About me

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sucktastic cell phone companies

Warning: I am not a happy camper.

Some few years ago, I switched from Sprint to AT&T so that I could have a telephone that worked outside the United States. That was a few days after the ex saddled me with $400 in early termination fees, which only started the sour taste in my mouth.

I was happy with AT&T until 18 months ago when I decided to get an iPhone. I couldn't really afford the technology, but my regular phone was on it's last leg with no paint on the keys, and the subsidized price on the iPhone made it attractive. Within 12 months, I was over the iPhone, and back on the old Moto Q with it's worn keys. At least it would place a call, send an MMS, and otherwise do it's job.

Towards last Thanksgiving, I replaced the Moto Q with a cheap Samsung. Now, you might think that with SIM carded phones you could do as the advertising says, that being to just swap the cards. Nope, not when an iPhone has been involved. A few hours with customer (dis)service on a Saturday night (Yes, I called the emergency number), I was told that I needed to visit a real store for the fix.

All told, I had paid for some 30 days of no and extremely limited service from AT&T using the iPhone. Of course, I was in rather remote places then. San Francisco. New York City. Atlanta. Raleigh. All that in addition to having access routinely throttled. The day after last Thanksgiving, the iPhone needed some 30 minutes or more to upload an email with pics attached.

That Sunday, the young man at the AT&T store finally got my cheap phone to working, though he was clueless regarding why someone would not be happy with the ubercool iPhone. He also cut off my voice mail, something that I didn't notice for a couple of weeks. Also, my bill went up when I dropped the iPhone data plan. No, I still don't get it.


Last week, Josh ported his number to T-Mobile. It took about two hours. Maybe three. By the time the phone was charged, it was done. Lily ported her number also, but to Virgin Mobile. Her port took about six hours. In both cases, they have plans that permit full access, each for substantially less than AT&T charged for minutes and text.

Now it was my turn. I had decided on Virgin Mobile like Lily, mostly because I couldn't get Josh to actually describe his plan of phone's name, though he did tell me he received a military discount.

Off to Radio Shack for a phone. My first trip to Radio Shack failed because of the idiot clerk who has likely drowned by now in his own spittle. I returned this morning mainly because it's the only source of these phones locally. (That might have been my hint.) The fellow behind the desk was ever so helpful. He walked to the back, grabbed the phone, took my card, and then told me I had to buy "time" also. They were not allowed to sell just the phones. My $150 purchase was then $210.

You'd think there'd be a sign about that somewhere...or a law.

Back home towards noon, I unpacked everything, and started the process to activate the new phone. The woman on the other end of the call was very patient and somewhat helpful. She was patient with my stumbling over the buttons. However, she did not know which buttons I should be pressing to get the phone on.

Note: The unlock button on the touch screen works much like it does on the iPhone. The power on and off button is even in the same place. I should have spend more time with the manual, but most of us come to expect intuition to be sufficient.

In time, everything was done, and all I had to do was wait for the number to port from AT&T to Virgin Mobile. No problem. Josh needed 2. Lil, 6. I left the phone while I went for a long walk. On return, still nothing. Virgin Mobile's rep on Twitter says it could be as long as three days. That announcement did not seem to alarm her.

Of course, I could call customer service for discussion. Except that my phones are not working. 7.5 hours now.

Notice how easy it was to spend the money? Notice how hard it is to get something for the money? I wonder who modeled this business plan first. Cell carriers or airlines? They both do it well with little or no concern for comeuppance.

So what will I do? I don't know. Maybe it'll be working by the time I get up. I'm unlikely to go three days without a phone, and that suggests that I might have to do something else tomorrow morning. What that'll be, I do not know. It's not like the reps on-line or on the phone can do anything about it. They're just the worker drones. And Radio Shack made it clear they would not be issuing any refunds.

Perhaps it's time to by soup and string again.

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