When news this week was announced that my current cell phone carrier, T-Mobile, is going to be merging with AT&T, I was less than thrilled. This comes after last week’s rumors that T-Mobile and Sprint were going to be merging. I was hoping this was just another bad rumor but the fact it was being reported by real news organizations, not just websites that post rumors, meant there was more to this one than the speculation about the merger with Sprint. With official announcements coming from T-Mobile, it just confirmed what I hope was not going to be the case. I’m not a happy camper about the news.
Why would I be not happy about the news? Well first off, I’ve been a very happy T-Mobile customer since 2003. I originally switched to them from my first cell phone carrier, which was Sprint. I didn’t leave Sprint because I was not happy with their service, I switched because Sprint is a CDMA technology carrier and I wanted to go to a GSM carrier as it’s more of a world standard service and since I do like to travel outside of the United States, I wanted a phone I could easily use outside the US. T-Mobile also offers to unlock their phones when you’re one of their customers so that when travelling abroad, you can easily switch out your T-Mobile SIM card with a pre-paid SIM card in the country you’re in to get a local number there. It’s a great option.
Also T-Mobile has great customer service, that have always been helpful whenever I needed to call. And for the last couple of years, I’ve been using a jailbroken iPhone as my phone of choice. And even though T-Mobile doesn’t carry the iPhone or officially support it, their support staff have been very helpful with getting all the settings correct on the phone to be able to use the phone with T-Mobile’s service. The only bad part about using an iPhone on T-Mobile’s network is the incompatible 3G data networks, so my data use has been stuck using legacy EDGE technology. This makes for frustrating data use as it’s just slow. Couple this with the iOS 4 firmware for the iPhone which turned this once near perfect iPhone into a miserably slow and frustrating experience. I had been hoping that since Verizon now has the iPhone and Apple has stated they no longer have any exclusivity contracts with any carriers in the US any longer, that it meant a T-Mobile iPhone would be coming with the next iPhone release, but it seems this merger with AT&T is squashing that hope like a bug.
In fact, I’ve been very tempted to upgrade my phone as I’m in the position that I’ve been out of contract for over a year now and I have the freedom to move to a new carrier if I want without penalty or I can upgrade and get the best upgrade deals. I love T-Mobile and am very happy with both my existing plan and service, so naturally staying with T-Mobile is my preference. I am also happy to enjoy an iPhone as well, and ultimately, what I would have preferred was T-Mobile carrying the iPhone and I would be a happy camper. I’ve been spending some hours in their stores lately checking out the their new 4G phones for Android and have been giving them some serious thought.
I was very tempted to get the G2, but ultimately, I didn’t really want a phone with a physical keyboard, and it’s lack of a front facing camera made it a less than ideal choice. The MyTouch 4G is tempting because it has the front facing camera and no physical keyboard, but it has a proprietary overlay to the Google Android which would make it slow to get firmware updates. And the recently released Samsung Galaxy S 4G is near perfect, but I’m currently boycotting Samsung products over a fight I had with one of their rebate processing companies. So with my hesitation to switch from an iPhone despite the number of friends who’ve switched from iPhones to Android phones and love their new phones and the lack of acceptable 4G phones at the moment, I’ve been stuck in a holding pattern of waiting for phone I am happy to get. And now with the potential of an AT&T merger, I’m not sure I want to get locked down into a contract again either.
As for AT&T, the reason why I hate them so much, stems from a time during my college years when I had a really bad experience with one of their customer service agents, the irony, of course, is I have never been one of their customers. How did I have the problem with their customer service agent? Well let me tell you.
In college, I signed up for a student discount card from Student Advantage. The sole reason I got the card the card was the discount for Tower Records which I regularly went to and spent lots of money at. (God I miss actual record stores). Well AT&T happened to be the major sponsor of the card and so each card was able to be used as a calling card. This was also back in the late 1990’s so cell phone use wasn’t quite as prevalent as it is now and I had only recently gotten my first cell phone back at the time as well. I had no intention of using the card for phone calls as calling card phone calls were flat out a rip off. I had pre-paid phone cards for long distance and international calls at the time, so I had no need for the service.
A few months after getting the card, I suddenly received a bill from AT&T for some calling card calls that were billed to my Student Advantage discount card. The calls originated from some where in Ohio and the calls were being made to someone in Florida. As I live in California, it wasn’t hard to see that I didn’t make the calls. So I called up AT&T and they took the calls off no problem.
The next month, I got another bill. This one show the credits for the calls that were billed but because I never sent them a payment, they sent me a late charge even though the balance they were sending the late fee on was zero. I called up AT&T again and the late charges were removed. This time I told the customer service agent, that this was annoying to have to call up twice to get phantom phone calls and phantom late charges removed, so I asked them to just deactivate the calling card feature so I wouldn’t have to be bothered again because I was never going to use it. They assured me it would be no problem.
A few months go by and then I get another bill for more calls from Ohio to Florida. Annoyed by this, I call up AT&T yet again, and this time there was a problem. I got this woman, who for lack of a better term, was a total cunt from hell. When I told her these calls weren’t mine and I wanted them removed, she gave me nothing but attitude. I’m sure she saw the previous calls that were removed, and decided I was lying to her, so she tells me they would be conducting an investigation into the calls and if they determined that the calls were mine, they were going to charge me again, add late fees, and an investigation charge to penalize me for the waste of their time. Since she was basically accusing me of fraud, I ripped her a new asshole.
I yelled back at this cunt of a woman, “Look you stupid bitch! If you can explain to me, why the hell I would drive or fly from California to Ohio to place a couple of calling card calls to Florida, when I could just make the calls directly on my cell phone for no additional charges, I’ll pay your stupid fees.” The stupid bitch hung up on me, but I never saw another bill for any more calls again on this calling card. Sure I wasn’t nice, but she just pushed me over the edge with her accusatory tone. This is the only time I’ve ever told off a customer service agent on the phone to such a nasty degree, but as far as I’m concerned, she deserved it.
Now I realize, AT&T has been bought out, and their wireless division is really Cingular, a different company altogether, but they have chosen to adopt the AT&T brand name, and for all intents and purposes, that makes them the same company as the one that pissed me off that day. And that is why I have no desire to be an AT&T customer. If this merger with T-Mobile goes through, then I’m not sure what I will do as to switch would mean having to switch to a CDMA carrier and I view CDMA as legacy technology that’s not on par with the world standard, these phones would be useless outside the United States. I don’t really like the idea that a monopoly on GSM phones would essentially be formed here in the United States, as that just means prices are going to get out of control. It just seems like some grim times for customers are coming and if I end up being an AT&T customer it will be reluctantly so.