The Checkout

Rating Cell Phone Service

Consumer Reports is out with its latest survey of cellphone service.

And Verizon Wireless is having a Sally Field moment.

The survey leaves company officials with one major impression, "You really like me. You really like me."

The wireless giant came out on top in many major U.S. cities, including the Washington metro area.

D.C. area users gave VW a satisfaction rate of 69 percent. That compares to 62 percent for Sprint, 61 percent for T-Mobile and 59 percent for Cingular.

Verizon Wireless might not want to rest on its laurels just yet, though. If you look a little more closely, the results aren't as superlative as they first appear.

Washington area users scored Verizon Wireless better than average when it came to coverage but gave it an average grade when it came to the number of times they experienced dropped calls, and static.

In fact, after surveying almost 43,000 subscribers in 20 major metropolitan areas, Consumer Reports found call quality issues remain the bane of people's existence nationwide. Problems such as dropped calls or no service at home drove more than half of those surveyed to switch wireless carriers during the past three years. Only a third said they switched for lower rates.

Another big grip among cellphone users is difficulty reaching 911. Consumer Reports, in a separate online survey, found 1 in 25 cellphone users never successfully reached a 911 dispatcher. This despite the fact that 29 percent of cellphone buyers said they bought the phone for emergencies in the first place.

No wonder then that cell service is among the lowest-rated services the magazine tracks, earning an overall satisfaction rating of 66 out of 100. That is about what cable TV and computer tech support receive, and if you think of it that way, it's sounds about right.

The overall satisfaction rating isn't limited to call quality issues. I suspect it reflects customer service at retail stores and the automated phone service, not to mention the whole matter of billing.

Customer service and billing horror stories from friends were part of the reason I steered clear of Sprint and signed up for Verizon--and early termination fees have kept me signed up. I wish such factors played a bigger role in cellphone service reviews. After all, if talking on the phone was the entire experience of owning one, it would be easier to give companies a gold star.

How would you go about rating your wireless carrier?

By Annys Shin |  December 8, 2006; 7:00 AM ET Consumer News
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

I don't have a cell phone. Too expensive, too difficult to steer around the traps they try to set for you, and I really don't need one. I'm saving my money for something useful. (I don't have cable, either.)

Posted by: eg | December 8, 2006 8:14 AM

I have used both Verizon Wireless and Cingular and about a month ago I dropped my VW totally. Cost-wise Cingular has much higher rates, but I find it more reliable. Out of a year of usage with Cingular I have had only 2 dropped calls and those were because I was in area area where the wireless signal was weak at best. Compare that with 20+ dropped in a year with Verizon, although those were for the same reason. I also get a better signal at home with my Cingular.

I suspect it really comes down to customer service. Just like when the big long distance carriers were fighting, it really came down to who offered the best customer service.

Posted by: Radioactive Sushi | December 8, 2006 8:16 AM

T-Mobile has the absolute worst customer service. I don't think I've ever been treated so shabbily by any other company.

Posted by: flores01 | December 8, 2006 8:47 AM

It is beyond me how Verizon continually ends up at the top of the heap on cell phone satisfaction surveys.
Last year I took a job in Northern California, leaving my husband behind in Southern Cal.
We expanded our Verizon "service" (sic) from one lines to two, so that we could use cell-to-cell
My phone constantly dropped calls, both on Alameda Island where I was living, and in San Fran where I was working. It was impossible to carry on a conversation for any period of time..... so I was not getting much use from the $80+ a month I paid for the two lines.

i would see people chatting away on cell phones on the streets of S.F. and even in the BART subway...
I would ask them "who's your carrier?" It was NEVER Verizon!!!

I ended up staying in S.F. for only 2 months. When I returned home, we no longer needed two lines - - indeed, at home I scarcely need a cell phone at all. I had not realized when I signed up for two phones that I would now be on the hook for TWO termination fees if I terminated early. I did a quick calculation and decided it was worth it to get out of an $80 a month commitment and to dump VErizon. SO I paid $350 a year ago to dump the service and
I got myself one "GO" phone by Cingular. I pay only when I use the phone. I NEVER have dropped calls.
And I get "bars" in MANY more places than I ever did with Verizon.


