Matthew Fitzsimmons

It's Not the Network

I bought my first cell phone when I was in college in the north woods of Wisconsin. It was the size of a brick (even bigger than a Palm Treo, if you can believe it) and I got rid of it after not having it very long. I found it too difficult to carry around, so I never really used it.

After Adina and I moved to Watertown, I got a cell phone from Verizon. Since then I have gone back and forth between only two companies: Verizon and T-Mobile.

Verizon likes to brag about how their network is the largest. It very well may be. In recent history, I have had very good success with the Verizon network. It pretty much works everywhere I go, except for a gap in service on the way down to Nogales (where I don't really go anymore). T-Mobile, on the other hand, works almost everywhere I go, so I don't really have a problem with their coverage. It's just not as good as Verizon's in my experience.

But that's where Verizon's good points end, in my book. Over the years, I have had many occasions on which to call customer service. Most people don't call as much as I do. But I've either changed plans, or changed companies and had to transfer my old number, or what-have-you, many times.

It's been a while so I don't know for sure, but I cannot recall a single pleasant customer service experience with Verizon where things got done right the first time. I do think that they made progress from the first time to the last time I dealt with them. However, being a little better than absolutely horrible is not much. I was lied to more than once, and had to spend much time on the phone to correct the problems caused by these lies. Like when I asked what would happen if I upgraded to a certain plan, and was told that it covered both analog and digital when it only covered digital and I was in a primarily analog area. It took several tries to fix this, especially since they didn't switch me back to the correct plan. It was a nightmare. In more recent history, my experiences weren't that bad, but they were never pleasant.

Beyond the customer service problems, the biggest problem I had with Verizon was the way they cripple the capabilities of their phones, and then advertise them as if they had the same capabilities as those sold by other networks. This was so bad that they actually got sued for this misleading advertising over the last phone I had from them, so they eventually changed what was listed on their website. Unfortunately, I bought the phone before the change, but after the deadline for being a part of the settlement. I bought the phone primarily based on the fact that they claimed it had certain bluetooth capabilities that it didn't really have unless you had this special Windows only software, that still didn't do everything. They also crippled the ability of the phone to use things placed on the memory card so that you would have to pay to transfer data over their network, or buy ring tones from them, or whatever. This may not seem like such a big deal, but they never mentioned anywhere that the phone had this limitation. If you looked up the phone on the manufacturers website, it looked like it was capable of doing these things, but the firmware that Verizon put on the phone blocked it all out. Not to mention the fact that you can't cancel your plan without paying a large fee after you find out the limitations.

With T-Mobile, on the other hand, every phone I've ever had came with exactly the features that I expected based on their website and the manufacturers website. My current phone has a few bluetooth limitations, but I expected that.

In regards to customer server, every call I make to T-Mobile has a very low hold time, the representatives are very friendly, they answer my questions correctly the first time, they even give me additional information that I didn't think to ask about, and they've never been upset or acted like I am imposing on their Solitaire time. When I asked to be bumped up to a plan with more minutes, for example, they made sure they pointed out that I wasn't actually using all the minutes I had. I told them why I wanted more minutes, and they did it right away. When I told them a couple days later that I changed my mind, they immediately and gladly bumped me back down to the other plan, and postdated it to the beginning of the billing cycle so I didn't have to pay anything extra. While you're waiting, instead of putting you on hold (unless they have to talk to someone else), they chat with you in a friendly manner, and they actually sound like they're happy to help me.

Due to my experiences over the years, I would highly recommend T-Mobile as a company that cares about the needs of their customers and gets things done right the first time.

Verizon wants you to believe that it's all about the network. It's not. It's about customer service and integrity. As long as T-Mobile keeps it up, I will remain a loyal customer.

January 9, 2007