Let Freedom Ring!
Dear Cingular Wireless:

Thank you for your kind email. I am honestly very touched that you noticed I switched to Verizon last week. And I admire your humility. No other vendor I have ever dealt with has gone to quite such lengths to win back my business. You must want my account very badly to beg so desperately for a "second chance." Three times in one email, no less. You know you screwed up, you say. You want me back. You promise you'll do better this time. And to prove you mean business, you have even offered to waive the $150 termination fee you will charge me if I decide to remain with Verizon!

All I have to do, or so you tell me, is pick up the phone, call your 800 number, give you my absolution, and all will be forgotten.

One question: Are you high?

I have been a Cingular customer since before you were Cingular. Since before you were Nynex Mobile. In fact, I opened my first account with you way back in 1996, when you were Cellular One. And, despite my general loathing of all things cellular, I have been loyal to you for all these years. I've renewed contract after contract, purchased at least three phones, two hands-free car kits, and any number of wireless accessories from you. I stuck with you even though your coverage is so weak I cannot even make or receive calls within a two block radius of my office in HARVARD SQUARE.  I stuck with you even though your customer service is wretched, your technology archaic, and hold times on your 800 number are so lengthy I've had entire birthdays come and go while waiting for someone to answer my call. I stuck with you because I liked my phone number, I don't like change, and I didn't want to have to pay the $150 to terminate my account and go to a better carrier. You know what else? I'm so lazy I probably would have renewed my contract with you in September anyway rather than go to the trouble of investigating new carriers.

In other words, you really didn't have to go out of your way to keep me as a customer.

But last week you made me cry, Cingular Wireless. You enraged me to the point where I actually cried in frustration. And, even though I'm lazy, thrifty, and averse to change, I will not do business with companies that make me cry.

Last week, the Motorola V60 flip phone I purchased from you approximately eighteen months ago broke. It snapped in half in my hand, rendering it utterly useless. I went to a Cingular outlet to try to get a replacement. Now, I wasn't naive enough to believe that you would actually replace the phone for free -- which, considering I bought the cheap thing from you in the first place, you probably should have -- but I was shocked to learn that you expected me to pay you $150 OVER AND ABOVE THE COST OF THE NEW PHONE for the "privilege" of purchasing a phone without activating a new number. Furthermore, I was told, there was no way around it. Could I buy a phone elsewhere and reprogram it with my beloved number which I've had for the past eight years, I asked? NO. Could I just enter into a new two-year contract with Cingular Wireless and then get a new phone without the $150 non-activation fee, I pleaded? NO. Could I buy the most expensive phone in the store and get a waiver, I begged? NO. You wanted your $150, and you were going to get it, come hell or high water and whatever the consequences.

Well, Cingular Wireless, you now have your $150. Except, in this case, the $150 comes in the form of my termination fee, a fee which I will pay gladly and gleefully because that is how much it is worth to me to rid myself of you, once and for all, for the rest of my wireless life. It gives me some comfort to know that, in your zeal to collect your $150, you have sacrificed approximately ten times that amount in revenue that you would have received had I signed on with you for another two years. 

So. In answer to your plea: No, Cingular Wireless, I will not be giving you a second chance. You can take your $150 and choke on it.

You might also seriously consider firing the finance genius who came up with the brilliant idea of making the termination fee and the non-activation fees identical.

Just an idle suggestion from a disgruntled party.

Your Formerly Loyal Customer (who is now your worst nightmare)

Leslie A. Talbot

p.s. You should also be aware that I have forwarded this letter to the chairman of your company, all of your competitors, the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, and I have published it on my website as a bright and shining example of how rotten service can drive away business. Have a nice day.