Chris's Rants

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Stupid US cellphone companies

Geoff is ticked off at cell phone companies. Me too. Recently, my daughter's phone had an unfortunate incident with a toilet (fell out the back pocket... plunk... flush... oops!) and we had to go get her a new phone. I too am a Cingular nee AT&T Wireless customer (IBM has/had a really sweet corporate discount). So, my daughter and I went for a ride to the nearest Cingular branch (actually, we went to the next closest one in North Smithfield, RI which was jam packed. My daughter then informed me that there's a branch in the new Milbury plaza. So, we hopped back in the car and drove there). Upon entering the (empty) branch in Milbury, we were informed by the disinterested clerk that they couldn't service us because we were AT&T Wireless customers... they didn't have access gto the AT&T systems in stores that were not formerly AT&T Wireless outlets.

Sigh. Okay... now we have to travel to the Emerald Square Mall in North Attleboro (about a 30 minute drive from Milbury).

We get to the North Attleboro branch of AT&T Wireless... it looks just like all of the other Cingular branches with the minor exception of a poster out front that declares it an AT&T Wireless branch (the one we used to go to for service). All the other signage is Cingular.

Anyway, after waiting about 20 minutes for the next available clerk (why does it take sooooo long to execute a transaction with a cell phone company?) We were informed that they had only one... that't right... one AT&T phone left. All the others were Cingular phones (and the selection as Geoff mentions was generally paltry aside from the slick Motorola Razr).

The one phone they did have was a higher-end Nokia with a built-in camera and flashlight amongst other things.

I inquired as to why she couldn't get one of the Cingular phones. The clerk (a former AT&T Wireless employee) informed me that Cingular was trying to get all of the AT&T customers switched over to Cingular accounts. I said, "but we get our statement from, and pay Cingular... certainly that makes us Cingular customers". Ah, you foolish boy, no. You are still an AT&T Wireless customer. You're on their plan, etc. I see, said I. He said, we could switch you and your family over to Cingular, but then you wouldn't get the sweet corporate discount you enjoy with AT&T because Cingular hasn't renegotiated with AT&T's corporate discount customers yet. He expected that would take a couple months since the merger was only made final recently.

So, here I am in a sea of phones... flip phones (which my daughter wanted), camera phones, PDA phones (granted, not the greatest selection, but at least a dozen types) and I am left with a take it or leave it choice. I go from preferred customer with a juicy corproate discount to pond scum in terms of Cingular's treatment of me in one fell swoop.

Great, just great. So, I can't visit the bazillion branches of Cingular (they are like mushrooms, about one every 10 square miles from what I can tell), I am limited to former AT&T Wireless branches and if any of us has a hardware problem, we're probably hosed and will have to switch to a Cingular account to get a phone without going through their phone-based customer service.

I certainly hope they straighten this out soon. Afterall, I am on the hook for about another year on the two year contract I signed to get the discounted rate on top of the discounted rate for the set of phones I and my family are currently using.

4 Comments:

  • I like to describe this as being stuck between two companies. Usually it's a situation where neither company wants to take responsibility for a billing error. In your case the two companies could not communicate with itself very well.

    I describe it as two companies because really the two distinct corporate cultures had not had not had time to mesh very well when you posted this.

    I write about telecom stuff for consummers, to help you to work with your telecom and television companies better.

    Email me if you have specific questions.

    http://www.telecommer.com

    By Anonymous telecom rep, at May 19, 2005 12:22 AM  

  • Cingular Billing Horrors:

    First Bill : Additional charge for cancelling a phone line 280$. ( I was never a Cingular or AT&T customer ). GO Figure.

    Second Bill: Shocking 500+$. I analyzed bill carefully. It turns out they have billed me for mobile-to-mobile minutes in family talk REGIONAL plan. I work in NYC and live in NJ. So I had signed up for NATIONAL mobile-to-mobile plan so me and my wife can share it. It turns out cingular's REGIONAL assumption makes you pay for twice ( I had both phones in my name , though one was used by my wife ). You pay for receiving and calling as well. Luckily, I found my original contract so I can dispute this fact.

    Be careful, analyze your bills from cell companies and save yourself from getting robbed outright even without you realizing it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 06, 2005 7:35 PM  

  • sorry to hear that your experience is so bad with Cingular. I've been with Cingular/Bellsouth for over 10 years and have no complaints. I too took advantage of the IBM Corp discount with ATT at one time. Hated thier service. Anyhow....Cingular now offers the mega corp discount for IBM Employees. 50% off on all non data hardware and 23% off on monthly billing. Good luck!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at July 09, 2005 5:43 PM  

  • Before the AT&T merger, I was a cingular customer. After countless billing errors and false roaming charges (which each take 30 minutes on the phone to correct) I fired them and went to AT&T GSM with my 4 phones.

    Things were great. Then, the dreaded merger. Now, billing issues, funny charges, and heaven help you if you break or loose your phone. You call them up and get phrases like “you’re one of those old AT&T customers” (apparently with leprosy, the way they talk.)

    My solution is two pronged. First, when a phone fails, you buy another on eBay. They are flooded with AT&T GSM phones that belong to those who have already left (or in a moment of weakness became “cingular” customers). You can also get AT&T SIM cards for about $3 each.

    The second part of the solution is even better. I have programmed my contract expiration date into my phone memo calendar. A few days before the contract end, the phone will pop up a message to remind me to go fire these guys and try someone else. Looking forward to it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 26, 2005 11:55 AM  

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