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Gotcha Capitalism: The Second Voreblog Readers Forum

We recently switched phone providers from Cincinnati Bell to Verizon, attempting in these tough economic times to save a few extra dollars wherever we can. In the long term this move may well indeed pay off. In the short term, our phone bill for the past month is three hundred twenty-three dollars and forty-seven cents for seven hundred anytime minutes. If you want that in numerical form: $323.47. Or $4.62 per minute. (We know a deal when we see one!)

The reason? Gotcha Capitalism.

Bob Sullivan, a consumer advocate who writes a blog for called The Red Tape Chronicles, coined the term to describe all the ways companies nickel and dime you with hidden fees and trickster tactics. Then he wrote a book called Gotcha Capitalism that compiles many of the schemes and frauds you, the consumer, should be on the lookout for.

How did we get duped? We switched providers on July 25. Cincinnati Bell, whose virtue had been not requiring us to sign a contract in those impetuous days at our relationship’s start, slammed the door behind us by billing us a full month for five days of actual service. (Shame on you, Jeremy Piven.)

You would think, then, that we might enjoy the benefits of a full month of service (read: all of our anytime minutes) with Verizon even though we signed up five days into the month. Yes?

Well, no. The good folks at Verizon, as a show of thanks for joining their network, threw out the welcome mat by — unbeknownst to us — prorating our first month’s minutes. We were charged an extra $47.70 for going over our monthly allotment. (We had been sitting pretty at 693 anytime minutes.)

“We have to go to the store right now and correct this,” Erin said, rooting through the closet for an axe.

“I can straighten this out tomorrow,” Ben said. “I’m a little beat.”

“You know who else was beat?” Erin said. “Rocky. They said he was all washed up. They said he was a quitter.”

“Please,” Ben said as he got his keys, “anything but the Rocky speech.”

When we arrived, we had Bob Sullivan’s advice in mind (“You should be able to [state your complaint] in one or two sentences”) and, thankfully, no axe. We calmly explained that no one told us that our first month’s minutes would be prorated. We also couldn’t figure out why we were seemingly charged twice for monthly service.

“We really can’t do anything about that here,” the man — Nick — told us. Below Nick’s nametag was a red ribbon that said, MY NUMBER ONE PRIORITY IS YOUR EXPERIENCE. “You’re best off calling Verizon to get it straightened out.”

We looked around, slightly confused. Weren’t we in a Verizon store? Why did we have to call Verizon?

“We’re not authorized to change billing,” Nick explained. He shrugged. Nick’s number one priority did not appear to be loving his job.

We called Verizon. A very nice woman named Lisa explained to us that Verizon bills you ahead of service, like a mortgage or rent payment, which Cincinnati Bell did not do. Hence we were paying for August and September in one bill.

“They should’ve explained that to you when you signed up,” Lisa said. “They always forget to tell you that.”

What about those prorated minutes? “They also should have told you about that. Did they not tell you?”

Hell no, Lisa.

“Hmmm. Let me take care of that for you.”

Sullivan says that only one in five successfully get refunds with phone companies when it comes to bill disputes. Thank you, Lisa. You’re a sweetheart.


When have you been the victim of Gotcha Capitalism? What savvy know-how can you impart to fellow Voreblog readers? The name of the game is information. If any of you get chump changed switching cell phone providers like we did, we’ll be very disappointed. Our loss is your gain. Comment below with your own hard-won wisdom!


12 thoughts on “Gotcha Capitalism: The Second Voreblog Readers Forum

  1. Incidentally, Jeremy Piven is also the voice for Buffalo Wild Wings, ending advertisements with the tagline, “Buffalo Wild Wings: You Have To Be Here.” Ben has boycotted BW3’s ever since his brother Dan got food poisoning there. The wings in question took thirty minutes to arrive even though we were one of four tables in the restaurant at 11 p.m. on a Monday. And, mysteriously, they were cold. Dan, in true form, ate one and said, “That didn’t taste right,” then proceeded to eat the rest. (“This is probably a bad idea,” he said between wings four and five.) After a rough night on the Vore couch followed by two miserable days after, Dan finally recovered. Ben called the restaurant to complain and was put on hold for fifteen minutes before a manager picked up. “My brother and I were there the other night and he ordered wings that took about thirty minutes to arrive–” “Time flies when you’re having fun!” the manager responded. Huh? Ben thought. “Yeah, and, when they arrived they were cold. My brother got sick that night and is still recovering.” “You guys still had a good time though, huh?” “No, not really. My brother got food poisoning from your wings.” “When was this?” “Monday night.” “I wasn’t here Monday night.” Was this guy’s modus operandi incompetence or brilliance? “Listen, I just want you to know that your restaurant served bad food and that you should be aware of it.” “All right. We’ll see you again soon!” No, you won’t.

    The moral here: If Jeremy Piven promotes something, don’t buy it.

    And if you don’t have a consumer tip to offer but would like to share the time you too experienced a crippling bout of food poisoning, this forum welcomes you with open arms.

  2. Ripped off story – the other day we got Max & Erma’s carry out for dinner and the bastards didn’t put my fries in the bag.

    Food poisoning story – I once ate prime rib when I was on vacation with my family and got food poisoning. My farts smelled like the ocean. It was awful.

    Jeremy Piven story – I used to be friends with John Cusack.

  3. When we moved the last time, Time Warner missed 4 service calls in a row. Then they put me on hold for TWO HOURS (yeah, speaker phone, bizzitches, we’ll see who breaks first) just to tell me that they had been by (WRONG) and no one was home (WRONG AGAIN)

    Turns out, they never did switch over our cable, even though we had been paying the bill for two months. One night it just went out. When I called to complain (hold time: one hour, 45 minutes) they accused of us stealing cable and said we shouldn’t be complaining that they turned off someone else’s cable. At which point I told them that if our cable wasn’t back on immediately, I would be visiting the cable box on the street with a hacksaw and a screwdriver and turning it back on myself. Also, that we wanted a month free due to their total incompetence. Oh, and using our (cable) internet, I found the CEO’s email and sent him a message explaining how bad his company sucked.

    BW3 wings give me a headache.

    Oh, and I have a friend who worked with Jeremy Piven on the Cinci Bell commercials and said he was a total dick the whole time.

  4. Here’s what we have learned from this forum so far:

    1) Nobody is willing to go on record defending BW3’s.

    2) In a contest of wills with Stella Blue, you will lose.

    3) You possess a great deal of leverage when you tell someone that you are willing to remedy a problem using a hacksaw and screwdriver.

    4) Jeremy Piven may not be a nice guy.

    This raises another topic for discussion: The dark side of celebrity. Anyone have a good story about rubbing shoulders with a not-so-nice celebrity? (Or, conversely, a celebrity who turned out to be human?)

  5. I once waited three hours to meet Shawn “The Heartbreak Kid” Michaels. Not only did he stay two hours longer than he should have (the line was too long to begin with), but he shook every last hand in that line and he did it with a smile and a “how you doin?” I love this man.

    P.S. This was not when I was 14. This was 2 years ago. Oops.

  6. I have two comments directly related to my brother:

    -He used to work at BW3 in high school. When he quit, he liberated a box of mini corndogs. We enjoyed delicious mini corndogs all summer long.

    -He is notorious for bitching at Cincinnati Bell and Time Warner and getting free stuff out of them. I think he actually enjoys spending 2 or 3 hours on the phone complaining and asking to speak to the person’s supervisor when they piss him off. For each of us who has been screwed by the phone or cable company, B has extracted revenge and then some.

    -He may or may not have crapped his pants in the parking lot of Don Pablos, which is right next to BW3.

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