Reason: none

I have come to believe that the harder a company has to fight for customers the worse they treat those customers. Take cellular providers, a business with a high degree of customer turnover and which faces intense competition from rivals.

So I was screwing around with the data services on my Cingular phone yesterday. I noticed a thing called MobiTV which promised television broadcasts to the phone. Three day free trial. As is typical for non customer-focused initiatives like this, if you do not cancel in three days you will be billed. Oh and of course, unlike signing up, you cannot cancel via the phone. Well the service stunk. The video was jerky and pixellated as you’d expect for a non-3G network.

Great, so how do I cancel? Online, OK. First three tries, server error. When I finally got through I found that I was in fact charged $10 for the free trial. Now I’m not a linguist or an economist, but there’s something that seems, well, not free about a $10 charge. Anyway, there was a form to request a refund. Indignation rising — why the hell should I have to challenge a charge from a free trial? — I submitted the form, dutifully filling out the “Why are you requesting a refund?” text box. I refrained from using profanity.

That is, until the next screen informed me that my refund request had been denied because I had exceeded the refund limit and that I had to call customer service. Let the cursing begin! Actually I started the call composed, explaining that I thought it not terribly customer-friendly to make us jump through such hoops to cancel. The support representative, clearly a jaded, shrivelled, flourescently-tanned troll of a human being, informed me that I could not request a refund for a charge that had not yet hit my bill. She was, in essence, saying that I had to wait for the next billing cycle — which would clearly throw me over the three day “free” preiod — and then call in to ask for a refund. Insanity. I explained the illogic as clearly as I could and then she put me on hold for 15 minutes to run to a supervisor.

Do you know what she told me when she returned? I’m sorry, sir, the reason your refund request was rejected was because you need to select “none” in the “Why are you requesting a refund?” box. What the fuck?! Ah, yes, Cingular: where you only get a refund if you refuse to state why you want one. Makes perfect sense. GRRR!

Is there any cellular service provider that actually puts the customer experience first? No, really. I cannot continue to pay these people money.