Monday, July 30, 2007

Two for billing: get Amp'd

Bye bye phone service. I got a text message a week ago from my mobile phone service provider informing me of the possibility that my phone service would be disconnected on July 24.

I freaked out and ran to the computer to look up my bill. It looked fine: my automatic payments were still passing on my money to the phone company. I decided the text message must have been an error so I called the toll-free customer service number. An automated greeting voice answered – sort of an accented Midwestern woman – telling me to press this or that for information, new accounts and billing. I pressed two for billing and waited, listening to the “on-hold” rap music.

This was no ordinary cell phone company when I signed up for the service. I had been doing my Internet research because I wanted to escape from Sprint 16 months ago. I clicked on website after website that detailed mobile telephone service plans from the usual suspects, including Sprint, Verizon, Cingular (now AT&T again), and T-Mobile. I sneaked a peak at plans unavailable here in California offered by Qwest and ALLTEL and Cellular One. And then I found the perfect mobile phone company: Amp’d Mobile.

Amp’d Mobile. Amp'd offered Verizon service at prices better than Verizon’s own plans, a small selection of very nice phones, and some pretty decent service options. So I jumped to a "500 anytime minutes, unlimited after 7:00 PM" plan and enjoyed a year and four months of nearly flawless service.

Customer service was a bit unrefined, but efficient and always very helpful. For example, I discovered the chip in my phone was defective, so I called to request a new one.

After sitting on hold for a couple of minutes contemplating the weird hip-hop tune being pumped into my ear, the customer service “agent” answered: “Thanks fo’ calling Amp’d Mobile, man. Wazzup?”

I tried to act all hip-hop and cool, like Amp’d’s age 35-and-under target demographic. “Hey. I’m callin’ ‘cause I think somethin’s wrong wit' my phone. The chip don’t seem to work.”

“Oh, man. Them phones been doing that lately.” I heard some computer keyboard clicks in the background. “I’m sorry sir, but we out of them. They all backordered.” Another pause followed.

Great, I thought. I got a lemon of a phone and I can’t get it fixed. (To be honest, the phone was working fine, but I just couldn’t listen to any of the music I had downloaded to my phone).

He returned to the phone. “Sir, I’m sorry about that. So let me tell you, go out and buy your own. You be reimbursed up to fo'ty bucks.”

The exchange wrapped up with “you sure?”, “yeah, just fax the receipt!”, and each of us saying “cool.”

That’s how most of my interactions were with Amp’d customer service. But last week when I called after getting the text message that my service was going to end, I waited and waited and nobody answered. So I started clicking around on the website. And I came across a Q&A section with information about bankruptcy and the end of service, full of misspelled words and many unknowns.

Each day, a new button on the Amp'd website turned blue (all except the one about Amp'd Canada, which is apparently still working): Amp'd's Customer Q&A.


Aha. I was going to be a casualty of a failed marketing scheme, one that targeted young people without any credit who downloaded millions of dollars worth of hip-hop music and never had any intention of paying their bill. And to think three days earlier I was perusing the website thinking about ordering a new or upgraded phone or plan!

The next day I went to the Verizon store and switched my service to the network that had carried my calls but had never received any of the money I paid. The Verizon sales guy, typical 20-something who could care less about anything, actually got excited that he could easily switch my phone to the Verizon network. He was almost giddy, telling me it looked like the Amp’d software was actually better than the Verizon software. He said he was going to start telling his friends to go out and buy the Amp’d phones that were going to be on clearance and then sign up for Verizon service using them.

I’m shopping again for a new mobile carrier. Helio looks kind of cool and I like their Ocean phone. But maybe I should accept the lesson I’ve learned and stick with one of the big guys. And get a dull AT&T iPhone.

I miss Amp’d.

1 comment:

Bradford said...

Since when can you post a comment in here?

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