That's a load of crap.

Also, these frequencies are the publics, not some corporate interest... but that's not how the FCC sees it.

Should an electric company run heavy for-profit as the cell networks do? After all, electric is a novelty. You surely dont need it to live.

Re:Too bad.. (1)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904913)

Oh, you mean THEIR equipment paid for by tax dollars provided so they could provide an adequate network infrastructure for the people? Yes, that's ATTs logic, too. Just like street thugs who figure that when they need money, anyone who has money owes it to them.

Sorry no, it's really isn't THEIR equipment. We bought it, and it's high time we take it back.

Re:Too bad.. (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905043)

You are repeating a common myth - yes, some tax dollars did go into the telecoms companies pockets, but by and large they themselves provide much more investment.

Re:Too bad.. (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905023)

Wow, so much hate.

Firstly, as you note, the FCC charges significant sums of money for those frequencies - how exactly are the companies buying them to use supposed to make a return on their investment if they *don't* 'recharge' you?

Secondly, you really wouldn't like the alternative to FCC mandated frequency exclusivity...

AT&T's getting more clueful. (3, Funny)

Shag (3737) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904699)

The iPhone, at least, has a "Disable Data Roaming" option... of course, they probably had that clue shoved down their throats by Apple. :)

Re:AT&T's getting more clueful. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24904945)

The iPhone, at least, has a "Disable Data Roaming" option... of course, they probably had that clue shoved down their throats by Apple. :)

Ummm, no. The first iphone had international data roaming turned on by default. And since the iphone never really turns off, many suckers ran up large bills when traveling internationally since the iphone doesn't have push email and checks every 5 minutes or so, which results in a large data bill even if you don't send or receive a single email.

The second iphone has international data roaming disabled by default.

Re:AT&T's getting more clueful. (1)

shitzu (931108) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904983)

The iPhone, at least, has a "Disable Data Roaming" option... of course, they probably had that clue shoved down their throats by Apple. :)

This option was first demanded by a bunch of angry customers who had their email checking set every 15 minutes and got a huge roaming bill before Apple included it in the iphone software. For instance: http://boingboing.net/2007/07/31/att-iphone-intl-roam.html [boingboing.net]

Both parties stupid? (2, Informative)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904757)

The AirCard allows users to connect to e-mail, the Internet and business applications while traveling, according to AT&T's Web site. On the Terry family's bill, they were charged international fees for the service.

The Terry family said they asked an AT&T employee about the service before their son left the country. They said they were told nothing about international fees.

Did they even ask about international fees?

From the AT&T website about their plan.

Rate Plan Details
Included Data 5 GB
Additional data $0.00048/KB
Canadian Data $0.015/KB
International Data $0.0195/KB

So figure, $20k @ 1.5 cents a KB he transfered about a Gig. Looking at the video some of the sessions were a few hundred megs so I really can't find AT&T all that much at fault here that they didn't check the rates.

Re:Both parties stupid? (1)

Larry Lightbulb (781175) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905163)

It depends whether the family said their son was going to Canada or Vancouver - there's a Vancouver only about 10 miles north of Portland.

Re:Both parties stupid? (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905189)

Well, they called AT&T and asked about the service, but I'm sure they neglected to mention the part where their son was going to be in Vancouver, Canada. So why would the AT&T person feel a need to bring up international rates?

Former ATT Employee, no sympathy (2, Informative)

puto (533470) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904787)

Roaming in other countries is not automactially enabled on the phones. Including Canada. You have to call and request it. The rep will try and sell you an add on plan that will make it less expensive while you are there, for calls or data, and then when you refuse they note they account. For when situations like this happen. Most people will not pay an extra ten bucks to cut the costs into 1/10 and figure they will only minimally use the phone. This always happens with kids. Kids figure they are home, and use the phone, and data card, like they are sitting in the computer room. You know what, send the pics when you get home, internet cafes are cheap, and the last thing i do when i am away from home is surf the web

Re:Former ATT Employee, no sympathy (5, Insightful)

stephencrane (771345) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905063)

That's nonsense. It's not disabled by default on all ATT phones. In this case, we're talking about a data card, but it's the same point. You don't have to call to turn it on. I've seen two instances recently where people got hit for 7000 and 9000 bills, with no change in usage behavior. Some folk troubled inside can sneer at these people and justify their disdain behind the fact that an 26-page agreement lists roaming data charges in fine print. These same agreements also say you've signed away half your legal rights because ATT would find them inconvenient in certain situations. Fuck that as a justification. There are tons of cellular service providers that have much better warning systems, like a text or pop-up with fee information, or tools you can use, like self-setting a limit on how much costs you can incur before service temporarily disables. There's no reason why people in this day and age shouldn't expect more. Casual data use goes up every year as files and options take up space, yet somehow it always seems that those with few competitors seem to continually put off revising their rates for networks long paid for. This was Canada in 2008, not Sierra Leone in 1998. The most galling thing of it all is the proof right in what puto is saying. We all know that all that stands between a $20,000 bill and a $100 bill is a fucking SKU. They design the circumstances to encourage these mistakes, or they just don't care enough about their customers to deploy solutions already on other providers' shelves.