Posted by: MJA - Southern Cal. | December 8, 2006 8:49 AM

Having moved to NoVA a year or so ago from Atlanta, I have Cingular. I thought about changing to Verizon but discovered that once you get out of the immediate metro, Cingular's coverage is better, especially over into WVA and Ohio. So, I stick with Cingular.

Posted by: Tim C | December 8, 2006 9:02 AM

That's great "eg" if you don't need a cell phone, I held out for a long time too. However, your comment "I'm saving my money for something useful" is a bit smug and suggests that you think that anyone who has one is wasting their money on something that is not useful. While not a "necessity" in the traditional sense, I can most assuredly tell you that it is an extremely useful tool for many people. Now if some of those people could just learn some public etiquette...

Posted by: Rosslyn | December 8, 2006 9:09 AM

Overall I have been very satisfied with my Cingular mobile service. My work has me in the field most of the day, and there is no place in our 400 square mile county that I don't have coverage. During hurricane Isabel I worked three 12-hour shifts in our Emergency Operations Center. When Nextel and other wireless services were disfunctional, Cingular kept on going like the Energizer Bunny.

It's true you pay a little more, but to me reliability is paramount. My phone is a lifeline and stays on 24/7/365. I use SMS alot and send or receive about 300 text messages a month. SMS messages ALWAYS get through, even when voice does not, such as when I am at my vacation home in West Virginia. But within the last six months I now get GSM voice coverage there too! My Cingular phone overall provides more reliable communications than my County issued XTS3000 portable radio. It's better than American Express Card. I NEVER leave home without it.

Posted by: Ed Harris | December 8, 2006 9:23 AM

Dropped Sprint and couple years back after someone in a Sprint store stole my information and added a phone to my account. It took months to take of the hundreds of dollars they racked up. Of course, since I was not aware of the charges, I paid only my part and my phone service was disconnected. They refused to turn it back on "pending an investigation." It finally took an employee basically breaking the rules and taking the charges off to resolve the issue.

Deciding to go to another carrier after that was not a hard decision.

Posted by: Columbia Heights | December 8, 2006 9:23 AM

Overall I have been very satisfied with my Cingular mobile service. My work has me in the field most of the day, and there is no place in our 400 square mile county that I don't have coverage. During hurricane Isabel I worked three 12-hour shifts in our Emergency Operations Center. When Nextel and other wireless services were disfunctional, Cingular kept on going like the Energizer Bunny.

It's true you pay a little more, but to me reliability is paramount. My phone is a lifeline and stays on 24/7/365. I use SMS alot and send or receive about 300 text messages a month. SMS messages ALWAYS get through, even when voice does not, such as when I am at my vacation home in West Virginia. But within the last six months I now get GSM voice coverage there too! My Cingular phone overall provides more reliable communications than my County issued XTS3000 portable radio. It's better than American Express Card. I NEVER leave home without it.

Posted by: Ed Harris | December 8, 2006 9:25 AM

Thanks for spelling out the Sally Fields reference for the benefit of the two people who did not get it in the first place.

Posted by: Paul | December 8, 2006 9:27 AM

I have been a Cingular customer for the past two years. I have always found them to have great customer service, both in the stores, and over the phone. They always manage to resolve my problems to my satisfaction, and they are NICE about doing it. I couldn't say that about sprint.

Posted by: Sandy Westrand | December 8, 2006 9:31 AM

I used to be pretty happy with Cingular, but 2 years ago moved across town to a new house with increasingly poor reception. After updating the card and software, I still get NO service in my house or for several blocks around -- this despite a coverage map that shows very good coverage throughout the neighborhood. My contract is up in March (Yay!) so I'm looking for a new carrier, but wary of having the same experience all over again. Anyone know how to find out in advance whether any company can provide working cell service in my house? It doesn't seem that much to ask.

