Telcos optimize

Are cell phone companies evil or just lucky?


Why is it that your cell phone inevitably bites the dust in the time frame between your free* upgrades? Do you think there's some mad scientist behind the scenes programming something in the phone that makes it quit charging/blow up/fall apart months shy of your next upgrade? Cell phone companies are assured that you will pay the price of a new phone at this time because, otherwise, you'd be A) paying a monthly phone fee for nothing, or B) paying an enormous amount of money to get out of the contract.

*free if you consider having to pay an upgrade fee"free"

(I think some physical components of cell phones are outsourced to the same guy who messes with your car as it comes off the assembly line so that it will combust four days after the warranty ends. I hate that guy.)

One man tried to strike back against the evil cell phone companies. Corey Taylor, in an effort to get out of the cycle of dead phone/contract stipulations, faked his own death. He made a fake death certificate and had a friend fax it to his carrier, Verizon Wireless. Unfortunately, the company caught on and he ended up paying to get out of his contract.

It's hard out there for a consumer

Some companies are so pushy and manipulative that they make you want to follow Corey's example. Have you ever tried to let a magazine subscription lapse? You'll get about 712 "Here's your last chance!" letters from them.

Have you ever dealt with AOL? Their customer service reps must be professional stalkers because you CANNOT get off the phone with them. Tell them you're cancelling because you can no longer afford it, they'll lower your fee. Tell them you're cancelling because your computer is dead, they'll offer to send someone out to your house to take a look at it. I don't even think faking your own death would work with them. They'd just turn their obnoxious hard sell on your next of kin.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

26 comments
Not Even Remotely
Not Even Remotely

Our family has had no problems with T-Mobile & Verizon. Verizon has better US coverage, but T-Mobile's way of handling the phone chip allows you to take their phones out of the US & buy a working chip while you are out. We have family plans with both carriers; my sister has a phone with each carrier. I have always found Verizon's reps to be extremely helpful. I have had three phones with Verizon, and none of them has gone bad before the warranty. Both carriers are very good with voice mail being timely received. Yes, texting is not free, and Verizon charges to send cell phone pictures to your e-mail. However, these carriers have been problem-free for us.

abhishek.modi
abhishek.modi

I'm a bit surprised at the posts here. In India, its a buyer's market, outright, Though we still do not have MNP, the device we buy is independent of the service provider. I've upgraded my cell phone twice in the last three years but stayed with the same service provider. Calls cost one rupee a minute (2.5 cents) while texting is 30 paise for 160 characters (less than a cent). And this is on GSM. CDMA is cheaper still. I have a billing plan (wherein more than 50% of the subscribers in India are on the prepaid platform). I pay approximately 350 rupees ($9) as monthly rental in which I get a 1000 free network minutes (calling to other people on the same network and same circle) and 100 free minutes to people on any other network in any other circle. Roaming is free, I just have to pay for the calls made and received, which is also pretty reasonable. So, from my point of view, the cell companies are not evil. :)

kjknutson
kjknutson

No, they are definitely the most vile, evil companies on the planet. Right up there with cable companies although cell companies are the worst. I work daily with Verizon Wireless ordering all the cell phones and blackberrys for my company. Incredible incompetance beyond description or belief. Makes the needles I stick in my eyes feel refreshing after dealing with them.

cyanna
cyanna

Uh I once saw this great tease in which when a rep called, the guy answered, politely listened to the opening pitch, asked to know the name of the rep and then informed them that they are now part of an ongoing murder investigation, started asking all kinds of questions like "when did you call this number last?" "how do you know the owner?". Would not take no for an answer and threatened with charging them with obstructing a murder investigation each time the poor rep tried to tell them that he did not actually know the owner.......

m45wilson
m45wilson

They're only evil and lucky if you put credit on your mobile.

dcrandell
dcrandell

First I will comment Dr Dij on his post Very well put. I used to sell Cell Phones as one of the many items that were in the Dept. where I used to work. We had people who would break their phone and complain just to get a new one. We had one customer who went through 3 phones in 3 weeks until we decided we would not provide any more to him. There were many times where they had been dropped, or had something spilled on them, or the battery dies (NOT a warranty issues). It's all the USER issues that we seen that people wanted a new phone. If you don't thrash your phone then it will work for a long time. In the last 6 years I have gone through 3 phones and the newest is 2 months old. My first will still turn on after sitting in it's box for 6 years. I have never had an issue with my provider. As for coverage area. Where I am sitting right now I have no coverage. That is because I am in a steel building and no one has reception here. Step out the door and its full coverage. People who complain about the fee to get out of the contract. You gave that up the minute you added that signature. You agreed to pay them for that service for that contract period. PAY UP

lbkortve
lbkortve

Yes the management, the staff and associates are all guilty of taking our money, time and life energies for hardly any return. Certainly there is no "heart and decency " when dealing with the public! As for reliability and service they sweep below the frogs arse.(sorry but I am steaming) Thanks for reading my bloggie..Aussie Laszlo from Budapest.

