Jan 25, 2012

Clear internet vs. Broadband cable internet

I want to take a moment here to reflect on the incredibly bad customer service of Clear 4G, a WiFi internet service which is offered in my area as an alternative to DSL or cable.  Most people want an alternative to the big cable corporations, such as Time Warner and Comcast.  Clear could tap that huge market and become a major corporation in its own right ... if it could get its act together and offer competitive prices and decent support.  But it doesn't.

First of all, potential customers should be aware that Clear lies.  Their customer support (outsourced to foreign countries) representatives barely understand English, and apparently it's okay for them to lie to customers or potential customers.  If they tell you the service costs $35/month, it actually costs $42/month.  If they tell you there's no contract, there's actually a 2-year contract that you're locked into.  I've been shifted on the phone to two different representatives who told me two different prices for the same modem. 

Once I realized that their company policy is to lie to customers, I asked for email (written) confirmation on the next change to my account.  They told me that their company policy is to never put anything in writing.  I can see why...

So today, I got broadband installed from my local cable mega-corporation, and cancelled Clear 4G.  My cancellation call went like this:
REP: "Why are you cancelling ma'am?"
ME: "Bad customer service."
REP: "Oh i am very sorry ma'am. Let me transfer you."
new REP: "Why are you cancelling ma'am?"
ME: "Bad customer service."
REP: "Oh i am very sorry ma'am. Please hold."
[3 minutes later]
REP: "We can offer $27 a month and waive the first month."
ME: "I want higher speed, and I already signed up with another service."
REP: "We can offer $27 a month at higher speed."
ME:  "Your company policy is to lie.  I've been told in the same phone call that high speed would be $45/month, and then the next rep said $50/month.  You don't put anything in writing, so I can't trust what you say over the phone.  Clear also locked me into a 2-year contract, when the rep told me there would be no contract."
REP: "This high speed will be $27/month, and we will waive the first month."
ME: "I don't believe you. Please cancel my account."

Then we did 5 more minutes of the song and dance.  Anyway, I hope broadband Turbo will be better.  I don't have high hopes, but at least I hope they won't have a company policy of flat-out lying to customers. (For the record, $27/month for high speed would be a great deal ... if it were true.)

For your entertainment:  I did one chat session online with Clear, in an attempt to get their contradictions in writing.  Here's the chat transcript:
Hello Abigail. Please wait while we find a CLEAR specialist to help you.
Your question is: I would like to replace my home modem lease with a refurbished home modem.
All agents are currently busy. Please stand by.
An agent will be with you in a moment. Thank you for your patience.
You have been connected to Dennis.
Abigail:  Hi Dennis. I just spoke on the phone with a representative named Cesar, and he said I could buy a refurbished modem for $50 (one time fee), which would also cancel my 2-year service contract and make it monthly. Is this true?
Dennis:  Thank you for contacting Clear, my name is Dennis. So I can help, may I please have your first and last name?
Abigail:  Abigail Goldsmith
Dennis:  Thank you for the information. Please allow me a moment to pull up your account.
Abigail:  Right now, I'm locked into a 2 year contract (not my choice), and I'm unhappy with all the hidden fees Clear hit me with. I'm paying $7/mo for a modem lease, plus the basic $35 internet service.
Dennis:  Yes, you can purchase the device for $50.
Abigail:  Would this device: a) Replace my current home modem, and work just as well?
Abigail:  b) cost $50 one-time only? (not a lease)
Dennis:  I see.
Abigail:  c) cancel my two year contract and make it month to month?
Dennis:  A new device?
Abigail:  refurbished
Abigail:  a home modem to replace the one I'm leasing (which is white)
Dennis:  Okay.
Abigail:  ... can you answer my questions?
Dennis:  That will be a Home modem with no Wi-Fi.
Abigail:  the one I have has WiFi
Abigail:  it's the basic CLEAR Moden wf Wi-Fi
Dennis:  Yes
Abigail:  I am asking about buying a refurbished modem to replace it
Abigail:  you're saying that I could buy one for $50, but it would lack the Wi-Fi?
Dennis:  Yes
Dennis:  The one with Wi-Fi refurbished is $79.99.
Abigail:  What is it called? Series G or Series M?
Abigail:  What is the difference between those two?
Dennis:  Series G. It has no built in Wi-Fi but functions the same.
Dennis:  No difference much, only the manufacturer.
Abigail:  neither one has Wi-Fi?
Abigail:  hello?
Dennis:  Yes
Abigail:  Dennis, can you transfer me to someone who can type faster, or have faster comprehension?
Dennis:  All agents are assisting right now.
Dennis:  To give you the best assistance regarding this matter, please call our Account Services Department at 888-888-3113.
Abigail:  I'm chatting because I want this in writing.
Abigail:  I want to know: If I buy a refurbished modem, will that cancel my 2 year contract and make it monthly?
Dennis:  No
Abigail:  ok, that contradicts what I was told on the phone.
Dennis:  If you would buy a modem and then you change your plan, that will cancel the 2 year contract.
Abigail:  I want to be clear on this, before I dump more money into CLEAR. Please answer:
Abigail:  Are you talking about a package deal? In other words, the deals listed here: http://www.clear.com/packages
Dennis:  I'll check.
Dennis:  Please wait.
Abigail:  ok
Dennis:  Yes, those are the deals.
Abigail:  so if I buy one of those, it cancels my current contract WITHOUT the cancellation fee?
Abigail:  (according to the phone guy, my cancellation fee would be $92.50 this month)
Dennis:  We will just switch the plan. But it will also switch the service to NO Contract.
Dennis:  Yes
Abigail:  No cancellation fee?
Dennis:  If you will switch plan. Yes.
Dennis:  Month to Month plans have no cancellation fee.
Abigail:  I'm not currently on a month to month plan, though.
Abigail:  one more thing: Those package deals offer 4G Home service for $50. It used to be $45, and I was told $45 over the phone today. Which is it?
Dennis:  It will be $50.
Abigail:  Why did the phone guy tell me $45?
Dennis:  There are no entries regarding your conversation just summaries. But I do verify that it is $50.
Abigail:  Time Warner cable offers internet service for $30/month.
Dennis:  But surely that will at a limited speed.
Abigail:  I'll call them today and get back to Clear. Thanks for answering my questions.
Dennis:  You are most welcome!
Dennis:  I apologize for the inconvenience incurred to you by this issue.
Dennis:  Thank you for chatting with me today! You may receive a page asking you to take a survey about your experience today. Please take time in taking the survey and tell us what you think. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us; we are available in live WebChat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Thank you for visiting clear.com. You may now close this window.
Apparently I'm not the only one who had problems with Clear.  They've been accused of running a Ponzi scheme, and there's a website for complaints, as well as a pending class action lawsuit.  To make a long story short: Don't believe their advertising, or any claims they make.  They're lying. 