Posted by: BK | December 8, 2006 9:31 AM

Hey BK, that's not a big surprise. depending on where the towers are, a mile or two can make a huge difference. Probably the best way to find out if an area has good service is word of mouth. Ask people in your neighborhood and even people who work in the general area around your home. Local delivery persons and mail carriers are good sources since they typically use cell phones a lot and they are in your area. Just a thought.....

Posted by: BW | December 8, 2006 9:45 AM

Ahh, how I miss AT&T wireless. I used to get service everywhere, even on the Metro. I switched over to Cingular when they bought AT&T and have had trouble ever since. No bars on the metro. I have to be in one particular room in my apartment or the call gets dropped, and no good options for upgrading my phone even though they don't sell the accessories for my model anymore. I can't wait until my contract is up in March!

Posted by: ES | December 8, 2006 9:48 AM

Being in disaster recovery, Cingular has been the best phone. It has great coverage, the cost is better or at least equal to most carriers, and during a disaster I got though to emergency operations and control centers 98% of the time.

I have used Sprint, Verizon, Nextel and Cingular and my Cingular phone has, by far been the most reliable of the 4 carriers.
It has to do with the auto connect options it has. If it can find the main network signal it will try several others. The result is a signal just about all the time from anywhere.

Posted by: Mike | December 8, 2006 9:53 AM

I'm very satisfied with my Cingular phone. I always hear of dropped calls. My only dropped calls have been someone else's phone having poor reception and their network dropping the call. The customer service is basically reliable, and I've had no issues. Cingular seems to offer the most to me.

Posted by: Dennis | December 8, 2006 10:08 AM

The service I have received at Verizon's stores has ranged from satisfactory to downright deplorable. In March, a mugger took my bag, which included my wallet and phone. I had to borrow cash from a friend in order to go to the Verizon store down in Union Station on March 26th. It had been a long day, for obvious reasons, and I got to the store 20 minutes before closing. I would've thought the staff would be inclined to help me but the folks inside the store felt otherwise. "You'll have to come back another day. The store closes in 15, miss," one woman told me. Exactly. I got there before closing. I had no phone, hardly any cash, no way to tell my family I was okay, no way to get in touch with the cops (since you know, pay phones have all but disappeared from our landscape.) I was appalled to get NO SERVICE by a company to which I pay at least $800. Verizon suits me fine when I don't have to DEAL with their customer service because it is such a crapshoot. And the worst part is I feel like I can't even LEAVE Verizon, early termination fees be damned.

Posted by: Adams Morgan | December 8, 2006 10:11 AM

I have had T-Mobile for years. We have two cell lines and no land service at our house. Nothing but complementary comments about T-Mobile. Online access to account is easy. Customer service (takes a while initially on hold, but who doesn't) always fixes issues (minor, like broke my phone) quickly, politely (helps that I am polite to them), and well. In addition, in the building where I work, I am the only person with cell phone reception (a full four bars). Plus, it is cheap!

Posted by: Long Time T-Mobile customer | December 8, 2006 10:11 AM

The best way to find out if service works where you live is to take advantage of the trial period. You really should need only 1 or 2 days to figure it out. If it doesn't work, then return it and insist on a full refund.

I have been happy with Cingular, as well as their service, so I'm surprised their ratings are as low as they are.

As for working in Metro, the reason ATT Wireless/Cingular no longer works there is because the service is Analog, and Cingular uses only digital service now. Verizon still has analog channels. Too bad Metro won't let all the cell cos. put cell sites in the metro.

Posted by: ah | December 8, 2006 10:15 AM

Cingular has been good for me also -- no big problems with billing, customer service, or the inexpensive phone I have. I have a bit of trouble in my home, sometimes a call will drop and other times reception is good, but everywhere else in the city is fine. I work in Old Town, however, and coverage there is spotty. I don't use my cell in my office, however, so it doesn't bother me. I just wish they'd fix the coverage gap along certain areas of I-81 in Virginia.

Posted by: Julie | December 8, 2006 10:18 AM

Cingular service (not customer service) is OK once they manage to port your number, which apparently is a task so difficult it takes rocket scientists to do, because they screw it up every time I add someone to my plan.

