Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 16, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

CUSTOMER SERVICE BLUES....Cathy Seipp has an entertaining rant against Verizon up at her site. After her cell phone stopped working, they made her visit the local Verizon store, which offered her a "free upgrade" costing $139.76:

I also asked her to put all the old contacts from the old phone onto the new one. They can easily do this for you at Verizon, but they'll never offer, you always have to ask. I didn't even know it was a possibility, in fact, until I went in once with Maia and she knew to make them do it.

"No...they don't tell us never to offer," the sales rep said when I asked if this unhelpfulness is something they learn in special Verizon training seminars, "but we never do. I guess we should."

The icing on the cake is that, because I was so exhausted, I did not realize until I got home that the sales rep had sold me a ridiculous accessory pack (leather case, assorted other crap) that I did not ask for. No wonder the bill seemed high. All I'd said, repeatedly, was please just give a new phone, with insurance, so I could get out of there. But for some reason she took "insurance" to mean "accessory pack."

Hey, between this, her fondness of public service announcments, and her annoyance at private health insurance, we'll turn her into a liberal yet!

Of course, what makes this triply or quadruply annoying is that we all know that companies like Verizon can be paragons of efficiency when they have the motivation of actually selling you something. Marian and I switched to Verizon about a year ago, and it was the most amazingly painless purchase I've made in a long time. They had a nice phone on sale for next to nothing, so we bought two of them. The guy at the counter did the setup and made sure everything worked. The batteries came fully charged. They switched our old numbers to the new phones in about 30 seconds. The entire operation took about 20 minutes and we were chatting away on our phones a minute later.

Needless to say, this efficiency disappears instantly if you aren't buying something. The worst offender on this score (to my knowledge, anyway) is Fry's Electronics: their customer service for returns isn't bad out of laziness or bad management, it's deliberately bad because they want to discourage people from returning things. So screw 'em. Their prices aren't all that great anyway. I do all my shopping at Micro Center, and I do it there solely because they've always been decent and efficient at processing my rare returns.

Of course, the problem in the cell phone world is that there's no one to turn to. They all suck. Or do they? Is there any cell phone company that gets consensus praise from people who have tried to resolve problems? (I'm actually happy with Verizon, for example, but I've never had any problems. That doesn't count.) Commenters?

Kevin Drum 4:53 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (106)

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Comments

Bush, that bastard!! It's all his fault!

Posted by: liberal on June 16, 2006 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

The worst offender on this score (to my knowledge, anyway) is Fry's Electronics: their customer service for returns isn't bad out of laziness or bad management, it's deliberately bad because they want to discourage people from returning things. So screw 'em. Their prices aren't all that great anyway. I do all my shopping at Micro Center, and I do it there solely because they've always been decent and efficient at processing my rare returns.

Agreed. Going to Fry's to return something is a PITA and besides Microcenter is much closer to me in Santa Ana. The prices there aren't bad and my wife loves the laptop we bought her.

Posted by: Dreggas on June 16, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

I've found my local Fry's to be pretty good about returns. Slow, yeah, but they didn't bitch when I returned a mouse two months later with a receipt that had been dunked in water. I mean, it was still in an unopened package, but still, impressed.

Posted by: tavella on June 16, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

I've had good luck with Cingular, but then no problems as yet. What's interested me lately are the Skype portable wi-fi phones--granted, you're limited to wi-fi spots, but totally free phone service....

Posted by: LeisureGuy on June 16, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Bloomingdale's and Home Depot are two other deliberately horrible companies for returns, especially for online purchases. Applying for a mortgage is less time-consuming and error-ridden than getting a return or replacement with either of these companies.

Posted by: yoyo the clown on June 16, 2006 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

For people like me who only make a few calls a week and want the phone mainly for emergencies, consider the TracFone pre-paid service. I've found it pretty reliable and the customer service is ok.

I get the year in advance for around $100 - that's $8.34 a month. It comes with enough minutes that I have never had to buy extra ones. But as I say, I'm not much of a cell phone talker; just want it for those few occasions I need it.

Posted by: Virginia Dutch on June 16, 2006 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody have any experience with Working Asset's service? My wife and I have been thinking of changing to them because of what they stand for politically.

Posted by: Patrick Briggs on June 16, 2006 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

"we'll turn her into a liberal yet!"

You may not have much time. Cathy Seipp was diagnosed with advanced, inoperable lung cancer in 2002.

Posted by: ex-liberal on June 16, 2006 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

AT&T is a good choice. They have great customer service, and they're one of the phone companies that's helping the NSA find terrorists.

Posted by: American Hawk on June 16, 2006 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Verizon has had very poor coverage on our campus for years and it's pretty entertaining to listen to the sales people avoid the subject, pretend to be surprised by people's experiences, etc. The local store must survive almost completely because of this dishonesty.

Posted by: toast on June 16, 2006 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

People I know who have tried various cell phone companies seem to agree that Verizon has the worst customer service. They also say it has the best network around here.

So maybe Verizon really does have worse than typical service.

Posted by: jefff on June 16, 2006 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

Deutsch Telekom (T-Mobile) has provided me with pretty good service. I wish the deal on new phones was a bit more transparent but that's a problem with all cell phone companies.

Posted by: alkali on June 16, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK
worst offender on this score (to my knowledge, anyway) is Fry's Electronics: their customer service for returns isn't bad out of laziness or bad management, it's deliberately bad because they want to discourage people from returning things.

Um, so what's the excuse for their crappy customer service on everything else? Are they trying to avoid selling things, too?

You don't shop at Fry's for quality customer service at any point in the process, you shop at Fry's because they have the best selection in the area. And, if there's someone better around, you don't shop at Fry's.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 16, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

NEVER go into a Verizon service center for assistance. Service can be a bit quicker at kiosks (eg Circuit City) but they are limited - no phone book transfer. Having been a VZ customer since GTE Mobilnet days, I have had many conversations about this w/ their reps - they are well aware of it. Still great phone service but this is an added price you pay

Posted by: martin on June 16, 2006 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

I don't even own a cell phone. Luddites unite!

Posted by: Alek Hidell on June 16, 2006 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

THe other thing about Verizon, is if you're getting crappy reception because of the very sparse location of their towers in your area, their sales reps will be HAPPY to lie their asses off and tell you you need a new phone to fix that problem, when really, they only need to look at their own advertising slogan; "it's the network"

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on June 16, 2006 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

I'm actually happy with Verizon, for example, but I've never had any problems. That doesn't count.

And why not? I'm happy with my Honda, because there's never been a recall on that particular model/year. That's worth a lot to me...and I remain unimpressed with how helpful Chrysler has been to my neighbor over the years.

