Monday, March 30, 2009

Try New Technology? VOIP? Thanks, But No Thanks!

For a while a friend had been touting the advantages of VOIP, saying he was paying $25/mo. for unlimited local and long distance phone service.

Since I have been looking to cut costs, like everyone else, the prospect of not paying AT&T for those services was enticing.

I called AT&T and confirmed that I could keep my DSL service going if I stopped my local and long distance features. They said yes; I should have asked them what the charge for just DSL would be, but I assumed (horrible idea ever) that my monthly DSL payment would cover it.

Then I looked at Vonage and saw that for $18 a month I could get 500 free minutes, which I figured would work for me since I also had the cell phone. I signed up online when I looked at their web site and saw that they could handle either a broadband cable or DSL connection—and they made installation sound like a breeze.

My first inkling of trouble came when I opened the package and noticed that in the middle of the easy installation instructions there was a blue square that said “DSL users, see other side…”

There it indicated that if the easy installation didn’t work, and the Vonage box couldn’t connect through the Internet, I should go t a V-Configure web page to sign on…

My Internet connection is fairly straightforward and common; I have a DSL modem connected to the Internet, and it also connects to my computer through a very reliable Belkin wireless router.

Again, Vonage suggested just connecting my router to the box and everything should be fine.

But predictably, it could not connect and I could not get a dial tone; the LED on the Vonage box indicated there was no connection yet. I opened my web browser, as the instructions suggested, put in, and was greeted with a page that had no log on, but instead told me that I had a lot more work to do: my Internet connection wasn’t functional.

At this point I was tired, but I made a few more attempts, this time bypassing my router (and thereby also removing wireless access from my network) and I still could not connect.

I tried a few more different ways, following the instructions carefully, to no avail. At one point I even had an Internet connection through the Vonage box, but still could not connect to the fabled

Forty minutes later I had restored my old Internet connection and my wireless network.
I was supposed to get another “welcome” phone call the next day, and perhaps an installation expert, but I contacted tech support by email, detailing my problems.

The first response referred me to the generic web support page, all of which I had already read and reread.

Three emails later, after a cryptic message about :
"I see that we have come up with an issue while transferring your number.
There is a feature (Internet) associated with your number. Hence, I would suggest you to contact your previous telephone carrier and have the feature (Internet) removed from your number. Once it is done, please reply to this email with the confirmation so that I will be able to assist you further."

After requesting translation service, here is what I received as an explanation:
“Your current phone company has placed Dry Loop DSL on your transfer number; The Dry Loop DSL must be separated from your transfer number. Please contact your current phone company to move your DSL service to a separate line, so that the number transfer process can be completed. Be sure to get a confirmation number that indicates your account has been updated with the change. We will need this confirmation number to continue your number transfer process. “
Easy, huh?

So in other words, the “seamless transfer” of my old phone number to Vonage now necessitated a call to AT&T to get them to separate it from my DSL, which obviously meant I needed another phone line for the DSL – cost? $35/mo.

Since my Vonage service for $18 really cost $25 (with fees and tax), this mean that the fiasco of moving service would yield little or no real savings.

Add to this the fact that on the Vonage site they have pages on “how to restore service after a power outage” and they barely acknowledge the existence of Microsoft Vista (support lists Windows 2000 and XP), except to say that one of their phones doesn’t work with it—and I was ready to cancel.

After all, I had a working DSL/local/long distance plan, at a pretty favorable rate, and a WORKING wireless network. Even if I got Vonage working, I still had no assurance that my router would keep broadcasting, not to mention the potential nightmare of resetting the network again after a power outage (summer is almost here).

Not surprisingly, my next “welcome” call never came.

I tried to cancel my “service” by email, but was told I needed to call, which I did right after the weekend. (Customer service is closed Saturday and Sunday).

After they tried to talk me out of it, they did cancel the service, but not before adding another $39 charge for return of the equipment, which would be refunded when my stuff arrived (not like they didn’t already have enough of my money for set-up of a nonworking service).
By the way, the confirmation email informed me that the $39 return charge was really $43—fees and taxes. Corporations are full of surprises, aren’t they? Tax and fees on something I didn’t buy, but was trying to return?

Of course now I will have to make sure the credit is put on my credit card for all of my charges.
I am not entirely sure that the rage focused on the banks and financial institutions is just about the credit swaps and economic crisis they allowed to occur. Truthfully, I think it is there beneath the service against all corporations and technology companies in particular, who promise something new and “easy”, and misrepresent the issues involved and end up costing us money, time and amazing stress.

Think about how “easy” it was to cancel AOL, to set up high definition TV for the first time, or to set up a home network after XP changed to Vista, and you’ll know why people are pissed off.
As for me, I am angry at myself for falling for the latest and greatest once again—from now on I will think not twice but four times before trusting anything a corporation promises—especially if it’s “easy.”

1 comment:

Lilli Blue said...

LOL that was great!What bastards!