However, recently I bought a new phone, which was supposed to have a $75 mail-in rebate. I jumped through all the hoops to get the rebate and got a form saying I did not qualify. Then Cingular said it was not their problem. They are crooks.

Posted by: cingularsucks | December 8, 2006 10:22 AM

I had ATT before the Cingular buyout, then Sprint, and Verizon for the last two years. Given my own experiences and those of family and friends with the other carriers, including Cingular, I have no intention of leaving Verizon any time soon. The fact that my employer's deal with them lets me get phones for cheap without a 2-year contract doesn't hurt, nor does the fact that all but one of the people I call most are also on Verizon and I can regularly hit 1500/minutes a month without a penny of overages on my 400 minute plan.

Posted by: mt | December 8, 2006 10:45 AM

I have been using Verizon for years and the only dropped calls occur when I am in an elevator. Anybody have a service that works there?

Verizon works great in the Metro, Seattle (WA), San Diego (CA), Kansas City (KS and MO), St. Louis (MO), Orlando (FL), Detroit (MI), Columbus (OH), San Antonio (TX), Dallas/Fort Worth (TX) and on the roads around all of those.

The Verizon customer service is practically non-existent tho. As long as everything is working OK I have no prob's with them.

Posted by: NoOp | December 8, 2006 10:45 AM

I'm not a big fan of ANY of the current celluar carriers. They all have their issues. BUT, I DESPISE Cingular as the most outrageous, money-grubbing carrier of all. >>> I used to be an AT&T user. And when Cingular & AT&T merged, AT&T customers were told that we could not get out of our contracts; we would have to PAY to get our phones activated on the Cingular network & we would be signed up for a brand-new 2 year commitment! And their customer service was horrible!<<< I went to Verizon and never looked back. Yes, Verizon may drop a call, but they've NEVER been as rude as the Cingular customer service reps.

Posted by: Bob | December 8, 2006 10:58 AM

I have been a Verizon Wireless customer for 3 1/2 years now. Reception, etc. has always been very good - usually the only times I have experienced dropped calls are when I (or the person with whom I am talking) are deep inside a large building, elevator, or subway.

My major complaint about Verizon's service is the voice mail - it takes at least several minutes after I turn on my phone to receive notification of new message, and sometimes it has been almost a day before I have been notified of a new message. (Text messages are almost always instantaneous, though.) Also, there is no time/date stamp on incoming voice messages.

So far I've only had one complaint about VW's customer service - it took me over three months and many phone calls to integrate my Verizon wireless and landline billing into a single account, with automatic payment.

Posted by: Frank IBC | December 8, 2006 10:59 AM

Frank, I agree. However if you want the date & time info, while in the message press '5' that shoudl give you the info.

Posted by: Bob | December 8, 2006 11:42 AM

I've had Cingular since 2002 and unfortunatly, added 3 additional lines with a family plan. As each line comes up for renewal, I will cancel the line. I can see how they boast about the lowest # of dropped calls. If you can't make a call, you can't drop a call. Customer service is the worst that I have ever come across. Just today, I am waiting for a return call that was supposed to be made over two hours ago.

Posted by: grumpy | December 8, 2006 11:42 AM

I have an update to my 11:42 AM posting:
I called Cingular, after not getting a return call from a supervisor as promised. I had to explain the problem to another representative because he wouldn't transfer me to the representative that I spoke to earlier. After explaining, I had to wait another 10 minutes before a supervisor came on the line. She had no idea why I had called. The representative just forwarded my call with no explaination. I told her that I was told that a supervisor would call me back within two hours. Her reply was "I didn't tell you that I would call you back. I don't commit to anything someone else promises". I said "You're probably right, the first respresentative said her supervisor was really smart". I guess it's no suprise that she hung up on me. I'm going to cancel all my lines eventually, so I'm going continue calling just to see how bad the service can get.