paula.stout
paula.stout

When my father passed away last summer, I had to call all of his utilities to cancel them. After my father was diagnosed with leukemia, he went home to spend his last days. I moved in with him for those weeks. At one point he wanted to watch Turner Classic Movies so we upgraded his DirectTV service so he could see that channel. When he passed away a few weeks later, I called DirectTV. I said "My father passed away and I need to cancel his service." The customer service rep actually said "I'm sorry to hear of your loss; however, I show here that your father just upgraded his service 2 weeks ago. Are you sure he wants this cancelled?" I said, "I'm fairly certain that since he is DEAD he will not be upset, but if he is I'll deal with that when I see him next." Good grief.

Daniel.Muzrall
Daniel.Muzrall

While I don't think the cellular device manufacturers are evil, I think that they've got some clout that they're not using and should be. I'm really tired of service-branded phones which are locked, and have cellular device features turned off. I think the manufacturing market for the US needs to turn up the heat and start telling the US service providers that they're not making locked or crippled phones for them any more. I know...this will start a debate over the cost of phones and the cost of plans, but hey, that's how I feel about it. I think that cellular service providers aren't evil either. They're businesses out there to make money. I can respect that...I work to make money too. Yay for capitalism! My complaint is with their contract lengths and terms of service. Once they get you in, you're stuck.... either with bad/lackluster service or with termination fees. And good luck to you if you go over your alloted minutes, or number of texts, if you call customer support too many times, or if you go over the oft hidden "fair use" volumes on a data plan. You can be facing huge fees, or in some cases, contract termination. The stories about Sprint and other providers terminating subscribers for calling customer support too many times is rediculous to me. You are SERVICE industry...provide your services...which include customer service. Particularly if your subscribers are calling to resolve billing issues that the service provider has made. Another gripe I have is with the competing cellular networks (CDMA/CDMA200 and GSM). Why are we in the US locked into a limited number of phones from providers like Verizon Wireless and Sprint/Nextel because 95% of the rest of the world uses GSM, and they use CDMA? It seems pretty rediculous to me. The more we more into a true global society and marketplace, the more we'll need that seemless cellular connectivity. Yes, there are some products out there like the Blackberry WorldPhone, but why should be building devices with 3 radios (CDMA, GSM, and 802.11x)? Seems like a waste to me. *steps off the soap box* Those are my thoughts, take them for what they're worth!

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

Consumers never stupidly lose or break their phones. Consumers never upgrade so often that they don't have free phone available. Consumers are never idiots who drive thru traffic lights while using their cell phones. Companies are stupid because they offer to amortize the cost of the cell phone so you don't have to shell out a couple hundred dollars. Companies are stupid because they don't give in immediately to customers who complain, bitch, whine. Companies are always making too much money. Except when they are making too little to drive 'the little guy' out of biz. Companies always have some C level exec who if they deleted this job could feed the world for several days. Companies always have some C level exec, that when they acually DO fire him, the golden parachute is so heavy it sinks to the center of the earth. Stupid cell phone companies, no matter how many places they put antennas, there is one more spot you can't use your phone. Stupid companies, never have to deal with greedy consumers who fake their death and lie. But if the stupid companies lie they'll end up in court.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Let me see if I understand. People sign a telephone service contract for a specified period of time, but buy telephones with a hardware warranty that runs out before the service contract expires. Have I got it right? If so, buy a phone with a warranty that matches the contract. If the model you -absolutely- must have or you'll die doesn't have a warranty that long, get an extended warranty. While they are normally a rip-off, in this case it sounds like a good investment. Another good investment might be to research consumer surveys of hardware quality. If you're waiting for the free upgrade, buy the cheapest compatible phone available until the upgrade rolls around. Many offers include multiple phones. Put the second one on the shelf if you think the first one may go out on you. Or take one away from the kids when yours breaks and give them the cheapie. Faking your death to escape a contractual obligation is illegal. Read the contract before you sign it.

laura.marie
laura.marie

I do not work for Verizon. I have had them for two years now and they have been great. I just received a totally shipping included new chocolate from them. They just gave me a free month I have never had any problems. I am going to have to pay someone for cell service and customer support is very important. Laura

pmbrent
pmbrent

Service is a dead word with DTV. After 4.5 hrs trying to get the tech back who messed up a service call that morning, that was saturday, They told me maybe wed the 13th. I hired a local to fix it. at least he said thank you when I paid him. Paula Overby

fixit
fixit

At the risk of getting flamed here, I deal with a company the way they deal with me. If I feel they have cheated me or treated me poorly in some way, I look for a way to return the favor. At this point my cell company (Verison) has dealt with me in a fair manner. I admit I was a little angry when I found out their warranty doesn't cover a leaking battery, however, they did replace it at cost.

