Category Archives: Telephone Companies

Milking The Herd At T-Mobile

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T-Mobile is milking us dry, and that's no bull !

T-Mobile USA’s (aka Deutsche Telekom AG) catch phrase used to be “Get More”, before they dropped it (like so many dropped calls) for their “Stick Together” campaign.  Well, now it seems that their next advertising slogan might just be “Pay More”.

We know times are rough.  T-Mobile is probably hurting just as much as the rest of us.  Evidence the bad news they’ve included in customer’s bills over the last few months.  First, they made the decision to charge customers who wanted to continue to receive their call detail on each month’s bill.  I believe they are charging $3.00 a month for the privilege of seeing what they are charging you for.  Then they decided to charge an additional $1.50 a month for the privilege of getting a paper bill in the mail each month (isn’t it nice to know that T-Mobile is saving the lives of innocent trees).  After what must have been a torrent of subscriber defections to other carriers and complaints from customers who didn’t bolt, they dropped their plan to charge for paper bills (but they’re still charging customers who want to see the call detail on their bills).  Apparently, T-Mobile decided that trying to milk their customers with yet another new monthly charge was going to cost them more than they would have realized in additional income (see “T-Mobile Customers Demand Traditional Paper Bills” at dailyfinance.com).

T-Mobile’s latest bills have included a strangely vague warning to their customers that they may be paying more for minutes used beyond their calling plan’s allowance.  But they don’t tell you how much more they are charging per minute. If you are a T-Mobile subscriber, and you decide to dial 611 to ask them about the rate increase, better do it during the day.  T-Mobile used to provide customer service 24 hours a day, but now,  if you try calling T-Mobile at night, you’ll get an announcement telling you to call back during the day.  That brings to mind another possible advertising slogan T-Mobile might consider… “Pay More, Get Less”.

Why the lack of specifics regarding their rate increase ?  (they tell you to check out their website for details)  Well, it seems to us that T-Mobile, just in time for Halloween,  is trying to scare subscribers into moving to more expensive monthly plans.  Is it really necessary to raise what are already exhorbitant per-minute charges if you go over on your plan’s minute allotment.  We believe those per-minute charges were already in the range of 40 cents to 60 cents per minute, even before their recent increases.

Those folks at T-Mobile must also think their customers are a bunch of idiots.  Here’s how they broke the good news to customers, via an insert in their bills titled “An important message about your additional minutes”…

“T-Mobile is committed to providing you the coverage you need at the price you want.  Therefore, it’s important to tell you about a change to ensure you are on the plan that best meets your needs.  Starting on September 1st, the price for the minutes you use over the minutes included in your plan will increase for some rate plans.  Those rates apply to all additional minutes, including calls to voicemail and call forwarding.”


Don’t you love it how companies always begin their notices of price increases on an upbeat theme ?   How about leveling with the customer and starting off with something like “We have some bad news for our most loyal customers” ?

When we first spotted their billing insert, we thought that perhaps T-Mobile was increasing the number of minutes in their calling plans, or perhaps that they were lowering their charge for additional minutes.  Unfortunately, it was nothing or the sort, but it is certainly reassuring to know that T-Mobile is so concerned about us.  Why then all the secrecy ?  Why not just say how much they’re charging for additional minutes, right there on the billing insert ?  And the fact of the matter is that they can’t legally raise their rates without notifying their customers.  We guess that T-Mobile figures that this indirect method of notifying their customers of a rate increase fulfills their obligation to notify their customers.  How lame can you get ?

We wonder what little bit of good news T-Mobile might be planning to stuff into the envelope with your bill, next month.  How about charging a fee for speaking with a customer service rep, or charging you $1.00 every time you check how many minutes you have used up.  There’s probably dozens of ways they can come up with to squeeze more out of their customers every month.

