My Phone Bill is HOW Much? Or, The AT&T Saga.

Ok.  So I’m pretty sure that a lot of people right now are pissed off at a little company called AT&T.  I know I sure am. 

First off, let me establish some things.

I’m not a cell phone professional or anything, but I have had a very very long experience with them, and I’m a heavy user of them, dependent even.  I’m the person in my little circle who ALWAYS gets people to text message.  There’s nothing quite like a text message to me — they rock.  I normally despise talking on the phone, but often my job pretty much requires I have one (and certainly my job does now).

I’ve had a cell phone for so long I don’t remember when I first got the thing.  In a prior life, I ran around a lot, and it was generally handy.  It also made me feel safer — if anything happened I had a variety of services at my fingertips.

When I worked for UPMC, I was basically attached to one.  I literally had three cell phones and a pager in those days.  When I went to Scotland, the first full day I was there, I bought a cell phone.  (I later lost that one in a train station in Edinburgh, and bought a different one the very next day).

Here’s some of the companies I’ve worked with:

TMobile
Verizon
Orange
Tracfone
Sprint
Cingular

And, then, sadly, Cingular was bought by AT&T.

Normally I don’t give a shit who the company is.  But now I do.  And AT&T?  SHAME ON YOU.

At first, I didn’t really notice anything extraordinary about my bill.  This is most likely because AT&T didn’t bother to send me shit.  Then it all hit the fan.

That’s the day I got a $550 phone bill.  That’s right.  $550.

I don’t make a secret, when purchasing a phone how much I USE a cell phone.  So, when I got the plan from Cingular, it was a good fit and it never topped $200.  So yeah, I was a bit fucking infuriated over the $550.  I managed to talk it down, but only some, and since the plan AT&T put me on was simply not a good fit, a lot of this was in overage charges, which they would do NOTHING about.  So, I had to pay it.  And yeah, I know that’s where I made my first mistake.

I had to do SOMETHING, because, as I said, I need a cell phone for work. 

The woman ASSURED me that it was fixed, that she had given me a plan that fit my use, and that all would be well the next month.

Ok, so last week it was the next month.  How much was my bill?  $699.  That’s right.  Then, in a beautiful little twist of the knife, when Darren asked them about it, the service was shut off.  I don’t know if it was related, or what was going on with them, but they shut it off.

What the fuck?

This happened to hit at the worst possible time.  Really.  I simply didn’t have the money to switch carriers, and I’m in the middle of a big project at work.  A couple of them, to boot.

So, last week, in addition to continuing my scarcity online (I’ve been stupidly busy at work), I was off the cell grid for the first time in a long, long time.  And, while for work I felt a bit crippled, in general it was nice.  No calls in the sanctuary of my home, etc. etc.

After the absolute shenanigans, it was no surprise that I decided to switch cell phone providers.  I did a bunch of research online, and figured I’d go with Verizon — I had managed to get a Verizon signal in rad onc departments, and trust me, that’s impressive.  Once in the vault, but I think that was a fluke.  Anyway, I researched the plans and all that. 

I was very keen to keep my phone number.  But, since I’m the queen of weird shit happening to me, I figured weird shit would pop up and prevent that. 

I’ll say this — going into the Verizon store was a breath of fresh air.  I was finally able to rant to someone (besides my coworkers) about the phone.  And, I finally got real with myself (while I’ll admit I use my phone a ton, I was reluctant to admit one, final thing) and bought myself a Blackberry.  It’s a cool toy, and gives me the web while I commute, which is kind of important.  Since I’ve been working in IT, it’s been silly and remiss of me not to have one.  The keyboard is small, but I’ll get used to it.

I have some suggestions for anyone else who has recently been screwed over by AT&T:

1.  Switch providers.
    Yeah, it’s expensive, but I’m hoping the FCC and PUC will pave the way at them dropping a bunch of charges.  I actually hope they rot in hell for the amount of money I’ve overpaid on that phone.  It’ll ultimately save you money.  Rock.  Just switch.  Nothing says fuck you to these people like taking your money elsewhere.  This isn’t something exclusive — it’s happening to a lot of people.

2.  Want to keep your phone number?  Don’t cancel until you get a new phone.
    I know you want to call up and scream at them.  I know.  I know it sucks they make you pay to talk to them.  I know you want to pay just to get it all out.  But, let it go until you get a new phone.

3.  Contact the FCC and the PUC
    Everyone bitches that they get no gain from taxes.  Well, there then.  I know you hate the FCC for other reasons, but they are consumer advocates.  So is the PUC for your state.  Go online, find them, and register a complaint.  If you aren’t in California, complain to the PUC in your state.  But really, get them involved.  It’s the biggest cover your ass of all.

Other than that, try to stay calm, and know that there are a lot of other people out there going through the same thing.

As I write this, I’m still infuriated over it.  I have to thank Darren, because it was a rough week, but we always had FreezeeeeeeeeePops, yummy dinner and . .. .

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