January 27, 2006

Curious George: Slave to the cell phone. I just got raped by our cell phone overlords. Any monkeys ever have any luck contesting bills and would care to share tips, tricks or stories?

I don't want to post too many details, but suffice it to say I got totally hosed on overages I didn't deserve, and certain rates that the powers that be just decided to up and double over the new year for no apparent reason and not tell anyone. So should I be a bitch? Cry? Threaten? Be level-headed and methodical? What's the best approach when dealing with those customer service folks?

  • They have the power to do whatever they want with your bill. If you aren't under contract, tell them you want to cancel your phone; don't waste your time with people who work in cell stores, they exist only to sell. They'll hand you off to a retention specialist (1-800-xxx-xxxx) whose job it is to keep you as their customer. These people have ultimate authority and can give you stuff, adjust your bill, etc. If they don't make you happy, cancel your service. If you are under contract, you may well be screwed. I would take my concern up the chain of command. If someone couldn't help me, I'd ask for their supervisor. When you get up to regional managers, they start to take you seriously. Remember that they log every call you make against your acct number, so they know about all of your previous conversations. Whatever you do, be as polite and nice as possible. You MUST present yourself as a resonable person who will continue to be a good customer if they take care of your problems.
  • Years ago, when I sold cell phones, I got a $1500 overage bill waived by my local area manager (she managed 3 stores and some kiosks in a walmart). They can do it, if they want to.
  • This happened to me about 3 years ago with one of the big time US networks. I cancelled my service and was billed a ridiculous amount for "cancellation of contract". I asked to see a copy of the contract, which I think is my right. They never responded, I never paid them and so far it's never appeared on my credit record. And the collectors haven't ever called. But I am waiting for the other foot to fall. I think I might have also mentioned to them that I would be happy to go in front of a judge about this. Maybe that helped.
  • I'm not exactly certain how a cell phone company can level charges against you if you break your contract AFTER they change their policies to something that wasn't in the contract to begin with. How can it be legal to have a contract say "we can change this to anything, and you still can't change your end when we do"? Is it okay if in January of 2007, the cell phone companies begin demanding our first-borns in exchange for continued service?
  • Something similiar happened to me with Verizon (an evil corporation that I hate as much as I hate Bush) and I flat out refused to pay them and told them I would NEVER pay them and I would gladly go to court over it. I haven't heard from them since. Fuck them. Seriously, let them know that this is a PROBLEM. I think they tend to pick their fights carefully. If they see that you will keep fighting they may just drop the whole thing or come to a reasonable agreement. In my case I was so completely disgusted with the horrible service, the never-ending 800 #'s, the endless waiting on the phone for the RIGHT representative that I just said FUCK IT. I absolutely do NOT give a flying fuck what they do. Verizon is the epitome of everything I hate about corporate America.
  • Sounds like something out of a Stephen King novel.
  • Sorry, I posted too soon. I meant to reference what he said about them.
  • In my favor, I have never filed a complaint against them before, never been a pain in the ass, always pay on time, etc. I've been with the company forever (except for a small week-long stint when I went over to Verizon for shits and giggles and hated it too). However I am under contract because of that damn stint - had to "resign" when I came back a year ago (even though I do not recall signing anything but whatever). And dude, they can have my first born if they want it, just quit charging me ridiculous amounts of money for silly reasons reason!
  • Interesting topic. I don't have a cellphone just because of stories like this, and because of the completely unreasonable contracts one must sign. So I've been thinking about going with a pre-paid phone with no contract, like tracfone, but they seem to have their downsides too. Tell the bastids you're going to take your money elsewhere and see what they do.
  • and just silly reasons too... *sigh* This country is why I drink
  • AND I just found out according to my service "summary" (which looks a whole lot like a contract) I am supposed to be on an entirely different plan, one that wouldn't have made me go over this month. This is what happens when you leave the country for a year and come back and expect everything to have gone smoothly while you were gone. NEVER assume.
  • I have heard so many bad things about VerizonCingularTMobileCorp that I'll never give them a dime. I've used Tracfone for over a year. It's definitely NOT for any social/frequent use, but I always know exactly how much I'm spending and no bastard megacorp can start tinkering with my credit.
