A beep from my home security alarm system awakened me. I had always known since the day I had installed the system this would happen one day. After all, that’s what I had been paying monthly monitoring fees for, for years. Yet, somehow I had expected something more – sirens, bells and whistles, confetti falling from the ceiling – than an emasculated beep.
The alarm panel read “C2 Trouble”. How informative; as if the alarm beeping had not been indicative of trouble. Since it looked like an error code rather than an intruder alert, I decided to forego a room-by-room search with intent to shoot anything that moved, and instead phoned the alarm company’s emergency number I’ve carried on my phone all these years. I was greeted by a recording informing me the number had been disconnected.
Fortunately, I had also stored the alarm company’s backup number on my phone, so I dialed that. I got another recorded message, this time informing me I had reached a collection company after hours. Hoping there was not an armed intruder outside my bedroom door, I booted up my computer and searched for the alarm company’s number. When I finally got them on the phone, the company representative refused to speak with me unless I gave him my password. So I did. He told me I had given him my alarm code, which was not the same thing as the password, the latter having been created and last used the day I opened the account. Great, I had now revealed my access code to a stranger who was still refusing to speak to me.
I stalled him while running through my list of passwords. I only had 300 on the list. I tried to match the entry date of the password with the length of time I had had the alarm system, and successfully guessed it. Now I was allowed to have a conversation.
He told me the beep was likely a glitch and not to worry about it. I replied, “There aren’t supposed to be glitches in security systems.” He offered to send a maintenance man out to check it—for $130. I said I thought repairs were covered under my contract. “They are,” he replied. “It’s the labor that’s additional.” Since parts can’t be installed without labor, that means all repairs are apparently not covered under my contract. When my salesman gets back from his vacation, we’ll have to chat. Meanwhile, he advised me I could have labor costs covered by adding a $6 a month rider to my contract.
“I’ll think about it,” I said. “In the meantime, how do I change my secret password, which is no longer secret?”
“You need a download to do that,” he replied. “It costs $30. But it’s free on the $6 a month plan.”
“It costs $30 every time I change my password! What a racket!”
“Uh huh,” he replied. “But it covers other downloads, too.”
“What other downloads are there?”
“Say your alarm siren sounds and you can’t shut it off. Call us and we’ll send a download that will turn it off.”
“You mean you’d charge me $30 to turn off the siren?” I imagined irate neighbors in pajamas and nightcaps, with torches and pitchforks at my door.
“Yep, but it’s free if you have the extra $6 a month plan,” he replied.
“Can I stop bending over? My back is hurting.” I hung up half-hoping there was an intruder in the house; I felt like shooting someone. Then, I considered canceling the service. After all, I already had an effective alarm system and she only cost me a few dog biscuits a day.