Long time T-Mobile subscribers might remember the pre-T-Mobile days, and perhaps even the pre-Voicestream days.  The T-Mobile U.S. cellular network started it’s life as “Omnipoint”, circa 1996.  (Does anybody remember Fred, the Omnipoint parrot ?  See Fred in this Omnipoint TV Commercial on Youtube.)  One of Omnipoint’s selling points was “No Contract Required”.  As any T-Mobile customer can tell you, that is not the case with T-Mobile.  But for T-Mobile customers who have fulfilled their contract (and maybe even for those who haven’t), all of  T-Mobile’s recent attempts to nickel and dime their customers to death might signal that it is time to move your mobile number to a different network, one that is more customer-friendly, and one that gives it’s subscribers a little more credit for being able to see through a thinly veiled attempt to increase profits.  According to this article at cellphonesignal.com, T-Mobile’s decision to increase their per-minute overage charges means that subscribers who are under contract can opt to terminate their contract without incurring an early termination fee (ETF), which just may be the silver lining in this network’s cloud.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, when is T-Mobile going to bring back Jamie Lee Curtis as it’s spokesmodel ?

– Routing By Rumor

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The Death Spiral At The New York Times

Extra, Extra… Read All About It !

The New York Times hikes its cover price yet again.

Another New York Times price increase.

Get ready to shell out more for your copy of The New York Times.

Extra, Extra !

Executives at The New York Times must be taking business strategy lessons from the same experts that have guided the once mighty General Motors to the brink of bankruptcy and needing to take federal bailout money to stay alive.  Shares of GM, once considered a “blue chip” stock that was among the most highly regarded of all investments, and which were trading at close to  $90 a share ten years ago, are now virtually worthless.

The New York Times has announced yet another round of price increases, the third in less than two years , that will hike the newsstand price of their Sunday edition to $5.00 or $6.00, depending on the geographic edition.  The weekday New York Times increases to $2.00 !  And you still don’t get any comics.  The price increases are effective June 1st.

$6.00 for a newspaper?  Are they joking ?  Perhaps New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. hasn’t yet taken notice of the new kid on the block.   Mr. Sulzberger, we would like to introduce you to Mr. Internet.  He’s big, he’s getting bigger all the time, and he’s eating your lunch.

The Internet is eating everybody’s lunch.  This Time Magazine article names the ten most endangered newspapers in America.  And according to this CNN article, at least 120 U.S. newspapers have folded since January, 2008.

Faced with a sharp drop in advertising revenue and falling circulation, the price increases at The Times are likely to just exacerbate the problems facing the newspaper.  Price increases will inevitably produce a further errosion in circulation, which is sure to further weaken advertising income.  A decision to increase prices at a time like this, for many businesses, is tantamount to committing suicide.  We believe that the New York Times has made the worst possible decision at the worst possible time.

Our readers will note that we have not raised the cover price here at Routing By Rumor;  reading our blog is still free!

Understandably, the bean counters at The Times are desperate.  They’re being squeezed from all directions.  But you have to wonder who made the strategic decision that may very well seal their fate.  Perhaps a price decrease, coupled with an agressive advertising campaign would have been the right course to follow.  We believe that with the increasing competition for readers that the Internet has created, along with belt tightening by consumers in the depths of this economic recession, and the drastically shrinking size (the number of pages) of newspapers over the last few years, including the Times, newspapers are increasingly becoming  irrelevant to more and more readers.  It’s not unlike a phone company that keeps increasing it’s rates, in an attempt to offset the loss of revenue from customers who are dropping their traditional phone service, and using cellphones exclusively.  Price increases will only serve to accelerate the trend.

Will the New York Times disappear completely? We fully expect to see a copy of the New York Times on the newsstand in the near future, with a headline of “THE END”.  The fact that you are reading this blog, when you could be reading The New York Times instead, isn’t helping the Gray Lady one bit.  We believe that their print editions are in mortal danger,with The Times becoming an online-only newspaper.

Better buy your Amazon Kindle now !

– Routing By Rumor

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Need More Proof That The U.S. Economy Is In Trouble? How About Talk Of General Motors Seeking Bankruptcy Protection!

Things are tough in Detroit. For the first time since 1922, General Motors will not pay it’s shareholders a dividend. Even more omnious is speculation that GM may have to seek bankruptcy protection (see NY Times / Associated Press article). There are even calls for dropping GM from the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

While much of what ails GM is related to the sad state of the U.S. economy, not all automobile manufacturers are suffering the way GM currently is. There are many reasons for this, including GM’s reliance on large, gas-guzzling vehicles which have become white elephants, thanks to fuel that is selling between $4 and $5 a gallon.

