IT HAPPENED TO ME: A Cell Phone Company Employee Stole Photos From My Phone

Not only did he admit it, he made it clear just how awesome he was for doing it with three sunglass-wearing emojis.
Publish date:
October 4, 2016
privacy, ptsd, cell phones, customer service

Last summer, I was living in Hawai’i, having the time of my life. While enjoying my first nude beach experience, the ocean tried to take my phone. Obviously, I didn’t have it on me since I was naked; it was inside my shoes, which were tucked behind a rock up a sand hill. A freak wave washed over the beach and grabbed me, my phone, and my shoes. It slammed me into a rock and sucked my shoes and phone down to the shoreline, but not before leaving them soaked and full of sand.

Though I was bleeding from my impromptu meeting with the rock, a trip to the local cell phone store was quickly added to the day’s to-do list.

At the store, it was taking so long to get my phone replaced that a friend who had been waiting in the car came inside to wait with me. She mentioned that the employee who was working on my phone was flirting with me, but I ignored it. She and I went to lunch, came back, and the phone still wasn’t done.

Insert more waiting and some nifty Jeopardy-style music here.

When it was finally finished, I collected my new phone, along with the employee’s business card and cell phone number, which he had written on the back.

Once we were on the road to our final destination, my friend told me the guy had asked about me while I was busying myself with other things around the store. Nothing crazy — just normal stuff like whether or not I was single, where we hung out, etc. While she was telling me all this, I realized my old phone had still been plugged in and on the counter at the store.

I routinely destroy phones, so I was somewhat familiar with the replacement process. In the past, once everything was transferred and the new phone was handed over, my old phone would be taken to the back room. I don’t know exactly what happens in the back room, but I imagine it’s a dark and terrible place where phones go to die. What I did know is that my newest old phone hadn’t been taken there before we left. I mentioned my concern to my friend, and then I texted the guy who had been helping me.

He responded quickly, and after some banter, he told me my phone had been erased.

Sweet! Nothing to worry about, right? Wrong.

He had erased it, but not before sending himself pictures and a video from my phone to his. Not only did he admit it, he made it clear just how awesome he was for doing it with three sunglass-wearing emojis.

We all know how much private stuff we keep on our phones. Often there are things for our eyes only, or for the eyes of our significant others — not for the eyes of strangers, especially without consent. Perhaps naively, I never thought this would happen. My phone was broken, so I took it to a store and handed it to an employee without a second thought. I mean, this is was an authorized store for a huge company; somewhere in my mind, I must have assumed they had policies to prevent something like this from happening.

I told my friend what he’d done and took screenshots of the entire text exchange.

We were headed in the opposite direction, but she wanted to go back. She was of the opinion that he had to be confronted, but I couldn’t imagine going back into that store. Even though I played it cool and flirty via text in efforts to get as much info as possible, I found myself feeling strangely violated, embarrassed, and foolish.

Not a-fucking-gain, I told myself. How many times would something like this happen to me?

Crazy as it may seem, having already been a victim of rape and abuse, it is easier for me to accept this type of behavior. I know things like this are possible so it no longer surprises me to feel violated. It still hurts, and I won’t go so far as to say it is expected, but it is in no way shocking. I do not experience outrage. So the idea of going back to the store and confronting this guy never would have occurred to me and really wasn't an option in my mind.

I never went back to that store, but I did eventually end up calling customer service to let them know what had happened. I was hopeful to get some insight, while also obtaining policy-backed assurance that it would not happen again. I didn’t want to cause a ruckus; I just wanted to be sure something was in place to protect consumers like me.

Thus began the circle jerk that was me trying to get information from anyone at this major cell phone company (the name of which, ironically, rhymes with "be noble").

Honestly, when this happened, I had no intention of sharing it publicly. Even though I was told it was the only way a large company like this would listen to someone like me, I really believed by working directly with them and following the proper channels, this could be prevented in the future.

I learned the hard way that that's not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

I’m just a regular customer. I pay about $200 per month for my phone service and other devices, which is next to nothing compared to what they bring in overall. Why would they care if I felt violated or unsafe bringing my phone into one of their stores again? Why would it matter to them that the shock of this incident had triggered my PTSD?

Six months of dead ends later, I had all but given up when my hope was rekindled.

After giving this company zero stars on one of their surveys, I was contacted by a representative. As I had done every other time I had spoken with a representative since the incident, I explained to him what had happened. (Those with PTSD will understand how traumatic this can be.)

This representative, like the others before him, apologized. He also explained the situation should have been handled better, offered me a $100 credit to my phone bill, and promised to call me back within two weeks with policy information. I politely declined the offer for the $100 credit, but I agreed to receive the call back and was looking forward to it.

That was late last year. Around November, if I’m not mistaken. I’m still waiting for that call.

Maybe he took an old phone to the back room where phones go to die and was never seen or heard from again. Why else wouldn’t a phone company call me back?