  • I think it's best to take a stance where you're reasonable and polite but very firm that what they're doing is a problem that they must fix. Most customer service folks will do more to help you if you're polite and prepared with all the necessary info. They get yelled at by too many people in a day for stuff that is, at the end of the day, not their fault. I've had friends who work customer service for these types of businesses, and they say that rude people are deliberately given less help than polite (but persistent) people. If the person talking to you doesn't have the authority to help you, thank them for their efforts and ask them to refer you to someone with the proper authority. Document everything: when/what time you call, the names of everyone you speak to (don't be afraid to ask them again for their names and say "Thanks! Do you have an employee ID # I should refer to so I can make sure I get to talk to you again/tell your supervisors about the great (or bad) service you're giving me?"), what you spoke about, what they say, etc. Most corporations count on the fact that you'll be too lazy to keep these records and follow up on them. It's worth the effort, though: Think of how much you make an hour, and how much they overcharged you. How much of your pay was eaten up by this bad bill, and how much time are you willing to spend to fix it? A friend of mine used to train customer service workers for cell phone companies. I'll ask her if there are any specific tricks of the trade.
  • Um, I oould do a whole number here on how needing to be "in touch" via mobile phones all the time is the best marketing ploy ever invented. But I won't - or maybe did. On the other hand, land lines are pretty cheap, and you don't pay for local calls.
  • path: if that was an option for me, trust me, I'd go with it. But I kinda, er, don't live on land... Thanks everyone for all the input! I'm going to call tomorrow, being cool calm and collected, organized, and ready to not take any shit. And I'll let you know how it goes. Bring it on.
  • If you called and told them to change your rate plan when you got back from your travels, and they didn't change it, then this whole situation is their fault and they should be fairly willing to cooperate. I would open my call with, "About a month ago, I got back from overseas and called you guys to change my rate plan, I guess it didn't get done because I'm still on the old plan and being charged overages." At no time do you hint that it could possibly be your fault; you called them, and they failed to do what you asked.
  • If [...] then this whole situation is their fault and they should be fairly willing to cooperate. I would just throw in here -- because I have a genetic defect that causes me to be negative -- that what should cause a company to cooperate and what causes a company to cooperate are often two different things. I used to work customer service for a small internet provider and the service we gave the customers was as varied as the people providing it. We had a standard script, but how much we explained beyond that was a matter of personal preference. Meanwhile, one of my coworkers used to work for AOL and explained how -- because of their incredibly high call volume -- their only priority was to get people off the line. Where most other companies are concerned, I daresay (and will say that this is of course speculation) the main concern of CusServ is to placate the loser on the line without costing the company anything. Think The Incredibles -- these people are in it for an ever-increasing profit margin, and the more they can push down on the sucker customers, the less they have to admit how badly they're bilking us all. Meredithea is right on when she points out that the poor goofus working CusServ is both powerless and beseiged daily with thousands of rude yelling types. (I got out of CusServ as quickly as I could, because I was sick of being the firewall between our justifiably angry customers and our pompous, molasses-slow repair department.) So save your ire for the higher-ups.
  • As far as how they can write in the contract that they can raise their prices whenever they want, and you can't end the contract whenever you want, there is the fact that you supposedly read the contract, know what's in it and then sign it anyway. That's something you agree to. It's not like they sneak it in and/or hold a gun at your head to sign it. Just sayin'...
  • If you are going to be raped by a cell phone, at least have the awareness to make sure it is set on vibrate.
  • The difference is that Customer Service is a punching bag for pissed customers, while the Retention Depts at most cell phone companies have real and very flexible power to do what is necessary to retain a customer. I know someone who sells cells (as I used to) and if a customer is pissed, he just gives them the retention number. He doesn't even bother with CustServ.
  • For the curious monkeys - turns out persistence, patience, and preparation create the key combination. Oh, and not being a bitch. That helped too. Who knew? Anyway, thanks to everyone for their advice, everything worked out, thankfully. Got the bill reduced to a manageable amount and a whole bunch of other stuff I never expected! Go team go!