For us however, GM lost it’s appeal long ago. Not because of the quality of their products, which by and large we’ve been quite satisfied with, but rather because of what we believe is their total lack of respect for their customers. As we have written previously, we are a strong believer in buying products made in the USA, and indeed we’ve owned only US-assembled GM vehicles for the past thirty years.

We’ve never had a good experience with repairs covered under GM’s new vehicle warranties. We have always experienced dealer service that was inept, shoddy, defective, or incomplete, and which in many cases took days or weeks longer than it should have, while our vehicle languished in some dealer’s lot. Almost all warranty repairs we’ve ever taken our vehicles to GM dealerships for have required one or more return visits to the dealer, either because repairs were done incorrectly or not at all. We believe that GM dealerships prefer to not do warranty repairs, and will try to avoid doing them whenever possible. There never seemed to be any incentive to do things correctly. The experiences we’ve had over the years at GM dealerships convinced us to never ever allow them to do non-warranty repairs on our vehicles where we would be paying for the work out-of-pocket.

We’ve dealt with dealership personnel from salespeople to service managers to owners, who have been rude, indifferent and downright obnoxious. In our opinion, it’s not so much a lack of caring or pervasive incompetence (although there’s plenty of that), as it is a culture of contempt for the customer. We feel that GM and it’s dealerships view customers as little more than an annoyance. As if they were saying “we don’t value you as a customer, and we couldn’t care less about your future business”. GM’s “customer care” has proven to be a worthless farce every time we’ve ever turned to them in an attempt to resolve problems with our vehicles. We decided years ago that our current GM vehicle will be our last one. It’s a bit ironic then, that GM may not be around much longer to sell us, or anyone else, their next vehicle. We think that in large measure, they can blame their current plight on the way they’ve treated their customers. Forget about Harry Gordon Selfridge’s old adage “the customer is always right”. At GM, it has always seemed to us to be more like “the customer is never right”.

This fellow doesn’t think The General has much better regard for it’s current workers or retirees.

We won’t shed a single tear if GM goes belly up tomorrow.

Where was I ? …Oh yeah, the dismal state of the U.S. economy. See what happens when someone mentions GM to me ?

So, GM is hurting big time, banking institutions are in trouble, home foreclosures are at record levels, soup kitchens and food pantries are reporting big increases in families seeking assistance (while at the same time finding it harder to get food donations), and the cost of living is skyrocketing, despite what government inflation figures claim.

IndyMac Bank customers in Burbank, California

Associated Press photo / Kevork Djansezian

The FDIC has compiled a list of 90 banks it says are in danger of failing, victims of the U.S. mortgage crisis.

Consumers are seeing utility bills increase 20, 30, even 50 percent. In New York City, the local electric utility, Consolidated Edison, recently hiked electric rates between 22% and 25%. Because of steep increases in fuel prices, there’s sure to be more double-digit increases in store. In New Jersey, Verizon, a regional U.S. phone company, has gotten permission to raise basic telephone charges 50% over the next three years, and cut the number of free directory assistance calls a subscriber gets in half, while tripling the price. This will no doubt accelerate the trend of consumers dropping traditional phone lines and making their cellphone their only phone. This is not only because of the cost, but also because traditional phone companies like Verizon still don’t know how to be competitive in today’s telecom market where Cable TV, Internet and cellular telecom providers offer highly competitive or all-you-can-eat calling plans that include a smorgasbord of features at no extra charge, and companies like Google are providing FREE directory assistance services. Isn’t Verizon still charging extra every month if you have a Touch-Tone phone? They are clueless.

Healthcare costs are increasing so rapidly that many employers can’t afford to continue providing coverage for their employees, and an increasing number of individuals and families have no health insurance.

Trips to the supermarket induce shock, while a trip to the gas station produces gas pains.

We’re starting to see panicked Americans creating a run on the bank, such as these customers of IndyMac Bank this week.

And, of course, we are still at war.

America is the land of plenty, where we are enjoying a bumper crop of bad news on the economic, political and employment fronts. There seems to be very little good news these days.

– Routing By Rumor

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Hey Verizon… When Will FiOS Be Available In My Neighborhood?

Verizon Communications is sure taking it’s sweet time rolling out their “FiOS” fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) fiber optic service.