Posted by: grumpy | December 8, 2006 12:10 PM

I agree with the comments about Verizon's customer service. When my brother was deployed to Iraq, he put his phone on a military hold, but somehow it didn't actually happen. It took me six months, dozens of phone calls, and the occasional bout of tears (genuine, I swear!) to get it fixed. I'm still doubtful that all of the charges were reversed, but I ran out of energy to keep trying. Most of the people I dealt with were friendly, but the way the Verizon billing system is set up made it very difficult for me to help them. I am definitely going to find a new cell phone carrier when my contract is up--I just don't feel that this sort of customer "service" should be rewarded.

Posted by: srl | December 8, 2006 12:29 PM

I actually had some good luck with Cingular customer service. I think it's because I increased the minutes on my mother's plan. However, the change didn't actually go through, so she got charged overage fees when she thought she was on the bigger plan. I explained to the customer service lady, and she said there was no indication that I signed up for the bigger plan, but she immediately signed me up and retroactively adjusted the previous months fees and added 1000 rollover minutes. But I bet had I been trying to reduce minutes, it would have been a different story.

And since this is my mom's plan I was shocked to learn that night and weekend minutes only count for call placed or relieved after the start time, not at the actual start time, so calls placed or received at 8:59pm that go on for an hour, are charged as anytime minutes even after 9pm, which is technically night time minutes. And even though my mom's plan says her voicemail and call waiting are included in the fee, those minutes are charged as anytime minutes. The voicemail isn't even counted as in-network!

All reasons why I pay $12/month (including taxes) for 200 minutes with Vonage.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 8, 2006 1:04 PM

There seems to be bad customer service with every carrier, but Verizon seems to take the golden sushi.

But they have a huge chunk of the market and that not only extends to wired and unwired markets, but that also have a majority chunk of the government market. So the theory is if a few customers change carriers, that's ok. As long as the balance does not tip in the direction of more customer leaving that signing up.

Customer service will always be second to Verizon getting the customer to sign the 2-year contract. Once you're signed up, you're stuck. And they have a $175 termination fee waiting if you want to jump ship before your contract is up.

When your contract reaches the end, you won't see Verizon begging you to say either.

Posted by: Radioactive Sushi | December 8, 2006 1:40 PM

I've had Sprint ever since I've had a cell phone (back to the big bag phones of the early 90s) and have never had a problem with them. Our current plan even includes free digital roaming, so I can use that cell connection in the Metro without having to succumb to the evil empire that is Verizon.

Posted by: CallMeSkeptical | December 8, 2006 2:07 PM

In my experience, Verizon can't be beat for coverage. It works in Metro, on the Penn Line (MARC) all the way from DC to Baltimore, including Bowie, and the Baltimore tunnels, where I notice everyone else loses a signal. I also carry a Nextel Blackberry for work and there are many places where my Blackberry drops coverage, but my VW phone still works.

In Baltimore, everyone I know with Cingular and T-Mobile has problems once they leave the main roads or moderately populated area. VZW's Customer Service has been good for me - my biggest complaint that they cripple their phones (especially the Bluetooth capabilities) so that you have to use their exorbitantly priced services (but if your choose your phone carefully, these limitations are easily remedied)

Posted by: Zizzy | December 8, 2006 2:27 PM

I had Verizon Wireless for my very first phone. Not too bad (back in 2000), and my fiance became loyal to VW because of the free phones every two years. I then switched to T-Mobile because they had a very deaf-friendly device called the Sidekick, which was an improvement over text-only pagers or bulky PDAs (in 2004).

HORRIBLE mistake. I went through 8 or 9 replacement Sidekicks because they were designed like crap, and not adequate for the level of use they get in the hands of deaf people (constant texting, scrolling, etc.) Frequently I had to call to find out why the heck I hadn't gotten messages in the last 4 days (got a repeating one dot or 2 dots, which means no connection to data services). Overall T-Mobile has a ways to go in its level of service for devices it KNOWS break if you even look at it wrong.

