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My ongoing saga with Cingular…

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My Sprint Treo 650 dropped 5-calls on the way home from work. Then I needed to call 911 in South Lake Tahoe, and couldn’t get a signal (that’s a story for another time). Seeing as this all happened in the same weekend, I decided it was time for a change. My wife and I both decided to switch to Cingular, got Motorola Razr’s, a pretty reasonable shared minutes plan and thankfully didn’t transfer our numbers from our Sprint phones to Cingular. Things were ok until the first bill arrived (I suspected that if they could get the first bill right, everything else would work out fine). Our first bill… for less than 30 days of service… was $225.71.

I skimmed thru the bill, didn’t see anything obviously wrong (aside from the total) and called Cingular to ask “WTF?”. After several minutes of confusing “explanation” we determined that the problem was a) activation charges b) internet minutes when I was using my phone as a wireless modem weren’t considered part of my “unlimited data” plan ($19.99 with Cingular, $10 with Sprint… at least on my plan) c) we’d spanned a billing cycle, and were paying a month in advance. I asked if the wireless point were correct (I had called and sortof asked about this before and was told “unlimited means unlimited”), was now told “yes, using the phone as a modem isn’t part of your data plan”. At this point point I told the customer service rep to cancel my plan, I returned the phones to Fry’s (past 15 days, but within 30 days) and sat back to wait for the “adjusted final bill” which I’d been told to expect.

No “adjusted final bill” arrived, but another bill re-stating the $225.71 did, so I sent off a check and resigned myself to the fact that experimenting with technology can be expensive, and consoled myself with the fact that my Treo hadn’t dropped a call since I’d started using it again.

Then I got the bill for $530.79! Well, the good news was that they hadn’t applied the payment I’d sent, but the bad news was the unexpected $300! I called Cingular, got a “customer service agent” who was snippy with me, and said that I’d cancelled outside of my 30-day window and owed an early termination penalty. She asked me what date I’d cancelled on, at which point I realized she was being lazy as well as snippy, so I got (quietly, but obviously) pissed off, asked her if she really wanted me waste my time finding the dates in my records, or if she just wanted to look in the system to see when I’d cancelled. At this point she got much nicer, realized that Cingular had made a mistake, and submitted a request for a $300 refund. Hmm… ok, I was a bit worried at this point, but assumed that the worst was behind me.

Today I got a bill for $5.08. That’s right, five dollars and eight cents. The sheer smallness of it pushed me right over the edge! I called 800-330-0500 and spoke to Glenn Flood. He was (perhaps reasonably, I was really pissed) unwilling to refund the “late fee”, so I asked to be transferred to a supervisor. I then spoke with Cheron Smith, I tried to calm down a bit, but he was also unwilling to refund the “late fee”. He did notice that the original $225.71 should have been pro-rated for the days we didn’t use in our second month (which came out to about a $86.25 refund), but managed to do this while providing truly horrific customer service (talking over me and being unreasonable about the “I was told to wait for a final revised bill” aspect of my original call).

It’s difficult to characterize exactly what was so horrible about this whole call. I think it ultimately came down to the fact that I have had to initiate communication with Cingular on two occasions to resolve their book-keeping f’ups, they’re still sitting on $78.47 of my money, and they had the nerve to send me a bill for a $5.08 late fee. Then, when I called to ask what the hell was up with the late fee, they were entirely unwilling to entertain the idea of giving me what I’d asked for, but assured me that the adjustment would have happened without my calling, and since he’d said “I can’t refund the late charge”, was unwilling to listen to any arguments to the contrary. Basically, he couldn’t do what I was asking for, because I was asking for it.

So, now I sit, powerless, waiting for Cingular to send me their next communique. Will it be a refund, a random charge, a letter from a collections agency (I got a bit pissy with Cheron when he mentioned this being sent to a collections agency, he then indicated that “I wasn’t saying it would, I was just telling you what the possible scenarios were”). How much more time will I get to spend on the phone with these so-called “customer service” agents.

What can you do:
– If you can use a service other than Cingular in your area, and are somewhat dissatisfied yourself, please take the time to change (and let them know why when you call… they don’t care, but it’ll make up both feel better :) ).
– Hmm, that’s it actually…

What will I do:
– Call back next week and ask about a refund of my $5.08. If that doesn’t work I’ll just walk away from it, but I’d be surprised if it doesn’t.
– Encourage my family to change from Cingular to anything.
– Possibly write a letter to their Customer Service Dept, but I suspect that’s a waste of time. I’m no longer a customer, and I think the time I spent here will be more productive.

Written by jthurber

November 22nd, 2005 at 4:31 pm

Posted in major-rantings