Chances are that you just found this page on my blog by doing a search on “When is Verizon FIOS going to be available in my area?”, or “How long do I have to wait for FiOS?” or “When can I get Verizon FiOS?” or “I’m still waiting for Verizon FiOS” or “Can I get Verizon Fiber Optic Internet Service At My Address?” or something similar.

FiOS is still not available where I live. With all the buzz about Internet2 and Web 2.0, I sure wish they would get moving, so I don’t miss out on all the fun. Even the squirrels around here are waiting for FiOS (see why).

Speaking of squirrels and Verizon, we think a good advertising slogan for the telco giant might be “Once a Verizon Customer, Always a Verizon Customer” (read why). It reminds us of the lyrics from Hotel California by the Eagles… “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”. Sort of like marriage vows. Till death do us part. Or like an Alfred Hitchcock movie, where some tormented soul rips their phone off the wall, throws it out the window, and it still keeps ringing. Maybe it’s why Verizon Wireless adopted the slogan “We never stop working for you”.

FiOS is still not available to the majority of Verizon customers. Fiber-optic service can provide very high-speed, broadband Internet connectivity, traditional voice phone service and television programming, all over the same cable.

While Verizon won’t be offering anything close to the maximum possible speeds over their FiOS network (especially to residential customers), I’ve wondered what the theoretical maximum speed might be. Fiber-optic Wide Area Networks (WANs) are currently capable of speeds measured in Gigabits per second (1 Gigabit = 1 Billion bits). I believe the fastest service Verizon currently offers to residential FiOS customers is a paltry asymmetrical rate of 30 Megabits per second downstream, and 5 Megabits per second upstream (1 Megabit = 1 Million bits). Of course, how much can you actually eat? How much is too much?

The fastest optical circuits currently deployed commercially are SONET OC-768 circuits that can carry almost 40 Gigabits/sec. There is a SONET OC-3072 standard, not currently implemented, which would provide almost 160 Gigabits/sec of bandwidth !!! At those speeds, I think the telephone poles may ignite.

For readers unfamiliar with Verizon, it is a huge telecommunications company in the United States that provides land-line and wireless phone, Internet and “cable” television service. The silly name Verizon rhymes with “horizon”, rather than being pronounced something like “Very-Zone”. I’ve always thought it was a real big mistake for such a large organization (made up of the former “Baby Bells” or RBOCs (Regional Bell Operating Companies) and other regional phone companies, that have been around as long as they have, to choose a nonsense name that many people did not even know how to pronounce properly. Alexander Graham Bell must be spinning in his grave. Verizon Communications includes the former Bell Atlantic companies (New Jersey Bell, Bell Telephone of Pennsylvania, Diamond State Telephone and the four Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Companies (C&P (District of Columbia), C&P Maryland, C&P Virginia, C&P West Virginia), as well as the former NYNEX (New York & New England Telephone), GTE and MCI companies. How’s that for corporate mergers! Verizon operates in much of the United States and has more than a quarter-million employees. You’d think a company with that much money could come up with a more innovative corporate logo than this…

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Reminds me of an old riddle… What’s black and white and red all over? (No, it’s not a sunburned penguin.) As bad as Verizon’s logo is, it doesn’t hold a candle to the logo of the former Lucent Technologies, known widely in IT and telecom circles as “The Flaming *******” (Sorry, this is a family blog. You’ll have to use your imagination). I wonder if the same person designed both of these logos. Maybe Alcatel bought Lucent just so they could get rid of this horrific logo…

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But I digress.

If you are still served by Verizon’s old copper “POTS” phone lines (they’re so 20th century), and you’re trying to find out when FiOS service will be available in your area, good luck. It’s easier to get the private phone number of the President of the United States, than it is to pry that information out of Verizon. Then again, perhaps even Verizon doesn’t know the answer.

So, I had an idea… Are you a Verizon customer that already has FiOS service available in your neighborhood (regardless of whether you personally subscribe to it) , or have you learned that it’s coming by a particular date? If so, post your information as a comment here, and I’ll organize the comments into a searchable file.

Please provide the following information; Your state, your city or town, your area code + the first three digits of your phone number, and the date FiOS became available or will be available, plus any pertinent comments, such as “My entire town now has FiOS service”, or “Only the South end of town currently has FiOS”, or “It’s only currently available in the downtown area”.

If enough people submit info, I might even create a website with the information.

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