I did try the Cingular/ATT Wireless OGO when it first came out. BIG MISTAKE. I fought with Cingular for almost 8 months to get my money back AS THEY PROMISED if you notified them within 30 days you were unsatisfied for ANY reason and returned the device. I did my part, and it took 8 months of calling, letter writing, store visits and round the tree we go techniques to finally get to the level of someone who could and would refund my money. I was like yo, either give the money back or give me the OGO back! You have both and I'm out the money! I also kept receiving PHONE BILLS for the OGO even though A) I no longer had the device, as it was shipped to Cingular as per their instructions and B) there was NO usage, no activity, nothing... That took about 5 months of fighting with them to get them to stop billing me, and then Cingular arguing that account and phone number don't match so therefore, they don't know what to do, they'll refund the charges but that phone number has been reassigned so I can't stop the charges from coming to MY account by whoever else has the phone number. It goes on...what a headache! So, that experience totally turned me off Cingular forever.

I finally gave up T-Mobile in May and I switched out to Nextel Blackberry service. I have never been happier. Correct bills, very few service disruptions, reasonable prices, STURDY DURABLE product for my texting and browsing hands...kudos to nextel/sprint. I did go into a sprint store to buy the blackberry initially and the service reps at Ballston were very very rude. I ordered it through my fiance's workplace IT department instead, so bad in store experience, but good service experience for Nextel/Sprint.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | December 8, 2006 2:32 PM

I have had Sprint for 2 years and have never had a problem with them. The customer service is great and I have reception almost everywhere I go (and I've traveled a lot, through PA, Los Angeles, New Mexico, New York State, DC area) and it's never been a problem. Never tried 911 on it though, so I can't comment there.

Posted by: Kelsy | December 8, 2006 3:04 PM

Its funny reading through these postings . . . that being said, I have NEXTEL and its the absolute worst. Not becuase of bad recpetion or dropped calls (all of them have those issues). My issue with NEXTEL is you never know where the bad areas are. It seems like one day it works perfectly on Mass Ave the next day it doesn't. I don't expect it to work perfectly all the time everywhere. I just hate that it is so random where it chooses not to work.

Posted by: hn | December 8, 2006 3:06 PM

I was a Cingular customer for the last two years and am thrilled to be finished with my contract. My phone service was consistently awful - the phone dropped calls, had calls where I couldn't hear anything but the person I called could hear me just fine (it got so bad that my family members knew it was me when that would happen), and when I called to resolve the issues, I was told that nothing could be done. For my phone to not work in my apartment or place of work in an urban area of this size is unacceptable. I will not be a Cingular customer again.

Posted by: alexa | December 8, 2006 3:09 PM

While the cell phone providers certainly have their problems, one of the causes of inability to reach 911 on many occasions is because the 911 call center in overloaded. In Montgomery County, it's not unusual at all to call 911 and get a recording saying that "all agents are busy".

What's really disguisting is that we pay a state and a county 911 tax a local cell phone tax, yet those taxes hardly benefit the call phone users. Can you imagine paying a gasoline tax and then having the funds go toward something totally unrelated to roads?

Posted by: 911 | December 8, 2006 4:02 PM

The one thing I really like about my Cingular plan right now is that I'm NOT under a contract. It ran out last March and, since I didn't want a new phone and they didn't offer me any incentive to re-sign, I didn't sign a new contract. I guess I'm month to month, because even my online bill shows no contract. I'm thinking of switching to Verizon next year when my boyfriend and I get married and his Sprint contract ends, then we can get a plan together.

Posted by: Ellen | December 8, 2006 4:51 PM

Does anyone else think that cell phones are a huge ripoff?

Posted by: Dave | December 8, 2006 5:55 PM

cingulars prices are awsome and i get great service.. anywhere. I even traveled to Belize this summer and the phone was still great

Posted by: tony | December 8, 2006 9:50 PM

arnold says i am the governator and u dont need cellular devices bc you will be terminated igwaigwaigwa

Posted by: Anonymous | December 8, 2006 9:54 PM

I guess I am lucky, because I have not had any of the Verizon problems. Customer service has been good over the phone and at our local mall store. All service has been equally good.

