This is the (hopefully) last in a series of entries about my cell service. If you’d rather read the whole series from the beginning, click here.
Hold your calls, we’ve got a winner… or more succinctly, we’ve eliminated most of the losers. I re-signed yesterday with Cingular for National GSM service.
A couple of notes and observations are in order. This took an unbelievably long time. I’m not talking about yesterday at the store – which did take forever – but my decision making process. The cellular carriers make this maddeningly difficult.
First and foremost, you have to read each and every thing that you’re being offered and not offered. The cell companies know what they’re offering (well, sort of) but most of us don’t. While I was in the cell phone store yesterday, I watched customer after customer move up to the desk, like lambs to the slaughter. The salespeople offered and sold plans and conditions that weren’t understood by the customers. And, the customers, with little choice, signed on without much thought.
In my case, this is a $2,000 commitment – 2 years of service for the three of us – and I wanted to be sure everything was acceptable… or as acceptable as possible.
Most customers don’t know the difference between GSM or TDMA or CDMA, but these distinctions can be very important in deciding what you’re getting. The companies offer beautifully named national or regional networks, and then never disclose what these networks are… or are not. The maps I’ve seen continue to paint a nearly seamless blanket of coverage, which isn’t true.
The company that actually runs the Cingular store needs to reconsider the paper flow through the store. Forms had to be filled out by hand and multiple phone calls made to get my account set up. It’s 2003 – these forms should be computer generated and authorizations automated. I was in the store for nearly 2 hours. Some people, who waited in line while I was being taking care of, left.
As I wrote earlier, when a plan says no roaming fees, that still doesn’t mean you can use any signal your phone can hear. It used to be, if you were out of range of your plan, your phone would latch on to whatever it heard, and you’d pay for that privilege. But “no roaming” doesn’t necessarily mean that call is now free. It often means that call can no longer be made!
The best example is here at home. My phone shows a very, very strong signal (probably from T-Mobile or AT&T). If I try to make a call, the phone says “Emergency Only” and spits me back to the main menu.
As far as I can tell, I now have a comparable number of minutes, nights beginning at 7:00 PM, some sort of national coverage (though still no coverage here at home) and three new phones for a little less than I was paying. And, I extracted 3 free months of service, 2 of the 3 phones, and a waiver of the activation charge by getting on the phone with the Cingular company agent (thanks Kendrick Alexander) and asking for it (the folks in the Cingular store don’t really work for Cingular).
Helaine and I got LG G4010 phones. They are incredibly small with a stubby, fixed antenna. I have been pouring through the manual, looking for a way to use my company’s voicemail with this phone. That means adding a pause during the dialing sequence. As far as I can tell, you can’t do it. If that’s true, this would be the first cell phone I’ve ever seen that can’t perform this function.
If the manual wasn’t translated from some other language into English, the person who did write it should be ashamed. It is disorganized and confusing.
Steffie got a much fancier Samsung S307. It has a color display and more toys. I was proud because she wanted it and was willing to part with her own (hard earned) money to get it.
There was another company I had considered going with. Oh heck – it was Sprint. I didn’t go because of what I considered the very high cost of the phones and higher cost for monthly service. But really, the clincher was their move a few years ago (quickly rescinded) to charge for calls to customer service! To me, that showed a corporate culture that didn’t value the end user the way I want to be valued.
I would be 100% happy with Cingular but for one small problem. There’s no service here at home. Judging by the folks at their store, Cingular thinks it has coverage here. They recently put a cell site at Quinnipiac College, less than 2 miles away. But, it is blocked to me, and most of my neighbors because of Sleeping Giant Mountain. If they would have moved the site off campus, they could have killed two birds with one stone – putting coverage on campus and into this area and I’d be really smiling.