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'Have I mentioned our Family and Friends Plan?'
Giovanni Stradano (1523-1605)
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WASHINGTON--Have you ever heard anyone--anyone--rave about his phone carrier's service? Say, "Wow, that customer service rep solved my problem in no time flat!"
If you haven't, there's a reason: The companies don't compete on service. Indeed, their service contracts are designed to keep you from jumping to other carriers unless you pony up several hundred bucks.
"Phone carriers aren't trying to gain consumers through quality service," says Parul Desai, communications-policy counsel for Consumers Union. No phone company says "we'll take care of this; we'll come right over and fix it."
They have no reason to: Their mandatory arbitration clauses make it all but impossible for disgruntled customers to sue them, and their early termination fees lock those customers into their contracts. In a 2009 Government Accountability Office survey,
I admit that I paid no attention at the time to Klobuchar's bill, but I sure will the next time it's introduced. Here's why:
Last month, after a night of unmemorable music, I emerged from a Washington jazz club to find I had been transported to Kafka's Castle. I'd silenced my phone during the performance, and when I turned it back on, I could neither make nor receive calls or messages. Instead, I got a strange recording when calling voicemail: "Your account could not be validated," it said. "Please contact customer services."
Using my girlfriend's phone, I called Sprint, my carrier, and got routed to its service center in the Philippines. The guy on the other end informed me I had terminated my account and switched to AT&T. I explained I had done no such thing, whereupon he transferred me to another representative, who also told me I had terminated my account and switched to AT&T. Which I again disputed.
Thirty minutes and three such conversations later--each unfolding as though the earlier conversations had never taken place--I was told I would be transferred to a manager who would straighten things out. Then the line went dead.
Undaunted, I called back. Three more employees told me that I'd gone over to AT&T. I disputed it, was put on hold, and was cut off