Posted by: Amit Joshi on June 16, 2006 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Never had any problem with returns at Home Depot.
We have Cellular One. Used to have regular service, then switched to their pre-paid (Evo, I think) for the same reasons Virginia states above. They told us at Radio Shack, which handled both phones, that it would take thirty days to switch the number on the new pre-paid to our existing regular cell number, and that we'd have to call on that date, and that it wasn't guaranteed we'd be able to get it. I think this was a crock of shit. We did jump through the hoops & get the change made, but the customer service wasn't so hot.
Also, when we call to add more minutes, you have to sit through a bunch of voicemail to get a real person. The only automated option is to add $20.
Oh, and I've never gotten a consistent answer as to whether the minutes we purchase will roll over to the next billing period (3 months).
But, it is cheaper if you don't use it that much.

Posted by: sal on June 16, 2006 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry to say for you LeisureGuy I found Cingular to be the worst of the bunch so far. With Verizon I had them outright lie to me on various occasions over the course of 2 years, including 3 checks that they applied to wrong accounts. Each time it would take me months to fix it, involving certified letters, trips into different offices each time, and many many phone calls to "Customer Service" (I still have the 22 page call log to prove it.) This all resulted in my first ever contact with the FTC. Not my last when it came to cell companies.

Even though we were no longer under contract with either my wifes phone or my own, we kept both of them going because of my wife getting a really great rate from her company. And good thing because she ran through minutes, working in commercial insurance. After she died, it took me 8 MONTHS to get them to turn the damn thing off. The entire time they kept trying to charge me and threatening me with legal action. This was countered by me writing letters, many phone calls (with phone log, operator numbers instead of names), trips into a corporate office in Manhattan, and finally a threat involving a news truck and sledge-hammer to be visited to the same office. This found the wonderful world of SEC filings and Google could get you a foot in the door if you try hard enough.

But with Cingular the customer service started off fine, for about 4 months. On the very day they announce the merger with AT&T, problems started. My payment due date kept changing, bills not showing up and finally I found that mailing my check meant that it would take 14 days from the date of mailing in NYC to the day it was credited to my account. If it had been a one time thing, no big deal, but I had this happen for 8 consecutive months. More late fees. I asked about online bill payments but they told me that it was not possible to start that with the merger pending. So I was forced to go each month into a store to pay the bill in person. But wait, the date was still changing. Every month I would make it clear that I wanted to pay the entire bill, so to avoid any more fees. But not all the fees would be in the system at the same time, so I would find out that I had another late fee for something that was not even there the previous trip. More phone calls and trips to offices. At the shops they would tell me that they could not even discuss the issues and put me on a phone with "someone that could help". Turned out to be the same lying idiots that I could have spoken to directly from the cell phone.

At some point after I had the corporate office numbers in Norcross GA. they told me I could use the online payment feature. (remember that they told me previously that I could not use it). When I tried I found that they had someone elses information in there meaning that someone else could access my account information. When I called back about that they told me I would have to subpoena any records if I wanted to know anything more on my account. Some other guy could get my records, without problem, I would have to go to legal action. My attorney and the FTC are now involved.

Lets see if post-scandal Sprint is any better. Doubt it but where else can I go.

Posted by: clyde on June 16, 2006 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

You don't shop at Fry's for quality customer service at any point in the process, you shop at Fry's because they have the best selection in the area.

That, and many take it as an opportunity to prove their alpha-geek status by managing to find exactly what they need at Fry's despite the customer service that impedes the process of doing so.

Posted by: Constantine on June 16, 2006 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

I don't even own a cell phone. Luddites unite!

I swear that "I don't even own a cell phone!" is becoming the "I don't even own a television!" of the 21st century.

Posted by: Constantine on June 16, 2006 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

This is nothing...

The evil NTELOS (note: evil! evil! evil!) once charged me massively for roaming when I wasn't roaming. My contract period was over, so I told them that I wouldn't pay them what I owed them until they acknowleged that I didn't owe the roaming charges. I also told them that I wanted my service disconnected. But THEY REFUSED to disconnect my service, charging me for two months service after I dropped them while we negotiated about the charges. They got a credit agency on me, but I told them what I told the evil NTELOS--that I'd only pay what I actually owed, and only when they agreed that that was all that I owed. They finally agreed--but after I paid, they screwed up my credit score anyway.

DO NOT--UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES--USE NTELOS!!!!!

Oh--and a colleague of mine had a similar experience with them!

Posted by: Winston Smith on June 16, 2006 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Things are only going to get worse. The only thing purpose of the Sprint/Nextel deal was so that they create an attractive package for sale to Verizon. Within the next year that will happen along with the sale of T-Mobile to Cingular. Before the end of the Bush Administration we will be down to two telecommunications companies (Verizon and BellSouth/Cingular/MCI/AT&T or whatever they decide to call themselves) who will almost all the phone lines (both land and cellular) also control most of the country's internet backbone and a good chunk of the world's too. They will be able to effectively strangle VOIP in its crib and maybe even the cable companies.

Posted by: Freder Frederson on June 16, 2006 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

If you are too dumb to figure out your cell phone, then you are too dumb to have one.

Posted by: luther on June 16, 2006 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

It seems the cellphone thing varies by region. In my area, Cellular One was the best I had but they could not offer me the national plan I needed. I switched to Cingular--worst. service. ever. I hate them and even began to think of wild ideas for getting out of the plan (2 yrs)--like claiming I was kidnapped in Columbia or fake my own death. I've since asked evryone I know and the results suggest Verizon. But, of course, it is all just a big crapshoot with no accountability. The free marketers can learn about the inefficiencies of information asymmetry...

Posted by: ecoboz on June 16, 2006 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Best non helpful response from Sprint PCS customer service.

"It's technology. It doesn't work all the time."

Disclaimer. I worked for Sprint (on the long distance side so don't bitch at me about PCS), and this is a true story from a coworker who called to complained about dropped calls and lousy reception.

Posted by: Freder Frederson on June 16, 2006 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

I'm also wondering about Working Assets...anyone had service with them? How was it?

Posted by: Matt in Eugene on June 16, 2006 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

My cellular service provider is Cingular. I recommend them. My experience with their service includes having a Motorola RazR front screen go dead within 30 days of purchase. They swapped the phone out at a local Cingular store (no where I purchased the original) with no questions asked.

Also, after Katrina, they were very liberal in giving credits for system outages and even offered free minutes for a couple of months.

Posted by: Aaron Adams on June 16, 2006 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

I'm also wondering about Working Assets...anyone had service with them? How was it?

Steer clear of any company nobody else has ever heard of. All they are doing is piggy-backing on one of the big boys networks and operating as a sub-contractor to one of the majors in an area where the majors can't be bothered to serve.

If Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, Cingular or Alltell isn't available in your area, then and only then go with one of the no-names. Because if you do go with one of the no-names, chances are they are not going to be around in a couple of months anyway.

Posted by: Freder Frederson on June 16, 2006 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

I've never had problems with returning items at the Fry's in Palo Alto. I've returned oodles of stuff (and bought oodles too). It's the main reason I'd purchase something there rather than online.

--Rick Taylor

Posted by: Rick Taylor on June 16, 2006 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Virginia Dutch, I just broke down and bought my first cellphone, and I went with Tracfone too. Same reasons: I don't anticipate using it for anything but emergencies. My one objection is that the Nokia 1100 case, if I decide to buy it, costs as much as the phone did.

Posted by: Linkmeister on June 16, 2006 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Cathy SeiPP??? She's that conservamoron who is sick and has been crapped on , and is still a conservative.

Too stupid for words, she is.

Posted by: POed Lib on June 16, 2006 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

I switched to Verizon from Cingular. I've been very happy with the switch, and the service was quite good when I started up.

As for Fry's, I've made a couple of returns there, and they were quite reasonable. The same thing goes for Home Depot. Of course, I had my receipts and the returns were for quite valid reasons.

In fact, the Fry's salespeople that I've dealt with have been pretty good within their limits--and they make their limits known. They're a large-size retailer, so you should expect them to know what aisle to go to and be pleasantly surprised by anything else.

The biggest customer service issue I have is with computer and software manufacturers who've farmed their tech support out to unqualified people with flowcharts and a poor grasp of the English language. Alas, this is one piece of "common knowledge" that's true.

Posted by: Derek Copold on June 16, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Heh -- always funny to see what happens when a "libertarian" mistakenly steps into the real world.

Posted by: mercury on June 16, 2006 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

I'm using working assets for both long-distance and cell... no problem at all, cheaper on long-distance and fits my principles.

Posted by: Frenchdoc on June 16, 2006 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

The ugly secret about the cellular phone industry in this country is that nobody has made any money on it yet. Everybody hopes that someday, someway, all that huge capital investment will pay off. But for that to happen they have to stop giving away phones (which they lose about $100 a pop on), keep customers for at least two years (churn is killing the industry), and stop giving away airtime. That's why there is so much consolidation. Until there are just two players in the market and they can collude to fix prices, everyone will continue to bleed red ink.

Posted by: Freder Frederson on June 16, 2006 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Another Fry's story: One salesman steered me away from buying a new printer and going with a refurbished model, which turned out to be just as good and saved me some money. I can't remember any salesperson from Best Buy or Microcenter ever doing anything like that.

Posted by: Derek Copold on June 16, 2006 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

My wife uses Working Assets for her mobile phone. I would too, because their customer service is really pretty good actually, but the wireless network is Sprint PCS rebranded, and that doesn't work for me. I need a GSM phone for international use.

Posted by: s9 on June 16, 2006 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

I switched to Cingular--worst. service. ever. I hate them and even began to think of wild ideas for getting out of the plan (2 yrs)--like claiming I was kidnapped in Columbia or fake my own death.

Hil-arious!

And true. Cingular's coverage and call quality were so poor in my market that people I talked to on the phone -- I kid you not -- were getting angry and hanging up on me. I was on the verge of alienating important contacts.

So I was forced into ginning up intelligence for a land war in Asia to get out of my two-year contract. Fortunately, it helped my career a little, too.

Posted by: [name withheld] on June 16, 2006 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Also:
I did opt for their special package - it came with a bluetooth headset, leather case, and car-charger.

I'll use the crap out of that car-charger, I'm certain of that.

The leather case: not so much. You can't remove it from your belt, because the clip is so firm. I suppose it's better than dropping your phone all the time. I keep the new phone in my pocket. Kudos to Motorola for the RAZR. Brickbats to Verizon for STUPID leather-case design.

The bluetooth headset? A "$79 retail value" - Very balky "power" button (it's got ONE button, depending on how you hold it, you can get it to turn off, turn on, change modes, etc.) - and when it's on standby, a very bright blue LED flashes on and off continuously - very annoying. I will definately ONLY use this in my car.

I haven't mailed in the rebate yet, but I'm glad I read Cathy's article. I will photocopy the bar-codes before sending them in for sure.

I should've just cut my losses, returned the package, and gotten only the car-charger (what - like $10?).

And at the end of the day - reception still sucks at my home and at work. It's fine on the highway, of course.

I wonder if, some day, someone's going to file a class-action against Verizon for only installing towers along major highways, thereby ensuring that customers only make and take calls while driving, thereby ensuring a high customer death-rate due to car accidents? Any ambulance chasers out there want to pick that one up?

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on June 16, 2006 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a boingboing post on how to cancel a service from, a (former) telco service rep:
http://www.boingboing.net/2006/06/15/how_to_cancel_a_serv.html

I recently cancelled my AT&T long distance and I'd guess 1/2 the time was spent convincing them that I REALLY did want to cancel it and saying no to their "better offers".

Posted by: Fred F. on June 16, 2006 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

I have had one good customer service experience with the pay as you go Tracfone co. On Christmas day, when my mother's dial up connection caused a hiccup in the on-line activation, the customer service rep activated the phone I gave my mother for Xmas quickly, with one year of prepaid service, and even doubled my minutes from 150 to 300, as was Tracfone's custom if activation was done on-line. I do not think they double any longer.

Tracfone may not be a great deal if you compare minute pricing, but if you compare annual pricing and only use it for emergencies and quick calls, it is only about $90/year. For the last three Xmases I have re-upped my mother's and spouse's phones so they do not have to rely upon strangers if they should have a flat tire, another such 'emergency,' or go on vacation. It definitely is not for those who constantly talk on their cells like my realtor brother, who uses well over 1,000 minutes/month.

Posted by: Powerpuff on June 16, 2006 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK
In fact, the Fry's salespeople that I've dealt with have been pretty good within their limits--and they make their limits known. They're a large-size retailer, so you should expect them to know what aisle to go to and be pleasantly surprised by anything else.

Even with what I said before, I do agree with this; my point was that Fry's is a "size and selection" over "knowledgable and helpful staff" kind of store.

OTOH, the consistently worst customer service of any computer/electronics chain I've experienced over seems to be CompUSA. I've actually had a store manager at one of their stores tell my wife and I we shouldn't buy the $1,500 laptop (plus a wireless router, a few hundred dollars worth of software, and some other stuff) we'd picked out at their store if we weren't going to fork over the additional cash for an extended warranty on the laptop. So, we didn't, we went elsewhere on bought the same set of stuff.