Re:Former ATT Employee, no RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24905091)

From TFA:

The Terry family said they asked an AT&T employee about the service before their son left the country. They said they were told nothing about international fees.

Dave Terry also said they were never contacted by the company to be alerted of the high fees.

And I fixed your comment title for you :)

Re:Former ATT Employee, no sympathy (4, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905199)

Most people, though, simply do not grok how much data a short video or a few dozen lightly compressed photos use up, though. It's not like voice, where everyone understands what a minute is. A few minutes on a data call can transfer just a few kilobytes, or possibly tens of megabytes - and most people who aren't IT people or telecommunications experts simply don't understand this.

It would be more customer-friendly to by default have the international roaming plan bar calls once the charges reach, say, $100 - instead of let people who aren't IT experts unexpectedly run up gigantic data bills.

That's before we get to the rip-off profiteering that is international roaming.

And people wonder why my family doesn't go back. (3, Interesting)

Rachel Lucid (964267) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904795)

My family was one of the many caught up in the original AT&T / Cingular Merger, and promptly quit them after we found out we couldn't add my little brother onto our current (read: old AT&T) cell plan (which was $20 per phone per month) unless the entire family got whole new phones and went on a new two-year contract.

Well, we did... with T-mobile.

Fast forward to now and almost the entire family has upgraded their phones since -- only one person at a time as opposed to en masse -- and my sister and I are happy as clams with Sidekicks, and even when I traveled to Canada, it never got nuts like this. (In fact, the one thing my boyfriend likes about T-mobile is that when he was traipsing all over Europe, you couldn't swing a charge cable around without hitting a T-mobile tower, so be enjoyed as-good-as-home data service!)

So... yeah, not surprised.

What usually happens in these situations? (1)

Apple Acolyte (517892) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904807)

Does anyone know what usually happens in these obscene roaming charge situations? Do they eventually get settled, or are victims mostly forced to file for bankruptcy?

Re:What usually happens in these situations? (1)

Rachel Lucid (964267) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904967)

The ones that actually make press usually cause enough bad publicity that charges get knocked down / "covered" by the company after a while -- paying a few thou on someone's bill is STILL cheaper than a prime-time commercial, after all.

Otherwise, I'm not so sure.

Re:What usually happens in these situations? (1)

Secrity (742221) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905003)

From what somebody else has posted, it appears that about 1 GB of data was sent, and the data rates from Canada are posted on AT&T's web site.. This does not sound like obscene roaming charges, it sounds like somebody wasn't very smart in sending a GB of video using a cell phone.. There is probably no need to declare bankruptcy, they should be able to pay that off in about three years.

That's why prepaid plans are so crippled in US (3, Interesting)

quazee (816569) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904821)

I guess that about 30% of the carriers' revenue in US are such 'oh shit' charges (on a lesser scale, of course).

Re:That's why prepaid plans are so crippled in US (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904969)

They are getting better. Virgin mobile has unlimited voice (data plans, not so much) for $80:

http://www.virginmobileusa.com/rates/month.do [virginmobileusa.com]

Re:That's why prepaid plans are so crippled in US (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905075)

They are getting better. Virgin mobile has unlimited voice (data plans, not so much) for $80

It's thinking like this which is exactly what tricks people into $20,000 phone bills. The plan you showed a link for has unlimited domestic calling. The bill in question was for international calling. Get that Virgin service because you think it has "unlimited" voice and data, and you're gonna get a big surprise when you send a couple of megabytes from Vancouver, too.

Uhh... yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24904891)

If you think that AT&T has ever been above charging a family $19,370 in their phone bill without blinking an eye, you obviously don't know AT&T or any other telecom carrier for that matter. My father-in-law got a similar bill years ago that came in a box, and I've seen one recently at work.

OMG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24904977)

What an idiotic comment. There is simply no way any company of any kind should be permitted to commit $20,000 of service to an ordinary consumer, without so much as a phone call to confirm the charges.

The fact that you have this profoundly unhelpful attitude and WORKED FOR THE COMPANY speaks volumes about the attitudes that have developed within telecom industries, in my opinion. I hope your job got outsourced since it sounds like you would have provided the same level of service.

I think that (1)

TehDon (1302561) | more than 6 years ago | (#24904987)

No cell phone bill should have a price structure that allows it to get that high in the first place. Talk about rapage.

There ought to be a law (1)

Adrian Lopez (2615) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905017)

The government should require these companies to offer its customers the ability to set a hard cap on monthly fees. Families with teenage kids should not live in fear of huge bills, nor should people who travel have to fear such ridiculously expensive prices.

