Why large cellular providers suck and a small one that rocks

Large cellular providers suck in almost universal fashion.

T-mobile and Verizon have a few things in common:
1) They suck
2) They are dishonest
3) Their contracts are handcuffs, and not real contracts
4) They don’t play fair
5) They are abusive

I’ll tell you where this is coming from, then I’ll explain the above statements, and why AT&T is on that list, as well as why Sprint is just barely not.

I’ll also tell you how I steered clear of them all and got better reception for $12 per month.

A couple of years ago, I had been a T-mobile customer for about seven years. That means they got a lot of money from me for a service I barely used. Most companies would be happy with such an arrangement, but not T-mobile.

T-mobile shipped me an HTC phone that did not get reception, and it turned out they knew it was a bad phone, but they didn’t bother to mention this until they had bilked several months more payments.

I also used their @Home VOIP service, and it worked mostly well, which is good because they dropped support for it after one year.

When I cancelled with T-mobile because I couldn’t get reception in my office, they sent not one but two $300 ETFs (early termination fees) for the two numbers, even though I had been off contract for several years (and the @Home line was never on contract).

I wrote a letter explaining I was off contract to their billing department, who noted the [wink] “error” and deleted the fees, leaving a balance of about 70 bucks for a month of supposed service which was the time it took them to acknowledge the cancel.

Then they closed the account and sent the balance straight to collections without providing an opportunity to pay.

Courtesy of T-mobile, I have a completely undeserved black mark on my credit rating for a balance I was never offered the chance to pay. I now get collection letters and phone calls courtesy of a company that seems to hate their own customers. Want to be abused? Look no further than T-mobile.

This, ostensibly, was T-mobile’s way of saying thank you for all the years of loyalty.

By the way, if you want to have a terrible brand, be like T-mobile. T-mobile has no tag line because if you have nothing positive to say, you keep your mouth shut.

T-mobile brand stands for customer abuse, poor reception, and stealing money.

Okay, so I promised to mention why large cellular providers suck:

Verizon sucks because they will promise everything and deliver nothing. Many years ago, they promised me a 14-day no-charge trial. When I got no reception at my (old) office, I attempted to return the phone and cancel the service.

Verizon then switched the offer to being a supposed 13-day trial, and told me it would be cheaper to keep the two-year contract than pay the ETF. They told me the rep who signed me up was no longer with the company, so there was no way to follow up. Lies all the way around. Service I could never use.

You could get more honesty at a used car lot.

AT&T sucks because they birthed the most abusive billing practices in the history of business. They overcharge as a matter of course. If you have their service, you’ve probably been overcharged. Add up how much they’ve overcharged you, and it’s easy to see that if they do it to everyone, they’re making millions in money not owed to them.

AT&T made it patently obvious that they have a corporate policy of doing anything humanly possible to wiggle out of being honest when it comes to billing. If you call to complain, they will keep you on the phone long enough to waste your valuable billable time, all while providing nothing in the way of a correction.

Worse, AT&T taught their billing practices to Comcast, Qwest, CenturyLink (and any other company birthed from their bowels), all companies well-known for abusive billing practices. It got so bad, Washington State set up a task force to deal with Qwest abuse.

Why Sprint manages to stay off the list
Sprint has been just a tad bit smarter than every other cellular provider. Yes, they try to oversell, pushing services I don’t need, and no, I did not sign up. But where Sprint got smart was in partnering with smaller cellular startups, companies who wanted to piggyback on their network.

There is no free phone
Getting a free phone as part of a 1-sided cell phone contract is a losing proposition every time. It’s a shortcut that doesn’t work well for consumers. Your phone is not free, the associated contract is ridiculous, and you could easily save the money to buy the phone you want in just a few months, buy the thing, and get service without a hefty long-term contract. The irony of cell phone contracts is that they reduce your financial mobility.

Never sign a cellular contract
Cell-phone contracts are the type of contract written about in devil lore, one-sided soul-sucking pieces of paper signed in blood (okay, not blood). Good contracts are written up by two parties, negotiated in good faith, and agreed upon for mutual benefit. Cell phone contracts are the antithesis of good contracts.

There is no good reason for anyone to sign a cell phone contract. The signee will always lose because the contracts bind your money and allow for no guarantee of service to be rendered.

What you want — the coolest phones and reliable cellular service — is widely available without the contracts. Without the abuse. Without the bad attitude.

Enter Ting
Ting charges for what you use. They piggyback on the Sprint network, so the coverage is great. I pay $12 a month for cellular service.

Ting does not abuse customers. In fact, they are not the least bit pushy. There are no contracts. You bring your own GSM or CDMA phone, and buy a SIM card, or you can buy your phone new, your choice. They fully support iPhone and Android.

If you want to have an outstanding brand, be like Ting. Their tag line is “mobile that makes sense” and it does.

If you want 25 bucks off a phone or 25 bucks off your new cellular that doesn’t suck service, use this link: Ting

What? No lengthy descriptions? Nope. I’ve been on Ting for years now, and I’ve not once regretted switching to a smaller company. Ting treats me well in every respect, they never overcharge, and the reception is outstanding.

Note: The link to Ting is a referral link, and that this post was written with complete honesty. While there is obvious bias born out of bad experiences, it is offered purely as helpful ‘don’t let big cellular abuse the privilege of your business’ advice.

Remember, when you give your money to companies, they owe you service, respect, and humility.

Kelly Hobkirk - teaching marketers how to harness strategy, goals, reality, and purpose to connect and do better work.


Kelly Hobkirk has been helping companies succeed in creative ways for nearly 25 years. His work has been featured in Time Magazine, and books by Rockport and Rotovision. Get exclusive articles when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.

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