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US Cellular Fiasco
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US Cellular Fiasco

A little over a year ago, I joined a cell phone company called U.S. Cellular. It is a medium sized company that is quickly growing. I joined them because, around my area in Wilson, North Carolina, they have the best signal. It doesn't matter where you go, you can always make and receive calls.

I have been very happy with them thus far, but I guess every rose has a thorn. I have a family plan with four lines and the best plan you can get. Unlimited everything. Well, unlimited everything except data. Even though they call it unlimited there is a cap of 5 gigabytes per month.

When I first learned that this cap existed, I had a few choice words to say. "Five gigs is nowhere near unlimited!?" "Whoever is in charge of the "naming the plans" department, should think of something else to call it!" With that issue nowhere near resolved, I bravely decided to stick with the "Unlimited" plan and U.S. Cellular."

With this plan, you get what is basically insurance on all the phones. U.S. Cellular calls it Phone Replacement. They call it that because it's not exactly insurance. There's a twist in there. You know how much us customers love twists. Phone Replacement means that if your phone has become damaged to an unusable state, they will send you another one free of charge, and you send the broken one to them.

So here's the story. One of the phones on my plan got broken. My sister dropped the phone and cracked the screen, rendering it pretty much useless. Being the policy holder, I called U.S. Cellular to invoke the Phone Replacement Act.

When I was finally able to talk to a person, I was told that since she had her phone for 18 months, it was eligible for Upgrade. My sister was sitting right beside me during the conversation so I turned to her and told her the good news.

The representative went on to tell me about how she could go to the U.S Cellular website, pick a phone and get it at the discounted price that people get when they first sign up for new service.

We went to the website and saw bunches of new phones that were free with new service. The bad part of it was that none of them were equal to the phone that was broken. There were at least 6 phones that she could have gotten, but she would have been worse off with those than she was before her phone got cracked.

She decided that she would just skip the Upgrade and get her same phone shipped to her.

"I'm sorry sir but since you are eligible for "upgrade," the Phone Replacement no longer applies. Now she could get her same phone off of the website for the promotional price."

Which was 50 bucks.

"So you're tell me that since she is eligible for UPGRADE, she can no longer get her phone replaced?"

That's exactly what he was telling me. So after going in circles with him over the whole thing, I decided to climb the ladder. I was transferred up three rungs before I finally talked to somebody who didn't sound like a broken record. He tried to explain the whole thing to me. Why it was the way it was and blah, blah, blah. He tried to do some work-around but still came to the same conclusion.

Thanks a lot! "You know it's things like this that I hate about big companies. Why won't you just tell it like it is to begin with, instead of using some lingo like "upgrade" to make it seem like you're trying to screw me a little less." Of course I know that Mr. Third Rung Supervisor had nothing to do with it but still.

Well, the only reason why the whole situation got resolved is because I remembered I hadn't even had these phones for 18 months. This, obviously, negated the whole "upgrade" thing and she was able to get her regular phone back.

I really have nothing but good things to say about U.S Cellular. They are a good company who thus far seem to try to make the customer happy, but this knocked them down a peg in my book.

And they should really change that Unlimited thing too.


Street Talk

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