Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Cell Hell*

The packages, phones and benefits of the major cell phone companies wax and wane more than Anna Nichole Smith's quest for dignity.

At this point in my life, I've been with all of the major cell companies at least once, some more. Every year or so, a company will upgrade their system, launch faster data services, better airtime packages, improve customer service, or merge with another company... briefly making it the best option for cell service. Then, the need to compete dictates changes at another company, and it's THEIR turn in the spotlight. These changes are as predictable as the phases of the moon and Floyd Landis' steroid excuses.

Right now, here is my situation regarding cellular:

Cingular - main cell phone, laptop data card, TREO PDA. (which sucks ASS, but I haven't cancelled the service yet)

Sprint - New PDA, daughter's cell phone.

Verizon - Built-in car phone. (which is simply a backup to the satellite phone that is also installed in the car) (yes, BMW frequently commits "overkill" with their connectivity efforts)

Bottom line... I have contracts with THREE different cell companies. Total monthly expenditure, $350. Once I cancel the extraneous PDA with Cingular, that figure will drop significantly.

As I was searching for a birthday present for my 17-year-old daughter, I first went to Cingular. They host my main cell number and I find their signal to be HIGHLY reliable. That was the extent of my positive experience... their phone selection sucked. Also, their "roll-over" plan is just advertising BS, you'll never really use the minutes and you LOSE them if you ever change your plan. Also, I've accumulated 9000 roll-over minutes, but they won't let me share them with anyone. Their customer service guy had no idea what he was doing, and had to call his supervisor four times. Screw you, Cingular. I left.

Then I went to Verizon. Customer service at the store REEKED, their selection of phones was better than Cingular, but still not good, and their signal has always given me fits. Those shortfalls reinforced the wisdom of a quick exit.

Third stop, Sprint. Nice set-up in the store, not a REAL long wait for service, and the selection of phones is pretty good. They have FREE incoming calls on some of their packages, you can choose your "off-peak" time, (7 or 9 pm) and Sprint-to-Sprint is unlimited, with a small upcharge. It definitely made the most sense for my daughter's needs, and although their signal is less reliable than either Verizon or Cingular, it still beats T-Mobile, US Cellular and the various little guys. I decided Sprint gets my business this time.

She loves her new (pink) phone. Since incoming calls are free, Dad will be keeping very close tabs on her whereabouts. But at dinner, she said something that is still ringing in my head. "Hey, the phone was only 40 bucks, you got off pretty easy on my birthday present."

I took a moment to reflect on that statement, waved away the smoke that had begun coming out of my ears, and collected my thoughts. (and did the math) "You mean one THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED dollars?"

Kids these days. They believe cell phone service is free. I felt this was a good time to outline the Rules Of The Phone. NO overages, she must get a job by October 8 (two months) and has to start paying her own cell bill within one year.

She gave me a look as if I had eaten a baby, then reluctantly agreed.

* I've had the same cell number for several years. I will likely never change it, thanks to number-porting... but the cell companies are hereby on notice: Be nice to me, or I will drop you like a... an... um... something, you know, that you drop.


Blogarita said...

I've only been a cell phone user for four years.

Unlike you, I have had only two cell phones in that time, the second one only because we switched to a family plan and could get the phones free.

I've had only ONE service provider, T-Mobile, and have never had anything but good service (both phone service and customer service) from them. I'm unlikely to change, unless their service goes south.

Violet said...

i can't wait until my service contract is up in september with sprint. i can't deal with the fact that i can't get a signal in places that should clearly have a signal.

i'm thinking cingular. i'm also thinking that i need a high-quality pda type of product. i'll have to do some shopping around. dave, i'll need your input and expertise.

(i will NOT be getting a sprint pda just because you, mikey, and dr. mike all have one. i am not a joiner.)

phoenix said...

I am also with T-Mobile and have been with them since, well... before T-mobile! My best guess is 5+years now. Their service is improved and CS is great! If you can't get T-mobile service it rolls to the next provider.

Their phone selection is fantastic and I am extremely happy with my Motorola. It has all the same features as the Razor and is more duurable. Razors break... alot. Only drawback I have with them so far is no rollover... but I have yet to use all my extra minutes and that is wit h two phones on the plan. (I have no use for a PDA)

Lee Ann said...