TechnoDoc
TechnoDoc

I am not laughing that hard, because there is more than a grain of truth in the idea that cell phone companies are evil. There are far too few cell companies to make a responsive free market and the complexities they collude to use (like 2 year contracts) make it very hard for consumers to push them in the market place. A great example is "texting," which costs them practically nothing for no band-width, but is an add-on charge that can be higher than voice charges. Gouging in medicine or after a hurricane is a big no-no, but with your phone it is just fine. They are disgusting in this gouge, but not grossly unethical if consumers want to pay it, but when they combine it with their other deceipts, you end up with pure sugarcoated evil. All the companies as a group make a higher profit if connectivity is intentionally kept BAD because as a group they all profit more from ROAMING (which happens all the time in even when in a suppposedly covered area), and bad connectivity also gets them increased TEXTING income; and then they CHARGE customers to to call their own voice mail which is predictably overused as a result of the intentionally negelected connectivity. Linear programming would of course show this: Intentionally neglected or bad voice service equals higher overall profits. Evil. We don't give you what you paid for and we make more money as a result. Stealing. Cell phone companies are the equivalent of Green Acres' "Mr. Haney" moving from fake window to fake window, changing hats, and nickel and diming his customers to death. With all of the cell companies colluding in the same scam there is no one else to turn to in the market (yet). Or you can pay them a ransom and buy their more expensive plan as "insurance" against "accidents," thanks Dear Godfathers.

pmbrent
pmbrent

I have watched my service just disapear. 4 bars, drop to one then cut off. I complaind about it weekly, last week one employees sent a request to have it checked, the answer came back today, Its not in the budget for this year. Want to bet I know why they lock one into long contracts. Paula Overby

rclark
rclark

They are not evil. They are not even particularly greedy. They are running as fast as they can to keep up with the industry. Every time a new gizmo comes out that they have to support, it means every cell tower needs a new card, sometimes one in every rack, and all of that is super expensive because they can't wait until the price comes down. All of those functions that you want turned on. Most cell providers can't support them out of the box for years after they first become available. Lots of cell towers, only so many technitions, and only so much capital to upgrade the network.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

when my three year old phone died recently, I ordered (since my model was no longer available), one close enough to it so that all of my accessories worked. Not only was it 3 versions newer, it was $19.00 with free shipping, plus I got a $29.00 rebate, so I made $10!

dickdowning
dickdowning

3 or 4 years ago I got fed up with fighting AT&Ts billing department ever month or two over improper charges. I checked around and found what appeared to be a good plan with Cingular. I signed on with them and within a couple of months they "bought" AT&T. I think it was to show that AT&T didn't have any significant assets in the class action suits that they were embroiled in at the time. As one of the settlement actions I got a $10 phone card which I would never use since I have a cell. I was on a two person family plan with Cingular and billing was usually correct. I went to add another person to the plan. They wanted to keep their number from their previous provider. It took about 2 hours to get the number transferred so Cingular set her up with a new number to cover the 2 hours and billed me with a month of charges for a 1400 minute single person plan to cover the 2 hours she didn't use the phone. They claimed that that was the only way they could do it and wouldn't give me a refund. Apparently they had their accounting practices from AT&T by then. AT&T finally got the class action suits finished and guess what? Cingular is now AT&T again. To me that appears to be a pure scam to me. So when my contract ends I'm going to try and find an honest cell phone company to switch to if there is such a thing.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

No one has ever had a gun held to their head by any of the cellular service companies and been forced to sign a service contract under duress. The consumer chose to have the convenience of the device. A cell phone isn't comparable with essentials like medical service, or food and gasoline after a natural disaster; not even close. It's a convenience. Stupid question from non-cell owner who has no clue how to text: if texting cost more than voice, why text? What's the advantage? Texting hasn't always been a feature of cell phones, but earlier users got by without it. If you dislike the service providers' charges so much, why continue to use them? Most of us got along fine twenty years ago when mobile phones were the size and weight of a cinder block and only Realtors had them. I don't know your age, but I'm willing to bet you managed to survive before you got one.