Later, at another CompUSA, I had a customer "service" representative, when I came in and made quite clear I was looking for a good 19-20" LCD monitor that supported at least 1600x1200 resolution, try to convince me that (1) I didn't want that much resolution, (2) the monitor didn't matter for resolution anyway, you could use any output resolution your video card supported on any monitor, (3) a particular 17" monitor they had in was the "best thing" for me, (4) the most important thing about a monitor was its refresh rate. All of this, of course, without asking what I was using the monitor for (which, I suppose, could have justified some of the suggestions.)

The biggest customer service issue I have is with computer and software manufacturers who've farmed their tech support out to unqualified people with flowcharts and a poor grasp of the English language. Alas, this is one piece of "common knowledge" that's true.

Well, yeah, though I haven't actually called a tech support line for something like 5 years, that was a problem even then. Its a good thing you can't kill people through phone lines easily.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 16, 2006 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

I have had a Verizon pre-pay cell phone for about three years. (I am not a heavy user) For at least a year and a half, I have asked them on a quarterly basis if I could switch my number to a plan. They still won't let me though I could switch to almost any other company and keep my number. The thing that stops me is Verizon's coverage area is generally the best where I use it. Ultimatley, I think coverage is what drives rhe choice of cell phone provider, as the cost is comparable among most of them and the customer service is uniformily lousy.

Posted by: VMH on June 16, 2006 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

This is why I laugh at the Progressive car insurance commercials that say "If we're this helpful when you're buying car insurance, just think how helpful we'll be once you're a customer" or something along those lines. My reaction to that is always "ok, let me guess: considerably less helpful?"

Posted by: Chris Brody on June 16, 2006 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

I'll second the comments pushing for T-Mobile. However, a) the customer service, while still better than most of the other cellcos, has definitely been going downhill over the past two years, and b) reception on T-Mobile phones seems to be spottier than other carriers. Still, they're one of the few national companies in my life that I'm _not_ currently pissed off with.

Posted by: Imaginary on June 16, 2006 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

I briefly worked at Fry's, one of the worst companies ever. The cashiers get minimum wage plus a commision based on whaty they ring up, so I was surprised to see one of them in booties in the break room. I asked why she was wearing paper booties. "We're painting the offices", she said. I assumed she was an artist doing a mural or something, but no, they were paying their minimum wage cashiers to paint the manager's offices. You'll also see cashiers picking up trash outside a lot in their white shirts and ties. It's almost as if they go out of their way to degrade their employees, so I make sure to never focus my anger on the employee, but on the company. If I were a bad guy, I would totally abuse their return policy to get back at them, but I'm not a bad guy. Maybe.

And as a customer, I only shop the ads. Their regular prices are the same as everywhere else.

Also, isn't getting insurance on a cell phone pretty stupid? I remember reading an article on it somewhere...

Posted by: J e r r y on June 16, 2006 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

We left Sprint, one of the very worst companies I've ever dealt with, for T-Mobile a few peaceful years ago. A whole family plan full of phones that work. I believe this might be better than yoga or meditation or even one of those evangelical experiences. If T-Mobile should ever let me down I may have to start drinking again.

Posted by: mdsand on June 16, 2006 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

(I'm actually happy with Verizon, for example, but I've never had any problems. That doesn't count.)
Kevin, with all due respect, isn't "never had any problems" kind of a clue? I've been a Verizon Wireless customer for about 4 years, and I, too, have never had any problems. A vast improvement over Cingular, who seemed utterly clueless when it came to customer service. The few times I've called Verizon with questions re: billing their CSRs have been extremely courteous, knowledgeable and helpful. And believe me, when I get bad service from a company, I'm not shy about letting them know. But I also believe that good service should be acknowledged. If all we do is complain when we get bad service and never compliment good service, then we probably get the service we deserve.

Posted by: topper on June 16, 2006 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

The irony is that Fry's at least has return policies which are not completely arcane, and they actually manage to make returning if not pleasant, at least a successful endeavour.

Of course, I always have to stand in line behind people without the boxes, without receipts, and things so expensive I don't know why they bought them, let alone treated them so poorly. How is a store supposed to deal with that, anyhow?

But phone companies are much, much worse.

Posted by: Crissa on June 16, 2006 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

...Although, I'm a bit ashamed to be on first-name basis with the returns manages at my local Fry's...

Posted by: Crissa on June 16, 2006 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

I have an answer, Kevin - Don't own a cell phone!

There isn't one person in a thousand that need the goddamned things and they have turned this country into a bunch of rude, fuckin' zombies, walkin' or drivin' around with the things pasted to their ears, staring blankly ahead.....

Screw 'em!!!

Posted by: Fred Flintrock on June 16, 2006 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

I've been royally screwed by several of the wireless companies,ATT and Cingular, but have been very impressed with T Mobile. They have changed out 2 phones for me at no cost, and each time I have called with a billing question they have been not only polite and helpful, but have also pointed me to savings I wasn't aware of.
BTW, its always a good idea to keep up w/ your minutes used. Some of the telcos, including T Mobile, will put you into a different plan that covers any overage as long as you ask before the last day of your billing period.

Posted by: Chris C on June 16, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

Off topic. I just got a tip. Bill Gates leaving Microsoft? Huh? Oh, the foundation, thats right.

Dont tell anyone, Bill has provided access to The Code of Microsofts operating systems to um, ah, oh heck, the NSA.

The NSA doesnt need to possess your hard drive, they can look at it whenever they want.

Scary, isnt it.


Posted by: Is it safe? on June 16, 2006 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

Ditto-ditto on T-Mobile being acceptable. Signed up with them back in late 2003, used their GPRS add-on for a while, now we've got a family plan. GSM phones are mighty convenient when you need to swap phones, or run over your phone with a car -- except the newer model of the v.66 seems to have a non-interchangeable SIM, which is a shame because it is a very functional phone.

Had a problem once with the GPRS billing, spent a heck of a long time on hold, but once I spoke to a human, it was quickly fixed.

Also -- if you get the internet plan (you only need it for a little while to do this) and can upload files to a web page (e.g., .Mac) you can make your own ringtones and wallpapers (my ringtone, in honor of our Vice President, is a bob white quail).

And forget service, I'm not giving Verizon or AT&T a penny of my money if I can help it, until they refund my compromised privacy.

Posted by: dr2chase on June 16, 2006 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

Ditto-ditto on T-Mobile being acceptable. Signed up with them back in late 2003, used their GPRS add-on for a while, now we've got a family plan. GSM phones are mighty convenient when you need to swap phones, or run over your phone with a car -- except the newer model of the v.66 seems to have a non-interchangeable SIM, which is a shame because it is a very functional phone.

