Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cell Phone Companies

So I’m writing this blog entry because I need to let off some steam and my girlfriend doesn’t want me to do it while I’m standing at the customer service desk at the Verizon store. So, here goes.

Add to my ever-increasing shit list: cell phone companies. What the hell are these guys thinking? Back in September, I switched from ATT/Cingular/whatever they’re calling themselves these days to Verizon. Because, you know, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. For months, all I heard from friends and co-workers was how much they liked Verizon and how reliable it was. Now I’m starting to think they were all just screwing with me. I’ll admit, my first 6 months or so went without incident. They lost my mail-in rebate on the shitty LG Chocolate phone that I bought, but when I called to complain I received it in two days. I had great service for the most part, and I had a really cheap mobile web plan ($5/month) that gave me 5 MB of data per month, more than I needed. Soon, I too became one of those people ranting and raving about Verizon and how much better it was than ATT.

But before I go any further, let’s flash back for a minute. I bought my first cell phone in 2002 and it was when ATT was still ATT and didn’t need Cingular to save their asses. Well, let’s just say that I had a really crappy phone and generally really crappy service too. I was, of course, locked into a 2-year contract and I hated it. Then something amazing happened. ATT Wireless merged with Cingular. Yay! Rollover minutes for everyone! So I re-upped with Cingular of course. But, rollover minutes are great if you actually use them, but worthless otherwise. I don’t spend my entire life talking on my cell phone so I had about 900 untouched rollover minutes and the same crappy service when I finally left Cingular for greener pastures last September. Cingular customer service was pushy, their service was spotty, and I got pissed every time I saw one of those “fewest dropped calls” ads because I experienced a dropped call at least once per day. Flash forward to today.

So here I am, telling everyone how great Verizon is and telling my girlfriend we should switch to a family plan so she can get off of her family’s plan and we can both save some money. Bad idea. Let me recap what happened:

She wanted a BlackBerry so we went in and told the guy we wanted to start a new shared plan and switch me over. Everything was great while we were in the Verizon store. The guy couldn’t have been any nicer. We got a sweet rebate on her BlackBerry with her teacher’s discount and we are getting 18% off our total bill and 20% off the BlackBerry service with the same discount. We got the unlimited data plan, which gave us unlimited data (duh) every month. He had to switch the account into my girlfriend’s name because of the teacher discount. No problem, he made me an account admin. We even got text messaging plans for each phone for cheap ($5/phone). Even better, I was still up for an upgrade under their “New Every Two” deal next April. Now let’s take a look at all the things they screwed up and/or failed to tell us.

The customer service rep told me that we, that’s plural for I or he or she, got unlimited data. Not so. Really we only got unlimited data for her phone, but not mine. No, I have to pay $1.99/MB for my data. I called customer service the next day and asked them to just put the mobile web thing that I had before back on the plan. They don’t offer it anymore. But they have an unlimited data option for my phone for an additional $15. No thanks.

Ok, that’s a slight annoyance but I can deal. I don’t use that much data. So the next day, I logged into the MyVerizon section of their website to check my remaining balance and update my auto-pay to the new account, since I pay the bills every month. I log in only to find that their website has gone retarded and doesn’t know how to handle an account that’s been canceled or changed. I can’t get the remaining balance and my auto-pay is, to put it nicely, fucked. So I called customer service when I got home and they informed me that being an account admin only applies to in-store and by-phone customer service, but not on the website. Super, we have to share an online account. What’s more, when we got home from the Verizon store, we found out that the guy had added a $10 text messaging plan to my phone, instead of the $5 one we asked for. Another customer service call.

So I am finally able to access my old account online after receiving two different emails from Verizon telling me that I have a balance due and that it’s scheduled for auto-pay. That’s a neat trick, because I turned off auto-pay using my American Express account. So I log in and I’m told that I owe $33.90 on my account. I enter my credit card details and wham! I get an error: “No MTN available. (No MTN available)”. Oh ok, apparently there is no MTN available. This is going to require another trip to the Verizon store. Meanwhile, a guy from work is telling me that with the family plan, you can only upgrade the main line through their “New Every Two” deal and tells me that I’m more or less going to get screwed on my upgrade. This just keeps getting better.

So we trek back to our local Verizon store to sort out this mess. I tell the guy about my billing problem and he takes me back into a special little room with a magical kiosk that tells me that, wait for it… I don’t actually owe any money and I’m due for a refund. Finally, some good freakin’ news. However, he tells me that they will send it by check to an address that I haven’t lived in for almost 4 years now, an address that I never actually gave them. Oh and he can’t change it, I have to call the customer service number. Thanks a lot, jackass.

Then I ask him about the upgrade thing and he explains to me that it doesn’t make any sense to give the secondary lines a cell phone rebate because they (Verizon) are only getting $10/month extra for the extra lines. But he informs me that I’m still due for a $50 credit at the end of April in 2009. So, bad news with a silver lining: I get an upgrade in April that carried over from my previous plan, but after that I have to fend for myself and pony up $400+ for a new phone at the listed retail price if I want a new one. Sweet. I know for a fact that ATT/Cingular offers upgrades every two years for the whole family because my family just got all new cell phones a few months ago. Screw you Verizon.

After thinking about this for a while, I don’t blame the petty customer service rep at the Verizon store. I put the blame squarely on the idiots who come up with these plans. They make everything too damn complicated and they do it for this exact reason. Customers go in expecting the world and the reps that help them give them just that, probably because they don’t fully understand all this crap themselves. Then weeks, or possibly even months, later the customer realizes it and then it’s too late because the contract is already written in stone and signed in blood.

So this is my story about Verizon. I know it’s a long one, but I think it’s worth posting here to try and save other people the frustration that I went through. Please beware when signing up for their service, especially their “unlimited data” and family plans. I think it’s safe to say that in June of 2009, I will be re-evaluating my cell phone options and possibly switching back to another carrier (grass is always greener).

EDIT: So I found out some additional information, and that is that both of us will still get the discounted 2-yr re-up price for a new celly when we are up for renewal but only one of us will get the additional $50 credit that Verizon gives for their New Every Two plan. Sheesh, can they make this stuff any more confusing?

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