Monday, October 08, 2007

A Tale of 4 Cell Phones

Taking a page from Tal Gleck's infinitely more readable blog (seriously, he could write a history of every pencil he's ever used in his entire life and I'd find it riveting), and leaning heavily on the fact that I'm about to get yet another new cell phone, I've been ruminating on my cell phone history this morning, and decided to put theoretical pen to paper. Lucky reader!

I remember when the first family member got a car phone--my dad's sister. It was the old model with the big thing you had to lug around and plug in. Everyone thought she was crazy.

In 2000, after I moved back to Boston, the General's company got him a cell phone, so he gave me his old Verizon phone. Dubbed "The Brick", this sucker was about 2 inches thick, and looked about like my current cordless phone in the house did. Eventually the antenna holder thingy cracked, and quite honestly, I never used the thing. We paid for it throughout Michael's unemployment until the contract was up, then shut it off, and I swore I'd never use one again... (Famous last words, right?)

Then we moved to DC. And I had a huge territory to cover, and we thought it would be a good idea to get a phone so I could use it if I got lost or stuck somewhere.

So I looked at my options, and my sister wanted in, so we looked at the family plans out there, and decided on Cingular.

My bad. Cingular sucks singularly well.

I would be driving down I-66 right past Fair Lakes Shopping Center, and the reception would go out. My sister always knew where I was driving based on where I was heading and when the phone cut out. Reporting it to Cingular resulted in "We don't show any reception issues in your area." DUH! I live in the Nation's Capitol! I shouldn't be having these problems!

So, we moved to Fredericksburg. And I started talking with people here who had Cingular. And they were experiencing the same problems. Weird outages while driving I95. Crappy customer service. Basically, Cingular sucks.

So, my contract ended with a bang, as my sister went way over our allotted minutes, and I called Cingular to cancel the phones after the bill was paid. Of course, they don't want to hear that you are cancelling, so when I explained to them that we were getting zillions of dropped calls and it wasn't making any sense to keep the phones, they decided the problem was the phones and offered me new phones which would solve the problem. We would have 30 days to accept them and then the service would be renewed for another 2 years.

So, I figured, "Ok, maybe it's really better." It is to laugh. Within 20 days, I was telling my sister to start CellPhoneAHolics Anonymous, the phones were going back. So I called Cingular, told them to expect the phones, was told "make sure you send them with delivery confirmation" and sent the phones back.

Lo and behold, I get a bill for $350 for cancelling my contract too soon. I send them the delivery receipt and sheepishly, Cingular asks for approximately $8, which I sent just to be rid of them. Then I get a check from them for ONE PENNY because I overpaid them by a cent. I threw it in the garbage.

So, doesn't it figure, within about 2 weeks of not having a phone (which I must say, made my life a hell of a lot quieter and simpler), I needed a cell phone 3 times. So, as Judy's birthday was upcoming, I decided I would buy us both pre-paid wireless phones, and we went off to WalMart and bought Virgin Mobile pre-paid phones.

I have to say, I've had pretty good luck with them. Granted, I'm basically paying them not to use any minutes--I use about half of my minutes per month--but they've never once dropped a call on me, the rate is nice and cheap (combined, Judy and I are paying less than we paid for Cingular and we've got twice the minutes), and I'm happy with the little flip phone.

Enter Mom.

My mom is changing all her contact information now that she has a) moved and b) dropped about 250 pounds of dead weight in the form of her ex. So, she wanted to switch cell phone providers, and asked if Judy and I would like to get a family plan again.

Intriguing, but I explained that I was not paying more than $35 per month, which is what I am currently paying with Virgin. Mom said not a problem, Verizon had a nice little family plan where the 3 of us could share 400 minutes and it'd be nice and cheap. Well, 400 is the exact number of minutes Judy and I were sharing when Judy ran up a nearly $800 phone bill (to be fair, where she was working at the time didn't have a phone for her and she had to use the phone for work purposes--they were supposed to reimburse her for it, but I don't know if that ever happened or not. Still, it was not all personal calls, but a good part of it was.)

So I said, "No way."

Mom was persistent. She went to the Verizon store the other day, since as a state employee down yonder she gets a discount. She came up with a plan that will cost each of us about $35, and we'll have 700 minutes each, for a total of 2100 minutes.

She has threatened my sister with death and dismemberment if she goes over her 700 minutes.

I like this arrangement for a couple of reasons.

Number one, I get a new Razor camera phone. And while I don't give two damns about using the phone, I like the idea of a cool gadget.

Secondly, The General is on Verizon, my mom will be on Verizon, and my sister, so basically free calling all the way around.

Thirdly, Mom arranged an ass-kickin' deal.

What don't I like about it?

I have to learn and program another phone.

I think I was born with a stupid gene when it comes to cell phones. It takes me forever to figure out how to program speed dial, and then I can't remember who I've put on which number. The good thing about my current phone is that I can push a number (say 5) and the memory associated with that number pops up without dialing it. My Cingular phone didn't do that. Or at least, I don't think it did. Who knows? So typically, I will hold down the button I *think* I want to dial, it'll start dialing someone else's number, and I have to hurry up and hang up or whatever. My brain isn't wired for memory.

So, I am hopeful that this is my final cell plan, my final cell phone for a while, and that it all works out well. Otherwise, UNCLE!!!

3 pearl(s) of wisdom:

Talmadge G. said...

I have read and heard absolutely nothing positive about Cingular -- which, as we know, has recently rebranded themselves as AT&T. Their only 'amenity' is being able to rollover minutes from month to month. Little good, though, when the rest of the service sucks like an Oreck.

We've had Alltel for years ... in fact, I've had them since my first bag phone in '95. They have their issues like any other, but I've had no major-league complaints. I just hope they'll never get swallowed by one of the bigger ones.

Now, as for the pencils I've had, I do have a fond recollection of one I used back in 2nd grade ... it had a green eraser. My next one wasn't so nice, it had the regular pinkish eraser, and it kept falling out. By fourth grade.................

Cindy said...

I only have a cell phone. When I moved, I didn't want to pay the $40 home phone switching fee, so I just dumped my home phone. I noticed I used the cell most of the time anyway.

I have Verizon, and I've got no problems with it. It works fine in my house, and most other places. Doesn't work in the hills of WV when I go to visit the in-laws, but I don't think any other service would anyway.

My mom had one of the first cell phones. She had to carry a backpack that held the battery. It was HUGE! I love watching old 90s shows and seeing their cell phones. It's amazing how times have changed.

Mike W said...

Wow....You should submit this to NanoWrimo. That was the longest post just to say "Hey I got a new cell phone".


We are on the prepaid deal. I love it. It costs $1 a day (if you use it) and you buy prepaid minutes. I rarely use the phone so it's a good deal plus calls to other Cingular subscribers are free so I don't use any of my minutes.