Happy 4th of July…(Sort of)

July 3rd, 2009 by Nick Jacobs Leave a reply »

Recently, my youngest child —a wife and mom in her 30’s,  got a new job that came with a company cell phone, a Blackberry. The problem was that she had a “Friends and Family” cell Phone plan, and no longer needed her old phone.  She called the wireless company, explained the situation, and they said, “We’re sorry, but the telephone bill is in your husband’s name, and only he can change this.”  She painfully explained that he is in the Army National Guard in the middle of a war zone.  The wireless carrier’s “Customer Care” representative replied, “I’m sorry, but he must call in, give us his Social Security number and the password or nothing can be changed.  There are no exceptions.”

American soldiers with the 101st Airborne Assualt Division at Camp Pennsylvania make phone calls from a makeshift, and often malfunctioning, phone center. - Photo by Benjamin Lowy/Corbis -Image © Benjamin Lowy/Corbis
American soldiers with the 101st Airborne Assualt Division at Camp Pennsylvania make phone calls from a makeshift, and often malfunctioning, phone center. – Photo by Benjamin Lowy/Corbis -Image © Benjamin Lowy/Corbis

She explained, ”He does not have a telephone to call you from his base in the desert.” The service representative said, “ Then he must send us his Power of Attorney.”  This frustrated young army wife and mother of three said, “We’re not adopting a child or buying a house, we’re trying to change a wireless plan?”   “Let’s see, Osama Bin Laden is still making DVD’s, but you can’t change a phone plan?,” she went on.   “That’s correct,” came the icy cold reply.

Undaunted by this setback, we went to the local wireless store hoping that we would find an employee who was not the Tin Man from the “Wizard of Oz.”  The young lady patiently waited the 20 or so minutes until her name was called, went up to the associate at the counter and said, “I’d like to take this phone off the family plan and move it over to my new company.”   “I’m sorry, he said.  “The bill is in your husband’s name.”  She explained that her husband was deployed.  The mystified sales associate said, “I’ll check with my manager.”

The Tin Woodman speaks

You guessed it,” the manager said, “Just have your husband call.” “He doesn’t have a phone,” she exclaimed.  By this time everyone was listening intently.  The young man said once again, “Have him call.”  It was at that point that I lost it and said, “He’s in the war! They shot at him today.”  A few stations away, a man who was obviously a veteran yelled out, “Give me his numbers, I’ll put a war movie in the DVD and call these jerks for him.”  The next woman over just shook her head.  Undaunted, the red faced associate stuck to his guns.

Clearly corporate America was making a point.  War?  What war?  Who cares?  “Rules are rules, and they will not be altered!”  This was the third time in as many months that she was greeted with this type of callous big business attitude.  Because it was in a new location, the local cable company would not put cable into their home to provide access for the family to communicate with their dad via the internet for under $3,000.  Even when she explained the desperation of a war mom separated from her husband for a year, their reply was simple, “No, it’s $3000,  or no cable.”

She then asked that her satellite TV be discontinued, and was told that she would be assessed another several hundred dollars because the contract had not expired.  She once again explained the Iraq situation and the need for high speed cable, but they replied, “Sorry, but that’s the way it is.”

So, let’s all take this opportunity to thank our wireless company, the cable company, the satellite company, and every other United States-based company who so fervently support our troops and their families. Sung to the tune of America the Beautiful:

The magnitude of gratitude expressed by corporate greed;
Tells all our soldiers everywhere we’re grateful, yes indeed.
We’ll fleece you here and fleece you there as you protect our homes
Just watch us help your families until you all come home . . . NOT!

In the words of Stephen Colbert, you’re on notice.



  1. Tammy says:

    Well put.

    It is appalling, to be sure. I’ll wager these same companies are flying flags – perhaps even showing patriotic commercials and offering an Independence Day special.

    Fracking hypocrites.

    On notice, indeed.

  2. Karen Grzybicki White says:

    And you wonder why so much of the world thinks we’re arrogant a**holes.

