We have been looking into a cell phone company here in Italy that specializes in dealing with study abroad students. From what I understood, what I'd read, and what I'd been told is that they would provide the students with a free cell phone (with a deposit to be re-credited to them at the end of the semester) that would have the capabilities of making/receiving free calls to all within the plan. Sounds great, right? Ever heard the saying: if it looks too good to be true...it probably is? Well...that is a great truth to learn.
Today, the rental company came to campus to discuss its product. When I originally contacted the company months ago I received a reply to my email that said they provided the phone. When I requested information again last week this is what I was told. On the company's website it clearly says that it gives a free phone to students and all calls between students is free. Instead of all of this, my students, myself, and Lynda were faced with something much different.
As I listened to the gentleman's presentation he clearly said that the cost was 49 euros, 40 of which was a deposit that would be credited to the students upon return of the phone. The other 9 euros were already credited airtime minutes. Several of our students signed up for the plan since we told them it was mandatory because I needed to be able to reach them in the event of an emergency. It was only after 2 young women approached me and told me that it actually cost 99 euros did I suspect that we were in the midst of a "conspiracy". I asked the woman who assisted the man to clarify for me what the cost was and she proceeded to tell me that it was 99 euros. I disputed this saying that that is not what we had been told. Everyone around me nodded in agreement.
What ensued was a man determined to get money from us by practically forcing us into purchasing the plans. I held my ground and emphatically told them that our students couldn't afford them and that's not what we were told. He refused to back down claiming that there was great expense on their part and yadda, yadda, yadda...I began to feel nauseous and angry. This was not what we'd been told nor did I ever promise him that our students would sign up for the plan. It was just ugly. Lynda jumped in and expressed herself, echoing my own sentiments, wonderfully. My RA did the same...he did a great job and I'm proud of him for speaking truth. Still, the man was ticked. He left the room and his assistant, who was very nice and from the States, tore up all of the credit card imprints of the students who had already purchased the plan and decided not to go with the additional charge. When the man returned he was very angry. Again, I explained to him the issue.
In the end, one of our students purchased the plan and Lynda and I actually did buy a phone. Still, he was not happy. He was insulting, rude, and downright deceitful, in my opinion.
I know that this was a great life lesson for our students and for me, but I'd much rather have not had to go through that particular lesson. Again, it has left me nauseous, anxious, and keyed up. I don't mind having to be confrontational when the moment calls for it, but I don't like it. I don't like what happens to me and I do not like it when my students feel as if they did something wrong.
I feel like this is a common occurrence abroad. Nationals expect that Americans in their country are wealthy and can afford anything (NOT TRUE) so they tack on all of these hidden expenses...20 euro here, 10 there...it's like when you go to a restaurant and they place a basket of bread on your table. You didn't ask for the bread, but they put it there nonetheless. Then, you get your bill and lo and behold...a charge for the bread. This was a major basket of bread...