August 1, 2006

Bella Achieves The Impossible

Cingular_logoThey said it couldn't be done. They said St. Peter was an easier win. They said I'd have better luck converting my old cell phone bills into paper currency.

But last Saturday I called Cingular to inquire politely about the proper procedure to have my early termination fee waived, and I got my wish.

Long, boring story short(er), I used Cingular back home in Indiana
for probably eight years, and was very pleased with my service. When I
moved to Chicago, I wanted to have my cell phone up and running before
I arrived, so I went to a Cingular store in Indy and had my new Chicago
account set up. No reason to suspect me experience would be different
here, right?

Wrong. After arriving, I realized my reception was crummy almost
everywhere. I couldn't use my cell phone in my own home (unless I was
practically leaning out a window), despite being nicely situated
between two towers (according to customer care agents during my many
calls for help). There were dropped calls, voicemails that arrived five
hours late, text messages that didn't come in or out, and entire 30-45
minute periods where I couldn't place calls at all.

I made call after call to Cingular, where they would tell me to turn
my phone off and on, consider buying a new one (?!) ask me to call back
a week later to see if things had improved. They didn't. I was annoyed.
I was unsatisfied. I was determined to switch carriers. I asked
everyone I knew if they'd ever successfully argued their way out of an
early termination fee. "Good luck," everyone told me. I heard horror
story after horror story.

With nine months left on my current contract, I called another
service provider, and switched, keeping the same phone number. The new
phone arrived. Lo and behold, it works in my home! In the kitchen! In
the bathroom! In the living room! Reception is great. Things are peachy.

But I knew I had one inarguably unfun phone call to make as a
consumer - I had to call Cingular and try to talk my way out of having
to pay the $175 early termination fee. I'd been rehearsing it in my
head for weeks. I'd outlined my woes, and I'd kept notes on every
fruitless, circuitous phone call I'd made to customer service.

I called. I explained. I kept my cool. I stressed my excellent
experience with Cingular in Indiana, and explained my disappointment
with my experience in Chicago. "Jacqueline" put me on hold. Five
minutes went by. Eight minutes went by. I was getting ticked off.

Nine minutes went by. Jacqueline picked back up, and to my utter
surprise, apologized profusely for my experience. She'd looked through
the records of my previous calls to customer service, she said, and
realized that there was never proper followup on any of my requests for
help. "If we had followed proper procedure we probably could have
solved your problems, and kept you as a customer. I'm sorry things
happened this way."

I was gobsmacked. I was delighted. I wanted to kiss Jacqueline. And
most of all, I wanted to do the "I just saved $175" dance. Which I did,
by phone, courtesy of Verizon.

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