I've used AT&T wireless services for the last four years. I was on their One-Rate plan. I travel back and forth between Colorado and Pennsylvania, and I wanted to be able to call from anywhere without worrying about roaming charges. AT&T's One-Rate plan wasn't cheap. I was paying $79 a month for 650 minutes. At least that's what their brochure said. They always managed to bill me around $100 a month, after fees, taxes, extra minutes, and God only knows what else, were added to my bill.

At the beginning of each billing cycle I would reset my phone's call timer so that I could keep track of the number of minutes I was using. I always used less than the 650 minutes each month – according to my phone. Many months I stopped making calls when I had used 620 minutes so that I had a safety margin of a half hour. However, according to AT&T Wireless, I always used more than 650 minutes. Even a new phone didn't change this amazing phenomenon.  

The wireless coverage from my home in Colorado was sporadic at best. Making a call from my house required that I be on the second floor. Forget about calling if I was outside of the house. A half hour from my Colorado home was the Parshall Inn that I frequented daily. To place or receive a wireless call at the Parshall Inn, I had to go into another room where the pool table and the dartboard were located, and stand under the Coors Beer sign.

Back in Pennsylvania my cell phone reception was much better, but it had its problems too. Anytime I was using my phone on my way home from work, the connection would be broken about the time I got on Interstate 95. It was as if someone was trying to stop me from talking on my phone while driving. I talk to passengers while driving, but they say talking on the phone is more distracting. People who say that must have different passengers than I do.

These past two summers in Colorado, when I would dial a number on my phone, some rogue service would occasionally intervene and request my credit card number. It didn't happen every call, but it happened often. I fell for it only once. I was on horseback on top of a mountain at over 12,000 feet. You would think the phone reception there would be really good. I was calling a friend at work back on the East Coast to brag about the fact that I was on top of a mountain with my horse. An operator requested a credit card number and I gave it just that one time. When my call went through I got my friends answering machine. I left a brief message and hung up. Later that month I noted a $7.86 charge on my credit card for making that call, which had to have been less than a minute.

A Colorado neighbor of mine has Verizon Wireless and none of the reception problems I was having. At her house my cell phone said "no service" while hers worked perfectly. I was convinced that it was time to change wireless services. Besides, AT&T wireless had ignored my several e-mail inquiries about the occasional credit card intrusions when attempting a call. I switched to Verizon. My contract with AT&T had ended so there would be no penalty. I made the switch 4 days into my billing cycle and I was assured that AT&T Wireless would "prorate" my bill. Imagine my surprise when, 36 days after terminating my service with AT&T Wireless, they billed me $108.98 for 4 days of actual service on a $79 monthly plan.

The bill said I had used a total of 139 minutes of the 650 minutes on my plan, but they had "prorated" the minutes, so I wasn't entitled to 650 minutes. I was only entitled to 4 days worth of minutes, and I was charged extra for the overage minutes.  However AT&T does not prorate any of the other charges. Thus I had to pay a full month of service fees for my prorated four days of service. I was actually paying more for those four days of wireless service than I had for any other full month of service during my four years as an AT&T wireless customer.

I called AT&T wireless Customer Service using my new Verizon phone and spoke with Debby. Debby explained what I already new, but in a pleasantly irritating manner. I requested a higher authority and was transferred to "Customer Care." I'm not sure what the difference is between Customer Service and Customer Care. Customer Care evidently has slightly more authority because they were kind enough to remove the "additional charges" for going over my prorated minutes. Now I only owed AT&T Wireless $90.78 for the four days of wireless service. I guess that is supposed to make me feel better about being screwed.

No wonder AT&T Wireless is losing money and up for sale. And no wonder they have had higher customer complaints than any other wireless service.

I pay my bills electronically over the Internet, and I have 21 days before this bill is due. I'm going to email them a partial payment of $4.32 each day for 21 days. It won't save me any money, and it will require more effort on my part, but I figure that I owe it to AT&T Wireless.

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