Re:There ought to be a law (1)

kasek (514492) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905101)

at least for their long distance service, they at one point offered a service to set a cap on your long distance bill - but they didn't actually DO anything with it. My mother ended up with a $1300 phone bill a while back, even though she had a $150 limit on the long distance bill. AT&T was unapologetic, and told her they had no obligation to honor the cap that they offered to put on her bill. When they finally realized she wasn't going to pay them beyond the $150, they disconnected the phone and gave the number to someone else, all in the course of a day. Mom switched to VOIP and never looked back.

Pre-notify cost of call? (2, Interesting)

hack slash (1064002) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905021)

Why can't mobile phones (& GPRS modem software for that matter) have the ability to pre-warn you how much the call is going to cost per minute before you press the dial button?

When you buy a product from a bricks'n'mortar or online store you're told up-front how much it's going to cost before you get out your cash/credit card/PayPal password
But not with mobile phones, usually you're either told just after the call ends how much credit you have left on your pay-as-you-go account or at the end of the month when your contract bill arrives in the post.

Why is it... (1)

MarchTheMonth (1232442) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905037)

Why is it that it's always AT&T that is in the news for the astronomic bills? I can't recall the last time I heard Verizon gouging their customers. If odds are supposed to show how often people make mistakes like this, AT&T charges $85,000, $20,000, and that guy got charged (IIRC) $4,000 for having his iPhone off while on a cruise ship in the Atlantic, mind you never Virgin, Sprint, or anyone else.

I think AT&T lives on gouging their customers, I never hear the story about how AT&T is helping their customers with bills, or something else like it.

Re:Why is it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24905169)

Maybe because Verizon phones do not work in a lot of countries.

AT&T shares no responsibility? (1)

Vertana (1094987) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905039)

I'm disgusted also. With this particular story, they brought it on themselves by trying to use a U.S.-based company for a data service in another country. But if the family usually got a bill in a certain range (the range being a few hundred at most), AT&T should have realized *something* out of the ordinary was happening and the bill was skyrocketing past a certain point. As for the man with the $85,000 bill in the link above... if he plugged that phone into a laptop and used it as such (unless there was a data rate plan does not apply if phone is used as a modem type clause in contract), he should have had lawyers all over that.

unconscionable contracts are unenforceable (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24905041)

Isn't there a common law rule about contracts that "unconscionable" clauses are not enforceable? There is no way a sane person would agree to purchase services at these prices or anticipate this level of charges. It's like ordering "a bottle of red" at The Olive Garden and getting a rare 1940 barolo priced at $20,000.

Credit (1)

DavidD_CA (750156) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905073)

Every one of these stories eventually ends with, "And the cellular carrier has issued credits to lower their bill to $1000."

So what's the big deal?

I do agree, however, that companies should at least send a text message or email whenever your monthly bill starts to reach double its normal amount. It might even be in their interest to do that, too, by using that as a way to sell more plans and lower complaints to customer service.

Is'nt there a cut off limit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24905087)

This is a situation that both parties are at fault. The customer should have known that international travel should bring up some type of addition fee's or restriction. 2nd If customer was unsure he should have called to ind out what his plan covered and what would be additional.

AT@T is also to blame by allowing a customer's bill to get to such a insane amount. There should be some type of safety in place as your service is shut off after X amount of dollars (Like Spirnt does) or a phone call to notify the customer.

But as a few people have said, businesses are just here to make money, not to be responsible or caring about their customers.

Fuck AT&T (0, Flamebait)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905119)

they would NEVER get that kind payment from me, i would start tossing bills in the trash if they got over 200 dollars, i know not everyone can get away with it but i can...

Not unexpected (1)

rderoko (1116609) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905157)

Ridiculous, but expected from this, the worst company ever. Why people continue to use them is inexplicable.

AT & T is really SBC, in management quality. (3, Interesting)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905195)

AT&T is no longer the old AT&T, because the name was sold [att.com] to SBC. My understanding is that the SBC trademark was worse than useless because the company is so abusive. So, the managers decided to use another name.

Those interested in how that happened can watch Stephen Colbert explain in a 1 minute 14 second video: The New AT&T [google.com] .

It seems to me ... (4, Insightful)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 6 years ago | (#24905209)

... that the mobile carriers could save themselves a great deal of grief if they provided a fact sheet to their data subscribers. Sure, the contract said $0.019 per KB, but most people have no idea what that means. Now, if they handed them a sheet like the following:

Here are some typical charges at $0.019/KB ...
1 email would cost about $0.02 to send or receive
1 web page would cost about $0.20 to display
1 3.2 megapixel picture would cost $6 to send
1 10 megapixel picture would cost $20 to send
1 minute of DV video would cost $5200 to send

In other words, express the charges in terms of something they can understand. I'm sure if this family was given a fee schedule like this they would have suggested that their son not send home the pictures.
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