Had a problem once with the GPRS billing, spent a heck of a long time on hold, but once I spoke to a human, it was quickly fixed.

Also -- if you get the internet plan (you only need it for a little while to do this) and can upload files to a web page (e.g., .Mac) you can make your own ringtones and wallpapers (my ringtone, in honor of our Vice President, is a bob white quail).

And forget service, I'm not giving Verizon or AT&T a penny of my money if I can help it, until they refund my compromised privacy.

Posted by: dr2chase on June 16, 2006 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

Verizon is very much a Republican company. They are the most restrictive with content, most willing to give up customer information, etc. etc. Not that I can recommend any carrier, but Cingular has much more customer-friendly policies.

Posted by: Spike on June 16, 2006 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

This is why Net Neutrality has to be passed and enforced. Because the carriers can act in the most egregious ways and it will appear to be nothing more than their standard, ordinary, inadvertent incompetence. Just as is happening between Comcast and Craigslist right now, as we speak.

When they want to do something right, they can.

When it is not in their interest to do something right, they are better than anyone else in American business at failing to do so...

Posted by: Bill Camarda on June 16, 2006 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

I also recommend TracFone for people who just want a cellphone for occasional use.

Posted by: Red on June 16, 2006 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

I've been with AT+T since they were McCaw Cellular, and am now with Cingular, which bought AT+T. I've never had to buy a telephone, as everytime mine breaks, which happens every three years or so, I am offered a free one. Recently, I had a phone break, and they gave me a nice new camera phone free, and reduced my monthly charge to 39.99 for the same type of call plan I'd had before. I've had the same phone number since 1995, and have never had an ounce of trouble with any of the versions of the phone company that owns my service. Go figure

Posted by: Chris on June 16, 2006 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

The worst offender is Best Buy. There isn't a single knowledgable salesman in the store.

About 7 years ago I went in to buy a camera the day I was leaving for a 1 month vacation in Greece. I bought a pretty good one, with no help from the "salesman," and left the store. Thankfully I checked the box at my car and found out that batteries were not included. I got a battery, went home, took the camera out of the box, left the box on my coffee table and left for the airport.

Half way through my 30 day vacation the flash went out. So for the rest of the trip I could only take pictures during the day and the many crazed bar scenes were missed.

The day after I got back from my 30 day trip I went in to exchange it. Not return, exchange. I was in the exchange line watching them treat the guy in front of me like a thief, a thief with a reciept. When I got to the counter I was informed that I would have to pay a "restocking fee" because it had been more than thirty days. I guess I should have cut my trip short. I argued with the guy for 15 minutes, got the number of the VP for customer service and reluctantly paid the $10 restocking fee.

Whe I got home I called the VP and told him my story. He called the store and talked to the manager who "helped" me. The manager lied and said that I didn't have everything in the box. As I wrote, I had left the box on my table when I left so everything was most definately in the box. When I told the VP this he said that he didn't believe me.

I'm a Realtor and have sent clients to stores for fridges and such over the years somewhere to the tune of somewhere in the range of $150,000. I informed the VP of this and told him that from here on out I would not only send my clients to their compatition but would make it my mission to tell every other Realtor in the Los Angeles area my story and to warn their clients off. The VP's reaction?

"Oh well."

Posted by: Mike S on June 16, 2006 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

^

You went that ballistic over $10? Have you talked to the clinic about adjusting your meds? If I mail you a $10 bill, will you feel less insane?

Posted by: American Hawk on June 16, 2006 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

Nice try DougJ. I haven't been over to John Cole's site much lately. Are people still falling for your fake Republican comments?

Posted by: Mike S on June 16, 2006 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

I have Alltell and have had it since '98. I could do an ad for these guys. I put a ton of minutes(have an oolllld plan that is dirt cheap) on my phone and therefore any phone I use looks really crappy after a couple of months of use. In general they've been great. Sometimes they refuse to change out the phone for free but I break my phone about every 6 mos. They have great coverage. Very few non service areas. I have friends who have Cricket which is a bargain if you are in a metro area -about $40 for all the time you want in the metro area. I will never never do business with Sprint. Biggest a*holes in the world. Just in case you don't know if one is deceased you still have to pay the contract termination fee or it goes on their credit report of the spouse.

Posted by: tripp on June 16, 2006 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

Good timing for this topic...

I am moving next week so I call SBC/AT&T I set up a new phone line and put in the order to terminate my old one. Slow setting the new one up, but the phone company has never been too quick so that's no surprise. The surprise came when my home line and DSL went out that night -- they processed the order a week early. Seven customer service reps later, I am told that there is absolutely no way they can restore DSL service, which I need because I work from home, within a minimum of 4-5 days. Not only that, but the supervisor informs me that they can't make any concessions or credits to easy my pain. It's bullshit, but what am I supposed to do right this very moment? The best thing they could do was turn the phone back on (at a different number) so that I can dial out for my internet access. I am so furious I can hardly see straight, but where am I going to take my business? I'm not ready for VOIP since this is a biz line and it has to be good, and Comcast (like they're any better) isn't yet offering phone here. All week I've had visions of Lily Tomlin's Ernestine in my head -- "We don't care. We don't have to. We're the phone company."

When it comes to cellular, I loved AT&T pre Cingular. Never had dropped calls, had a great phone which I kept for 4 years just to avoid getting an "upgraded" piece of crap. Customer service wasn't great -- getting a human can be a herculean task -- but since they didn't screw much up that didn't become an issue. Since getting sucked into Cingular, I get gazillions of dropped calls and my coverage seems to have gotten worse. But, again, what are my options? It's sort of the devil I know, and now that my whole family is on the same network and all our calls are free, they pretty much have me by the short hairs.

My last story for the day: You know those Progressive commercials where they say something like "If we're this helpful when you're shopping for insurance, imagine how we'll be when you're a customer." I can't believe they say that with a straight face -- of course they're nice to you when they're trying to sign you up! Why in the world would I think their customer service would get *better* afterwards?

*sigh*

/crankypants

Posted by: snarktini on June 16, 2006 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

whoops, sorry, didn't see that chris brody beat me to the progressive thing!

Posted by: snarktini on June 16, 2006 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

I have used Working Assets' land line service for several years. They have been great to deal with and they have rates and customer service that are very satisfactory. If they offered cell phone service in my (rural) area I would use them for that as well.

Posted by: bz on June 16, 2006 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

Blah, blah, blah...

Spike: VZW is a "Republican" company? They have crazy good benefits that start on day one, INCLUDING domestic partner benefits. I don't have time to quote them chapter and verse, but the d.p. is a good clue about whether the company's at all enlightened about certain things...