TechinMN
TechinMN

Actually, TM's come through pretty reliably, whereas voicemail can frequently be spotty. So far my record with Sprint is 10 days and a few hours for voicemail to be 'delivered'. 3-day delays are more common, and fairly frequent. In contrast, I've never had a problem with text messages being delivered. Nice to be locked into a contract, paying for services that don't get provided, isn't it?

tundraroamer
tundraroamer

I have 5 cell phones for the same reasons you do. I live in an area of great expanse (bigger than even Texas) but only have a few cell provider choices of which 2 actually have the infrastructure installed across the state. The rest are just resellers. I am currently battling my provider for taking 4 -5 days to deliver my voice mail among other problems. While trying to troubleshoot the same problem on 2 of the 4 phones (the 5th is on another provider), the 1 year warranty on the 2 year contract ran out. Now they won't fix or replace the phones because they are out of warranty. These are phone that we had to purchase because the provider changed its service to CDMA. The phones of course were free but we had to change and sign new contracts. I have been with this provider since the late 80's but will no longer be with them come next spring when the current contract expires. Besides, the main reason I used them was their coverage area was the best but has now slipped to second rate. I can sit next to the other guys phone in a remote area looking at the "No Service" on my screen while his phone rings and has no issue talking on it. I agree that the cell phone providers here are sticking it to us. We see the national ads that you all get and only dream of getting offers like that here. I recently added a 5th phone. My choice? A prepaid purchased from Wal-Mart. 10 cents a minute, any time with nearly nationwide coverage. Text cost less per minute but does cost. NO CONTRACTS. You do need to purchase minutes to keep active but the rate is the same weather you buy 150 minutes or 1200. The difference is the more you buy, the longer the service runs. I think 1200 minutes gets you one year of service. I am also thinking of getting these instead of a 2 year plan that nickel and dimes you death. It's time for a cell phone revolt! Too bad that everybody (who uses a cell phone) is so wired that they can't disconnect in order to participate. I want a $19.95 per month Sat phone with unlimited everything. Is that too much to ask?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

And isn't a voice mailbox included in most accounts? Regarding voice service after Katrina, I wonder which came back faster, cellular voice or landline?

rclark
rclark

You send a text and it's like an email. It can be answered when next the phone is on. Students, and people who frequently are in meetings, have to turn off their cell phones as their class/meeting starts. But afterwords, they can turn them on and get all of the messages that they missed during the previous 55 minutes. Granted that none of this is essential, after Katrina, voice service was not available, but text messages worked just fine. Even radio was spotty. So unless you want to spring big bucks for a satphone, texting is the best solution for some.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

in particular "if texting cost more than voice, why text?" It's a freaking phone, for crying out loud.

TechnoDoc
TechnoDoc

I agree with you. I am a free market person. I am not advocating new laws or regulations (other than maybe anti-trust action from the government). Making people hate something that is bad so that consumers start making demands and stop paying for garbage is a good thing, hence my post: me doing my part to put pressure on the creeps. I am frustrated that more people do not pressure their cell companies, companies that are among the most abusive of all companies. They are just too hard to pressure if you every have tried. You can only make a statement to them one every two years for practical purposes by changing to another company. Some type of phone is pretty essential nowadays in the USA, not to live, but to function with others. Mobile people usually will choose a mobile phone. As the father of four old teen / college twenties I can tell you that it is very comforting to know my kids can contact me and vice versa, especially when driving long distances. I therefore pay for 6 cell phones right now. Three kids are away in college and the cells are their primary phones (no land lines) yet connectivity is pathetic (intentionally bad or intentionally not improved as per the point I made) so they end up getting text messages from people who cannot contact them otherwise, plus they have to check their voice mail frequently, costing a minumum of 1 minute each time they check it in the daytime. When you complain, they tell you you can pay the ransom of buying a 'text' plan even though you do no outgoing text at all! Texting is now completely blocked (supposedly) on all our lines although the incredibly abusive and incompetent company "Sprint" bills me erroneously every single month for texting that they were supposed to block, roaming that actually is covered on my plan, on and on etc. They they are jerks when you call them about it even though they eventually admit they are wrong and correct the charges. And in the same way that colluding to have intentionally bad connectivty increases the profits of cell phone companies, BAD SERVICE INCREASES THEIR PROFIT too. They pay less people, teach them to be obtuse and to lie, and most customers experiencing the long waits and abusive "customer service" people just give up. Maybe consumers will change companies in two years when their contract is up? They say "so what"--since all they collude in their abusive practices, they all just trade customers among them when contracts expire. The AT&T consumers change to Sprint and Sprint people change to AT&T and and the same abuses go on. So I hope this post has done its job of making people hate their cell companies and demand better.