  3. Are you a con man looking to open more business for your self? Are you trying to make it easier for thieves to steal from people? Your telling corporate America to stop securing peoples accounts. Your saying allow anybody to walk into store under the guise that the person they are trying to change their account is over seas. Those soldiers are briefed on what they need to do weeks before leaving. Now if they want to ignore the briefing about doing a power of attorney. According to this article they better then sign a letter releasing all their creditors from any obligation from securing their accounts, and allow just about anybody to come in and make changes on their behalf.

  4. Nick Jacobs says:

    No, Bryan, I’m a father who has watched his daughter and her children suffer through a year of pure hell while their husband and father has been in harm’s way in a war. He did exactly what he was told to do before leaving, and placed my daughter as the key decision maker on this account, but there was small print that said, “Except for changing the phone to another account,” and that was not part of his instructions. Thanks for your sympathetic input.

  5. Bryan Williams says:

    You know accountability is responsibility. A power of attorney can be obtained by the wife and the husband going to the JAG office. That along with the deployment orders could have had this resolved by mail in 2 to three weeks. Under the sailors and soldier act, military families are allowed are allowed some rights. But like every responsible American, it’s not handed to you. If you ignore the military departure briefings, that explain all of this, and you find yourself in a jam, then it’s time to ask for some help. Corporate America has responsibility to protect peoples accounts just like soldier are responsible to protect us. Acting angry at somebody because they are doing what they are paid to by you, is not the solution. Throwing a pity party for yourself is not a solution. If your intent here is to find a solution I have given it, go to the local military JAG office, or even call them on the phone. Get the Power of Attorney.

  6. Shawn Ryan says:

    Another consideration you haven’t covered is all the stories of bitter spouses who are making life miserable for soldiers who are away at war. Wives who empty bank accounts and run off with a new fling, husbands who rack up thousands in accounts listed to girlfriends and wives away at war.

    I am sincerely sorry for your daughter’s situation, however she needs to expect that a company will ask for something more than just her say so that her husband is at war and this is his will. Contracts are binding and simply leaving someone as ‘decision maker’ without a legal document stating such seems to be a little bold.

    I’m glad your daughter has a good and strong relationship with her spouse. Sadly not all our troops are as secure at home and companies are doing the only thing that they can with such ambiguity. Hopefully she can get a power of attorney as suggested by Bryan.


  7. It’s funny, I started to write an intelligent response (debate, argument, protest and more) and realized this was unproductive. Nick, I just want to tell you how sorry I am for all the hardship your son-in-law, daughter and grandchildren have gone through this year.

  8. Nick Jacobs says:

    Yeah, me, too. Thanks.

  9. Mike Russell says:

    Nick, I believe you’ve started a vitally important conversation here that really needed to happen.

    Groups like IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America – http://www.iava.org ) have become active – and especially adept at utilizing social media technology – to help our returning vets and, I believe, active duty military personnel who are currently serving, as well.

    This online exchange could potentially become a rallying point for a grassroots effort to help our service men and women and their families with these matters. Clearly, a solution is needed (maybe even a legislative one) to remedy this current state of affairs.

  10. Mike,

    Thank you for the way you expressed yourself here. I would be most honored if you would read my blog entry about the state of affairs re: health and what I believe is so important.

    Health is so much more than health care and my project is about creating the New Metrics of Health. Many families of the military are so stretched emotionally because of the “entitlement” of how our economy works, it also challenges there health.

    Nick and I have had some delightful conversations about this and other aspects of society in health care such as bullying. In my humble opinion the economic tension in our society adds to that bullying and depletes a person’s health.

    here is my blog link:

    http://aboutworkecology.typepad.com and the entry you want to read is the current one about WECare.

    I also have no Nick in the blogsphere and personally for over 5 years. Blogsphere does not inspire the kind of conversations where people can unite to create the change we need. I invite anyone to call me if they want to be part of this change.

    Mike, you proposed a change and I hope you are working for it. Let me know what I can do to help.

    Lavinia Weissman

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