Cingular sucks

I can’t wait until my 24 month contract with Cingular Wireless is up in September. This has just been a terrible company to work with. I originally signed up for cellular service from AT&T Wireless in July 2004. And since Cingular swallowed up AT&T Wireless, things have gone down hill.

Bad Policy

Cingular, raising the barI’ve got three cell phones (mine, my wife’s and my daughter’s). The first problem I had was a year ago. When I tried to make a call on Friday, June 24, 2005, I got a recording saying that my service has been interrupted and I need to pay the bill to get it enabled. I always pay my bills on time, so of course I called immediately to find out what’s up. I called their customer service office at (800) 888-7600 and talked to Sharon.

Sharon told me that an online payment I made two payments ago didn’t go through, so they shut off my service. I pay my bill every month online. And for this particular payment, I had left a digit off of my checking account number. But note that I had made a successful payment since then!

So fine, my mistake, I owed them the money. But what pissed me off was their method of notification. They just cut off my service. Sharon told me this is normal. I told her that there were numerous other opportunities that they could have used to notify me. First, when I was actually on their web site making the payment, it shouldn’t have told me that it was okay and given me a confirmation number. Second, since they mail me a bill every month, they have my home address, so they could have dropped me a post card. Third, THEY HAVE MY CELL PHONE NUMBER! They could have called me. But no.

Cingular’s standard procedure to notify a customer that their online payment didn’t go through is to cut off service until the customer makes the payment.

I told Sharon that the cellular industry is way too competitive for them to be treating customers like this. I had made many monthly payments prior to this with no problems. They could have easily seen my mistake and just let me know about it, instead of cutting off my service. All she would do is recommend that I send a letter to Cingular Wireless, PO Box 68056, Anaheim Hills, CA 92817-8055.

No 24-Hour Online Payment

My monthly bills and the Cingular web site say that I can pay my bill online. Well, after Cingular took over, it took me a number of months to finally get the payment procedure down. I do most of my internet stuff very late at night. And frequently, when I go to their bill payment web page, it would display the message, “Our backend systems are undergoing routine nightly maintenance. Please try again later, or call Customer Care at 800-323-4664 for further assistance.” Well I would always keep trying back later as they suggested, only to finally go to bed without making a payment.

When I was making my monthly payment on Sunday, February 19, 2006, I got this same message. So this time I called the number at 10:47pm. I figured I’d just make the payment over the phone and be done with it. I talked to John and he said he can’t take my payment over the phone because their system is down. He said that it’s down until 6:00am, and that they do this every night. Fine. I understand that. But if this is a scheduled procedure, and if everyone there knows the schedule, then why does their web site tell me to call them “for further assistance” if he can’t assist me? Why don’t they publish this schedule on the web site instead of telling me to make a useless phone call?
The cellular industry is way too competitive for this.

The Last Straw

I’m going on a family vacation to California for a week. I figured it would be a good idea to call Cingular and add a block of nationwide minutes to my account for use while we’re out of town. No go. Can’t do it. It turns out I’m on an “old” account. Since I’m a former AT&T customer with a TDMA account, I would need to upgrade to their newer GSM service and get a new phone (and pay more). Then they would allow me to add nationwide minutes. So what’s wrong with that? A couple things.

First, I signed a contract with AT&T Wireless in the summer 2004. When I added a third phone in September 2004, I had to sign a new 24 month contract. They told me at the time that I could add nationwide minutes if I wanted to. Sounded good. And when Cingular bought AT&T Wireless, they said that the purchase would not affect current AT&T customers, and that service would continue as normal. Well, that 24 months has not yet expired and I expect them to honor their contract. But they won’t.

Second, they’ve got this crap effort to get people to upgrade from the older TDMA service to the newer GSM service. The only problem with that is GSM service doesn’t work from my house. I live in a very populated area, but the GSM service just doesn’t work well enough here. They tell me that it’s very popular in Europe, but that sure doesn’t help me. I had actually tried a GSM account when I first got my phone from AT&T. But when I couldn’t make a phone call from my house, I had to switch. It was actually kind of funny, because I called AT&T with my cell phone from my front porch, and the customer service rep kept telling me that she can barely hear me and that I was breaking up. Point made. Suffice it to say that GSM service just doesn’t work for me. So why would I want to upgrade to it and pay more? And why would Cingular encourage a customer to switch to an inferior service? Doesn’t make sense to me.

The cellular industry is way too competitive for them to be treating customers like this.

So What Now?

Well, I’ll be shopping around soon. My first cell phone, before AT&T was with U.S. Cellular. They had pretty good service here in Wisconsin, however, what they don’t tell you in their ads is that their coverage area only includes the southern half of the state. So if you drive north, and you can get a signal, you have to pay roaming fees. Not good.

I suppose I’ll be looking at Verizon or Cellcom. I look forward to the day when I can get cellular service, and not be locked into a multi-year contract. Wouldn’t it be nice if cellular companies could keep their customers because they are a good company and the customer is happy? Instead of forcing them to stay due to a contract?