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01 May, 2008

Following my principles... eventually

Location: the dead zone at 18th and Fir
Mood: self-righteous and resigned

Well. I would like to say that I base my decisions on principles. And often I do. But here's a case where I need to reverse engineer history in order to make it come out that way.

When I moved to Seattle, and finally got a cell phone - which was probably in 2004 - I chose Sprint as my provider. And one thing I did not like about them was that they did not have very good customer support. People were neither friendly, nor knowledgeable, and very often I would need to make multiple calls in order to resolve even the simplest of matters. When I moved to Kirkland, or more accurately "unincorporated King County" atop Finn Hill, the problems with Sprint got to the point that I could no longer ignore them. I had no signal at home. This was annoying. But what annoyed me more was that Sprint claimed that there were "no known service issues" in the area. So, basically, they're calling me a liar. I know, I know. They're not calling me a liar. But I am a customer. And I am saying "I have no signal". So doesn't that constitute "a known service issue"?

After months of frustration over this, and bad customer support, I finally decided to bail on Sprint. They "generously" let me out of the contract with only like a $200 penalty instead of a $400 penalty (there was more than one line being canceled, so there were multiple penalties, some of which were waived out of the kindness of their collective hearts).

After much research into the best plans, and the coverage issues, I decided to go with T-Mobile. I knew they had good coverage in the area, and they also have this plan called MyFaves, which is quite remarkable. The plan allows you to choose 5 telephone numbers to and from which all calls are always free minutes. And the big plus is that it makes no difference if these numbers are land lines, cell phones, T-Mobile, or other. Any number. You could have your 1-900 sex number as one of your favorites, and you would not pay for minutes (except for their charges of $4.99 per minute... so I am told).

So all was wonderful.

The best part of all - and I discovered this the day I joined T-Mobile - was that their customer service is spectacular. I would not use that assessment lightly. This company has the most helpful, most polite, and friendliest customer service of any company I have ever dealt with in my entire life. And this really matters to me. It helps me stay in a good mood, even when I have a problem. They try to fix my problems! And they apologize for me having a problem! And they ask me how I am doing, in such a way that I believe they really care! I am not sure why this is a different crop of people - but it is definitely a different crop of people. And they have chosen wisely.

Only downside I had with them was that I had poor coverage in my building at work. But then, at some point in time, the coverage magically got better, because they had put in another tower. Problem solved.

All is well.

Good rates, cool phone, happy.

Until I moved to the Central District.

Upon moving into my new place, I have discovered that I have extremely poor signal in a 3-5 block radius around my house. Interestingly, I have very good signal on the top floor of my house. This is likely because the hills in the area are shadowing the neighborhood from towers located at lower elevations near the highways, of which there should be plenty, since I am nearly in downtown Seattle.

When I spoke with T-Mobile, they were very sympathetic to the situation. After maybe 2 or 3 phone calls of troubleshooting, they decided - get this! - they decided to let me out of my contract!! With no penalty! This was nearly a full 2 year contract, for which I should have been penalized $200. And they let me out of it - even though they do not show a major service problem in my area. They acknowledged there have been some reports of problems, but it is not yet an action item for them, and they don't anticipate adding coverage within the next year.

So they let me out... free to find another plan.

But alas... there is no other option that I can justify taking. Not going back to Sprint. Verizon too expensive. The only viable option is AT&T/Cingular. And that's where we get to the subject of "principles".

Well, almost.

I would like to say that I won't go with AT&T because of principles (I will explain in a moment). But the fact of the matter is, T-Mobile's rate plan, with the MyFaves, is so good, there is nothing AT&T can offer that comes close. The closest comparable plan would be about $10-$15 more a month for about 400 fewer minutes (due to lack of MyFaves) than I presently have now. It's not worth it.

So after much laboring, and contemplating, I have decided that I am going to stick by T-Mobile, and their great rates, and great customer service, and bear and grin the crappy coverage at my house until they eventually, I am sure, will magically fix the problem as they have done with any other problem I have had with them.

Now, as for the principles (which a friend "kindly" reminded me about last week). When I first moved to Seattle, AT&T negligently screwed up my long distance bill so severely that it took months, and dozens and dozens and hours and hours of phone calls, with incredibly rude and unhelpful people to eventually partially resolve. It was their mistake, and involved (via monopolies) something about bundling cable television and telephone bills, in such a way that they did not give me the rate plan for which I paid. Nobody at their customer service understood what was going on, and they were routinely telling me that I was wrong (whatever happened to "the customer is always right"). It was frustrating, demoralizing, and the end result was that I swore I would never do business with AT&T again.

So... Cingular was bought by AT&T.

Thus, they are off limits.

On principle, of course :)

It all works out.

Call me if you want to discuss it. I'll pick up, if I have signal.

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