Nothing’s for Nothing

OK, so how many times have you seen something advertised as ‘FREE‘ and then discovered it’s still going to involve you parting with cash? Fast food joints are classics, they hand out vouchers telling you that you can have a Super Greasy Fat Burger FREE but the small print then tells you that you only get it free if you buy another Super Greasy Fat Burger… Yes, the good old BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free)

Retailers are also guilty of it, often it’s a case of,

“Buy this ludicrously over-priced 74″ plasma TV for only £4,999.99 and get this DVD player worth £20.99 FREE”

That’s usually a pisser because if you wait 2 weeks the TV will be reduced to £1,999.99 and you’ll have change to fly to Japan and pick the DVD player up from the manufacturer!

I had my own run in with the whole, when we say free we don’t really mean free double speak earlier this week courtesy of BT (British Telecom) Now, this should really not be a surprise to me as I worked for them many moons ago and I know their highly paid lawyers earn their crust by placing devilishly tricky loop holes into all that small print that accompanies every bit of literature they print, why else does a 12 page booklet require 2 pages just for the small print and of course, who can be bothered reading all that stuff anyway?

Like a lot of households, I have a landline purely to provide my broadband needs, all my calls are made on my mobile or via Skype. The landline is paid via Direct Debit and I opt for online billing and as I never think to look at it, I seldom log on to actually view the bill, I know it’s about £11-£12 per month and that’s roughly what comes out of my account. The other day I read that they are putting prices up for the first time in xyz years and I happened to log into my account and saw a list of bills, one month stuck out as it was about £4 more than any of the others which all varied by a few pence… I had a look and the bill in question had a charge for ‘BT Caller Display’ and ‘BT Answerphone 1571’.. I was puzzled, none of the other bills had this charge so I had a quick look on their help system and read that everyone could have BT Answerphone 1571 FREE but if you wanted the advanced version there was a monthly charge… as for Caller Display, that was also FREE as part of the ‘FREE Privacy at Home’ package… SO, I drop an email to BT’s Offshore ‘help’ desk questioning why I was being charged for these ‘free’ services. Several hours later I received a response… Yes, the services were free, but only if I made at least 2 chargeable calls in the month, as I had not made any calls I wasn’t entitled to the free part of the service, therefore the £4.xx was the fee for not using the phone. I quickly checked back and lo and behold it seemed that most months I had in fact made a few calls, usually to Dominos Pizza or to an access number for when I call overseas but I also discovered I had paid this £4.xx a few times over the year. Now, it’s easy enough to say pick up the phone, make 2 calls a month for 10p and save paying the £4.xx but I have a memory like a sieve.. So I emailed them and asked them to cancel the services as I didn’t want to pay for them. They kindly replied to confirm that they had indeed cancelled my FREE services…

This irked me a little and so, like a complete sad bastard, I decided to read all the small print on a recent letter I received from BT telling me that I would get FREE weekend calls to any UK landline from 1 April. Sure enough, BT’s idea of free doesn’t match mine… Firstly, free means calls of 60mins are free, any longer than 60mins and you’ll be charged but there’s no limit to how many times you can hang up and redial… just the inconvenience of having to check the clock all the time… then I discovered point two… if you don’t make at least 2 chargeable calls in the month guess what? Yup, no free weekend calls! I’m assuming that the first 2 weekend calls would count as chargeable but if you didn’t make any other calls and your first 2 calls were for 60mins each that’s 120 x weekend call rate, which I’m far too lazy to look up but certainly not FREE!!

I wonder how many other people have been paying BT for these free things and have never noticed? I guess if you use your landline it makes no difference to you as you’re bound to pick the phone up at least twice a month but I dare say there are a few like me who probably don’t, the free services came automatically when I signed up so I just assumed as they were free that it wouldn’t cost me; as I have only given my phone number out to about 4 people in 4 years I don’t really need their answerphone or have caller display so I won’t miss them but it’s the motherfucking principle!!

Anyway, now that’s off my chest, let’s have a bit of music… I leave you now with Freeform Five and No More Conversations

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