Cingular: Roam Too Much And We’ll Take It Away Or Drop You Completely

It’s the Return of the One-Way Contract! Reader Randy writes in to inform us that he is being dropped from Cingular, despite being an 8 year customer who always pays on time. Why, you ask? Because Cingular drops less profitable customers, i.e. customers who roam “too much.” Randy writes:

    I am in the construction business and this past year kept me approximately 3 hours from my home base building a new gymnasium for a school district in a rural part of Texas. Evidently this is in an “out-of-area” part of the state for my cell phone carrier: Cingular. In November 2006 I received a letter from Cingular informing me that they would be dropping me from their service for excessive “out-of-area” usage.

More inside.

    I called Cingular and of course got one of their “boiler rooms” where the Cingular employee roboticly informed me that my contract required that a minimum of 50% of my airtime must be “in-area”, meaning not in an area that requires “roaming” to kick in (I have since learned that this is pretty much the case with all cellular providers). She said in areas where roaming is required and Cingular has no service in that area that Cingular has reciprocal agreements with other cell phone providers and that Cingular must pay the roaming charges (again I have learned that this is the norm in the cellular business). She informed me of my contract obligations and said it was Cingular’s policy to drop someones service when this happens. I informed her that I had no way of knowing whether or not my service was “in-area” or “out-of-area” when I was using my phone and asked her if my phone would indicate as such and of course the answer is no, the phone does not let me know that. So, how do I know when I am “out-of-area”? She said I should get on the Internet and check their coverage map. Yeah, right, I’m going to do that driving down the Interstate at 70 mph as I criscross the state of Texas calling on school districts!

Even though Randy didn’t want to leave Cingular, they really didn’t want to keep him. Randy appealed their decision and was disappointed by the result.

    I did that and when I called regarding the appeal they acknowledged that I was again using my phone “in-area” and that I could probably stay with them…….except: my usage would be restricted to “home area” only. In other words, when I left my home area I would have no service – even if I was willing to pay roaming charges! Well, that won’t work. I travel all over this state building school projects. My cell phone is an extremely valuable tool for me.

Randy is off to sign with Verizon. We hope the roaming is greener on the other side.—MEGHANN MARCO

Randy writes:

    After eight years as a loyal, on-time bill paying customer, Cingular decided to drop me like a hot potato!

    I am in the construction business and this past year kept me approximately 3 hours from my home base building a new gymnasium for a school district in a rural part of Texas. Evidently this is in an “out-of-area” part of the state for my cell phone carrier: Cingular. In November 2006 I received a letter from Cingular informing me that they would be dropping me from their service for excessive “out-of-area” usage.

    I called Cingular and of course got one of their “boiler rooms” where the Cingular employee roboticly informed me that my contract required that a minimum of 50% of my airtime must be “in-area”, meaning not in an area that requires “roaming” to kick in (I have since learned that this is pretty much the case with all cellular providers). She said in areas where roaming is required and Cingular has no service in that area that Cingular has reciprocal agreements with other cell phone providers and that Cingular must pay the roaming charges (again I have learned that this is the norm in the cellular business). She informed me of my contract obligations and said it was Cingular’s policy to drop someones service when this happens. I informed her that I had no way of knowing whether or not my service was “in-area” or “out-of-area” when I was using my phone and asked her if my phone would indicate as such and of course the answer is no, the phone does not let me know that. So, how do I know when I am “out-of-area”? She said I should get on the Internet and check their coverage map. Yeah, right, I’m going to do that driving down the Interstate at 70 mph as I criscross the state of Texas calling on school districts!

    So, after pleading my case to her and reiterating the fact that I am a long time customer and not a bill-skipping deadbeat (she acknowledged that she could see on her computer screen how long I had been a customer and that I had an excellant pay history with the company) she held her ground and said that my service would be terminated.

    One thing I learned a long time ago is that when dealing with this type of situation you always want to start at the bottom when dealing with company personnel. If you got straight to the top and immediately ask for a supervisor then you have no place else to go “up the ladder” if you don’t get the answer you like when you started.

    I figured I’d gone as far as I could with the first Cingular employee so I asked for her supervisor. Got her, got the same “company policy” song and dance and still no satisfaction. So, up, up, and away to the next supervisor. This ended up being my last stop. Got the same policy info from her, but, she added that there is an appeal process that I might want to try. She said for me to use my phone as frequently as possible for the next several weeks (before the actual cut-off date) and then call back and ask to appeal Cingular’s decision. The thought process here being that they could check the record and see that I was again using my phone primarily in my “home area”.

    I did that and when I called regarding the appeal they acknowledged that I was again using my phone “in-area” and that I could probably stay with them…….except: my usage would be restricted to “home area” only. In other words, when I left my home area I would have no service – even if I was willing to pay roaming charges! Well, that won’t work. I travel all over this state building school projects. My cell phone is an extremely valuable tool for me.

    So, the moral here is, when you are a customer of a large corporation like Cingular don’t believe for one minute that you, the customer, matter. As far as I’m concerned, in their eyes, I was no different than the deadbeat customers they have – and a large corporation like that has plenty of them, too!

    Next step……..hello Verizon! We’ll see how long they want to keep me!