Last week I shared the tale of two rounds of unexpected charges racked up by the amigos on my Ipod touch. In the aggregate these charges amounted to more than $1,000. Yes, you read that correctly. As the old saying goes, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
So after the second episode I had a lengthy conversation with “John,” an Apple customer support specialist, who walked me through the labyrinthine process of installing passcodes and passwords and turning off various functions to ENSURE we’d not suffer through a repeat performance. I held a serious bull session with the offending male amigos (who, of course, claimed innocence and issued absurd and tortured possible explanations—deductions that were logically equivalent to “the cat did it!”), and informed them what I’d been through and done to ENSURE it couldn’t possibly happen again. A couple of days after that I printed out my credit card history to satisfy myself that all the charges had been taken care of and to prepare Krista (aka “The Piper”) for what was going to appear on our end-of-the-month bill: dozens of itunes charges matched, ultimately, by dozens of credits.
Understandably, weeks went by before I trusted that both the device and my children could occupy the same room without serious financial mishap befalling me. I gave in slowly, cautiously. All three children were granted access, about 15 minutes at a time here and there on weekends, then a little longer. I checked my email frequently and exhaled when my inbox contained no notifications from Itunes. It seemed all was well again on the electronic device front. In late April we enjoyed beautiful weather and a wonderful, idyllic (by our standards, at least) weekend. I forget most of the particulars, other than on Sunday we and one of Luke’s friends went to a Cincinnati Reds game together and stopped on the way home for pizza at one of my favorite joints close to the UD campus. I recall that after we’d put the amigos to bed that evening Krista and I looked at each other with satisfaction and fatigue, and that I’d said something to the effect that “this was one of the most pleasant 48-hour periods we’ve had in a long time.” I slept like a proverbial baby that night.
The following morning I walked in my office, greeted my assistant with a smile, and bounded in my office, whistling all the while. No kidding. I turned on the computer and provided the password for my email account. After a few seconds my UD email inbox appeared and I scanned it rapidly.
“KJAERE GUD PA HIMMEL” I uttered in disbelief, spewing an epithet (“Dear God in heaven”) in Norwegian I suppose because doing so makes it feel less profane to me. I scrolled down through the 30-some-odd incoming emails. Half were from itunes. I opened each one, reviewed the purchase and the amount, tried (successfully, thank goodness) to prevent myself from vomiting or soiling myself, and wrote down the charges. They took up one and a half sheets of notebook paper and required I use my calculator to figure them accurately. I shut my office door and looked up the number for Apple customer service. Again. “I should probably have this number on speed-dial,” I lamented to myself. After a couple of miscues I finally got through to another young man (“Mark,” I believe) and I whimpered through—in exquisite detail, if I do say so myself—the entire, sordid tale.
Mark responded with five seconds of stunned silence followed by a simple, three-lettered, monosyllabic “wow”. I’m fairly certain they don’t teach that at Apple Customer Service University, but I couldn’t blame him. Consider: this was round three of a massive in-app purchase trifecta, a trio of bills that went from $400 to $600 to—GULP—$1600, the last tranche accumulated during an impressive weekend spree. I explained that I’d done everything his predecessor had told me to do and that I KNEW (yes, with capital letters) that none of my children could have possibly rearranged the settings or found the passwords/passcodes I’d set up. Mark was as flummoxed as I was desperate and he asked that I hold on the line for a moment. Ten excruciating minutes later he returned and stated ominously, “Mr. Swensen, I’m going to sign off now and let my supervisor, Jim, take over. Have a great day.” Click.
Oh boy. Jim the supervisor was on the case now. This can’t be promising, I surmised. Jimthesupervisor related that Mark had filled him in and that he’d reviewed my “electronic file.” “I know this has happened a couple of times before, Mr. Swensen, and that we’ve credited your account on both those occasions. I can’t promise you we’ll do it again, but I’ll try. I have to take it to one of our ‘escalation committees’ and see what they say.”
“Escalation committees?” I asked.
“Yessir. I don’t have the authority to excuse a bill this…err…sizeable, nor to excuse a third one. I’ll explain what happened—that you had a lengthy conversation with one of our representatives a few months ago and tried to make sure this wouldn’t happen again but that, obviously, something didn’t work. All I can tell you is that I’ll do my best and we’ll see what happens. But I can’t make you any promises. In the meanwhile, I suggest you go to the nearest Apple store and have one of our folks inspect your device themselves to see what they can do.”
“Oh, yeah, I’m definitely gonna do that,” I replied. “But Jim[thesupervisor], I can’t pay $1600 for this. I just can’t. I mean, I did everything John told me to do. I did EVERYTHING HE TOLD ME TO DO…and I…I…” I stammered, all the while wondering what body parts the boys and I could sell to come up with the cash and how I was going to explain this to mama Piper without imperiling my life or the lives of my offspring. “When will I know my fate, Jim?” I finally concluded.
“It should be within a couple of days, Mr. Swensen. It might take that long to get all the information together, present it, and get their verdict. For your part, get to the Apple store and have that device attended to. OK?”
“OK,” I replied automatically.
“Oh, and Mr. Swensen, thanks for calling Apple support and have a nice day.”
Next Week: Paying the Piper, Final Episode
Timothy Swensen is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at email@example.com. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.