Regarding the post that started all this, Cathy Seipp is either a moron or was doing a good impression of one at the phone store - not knowing there were other items in your bag or on your receipt because you were "exhausted"? Please...of course they're going to try and sell you stuff: that's what companies do here in America.

Posted by: matsut on June 16, 2006 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

I have to say that I've been using Verizon Wireless for about seven years and never had any problems with them. Three broken phones were replaced quickly and efficiently, no muss no fuss. Contacts were transferred from the phones that they could get into, the other was a total loss. They did refuse to replace my daughter's phone that she dropped down the john (water damage is specifically excluded from the warrantee). I've had some long waits and other times I've waltzed in and out in no time. I no longer go in on weekends. Best of all, when my daughter's friends decided it would be fun to send text messages one letter at a time, they ate a $400 dollar bill without my even having to ask. I called them to have the text messaging turned off my daughter's pone and they offered to drop the texting charges for that month.

I'm no fan of big corporations and I've got problems with Verizon over my land line and dsl service, but the cell phone service is great as far as my experience goes.

Posted by: majun on June 16, 2006 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'll have to echo the Tracfone posts. I spend about $25 every 3 months since I seldom use the phone unless I'm on a trip and I am talking to the kids (who are all grown adults with children). I add time on-line and they offer some attractive deals when you do this.

I have to say though that I am amazed that people spend so much time talking on their cell phones and I wouldn't be upset if cell usage while driving were outlawed. A while back I watched traffic crossing a highway and fully 5 of 6 drivers were talking on their phone. I just don't understand the necessity, but, then again, I don't particuraly like land lines either.

Posted by: fred on June 16, 2006 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

I'm happy with Virgin Mobile. And if I'm ever unhappy, I haven't blown much money at all; it costs me 20 for every 3 months to keep my phone. Of course, I don't use my cell phone much.

Posted by: RT on June 16, 2006 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

"water damage is specifically excluded from the [Verizon Wireless] warranty"

A couple of months ago my stepdaughter's Verizon Wireless phone, the account for which is under my name, suddenly went kaput. We took it to the local VZW store and after waiting 45 minutes finally got to see a service technician. He opened the phone and pointed to a tiny blue dot inside. That, he said, meant that the phone had sustained water damage and therefore the warranty was invalid. My stepdaughter pointed out that she had never dropped the phone in water or otherwise got it wet. The service tech said that using the phone outdoors in the rain, even if it's very humid but rainless, could be enough to make the blue dot appear and therefore kill the warranty no matter what actually causes the phone to malfunction.
Isn't a cell phone *supposed* to be able to be used outdoors? Does one have to go to an arid climate before using it? We were extremely frustrated with VZW's ridiculous policy but there was nothing to do except buy another phone.

Posted by: Peter on June 16, 2006 at 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

Let me add something about the idiocy of cell phone use.

I was in South Carolina several months ago and lots of people there ride what my local biker friends call "crotch rockets". These are the hot bikes that travel really fast, but the downside is that South Carolina does not have a helmet law. I would love to see their Traumatic Brain Injury statistics, but that's a topic for another time and we're talking about cell phones here.

I came to a stop light and one of the hot bikes pulled up next to me and the rider got a call on his cell phone and, idiot that he is, answered it. Well, the light changed to green and here he is trying to ride his bike and talk on his cell phone at the same time. Didn't work and he was smart enough to finally pull off, but I'm amazed at how people drive when talking on their phones.

Posted by: fred on June 16, 2006 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with T-Mobile, which bought out Voice Stream a few years ago. Voice Stream was mixed, but did refund $900 in over-charges accumulated in the course of a year after we figured out they were screwing us; T-Mobile, by contrast, requires that you figure out if everything on the bill is okay within a month or two, or you're out of luck.

For a long time, I thought very highly of T-Mobile's service. The one raw point was the absolutely awful coverage whenever I travel to California. The phone is very spotty in both Santa Cruz and Bakersfield, and dubious in parts of Sacramento and Santa Barbara. Worse, they always flip me to the Cingular network for some reason (even though they have their own in the state). When I tried to get that fixed with a new chip, the phone stopped working altogether. So, I live with it.

Lately, though, I've grown annoyed with them for another reason: I'd like to upgrade my phone, but they (a) require a TWO year contract, which seems too long to me, and (b) even at that, they simply don't offer anything like decent phones for free or at the lower end of the fee schedule. I'm not about to drop $150 or $200 on a damned phone, but I'd dearly love to get one that's Bluetooth compliant (so that I could then pop the $80 or more for a genuinely usable wireless earpiece!). Verizon and several other carriers offer such phones for pretty reasonable rates, but T-Mobile refuses to. It's driving me nuts, but I've been unable to switch because of family members who are all tied into their stinkin' two-year contracts.

And what's it with the complaints about returns at Home Depot? I shop there less these days because the company and its founders are big time GOP and Bush supporters. But on returns, they have always been absolutely super: no problems, few questions, just excellent. That's true here in Portland, OR., as well as in San Jose, Salinas, and Bakersfield.

Posted by: Roger Keeling on June 16, 2006 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

Curious that the Fry's issue has surfaced here, years and years after it was beaten to death in the technical discussion sites. I find it interesting because sites like this one seem to have supplanted the old Dealmac community for social and political arguments. People used to discuss things like Fry's checking your bags on the way out, which is apparently something they can't enforce here in California.

Posted by: Bob G on June 16, 2006 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

Snarktini,

Call SBC/ATT back and ask them how you can "escalate" your complaint. "Escalation process" is a key term. It does not take 4-5 days to restore DSL service to a line that had been previously provisioned for DSL. I know, 'cause I used to be a provisioning tech for SBC. You need to kick this upstairs.

Posted by: bob on June 16, 2006 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

Fry's doesn't have any problems with returns if they can shrink-wrap them and put them back on the shelf. On several occasions I've gotten things which obviously had been opened before -- including a partly filled-out warranty card and a disk drive with a broken-off pin -- and re-wrapped. They seem to be a bit better about putting discount stickers on obviously re-wrapped merchandise these days, but in the past they clearly haven't.

People sometimes take advantage of their liberal return policy. Once after a trade show, I saw someone returning a stack of KVM switches they appear to have used at their vendor booth. The switches made it back to the shelves, undiscounted but at least marked as returns.

They sure are convenient, but caveat emptor.

Posted by: modus potus on June 16, 2006 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

http://demographix.blogspot.com/

Posted by: John on June 16, 2006 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

Fry's ... ah, the memories! I used to live in Santa Cruz, and there was a period when I was rather enthralled by Fry's over the hill (Highway 17).

But finally I figured out a few things. One: I became quite sure they were sending recruiting agents to Pakistan to find sales clerks. I believed they were probably administering personality tests there in order to sift out all the sociopaths and hire them.

