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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 3, 2005 8:29 PM. The previous post in this blog was Hell hath no fury.... The next post in this blog is Do the crime, do the time. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Monday, October 3, 2005

Nickeled and dimed by Cingular

I recently bought a couple of cell phones and signed up for service from Cingular Wireless. One of the big selling points was the rebates I was going to get on the phones. Well, I got the rebates all right. But instead of credits against my monthly bill, or a check, I got not one, but two, of these:

What a pain in the neck. They usually didn't work the way debit cards are supposed to, which led to lots of confusion at various cash registers around town. In most cases, they had to be run as if they were a credit card. Some merchants' credit card gizmos flat out refused to take them. And the worst part was, once the balances ran down to under five bucks apiece, they were pretty much useless.

Let's say you've got one of these babies with $3.92 left on it. It's really, really hard to use that. If you buy something for less than that amount, a lot of merchants simply won't take plastic -- it's below their minimum. And if your purchase is more than that amount, you're supposed to ask the merchant to ring it up in two parts: one for $3.92, and the other for the rest of the purchase amount.

Yeah, right.

And so when my cards expired last Friday, there was still a total of five dollars or so that I was supposedly getting as a rebate, but that Cingular or its bank got to pocket.

Ripoff! Five bucks here, five bucks there -- you wonder what percentage of the supposed rebates they kept for themselves.

Where are the plaintiffs' attorneys when you need them? This one's a class action in the making. Somebody should give John Edwards a call -- on their Cingular phone, of course.

Comments (18)

Maybe you can send that puppy in as part payment of your phone bill.

Thieves. I can't wait 'til they get sued over it.

Your troubles with Cingular are just me!!

It usually takes three attempts to complete a call with their service and forget about the busy times of the day. Half the time when the network is busy your caller will be informed that your number has been disconnected or that they do not subscribe to the long distance provider program.

At least I can usually get a signal around my neighborhood and my workplace, which is more than I can say for the immediately preceding thieves that I bought service from.

try starbucks. they take credit cards for $1.00. i know because twice a month, i charge two coffees on my Discover card in order to maintain my zero interest balance transfer. best credit card deal i ever got--a zero interest loan for life.

Thieves. I can't wait 'til they get sued over it.

Thieves is right. I had four of these rebate Visa cards from Cingular...finally tossed all four with balances under $5, but balances nonetheless. Actually had post-it notes on them (let's see, this one has $1.87...)

Ridiculous marketing scam.

It's only going to get harder for consumers to have any kind of recourse against cell phone companies for this kind of crap now that the corporate-friendly FCC is in the process of totally preempting all state regulation of the wireless industry, even for general consumer protection matters traditionally left to the states.

(See e.g. this article.)

Did they say that you could not pay your cingular bill with the cards? That would seem odd.

I suspect you could have used the cards to pay your wireless bill until the card balance was 0, then paid any remaining balance like you usually do.

I am not sure I understood your complaint- other than that you never used up your card.

Nice to know that it's not just the former AT&T customers who are getting screwed.

I had no real problems with Cingular until I tried to change the details of my calling plan. They said they changed my plan effective immediately -- then continued to charge under my old plan. When I tried to contact customer service about it, they explained that the plan I had been told I was now on did not apply to residential customers and they had no record in their system that I had tried to have the account changed anyway. Eventually the best I could get out of them was a credit for half of the (in my view) erroneous charges, since they had no documentation in their system to back up my claim.

They were unable to explain how it was only half *their* fault for hiring customer service reps who did not understand their job. ;-)

In any event, good luck with 'em Jack. I cancelled my service (there's another idiotic story associated with that but I won't get started...) but I'm sure unfortunately I'm not yet done with them...

I used to work for a company which owned half of Cingular. We had to use Cingular for all our corporate cell phones. The billings would change from month to month and were often wrong, they'd change plans on us with no notice, and their customer service stank. I figured they treated us like dirt because we had to use Cingular (keeping the corporate dollars under the corporate umbrella), but I heard no end of similar horror stories from other Cingular customers who actually had a choice to leave. I tell anyone and everyone to steer clear of them - and to those AT&T Wireless customers who got sucked up by Cingular - run, do not walk, somewhere else.

I take it that SB845 died in the House...

Just think of all that money that Cingular - I mean its customers - could have donated to schools. ::roll eyes::

This may be a naive question - but does having all those Visa Cards under your name affect your credit rating in any way?

Did they say that you could not pay your cingular bill with the cards?

I believe they did.

A friend of mine had Cingular (AT&T Wireless) for over 3 years. She called them up to change her billing address when she moved from Gresham to Vancouver. A couple of months later, she called them to see what plans they were currently offering (in case there was a good deal she was missing out on). Cingular said that she couldn't change plans because she still had almost two years left on her "contract". Turns out when she changed her address, somebody at Cingular decided to put her onto a two-year contract without her consent. (She had been month-to-month after completing her original contract).

Needless to say, she is no longer a Cingular customer.

It just isn't Cingular. Every Christmas I receive gift cards at many chain stores typically found in your local mall. Every year, I have the same problem of having a balance on the cards and the stores assuming the balance. I ask for the balance back in cash when under $5 but they typically refuse. When they refuse, I return the mechandise for cash, write a note explaining why I returned their goods, and informed them that I will use the cash to buy similar goods in a neighboring store. I doubt my protest has any effect but I feel better.

I was a long-term AT&T customer before becoming a Cingular customer. I switched carriers in the middle of my billing cycle, and there's where my problem began: Besides receiving the monthly bill for my actual cell-phone usage, I got a separate bill for what I assumed was for the partial charges left over from my old AT&T account, except it was generated by Cingular. A small charge, about $11. I sent in a check with the bill. Less than a month later I got the amount returned to me in full, drafted on a Cingular Refund check. And each month, I get another separate bill for the "remaining balance" on my account. Repeated calls to Cingular's customer service are useless; no one knows why I'm being billed, and AT&T also claims no knowledge (one rep said my partial balance was reimbursed by Cingular!). I'm still getting monthly notices, telling me my account is "suspended", and the charges keep piling up. Who is sending these?

On a plus side, I'm getting better reception with Cingular than I ever did with AT&T.

Thanks, Ms. Em, for letting me know that happens to other Cingular customers, too. I just realized that started happening around the time AT&T Wireless became Cingular.

BTW, Jack, there are plenty of non-profits that take minimal donations.

I got a similar card from Hyundai for $50 in gas when I bought my new vehicle. I got one tank of gas, then that's when the trouble started. I had about $19 left, and that wasn't enough for the second tank of gas. So, I asked them to charge $19 on the card and I would pay the difference in cash. The cashier refused, because it was "too complicated". I asked for the manager on duty, and the manager also refused, saying it was their "policy not to have two separate ring-ups for the same transaction". Needless to say, I do not patronize that 76 station anymore.

(channelling Mr. Subliminal) By the way, did I mention it was a 76 station?


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David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
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William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
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Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
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David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
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