The only problem was trying to get a local number to avoid toll cahrges when calling from home.

When one rep told me this was impossible, I called back, and got another rep who did this in 2 minutes.

Now my Sprint service on the other hand...
Every call seems to be a roaming call. Even standing next to a window, facing multiple cell towers.

Posted by: Phila, PA | December 9, 2006 5:55 AM

My Cingular phone had received a text message advertisement, so I e-mailed Cingular about it. Two months later, the "Office of the Cingular President" called and left a message saying they can't figure out who sent it, but they want me to call them back to see if I have any more information and they can figure it out.

It's a nice sentiment, though not very prompt, and I don't know if I believe they're from Cingular's president's office. But, text messages don't cost too much if it's just an odd one out a year, but I got paranoid that I'd start receiving hundreds of unsolicited text ads a day. I just got the message today, so I'll call back and see what they do.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 9, 2006 10:14 AM

I had Cingular for several years, with good coverage and decent customer service (even when dealing with a bizarre anomaly where dialing 911 would not connect me with a local emergency dispatcher). It was that 911 problem that forced me to switch providers (I had moved to an area outside of Cingular's coverage). In closing my account (which was month-to-month), the CS rep told me I was actually on a 1-year contract, activated when I had replaced my handset. I informed him that I had intentionally paid full price for the phone specifically to avoid a contract. "Do you have the receipt?" the rep asked. By dumb luck, I had the receipt, although I found it suspicious and, to a degree, insulting, that my phone purchase (from a Cingular store) wasn't noted on my account history. The rep said that he would not change my account status to month-to-month unless I faxed a copy of said receipt. Not having access to a fax machine, I offered to take a digital snapshot and e-mail it to him, which I did. Receiving the e-mail, he agreed that I was not, in fact, under contract. I thanked him and then asked to be transferred to their Customer Retention dept. Informed the woman there that they had been doing great, but had blown it at the end, and that I would not be returning to them.
Overall, it seems that ALL the mobile phone providers have a relatively high index of stupidity and corruption -- if you're satisfied with your service, count yourself lucky that you haven't run into a problem yet.
Moral of the story? Save your receipts! And when you deal with customer service, get more than just a first name of whom you're talking to -- Cingular reps have "badge numbers" that you can include in your notes.

Posted by: BR | December 10, 2006 8:47 AM

My cell phone has allowed me to land new contracts while working on an existing contract since the early 1990s. Started with Sprint Spectrum, continued with Sprint PCS. I get a strong signal in all metro areas and in the most remote corners of America, deep in the mountains, National Parks and all over Hawaii. Love that local call from Hawaii to/from clients in no. Virginia! Will probably switch to Cingular with Europe contracts pending.

Posted by: thw2001 | December 10, 2006 4:29 PM

yea well my cell phone will terminate you hahahhaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Posted by: arnold | December 10, 2006 6:48 PM

I had a horrible experience 4 years ago with Verizon where they extended by contract by 4 months (after calling to change my plan to lower my billing rates) and then tried to extend the early termination period too. Really underhanded business practices. I pledged to NEVER sign back up with them. I've been growing increasingly pleased with Cingular actually. I have long commutes (80+ miles) and found that my cell phone drops a LOT less than it used to when I first had them (only 2 dropped calls in the last month in the same area where there is little cell phone coverage to begin with). The thing with customer service is that sometimes our past perceptions cloud how they are doing presently. Cingular seems to have turned a corner about 2 years ago; hopefully, their reputation follows.

Posted by: Dan | December 11, 2006 9:09 AM

We have used Sprint for the 5 yrs. or so. Coverage is unparalled as they are the only service that permits in-market roaming which means I always have a signal anywhere I go. The price is also far below anything else offered as I am on a retention plan with an employer and loylaty discount. I figure I pay about $30 less per month than I would for a comperable plan from Verizon. This more tha makes up for the admittedly poor CS with Sprint.

Posted by: David | December 11, 2006 2:15 PM

Using Cingular in Arizona.

