My Wireless Telephone Woes – Update

Just My Luck

Okay, so I thought my luck had changed since the last update, since I could cancel my contract and switch to another carrier if necessary. Wrong! First, I spent several days trying to contact AT&T customer service to confirm that they did indeed cancel my contract and that I was free to port my number. And then, shortly after my last update, on April 17th (a Saturday night no less), AT&T suffered a massive outage. Nobody could call me, and I couldn’t call anyone either. Same thing with my girlfriend, and other AT&T Wireless customers: there were tons of complaints from them on AT&T’s forums and other wireless forums on the web. Of course, AT&T never acknowledged nor apologized for this incident. To me, this was the last straw. No more waiting to see if AT&T’s service would improve. On Sunday, I put in an order at Amazon.com for new service with T-Mobile. My plan was to get the new service, port over my number, and then use my existing phone, since T-Mobile uses the same technology as AT&T (GSM1900).

As luck would have it, Amazon.com suffered “technical difficulties” while handling my order, and today they cancelled my order and advised me to place the order again. Unfortunately, the excellent service agreement that I originally purchased is no longer available on their website. The agreement was 1000 anytime minutes and unlimited night and weekend minutes for $39.99 a month, plus a $35.00 activation fee. Talk about a deal. And now, it’s gone. To Amazon.com’s credit, their customer service has been refreshingly excellent, unlike AT&T. They reply to their emails within 24 hours, and answer their phones within minutes. Right now, I am waiting for Amazon to email me back about the situation, but they told me that they couldn’t guarantee that I could get the same plan again. So, we will see.

There is no other explanation for my wireless telephone woes other than luck. Either that, or wireless phone service in the United States is just plain inferior. I remember from one of my college economics classes that in the United States, nobody in the government bothered to regulate wireless phone service, and as a result several different standards came into use. For example, Sprint built their PCS network, and another company invested in CDMA, AT&T used TDMA, and of course there is GSM. Basically, it’s a mess. Nobody concentrating on and perfecting one standard results in a patchwork of sub-par “solutions” that only work for some but not others. I guess I fall into the latter.

Finally, I want to comment on some of the losers that inhabit AT&T’s forums, and I do mean, literally, inhabit. As I said, I posted my story there, and I was pretty surprised at how angry some of the users were. They didn’t read my story in its entirety and jumped to conclusions and blamed me for the problems I experienced. Most of these people have thousands of posts on AT&T’s forum and if you have that much time to spend in a moderated forum pretending that you’re a wireless expert, then you really are a loser. When I say moderated, I mean that if you say something negative about the company, the forum administrators delete your message. Sad, isn’t it? What’s more sad is that these people have learned to live with poor quality and service. They love AT&T so much they think that if there’s a problem, then it must be the customer’s fault. In replying to my situation, they advised that I should have done my homework beforehand (which I did) and that because I made this “mistake”, I should be patient and live with my situation. They see absolutely nothing wrong with a company not providing the service it’s supposed to. It’s frightening to see their blind allegiance AT&T. Needless to say, I won’t be posting there anymore.

Site Update 4-15-04

I read a whole bunch of stuff on CSS only to find out that CSS isn’t what you use to keep the same menu for all your pages… but I did find out that there are a number of ways to do it, and I’ve decided to use something called Server Side Includes, or SSI. Now, I can maintain one menu page and have it propagate to my entire site, instead of handcoding every page one by one. Excellent! I’m not stopping here though, I hope to make my page HTML4.01 compliant as well as convert it to CSS. It’s actually kinda fun. We’ll see what happens. For now, enjoy having a full working menu on every page!!!

My Wireless Telephone Woes – Update

It has been an incredible two days. After calling AT&T two days ago and posting the update to this site, I decided to post my story to several other sites, including my local TV station KRON4 (Contact 4) as well as AT&T’s own customer support forum. I received some typical responses from the support forum, but KRON4 really came through and I am now no longer tied to the original two year contract, which means I can try to wait out the poor service, or quit without penalty if it doesn’t improve. Here is a timeline of events:

  • I post this article to several websites
  • The first to respond are some patrons of AT&T’s forums
  • I receive a message from Boris, a Contact 4 volunteer
  • I receive a message from Abby Sterling, a reporter from KRON4
  • Ms. Sterling contacts a representative from AT&T, who in turn contacts me
  • I outline the situation to this representative, who apologizes and offers to terminate my contract
  • I am freed from my contract obligations

Speaking with the representative from AT&T, he told me that he did not detect any changes or anomalies in my area, which is consistent with what the other representatives have said. At the same time, beginning yesterday, I started noticing that my phone will now occasionally roam on Cingular’s network, that is, instead of displaying “AT&T Wireless” when there is a signal, the phone will display “Cingular.” Doesn’t seem like “there aren’t any changes” in my area now, does it? Still, I could tell that this representative was not a common “peon” and that he had more knowledge and authority than the representatives I usually speak to, so maybe he was telling the truth.

