December 23, 2003

Porting Your Number?

I did. Took 10 days. No cell service during most of that time (I had outgoing for the first two of those days - and then no service the rest). AT&T Wireless was my provider, first for analog, then digital, the past few years. I used to really like them, and not mind paying an extra $5-10 a month over comperable cell service because they had such good customer service and they were flexible about everything. But the past year was one crazy clampdown in service after another, at every deceptive turn, trying to trap me into a renewal contract I didn't want, like a stalker who won't let go. I'd paid my dues already, with one year each analog and digital contracts. The tipping point for me came on December 10th, when they screwed up my billing, and in the 100 minute phone call arguing with them to fix it, they managed to reset my contract to, you guessed it! December 10th, 2003. That was it. Those people are nuts. A billing event resets the contract? No way, I'm outta there.

So, I researched, 8 hours, asked a friend who has been working on a GSM/GPRS study about the best GSM and data transfer rates (they haven't published yet but I got the scoop) and found out that with my own phone, I could do Cingular GSM and data, with NO contract, and roll-over minutes. And they apparently have the best service, and it would cost me less than AT&T for the digital only service I had before. Okay, I'm in! And if I hate it, I can go. I want a company with good enough service that they don't have to trap me like a fly on a spiderweb to keep me.

Signed up at Cingular and then called AT&T to see if there was anything I needed to do for the porting of the number on that end. First the AT&T person said I couldn't leave because my contract was still in force. I said I'm leaving and you can't stop me, and I just want to know if there is anything that needs to be done on the ATT side to make the port work. Apparently, this resulted in my service being terminated. I didn't ask for this. They just did it. So when the Cingular request came through a couple of hours later, it was rejected by AT&T because my service was not "active." The next morning I called Cingular, who told me the request had been rejected. They didn't know why. I called AT&T and after three hours on hold with the Port Administration Group (PAG), they told me I had been rejected because I had not pre-paid my early termination fee. I argued I didn't owe it, but I wanted to get away and after speaking with several people, paid the fee with credit card, and figured I'd dispute it later.

On the same call, I was then transfered back to AT&T PAG, which was another three hour wait, where I then spent several hours conferenced together with ATT PAG and Cingular PAG, both trying to get the Port Request to work. It failed twice. I was on the phone until 11pm Saturday night with one or the other or both of them. They finally told me to call the next morning to see if the last attempt went through.

Sunday at 7 am I called to see what had happened, after another three hours on hold, the AT&T PAG person told me that the early termination fee I'd paid yesterday was actually for billing issues (my bill was paid in full) and that I'd have to pay again. I asked why I had to pay two early termination fees, when the FCC website said they couldn't reject me at all for this, and that I totally paid up with billing. She said I had to and before I could protest, she flipped me over to billing, where they told me the bill was paid, I was right that the early termination fee was not supposed to be prepaid, and I didn't have to pay twice. Back on hold with PAG for three more hours.

It went on like this daily for 8 more mindnumbing, frustrating days. Every call and every new ATT person would mean I would explain what had happened, say I needed to get my number to Cingular, and spend on average 10 hours a day, mostly on hold, with AT&T, with three hour wait times for PAG, and then another hour and a half wait time for PAG tech support, and then another two hours for the Resolution group. They would sometimes say they couldn't call me back. Sometimes they would say they had to, and then not do it. Days went by like this. I was trapped sitting at the speakerphone, unable to go out. Though after a while, I got the hang of the patterns, and one day, called on speaker, then drove to Oakland, met people for lunch, went grocery shopping, ran errands, and three hours later upon my return, I was still on hold. They picked up a half hour later.

All the while, following the FCC website directions, I was cataloging the holds, the names and departments of those who picked up, and what they said, trying to fix this problem, constantly reexplaining the problem to each new person, after repeating my number, social security number and zip code "for my security". I had done nothing wrong, and so, now and then when some AT&T PAG person would say, just forget it, the number's lost. I would reply with my view that I'd had my number for years and wanted to keep it. That's why I started porting it to begin with.

In the end, a supervisor with AT&T PAG fixed it, on a 12 hour phone call 10 days into this oddessy, but after she dropped the call we were on with Cingular PAG. Cingular PAG (whose hold time to reach them is about two minutes) and I were on hold for three hours to get AT&T PAG back, and that supervisor was trying to call back but my line was busy, trying to get her back. Finally, that call ended with AT&T and Cingular PAGs confirming that the number was put back to AT&T and we would start all over the next day with a new port request. I called AT&T billing to confirm this and they said my number was active with AT&T. I was to call Sunday morning to Cingular sales to build this new request. But wait. I called my cell number. And guess what? It no longer had the AT&T "this phone is not working" message, but a new Cingular "this phone is not working" message. Hallejulah!!! Success!!! The goal has been met. I'm with Cingular!

I went out to the movies with friends and it felt like I'd emerged from a tunnel. My whole life had been reframed in the context of waiting on hold with AT&T, listening over and over to "Whatever you needs are our goal, just ask us, and we'll make it happen. Thank you for your call." Alternating with this: "Our goal is to please you, our staff is here to work with you, thank you for your call, someone will be with you in just a moment,." All of which was absolutely false in my experience. Over 80 hours over ten days spent on the phone with AT&T, mostly on hold. About ten hours with Cingular, often with us together waiting on hold for AT&T PAG.

Sunday, I take a trip to the Cingular store, where they attach the phone number to the billing account, and the phone works! Hallelujah! 10 days and over 80 hours with AT&T on hold. And now I have a ported number, and actual service. I'm no longer tied to my landline. Freedom and a working cell phone number, no contract, and so far, very good service in all ways.

But if you are thinking about this, I'd wait, if you have AT&T. They are about as screwed up as it gets, and in fact have had to explain themselves to the FCC last week because of their PAG issues.

UPDATE 12/31/03: The Cingular GSM service and data transmission rates are wonderful. And I'm saving money and have far better terms. I guess it was worth it. But I'm still fighting with ATT to get my early termination fee back from them. Hopefully that will be over soon.

Posted by Mary Hodder at December 23, 2003 12:08 PM | TrackBack

I need a phone that i can order with out a credit card

Posted by: belinda at April 6, 2004 09:49 PM