Two: returns were one of the most grueling annoyances possible. They simply did not make it easy, which made me very leery about buying a lot of stuff there.

Three: after-sales service wasn't much better.

Posted by: Roger Keeling on June 16, 2006 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

Try cancelling Verizon's long distance service. They continue billing you and harass with their collection department. They are awful. I will never do business with them again.

Posted by: Jim on June 16, 2006 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

It's sad to hear you're happy with Verizon, Kev, because it means you don't know much about what they've done to your phone. Verizon disables nearly every feature your phone is capable of doing: most bluetooth capabilities; any and all free or downloadable Java applications (advanced contact lists, sophisticated calendar software, games, you name it); uploading wallpaper and ringtones from your computer; most free applications that came with your phone; decent web browsers; and most data services. Why? Because Verizon wants to make you rent features your phone normally gives you for free.

Posted by: Bah Humbug on June 17, 2006 at 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

Verizon sucks donkey....their customer service is rancid. I tried to move service (residential and DSL) from an apt to a home I bought. First, it takes 2 weeks to transfer DSL.....I called on 4/28 to make this switch. I rec'd a new number and it was activated on 5/2. I wanted old service discontinued on 5/5. On 5/9, I rec'd an e-mail saying my DSL order was cancelled. I called and asked why and Verizon service rep said that it was cancelled because the number I used to request DSL "was inactive"....I said "I've been using this number for a week"....they then switched me to DSL sales rep who informed me that it would take 2 weeks to get my DSL order filled.....I said "shove the DSL up yer ass"....went to Adelphia cable and had Powerlink in a matter of hours. I then get a bill for DSL service at my old number but no residential service bill....I called AGAIN and asked why it wasn't cancelled per my request. Verizon DSL sales rep said "you never cancelled your service"...I said I wanted a credit and was told it takes 2-3 months for credits to appear on a billing statement which is absolute BS in the 21st century......I only have the minimum service that I need to have a phone cuz....

VERIZON SUCKS!!

Posted by: Buffalo Bob on June 17, 2006 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

Band of the week: Poor Dumb Bastards

Posted by: elmo on June 17, 2006 at 1:05 AM | PERMALINK

a) As usual, it is complicated. Is VZ "a Republican company"? No. It is a capitalist company. If cozying up to the Rs makes it money, it does that; if cozying up to the Dems makes it money, it does that. It has some high-ranking Republicans, but I guess I don't buy that VZ is Republican and, say, another company with billions in revenue is a Democratic company.

b) EVERY company makes it hard to cancel, as others have noted. That's the name of the game. In fact, if you ever want to play around, call up and say that you want to cancel when your contract is over. You will hear every offer the company has at that point -- free phones, discounted plans, etc. Take your pick, and then repeat a year or two later. If you really do want to cancel, remember that the customer service rep -- making minimum wage -- will be fired if he or she doesn't try to convince you to stay. So just patiently say for a few minutes, "I want to cancel -- are you refusing to allow me to cancel my plan?" Because the calls are recorded, and because they cannot refuse to let you cancel, that should expedite matters.

c) If you get a rude or unhelpful rep, hang up and call back. Don't get angry; just hang up and call back. You will not get the same rep.

d) If you are having a dispute, simply say to the rep, "I plan on filing a complaint with the FCC and the [state] public utility commission. Will you please note that on the account?" Any large company should "escalate" the dispute. Better yet, send an email via the web site saying that. Those are magic words in the industry.

e) I have found that VZ Wireless's cell phone coverage is the best. If what you want is clear service and not a lot of features and you live in a metropolitan area, I think that it's a good choice. For more bells and whistles, I would look elsewhere.

Posted by: Telecom Guy on June 17, 2006 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

cathy seems like she wants to be a reasonable person. kevin, i hope you turn her over to the dark side.

Posted by: nova silverpill on June 17, 2006 at 1:51 AM | PERMALINK

The two-year service contract on phones from providers in the US is frankly a cartel. I end up buying GSM phones on eBay, unlocking them and sliding in the SIM card. It's another reason why I won't go to CDMA providers.

Posted by: ahem on June 17, 2006 at 2:19 AM | PERMALINK

gotta say I've been pretty happy with Verizon service too, and I've had a couple of self-generated problems -- except for their upgrade policies, which I assume are no worse than other providers'. Too restrictive, inflexible.

Posted by: secularhuman on June 17, 2006 at 2:33 AM | PERMALINK

Two very very bad things about Verizon.

If you make changes to your plan, especially on the phone, get a name and phone number, and keep it safe.

They are notorious (my sister works there, and she agrees) for not doing as you've asked.

And another thing is, always check your bills. They'll conveniently 'forget' and add things that you never wanted or needed.

Posted by: Barb in NY on June 17, 2006 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK

Thank God Verizon sold its Hawaii subsidiary, Hawaiian Telcom, to Frank Carlucci and The Carlyle Group.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on June 17, 2006 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

Bob: Thanks for the advice. Originally, a supervisor did propose fast tracking the re-install. However, I had to back down and let them win this round because I shouldn't have had service in the first place -- I was outside the acceptable zone but grandfathered in. Somehow I slipped in under the wire before their standards changed and have had problematic service for years, which they (allegedly) couldn't improve. She told me that authorization for a "new" line couldn't be done on my location without special dispensation. I still think that, for the most part, they were lying, but they did have me here.

I still plan to go through the retention people and see what they can do for me.

My favorite: Three times they informed me that they would waive all setup fees on my "new" line like they were doing me some kind of favor!

Posted by: snarktini on June 17, 2006 at 2:49 AM | PERMALINK

I have Working Assets Long Distance for both land-line service and cell service. I've adjusted my rate plan multiple times and always been happy with my interactions with their call center.

Their prices are competitive and, as someone else said, their values are consistent with mine.

Posted by: SLJ on June 17, 2006 at 7:33 AM | PERMALINK

I just went into the Cingular phone store to add my mom to my plan and it was going to cost me something like $60.00 a month. I did not like the phones they had available in the store, so I walked out. I came home and added my mom to my account on the web for $10 a month by keeping my old plan - something which the sales rep said I absolutely could not do. I am sure they can get away with this because there are all sorts of disclaimers about how pricing on the web differs from pricing in the store, but I thought that was a pretty bald faced lie on the part of the sales rep.

