Thursday, June 22, 2006

cingular: lowering the bill (a howto)

This is something I else I learned from my father that I've had to call upon (pun not intended) more times than I'd like to admit ever since I started paying for my own cellphone bill.

Growing up, my mother had lots of family back home in Germany who -- despite the stereotypical German fondness for succinctness -- loved to chat. Every now and then (during particularly eventful months, or uneventful depending on how you look at it) a particularly high phone bill would send my father to the phone. He'd explain to whomever was on the other end that we'd gone over what we'd expected for the month and a "please" and "thank you" later we'd be credited a nice chunk of cash.

He told me that phone companies were adamant about keeping customers and would be willing to shave off a few bucks if it meant retaining a client (presumably because the cost to get a new one is higher than the cost to reimburse? I didn't figure that part out until I was older).

Today, we don't have a landline. We haven't had one since we started (there was a brief period at the outset when we were forced to use AOL in lieu of a real internet connection). We do have cell phones, though, and a family talk plan with Cingular. We started with the most basic plan they had because we had few people to be talking to (Steve's girlfriend is also a Cingular user, so her calls were free) and we could let the rollover minutes pile up.

Last year, we weren't spending any time on the phone with companies and individuals who operated during the typical workday -- now that we are, we've drained the reserves. Our first overage cost a little over $150. That's a lot of pizza.

Of that, we got about $100 credited back using the same technique explained earlier, which was employed just a couple days ago to remove another overage fee (about $54).

Once you've navigated through the push-a-button menu (mashing 0 until you're connected with a human usually works for me) and are speaking with a billing agent. Simply explain your surprise with your most recent bill and ask if he/she would please credit the overage back (if you've been good about paying regularly it wouldn't hurt to bring that up, too). You should only be a thank you away from getting reimbursed.

On this most recent attempt, I was told that "it was already in the system and there's nothing we can do". Curious, especially because I'd just asked to upgrade the plan by an extra two hundred minutes. Maybe they'd caught on? Undeterred, I called back and found myself speaking with another agent. It was credited within a few minutes.

Nothing fancy here, no lines or strategies, all that's required is politeness and a few minutes of your time. Don't let the wireless carriers win, especially not Cingular.

ingredients for web 2.0 success?

This guy (Pierre Francois) embodies everything that is wrong with web 2.0.

I wonder if he's getting invited to foo camp?