My reseller stopped supporting Verizon, thus had to change to Cingular. Then I chose to leave the reseller's plan since Cingular Direct's rollover feature was far superior. After problems getting ported from the reseller to Cingular Direct, everything seems fine.

Am hearing that if I use a shared Cellular One network for a continuous period (have a summer place off Cingular's network), that Cingular will complain and maybe want to drop me.

This next summer will tell the story if this issue is truth or fiction. I have options of prepaid service with Verizon and/or Cingular, and also can switch to VoIP with Vonage at the summer place. Since the Cingular cell plan has lots of carry over minutes, I thought VoIP might be doubling up with service I already was paying for. May have to see how this all plays out.

As far as Cingular's customer service, they try hard and do make mistakes. During the porting issue problems, I had to tell one store manager sternly that he was going to solve my problem and not just give me a number to call. To his credit, he did stay on the line to the reseller and heard the magnitude of the problem. He recognized right away his obligation to credit my account for service not rendered. It took some time for the website billing to reflect all of the activity, but to my satisfaction, it is correct today and the website shows everything as expected.

Hope all continues to go well, as I fully understand any communications service can get ugly today if you have to call any company's customer service department. Not exactly sure why that has to be, but our world economy seems to share some of the blame.

Posted by: billo14 | December 11, 2006 2:45 PM

can cyansquirrel pls email me at yurodivis @ yahoo .com?


Posted by: dani | December 11, 2006 5:55 PM

I've had T-Mobile, Verizon, Cingular, and most recently, Sprint. I've stuck with Sprint for years now, and, based upon my experience, it would take an act-of-Congress to get me to switch back to ANY of the others. I'm somewhat amused when Sprint insists that I sign a contract extension to avail myself of the applicable discount on the new, latest, greatest phone offering........I wouldn't give up my current Sprint plan for's just THAT good !

Posted by: John | December 11, 2006 6:47 PM

A lot of people complain about the same thing...contracts, coverage, customer service...first off, if there were no contracts, you would be spending a LOT of money for your device as there is not much mark up on cell phones, secondly; does anyone realize what it takes to make a single call on a cell phone? It is amazing they work in half the places they do...try researching how a cell phone call works. And lastly, customer service....we customers create our own customer service. Think twice before you call your carrier and blame them for all your problems yelling up and down. It is people like that who create "rude" customer service reps.
Cell phone service is like retail: you dont have the respect for its employees until you have walked a mile in their shoes...its not easy pleasing the general population.chill out.
tip: drop VW and Sprint...GSM is the future...

Posted by: Bill | December 11, 2006 7:45 PM

I used to have TMobile, but switched to AllTel when I discovered that TMobile, while being fantastic in the city, doesn't get jack squat for reception in the country.

Also, to the earlier comment: Cellphones are not a ripoff if you don't bother with a landline, and they're a great source of peace of mind.

Posted by: BonnySwan | December 13, 2006 10:52 AM


Posted by: GEOBESTPHONES | December 14, 2006 2:17 PM

Posted by: Anonymous | December 14, 2006 4:14 PM

I think it comes down to your experience.

I have never had any problems with T-Mobile.

My girlfriend has had plenty of problems with Sprint (billed incorrectly, et)- but it determined to keep them because she was actually at the Pentagon during 9/11/01 and her phone WORKED. So for her, it boils down to when she needed her cell phone the most she could depend on them. You can argue about a bill later. When you have an emergency, you need help NOW.

Posted by: caroline | December 21, 2006 1:22 PM

I live in the Philly area, and I'm thinking of switching from Verizon to Cingular. The coverage for Verizon has been picture-perfect - I can't remember when I got a dropped call except when I was calling someone who had T-Mobile service (hint). However, they've been racking up insane and unearthly monthly charges for the past five months now, and I can't seem to get through to them about it. I'm talking $196 for a single month. I really don't think I've changed my cell phone habits even the slightest bit.

Does anyone out there have Cingular in Philly, and can you tell me what the coverage is actually like? I'm especially looking for someone who has had phones from both companies, just to compare.

Posted by: Neil | December 21, 2006 7:54 PM

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