Posted by: JennyZ on June 17, 2006 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

we used working assets for our long-distance service on our land line for a number of years, but switched to a package deal with brighthouse networks to get our phone (including free long distance all the time), cable and highspeed internet. had no problems with working assets while we had them.

as for cell phone service, every company has got you by the short hairs. we had cingular first and they were terrible. then switched to t-mobile, and they're just as terrible. and the "free" phones they give you when you sign up suck, so you end up having to pay for new ones within a year, and they make you sign on for another two years to get a good deal on a phone. and we don't get reception in our house, so have to sit in the driveway when we're home and want to use a cell phone. and customer service is horrible everywhere you go. we've caught them in so many lies. at one t-mobile store, the sales rep said he couldn't help us and put us on the phone with someone at tech support who tried to sell us all sorts of nonsense, while another sales rep kept walking by and whispering, "that's not true," which the person on the phone would admit to once confronted. ridiculous.

Posted by: EM on June 17, 2006 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

I hardly use my cellphone. But okay, it's important to have one, particularly in a rural area where one is often driving long lonely distances, as in West Texas. But I was tired of paying over $50/month for all kinds of cr*p I wasn't using. Under pressure they found an "unlisted" deal they could give me, so I now have the same coverage for $18/month. Not bad.

Posted by: PW on June 17, 2006 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

interesting how few people have, so far, commented on many of the regional-level only major players in their market - like qwest - whose service is often abysimal. sometimes i think that we really do need more of a regulated market if for no other reason than to create a somewhat more level playing field for the consumer. generally i agree that customer service is a bad and expensive joke.

Posted by: manymuney on June 17, 2006 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

I've found my local Fry's to be pretty good about returns. Slow, yeah, but they didn't bitch when I returned a mouse two months later with a receipt that had been dunked in water. I mean, it was still in an unopened package, but still, impressed.

Posted by: Sam K. on June 17, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

you REALLY don't want to get me started on verizon. but needless to say after 20 years of being a customer, i have since cancelled my service with them. and the kicker -- in order for me to keep my longtime telephone number, it was going to take them TWO FUCKING WEEKS to hit the four keystrokes necessary to make that switch.

and these motherfuckers want control of the internet. keep that in mind.

Posted by: linda on June 17, 2006 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Working Assets Wireless, aka WAW, is fine. I've used them for year, no significant problems. They accidentally charged me a late fee, but when I complained they gave me a refund.

And Freder, WAW isn't some fly-by-night outfit. They actually do piggyback on Sprint in my area (SE PA), but as I said they do a good job.

The one aggravation is that Sprint is a big red contributor, according to buyblue.org. Just like the Working Assets credit card uses MBNA.

Posted by: Matt on June 17, 2006 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

I work in the telecom space doing contract negotiation for Fortune 1000 companies across all telecom products (wireline & wireless, voice & data).

I don't work in the consumer space everday, but do know something about it. I can tell you without question that the reps are in fact told to do things like drop in leather cases & chargers, and "forget" to offer contract continuity.

If you want the best deal from your carrier, call them (if in a one year contract, near the end, or if in a two year contract, after one year) and ask to cancel your service. You will be put into a special customer service area that can offer deals not available through the stores (certainly) or even by regular phone support. You have to be dead serious, and it helps to have picked out a competing plan from another company that has some advantages over the existing deals offered by your carrier. BE SERIOUS ABOUT LEAVING. Make them talk you into staying... it's a negotiation, and it's a bit cat & mouse. When they finally make a good offer, tell them it's not good enough and ask , specifically, what else they can throw in (ask for a lower monthly fee & probe how far down it can go).

Don't be a pussy.. they will be the best customer service people - very nice, very sincere. But push, hard, politely.

I should have said that it also helps if you can start out with a real complaint about the service - detailed and specific. That puts them on the defenseive a bit and they know you're really unhappy. A good one is always coverage issues, because they can't mitigate those complaints except to send in to engineering a request to follow up and see if towers need to be re-assigned, etc.

Anyway, the layers of bullshit run deep. Push for the best deal. In my last go-around I got my BlackBerry service thrown in at no additional cost. Nice.

Posted by: RCC on June 17, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

I've been using Working Assets long distance and credit card for years. In case someone doesn't know, they donate to liberal causes, make books available, and choose two causes each month to solicit letters to congress from customers. Customers vote once a year for which causes to distribute the donations among.
I signed up in February for the wireless service, and the free phone I got is infinitely better than the one I had bought; have had absolutely no trouble with it, and the rates are reasonable.

Posted by: Grandma on June 17, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

While Verizon is the king of heap in SoCal, now that I've found out they disable funtions in their phones I will be dumping them in two years when my next contract is up. BTW - the best deal I've found on phones is at Costco.

Fry's - won't shop there. I buy my gear either online or at PC Club.

Someone else above mentioned Home Depot Online and I'll repeat the warning DO NOT BUY ONLINE FROM HOME DEPOT. Ordering is easy, getting your purchase is easy, God help you if it arrives damaged or you need Customer Service. Your only option is an 800 number with an hour wait time (minimum.) I spend a grand total of 4 hours on hold between 3 phone calls the final time I was on hold with them for over 2 hours about a billing problem. The next day I sold my Home Depot stock.

Posted by: arteclectic on June 17, 2006 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

I have five handsets on my T-Mobile account. The sheer volume of calls made and phones on the account means that the occaisional problem is inevitable. I have never had any problem with them, and I've had them for over four years. Is that a record with one cell company? Everyone I know seems to think so.

Posted by: Global Citizen on June 17, 2006 at 9:03 PM | PERMALINK

The Working Assets Credit card is issued by MBNA - the worst offender of consumer rights in the credit card business - and their cell service just piggybacks, like their long-distance. I'm all for supporting socially responsible companies, if they really are. I haven't seen much proof of this from Working Assets. I had their long distance for years. I don't know if I did any good or not. Now I don't even have long distance on my home phone, I use my cell for that, and it's just part of the plan. I keep a calling card around for international calls.

Posted by: Global Citizen on June 17, 2006 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

I have had terrific luck with both Home Depot and Cingular. On the other hand, I have been going round-and-round with Verizon for several months now. I switched service from Verizon to Cingular after completing the contract - but, they are trying to collect almost $1000 for canceling. Their reason for the fee and the fee amount changes after I refute their claims - they just move on to a different reason and add or subtract a few dollars. So, look out if you decide to switch from Verizon to a competitor. My experience has not been pleasant.

Posted by: txtarheel on June 17, 2006 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

After a terrible experience with Sprit, the customer service people refused to let me complain to anyone above the level of flunky. They wouldnt even tell me the location of the corporate headquarters so I could get at a higher-up that way. I asked for an address so I could write a letter. Customer service said, It wont do you any good. I gave up and simply didnt pay. So my credit rating took a small hit, its worth it not to kow-tow to those fascists

Now, some two years later, I want to get minimum service and the cheapest phone, but all of the companies look bad in the posts above. Do I just flip a coin?

Posted by: James of DC on June 19, 2006 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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