Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hell Circle Du Jour: Cancelling Wireless Accounts

I've had occasion to cancel accounts with just about every major wireless provider. And the task has always brought a bag of hurt (a phrase which, by the way, just went over one million Google hits).

One doesn't simply cancel a wireless account. You must call a special phone number and speak to specialist personnel chosen for their psychopathic inability to register expressions of rejection. You will be asked to explain and defend your foolish decision. You will be offered things. You will be cajoled and niggled. After many minutes of spiel, deal, and distraction, your request will eventually be granted, but only after you've uttered the word "no" more times than JD Salinger's publicist.

Three cancellations ago, I tried to strategize the process. I told the representative "Look, I understand that it's your job to try a variety of angles to persuade me not to cancel. I know this, I understand this. You're just doing your job. But I want to assure you that by the time we hang up, my account will definitely be dead and gone. So...can we, like, move through the script as quickly as possible so neither of us needs to waste time?"

Fat chance. The rep settled in to his amiable patter ('So how are you doing today, sir?"), and I realized stronger measures than this are required to stave off The Full Treatment. He probed, questioned, bantered, and pushed with all his might. In the end, of course, my account was cancelled, but not before the company had extracted its pound of psychic flesh.

The next time I had to cancel a wireless account, and was asked my reason, I informed the rep that I was headed to prison. The unstoppable rep actually asked me what I was going in for. "Arson" I shot back, matter-of-factly. In the ensuing silence, I began to gleefully suspect I'd nailed it and found a shortcut through the torture. I fully expected to hear the magic words "Sir, I've cancelled your account; if you ever desire to reestablish service with our company, please don't hesitate to contact us". But I was wrong. After the awkward silence, the rep cleared his throat and offered me one thousand free minutes if I'd obligate myself for another year. And so on.

During my most recent cancellation, I told them I was dying of Lou Gehrig's Disease, and was too weak to hold a handset. That, in fact, I was draining my last remaining strength to make this phone call as part of my effort to put my affairs in order. They rushed things a tad for me, but only a tad. Scant mercy for a dying man. (When the deed was finally done, I informed the rep - who after all, I didn't mean to leave traumatized - that "today I feel like the luckiest man in the world.")

I'm currently with T-Mobile, and my locked-in contract period just ended. And it just occurred to me (I may be slow, but I'm not dumb) that I'd be a fool not to call, ask to cancel, and hear what they have to offer. Maybe I'll tell them I have my eye on a nice shiny iPhone over at AT&T. Let's see what juicy bribes and counter-offers I'm showered with.

I'll let you know how it goes. Though, with my luck, this time they'll immediately cancel me without protest, and I'll be completely screwed.

1 comment:

Dave said...

I just switched from T-Mobile to AT&T. I called T-Mobile and told them the truth -- that I was happy with T-Mobile's service but that only AT&T worked at my father's home. The customer service rep apologized to me and cut off my service.

I've had some issues with T-Mobile, but none about the courtesy of their phone reps.

By the way, the latest issue of Consumer Reports has detailed reports about cell phones and services. One important fact I never knew before: you know the subsidies that the services provide to enable them to offer "free" or highly-discounted cell phones? We repay those subsidies not just by high rates, but earmarked indistinguishable fees, one of those tacked-on taxes that turn $50 cell phone bills into $70 ones.

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