All I can say is, I am very impressed with the speed that Contact 4 handled this situation. I had submitted my “Best Buy Ordeal” story to them awhile back and heard nothing, so I was also a little surprised when they called me back. I am still a little shocked and excited at the prospect of porting my number to another carrier, but unlike when I previously ported to AT&T, I don’t know how good the reception of other carriers will be in my home. My plan is to continue with AT&T Wireless for the time being, and if things get really bad, cancel. It really makes sense for me to stay though, because supposedly AT&T is currently upgrading all their systems, and once they have 850MHz GSM in San Francisco, service should get better. That, plus roaming with Cingular, should theoretically improve reception dramatically. Well, we shall see. I’m just afraid that if I do end up cancelling, they’ll still charge me the cancellation fee, and I’ll have to go through further trouble. If that happens, you will be sure to see another update on this page. Thanks for reading, again!

Update – April 23, 2004

My Wireless Telephone Woes – Update

Since the last call, nothing has changed other than the fact that reception has seemingly gotten worse. I attribute that to the increased amount of time I have had to deal with this problem and the additional problems that it causes, such as missing important calls, not being able to use the phone in certain situations, etc. When one is not happy, one may say that a problem has gotten worse, when in reality, the problem has basically stayed the same (i.e. no reception).

As promised I once again called AT&T’s customer support. The hold time was only a few seconds this time, due to my calling at 4am in the morning. I repeated the same story and again asked to fill out a customer feedback form, my fourth. The representative was a bit averse to doing so, stating that she asked technical support (i.e. she was not in the technical support department) and that technical support stated it was unnecessary. Only until I insisted did she do so. I then asked her to fill out another form for another number I have with AT&T, and she stated that this would be more “beneficial,” since this was a different number. I told her that I had to exhaust all my options, because I’m the one with the reception problems.

I have a lot more feelings about the whole situation now. In terms of customer service, I think the AT&T representatives are on the most part, quite polite. At the same time, this last representative seemed to want to get off the phone with me in as little time as possible, and as mentioned above, she did not really want to help me fill out another customer feedback form, whereas all the previous representatives told me to keep filling them out. Naturally, communication between departments or even within departments in such a large company is sketchy at best. Unfortunately, for the customer who knows nothing about how their company works, I can only do what I think is the best course of action. I have a two year contract with AT&T and I still have almost two years left on it, since I got the phone in December. I believe that things will get better within this time, but due to my recent and continuing experience with this company, I am not keeping my fingers crossed.

As requested by the 3rd representative, I took my phone and walked around my neighborhood, and surprisingly, the same thing happened two blocks away. I would get no service, then the signal would bounce up and down, just like in my bedroom. I want you all to remember, that my house and my location are not not conducive to cellular signals, because for two wonderful months, I had full, crystal clear reception twenty-four hours a day. The representatives at AT&T always forget this, and always try to place the blame on something I have done. Granted, I cannot know what neighbors have done, but as I said before, what could they possibly do to destroy my cell phone reception? I don’t think it’s my job to find out, but unless AT&T does something, I may have to, somehow.

I also have a new theory regarding the sudden drop in service. When I first got my phone, I played around with it and noticed that there was a choice to manually select networks. Back then, I could choose between AT&T and Cingular. When I checked a few days ago, the only one available was AT&T Wireless. So, does that mean because of the merger, AT&T and Cingular consolidated their equipment? If so, that is very bad news to me, because I switched to AT&T from Cingular precisely because Cingular’s reception was so bad. Still, it was never *this* bad. Anyhow, this is yet another theory in this saga. When I told the representative about this new theory, she humored me with an “ok,” but I could tell she did not care and probably did not note this in the account. I asked some questions to test her account records, and discovered that they don’t keep very thorough account notes at AT&T. They only keep what they deem is relevant. Of course.

So, that’s all for now. One hour later, I am still at the same point as before, except now AT&T has two more customer feedback forms to worry about. Actually, I doubt that they worry too much about this, if at all. It has been a month and eight days already, just like that. I am not going to learn to live with shoddy service. I will not stop hounding AT&T until I regain the clean signal I originally received. I have a feeling that I will be hounding for a long time, though. As an added bonus, I’ve added the notes I took during my most recent call. Continue to wish me luck, and thank you for reading!!!

Notes:

Monday, April 12, 2004 4:18AM PDT

I think the music and the girl who does the ad during the hold times is extremely annoying. As with all corporate messages these days, she intentionally cracks her voice and that makes being put on hold excruciatingly painful. New theory: AT&T and Cingular combined and reduced number of towers in area. Supporting evidence: lack of cingular network choice, whereas there was the choice before.

Representative did not want to fill out another customer feedback form, saying that it was unnecessary, because she asked tech. support about that and they said it was unnecessary. This is contrary to what the previous representatives told me. Another conflicting story. Still trying to maintain an open mind here. 30 second hold time due to time. Less receptive. A lot of "ok" "ok". This one really wanted me to get off the phone asap. Whereas it took at least 10 minutes to complete the first feedback form, it took more like 30 seconds to complete the second. Makes me wonder what they're doing. I had heard stories that AT&T reps would try to get you off the phone ASAP no matter what. Makes sense from a pure business standpoint, i.e. maximize contact time with customers per rep.

Update – April 14, 2004

Site Update 4-12-04

Updated Wireless phone problems essay again. CSS work is coming along slowly. So far, I’ve only learned about changing font sizes, colors, etc. Having to learn CSS has also made me become aware of learning the latest HTML. If I’m not mistaken, the latest version is 4.01, and I plan to make my pages HTML 4.01 transitional compliant, if that makes any sense at all. Finally, moved past updates to their own page.