You are right Sprint is not as reliable with signal as Cingular.
I have been with Cingular since their beginning. Some problems off and on, but like you said, the most reliable. I have an old plan which is better than some of the new ones.
I love my Razor, so as of now, I don't have anything to complain of. But I do feel your pain.

It is hot at the Castle....

SistaSmiff said...

I like T Mobile too except when Mr. Smiff is traveling....I'm amazed at how crappy the signals are in places like Texas. It seems when he goes up north/northeast the signal gets crappy. Only one guy in the band always has a signal and I believe he's a Cingular person.

❉ pixie ❉ said...

Wow, and I thought our $75 a month cell bill was bad. Do you have a land line too?

Eve said...

Ooooooooo... Dave Morris looks like a hot bitch in his new photo!!

Nobody said...

US Cellular is pretty good in these parts. $55/month gets me 1000 minutes shared between two phones with free incoming. They just changed their plans and it would cost me about $20 more for the new ones, but they let em resign last week on the same plan I had for two more years and I got a couple of new phones out of the deal as well.

Mishka said...

I am one of the freak americans that refuses to get a cell phone and if I ever did get one, it would be a prepaid one because I refuse to do a plan with anyone...phones in asia are so much better than here, much more advanced and they are almost all much better than contracts.

I am still in shock that you pay 350 dollars a month for phone coverage....that is just crazy!!! I have a land line in my house with no call waiting, no caller id, no long distance and it costs me about 17 dollars a month and meets all needs. I guess I am a freak!!!

MikeY said...

i like my new pda phone, and sometime in the near future i'll get around to reading the book on how to use it... and actually be able to tell if i'm getting unlimited data and sync with my work and home outlooks, and ...drum roll... get or recieve my first text message. i'm easily excited lately because of my new change in surroundings... dave, i might need to borrow your truck... does anyone have a spare coffee table? lol

Lee Ann said...

I second that Nowhere girl!

mcBlogger said...

I guess telling you that my monthly cell phone service is $39.00 CND a month. That's like $12 USD. Well not that bad, but you get the idea. This includes unlimited Rogers to Rogers calling, anytime after 6 is free local calling and it's free anywhere in Canada on the weekends. I can call my mom in Ottawa on Saturday night and talk for hours if I felt so inclined to do so. But I wont. haha

Tom said...

Poor Dave. I know everything about complicated contracts and binding periods from Europe. Luckily most carriers can only put a binding period of 6 months and they are obliged to let you transfer your number from one carrier to another. I'm changing phone often and therefor also change carrier to get the best price. It is Cell Hell! I know how more contacts than I can have on a SIM-card so transferring numbers from one phone to another is getting harder. Tried a cool service at the other day and manage to transfer 262 contacts from a Motorola to a Nokia. Pretty nice and didn't cost a dime.

Raynwomaan said...

Cell Hell. Yes it is. And you can't get a simple service with a simple phone anymore.

I'd say your $350/month was outrageous, but when I look over my bills... nevermind.

Technology is complicating our lives.

mckay said...

i took my son and youngest niece to the park yesterday afternoon while my oldest niece had soccer practice. i was amazed that even the seemingly transients parked at the park had cell phones. i guess begging for change now goes towards food, alcohol and cell bills..

Lightning Bug's Butt said...

You know what Snoop Dogg says: Everybody needs a Sidekick.

Amandarama said...

I have had Cingular since 2001. I've always had good coverage and I didn't really mind the phone options. I need it to dial out. I'm easy like that.

Mr. Scoop has T-Mobile. He downgraded from a Sidekick to a Nokia basic model last year. The Sidekick turned out to be too buggy to live. The Nokia, although it provides Simon among it's free games, is too easily damaged just by looking at it. Much like the actually connectivity of T-Mobile service. Sometime in ther near future, he plans to upgrade to some model of phone that is of the flip or "clam-shell" design. And I'm trying to convince him to come over to Cingular because we also have free user to user calling.

I have millions of roll over minutes I will never, ever use and my night time minutes start at 7pm...