Downgrading

Henry Ford would be so proud that each year the cycle of planned obsolescence seems to grow ever shorter. This is especially true when discussing technology – computers, tablets, TVs or – in this case – cell phones. Ours is a culture of upgrading. Nothing has made this clearer than my decision towards the end of 2012 to – *gasp* – deliberately downgrade my communication device.

Until 2010, I’d always had a rather simple cell phone. Think having to hit the #2 key 3 times to get a “C” in your text message level of simple. Fits in your pocket. You can drop it multiple times without too much drama. Then I dated someone for a few months who had purchased a top-of-the-line phone just before meeting me. I spent some time around this phone with magical powers, and phone envy set in. I splashed out – I got one for myself. Evo 4G – my own personal little robot.

I quickly realized that I didn’t particularly like holding a mini-laptop to my ear for each and every conversation. I didn’t use even 20% of the bells and whistles this phone offered up for consumption, and my phone bill was larger than ever due to mandatory charges for unlimited data and 4G level service I rarely used. Going out at night with my phone and camera in the same purse required a new, bigger purse. I found myself checking my email (unnecessarily) in public places, just because I could. I started posting Facebook status updates (unnecessarily) more frequently, just because I could.  Really, none of that behavior matches the kind of life I’d like to be living. Really, I just need a dumber phone.

Now that my contract is up, since I don’t feel tied to the fancy-ness, I’m opting to downgrade.  I’m not saying this to be preachy – you go ahead and upgrade.  After all, I’m hardly the kind of person who could write a blog about not buying anything for an entire year – that actually blows my consumer-y mind. I probably buy something nearly every day of my life, whether it’s a bagel, cat litter, shoes, samba costume pieces…I’m definitely contributing to our Capitalist economy. I’m saying it because the process of making the change has given me cause to marvel at how all systems are set up to enable the UPgrade, but discourage the DOWNgrade.

I tried to tackle this project online, to avoid the hard sell from sales reps in retail stores, who surely would not wish me to spend less money on their products and services. In the end, I spent about 2 hours of my life “chatting” with a series of Sprint customer service reps. In the end, I was charged $35 for one of their mistakes, and I actually was annoyed enough by the whole process that I cancelled my service with them and went back to AT&T. It boggles my mind that they would rather lose a customer of 2+ years than make any exception to their return policy, even when it was their original misinformation that led to the brief (less than 10 minutes) activation of the certified pre-owned phone I had purchased.  It boggles my mind that I cannot return a package I received less than 24 hours prior, but instead must wait 3-5 business days for a return “kit” to be sent to me so I can send back their phone. Life is just too short for this wrangling.

And so – after way more back-and-forth than I expected – I begin the new year newly downgraded! I even sold my Evo 4G on craigslist to offset the cost of my mum’s and my new (yet dumber) phones. Ta da!

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