Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Built-in text messages ruined life, says city man

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A Winnipeg man is homeless and heartbroken after the woman he wanted to spend his life with found some salacious text messages on his cellphone.

The catch? He didn't write them.

For Darren P., who did not want his last name used, the cellphone fiasco began on Monday, when his girlfriend of two-and-a-half years stumbled on some naughty messages on his new work phone.

But those messages -- "Booty call," "Where u at," and "Be there soon" -- didn't come from Darren. They were pre-set text messages that came loaded on his Samsung Virgin Mobile phone.

"I said, 'That's ridiculous, why would I cheat?' There's things I believe about relationships... The first is that if you are in a relationship, you don't cheat," says Darren, 49, who notes he didn't know the phone was text-enabled. "I said, 'You're being ridiculous.' She said, 'No I'm not, here's the proof.' "

What happened next: a painful break-up, during which Darren -- who is now living with friends -- launched a quest to clear his name. He called Virgin Mobile, and was advised to file a written complaint, which he intends to do. He even walked into the Future Shop on Regent Avenue to show the offending messages to staff.

"At first, we didn't believe him," says Mike Ford, 20, a sales associate at the store. "But when we looked at a couple of the same phones he bought, and found they all had the same messages... We all felt horrible. We wanted to do whatever we could for him... He basically has to start his life over again. We're going to make sure that he's taken care of."

While Darren praises the compassion of Ford and his coworkers, who have kept in touch with the heartbroken man, he points the finger squarely at Virgin Mobile for selling phones with saucy texts to unsuspecting customers.

"It's not just teenagers buying these things. For people who don't know the technology, these things can be severely misconstrued," he says. "I'd like to see the phones recalled and the messages taken off, so that others don't have to go through the hell I'm going through."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 5, 2010 A4

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