Monday, June 20, 2005

A Cingular tale of stupidity…

I am a customer of Cingular Wireless. I am also a customer of SBC (Cingular’s parent company) for my DSL and local phone service. Over the Memorial Day weekend, I decided that I wanted to give my pre-teen daughter her own cell phone. She had been begging for it for months and we initially told her no because she has a real penchant for loosing things. But since she is riding her bike to the pool and to her friend’s house a lot more during the summer, we decided to give her an electronic leash so to speak. We did this more for our own peace of mind than to give in to a child’s desire for a status symbol. Since my wife and I had also been wrestling with old boat-anchor Nokia 5100 series TDMA phones for years, we could not just buy her a new GSM phone and keep our old (but still serviceable) TDMA phones. Cingular says, all GSM or all TDMA, not both. Cingular has three pricing structures for new equipment, Web (cheapest), Phone sales (next cheapest), and Stores (most expensive). Being the tightwad that I am, I decided to go the Web route. There was only one problem, The web site fell over when I clicked on the link to upgrade my phone and gave me an error that there was an authorization problem with my account and to call customer service.

Sunday: The first call to customer service resulted in some know-nothing drone telling me to change rate plans to GSM first, then try upgrading the phones. Web site does not give me that option, it tells me I have to call customer service to do that. Time on this call, 20 minutes.

Monday: OK, call number two results in a different drone telling me he cannot help me with web prices and I would need to call sales on Tuesday when they open and that they’d charge me the Phone sales rates. I say, ok, give me the number. He does. Time on the phone for this call, about 20 minutes.

Tuesday:
I call phone sales and explain what I want to do: Namely, upgrade my two existing phones to GSM (they had a Nokia 6010 model that was free with 2 year activation on the website) and get a third line for my daughter. The lady is really sweet and nice, she apologizes for the two morons I talked to, previously and says she’ll fix me right up! And proceeds to royally screw things up. She ended up issuing two new numbers as new equipment sales, and processes my two year contract extension on the existing lines but doesn’t send new phones for the two existing numbers. Instead she locks up the account record in the order system so that nobody else can do anything with it. I of course don’t know that at the time. I go away thinking instead that Cingular DOES have at least a couple people on staff that are halfway intelligent. Time on this call, about an hour. I find all this out piecemeal later. The first indication that something isn’t quite right comes when I get an e-mail notification Tuesday evening that phones for two phone numbers I didn’t recognize had been shipped.

Wednesday: I call and speak with customer service on Wednesday morning and they tell me that the order had been entered incorrectly and that I’d need to send one of the phones back. So I ask them about the other two lines. The girl gets a floor manager tapped into the call and we do a three way round robin and they assure me that two more phones will get shipped that day. Time on this call: about an hour.

Thursday: The two new line phones arrive and I call to find out which IMEI # phone is assigned to which phone # so I can activate the correct one (The paperwork of course does not say). While I have them on the line, I ask about the two other phones supposedly shipped Wednesday since I had not received a shipment notification via e-mail like I did before. They tell me that the phones were scheduled to ship but for some reason had not yet and that I should receive them via overnight FedEx Friday. Time on that call, 15 minutes.

Friday: Phones do not arrive, call customer service, they can’t find any evidence that they were even ever ordered but they do confirm I have had two more years on my contract now, They transfer me to Sales which apparently have a different ordering system. They can’t find any record either, they transfer me back to customer service. I get batted back and forth between sales and customer service at least two more times before someone gives me the number to the national order fulfillment department to try finding it from the inventory system. Still no dice, they transfer me back to customer service. I finally get someone who can find both butt cheeks with either hand. He finally discovers that my order entry record had been locked in the system without it completing the order. My account was stuck in database limbo. Could not go forward, could not go back. Do not pass go, do not collect 2 phones. He wrestles with it for nearly an hour while he tries to figure out how to get the record unlocked. At this point I’d been on this one call for over an hour and a half. He finally manages to get managerial override to unlock the record and he backs the two years back out, resets it to where it was before the record was screwed up. At that point I had been on the line for over two hours, and he was on overtime and his boss was giving him the hairy eyeball to wrap it up and get the heck off the clock, so the transfers me to another sales lady. So far, this was the only guy I had dealt with that seemed to really know what he was doing and was willing to actually work the problem instead of handing me off to some other schmoe. I wish I remembered his name, he deserves a commendation for the initiative to get the problem solved. The lady he transferred me to was unfortunately more of the same, but she at least managed to get the order re-processed correctly. Total time on the phone that go-round: 2-1/2 hours.

Wednesday: I’m out of town (I had wanted the new phone for the trip, but alas, ‘twas not meant to be), FedEx leaves the package on my front porch. Thankfully my neighbor picks it up for me before it is stolen.

So far, it would appear that everything has been sorted out, but I haven’t received a bill yet, so the jury may still be out……

Update 6-28-05: Well the bill came in the mail today and that feeling of dread I had turned out to be justified. They managed to still screw it up. They had two lines on my OLD TDMA rate plan still, and the third NEW line on a rate plan all on it's own. NONE of them were actually on the plan they were supposed to be on. What was funnier was that the third line was on a family plan which requires a minimum of two lines, but only one line was on it. The total? over $210 bucks! It was SUPPOSED to be $74.95 plus tax, (title, lisence, destination charges, and dealer prep...) and a one time $18 fee per line to activate/convert. They promise to get it fixed by the 30'th.... we'll see what happens.....

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