Jan 15, 2012

Abby Online

It's been a busy 2012 so far, and we're only halfway through January. First, I was interviewed on an art & architecture podcast for Austin, Texas.  You can stream/download the interview HERE, or from iTUNES.

I'm collaborating with a programmer and some other friends to create iPhone games and apps of my own design. This is super exciting for me, since it's the first time I'm getting to work on my own games.  I'd like to pump out a lot of material and see if anything takes off.  The advantages we have: A talented team with lots of excitement and passion, and (if I say so myself) good ideas.  The disadvantages: Lack of budget, and my own inexperience in marketing.  The more I learn about marketing, the more scary it seems. Anyway, I will do my best.  I'll let everyone know when our first game comes out. If you haven't subscribed to my blog, please do so!

I'm recording tutorial videos for 3D Modeling in 3dsmax.  They're available in HD on my YouTube channel, and on the new tutorial page of my website.  I plan to add more tutorials for animation, Flash, and other art software.  This is partially just because it's fun to make videos, and relatively easy nowadays.  It's also to prepare for my first job as a teacher.  I will be teaching a 3D Animation class once per week at the local community college.

Games, contract art, teaching.  What else am I doing?  Still writing novels, of course.  Actually ... no ... I'm editing and marketing novels now.  I would like to get back to writing original material, but sadly, I've learned beyond any shadow of doubt that marketing is important if one wants to sell one's work.  I'm 3/4 through an edit of Book 2, and in the process of querying agents and publishers about Book 1.  Still getting top tier rejections for my short stories, but I haven't written any new short stories in a few years.  Participating in (and enjoying) my local novel critique group.  It's a talented bunch of writers.

I wish I could report more on my personal life, but there's not much to say.  My adorable dog says "hello."  She apparently sees the HOA (home owner's association) lady as a threat, which could be why the HOA lady got on my case a few months ago.  My dog normally loves people, but every once in a while, she goes into attack mode ... this was the first time I saw her growl at a woman, though.  Strange.  Usually she has a problem with men in uniforms wearing hats.  (I will add that I don't encourage aggression in my dog; she just has guard dog tendencies.  She might be part pitbull or akita, and I suspect she might have been abused before I got her.)

Movie Reviews:
I enjoyed HUGO, both visually wonderful and good storytelling.  I saw TINTIN in 3D, and although it was visually stunning, I thought the story was weak; predictable and beating the same joke to death.  THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (American version) was really great.  I was pleasantly surprised that it followed the book closely, and managed to do it well.  There's an example of a well written screenplay adaptation.

Book Reviews:
I read the first ten books in the ANITA BLAKE, vampire hunter series.  What can I say?  GUILTY PLEASURES is aptly named.  I'm not sure I can recommend this series for everyone, but the first four or five books entertained me.  After that, there's some fall-off.  Many fans say that it devolves into weirdo erotica after the tenth book, and I can see that happening.  Dating a vampire and then dating a werewolf is fine.  Menage-a-trois sex with a werewolf and a vampire, plus bondage rape with a wereleopard, and turning into a succubus ... um, starting to cross a line there.

Then I read the Stieg Larsson series, which starts with THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO.  Interesting stuff.  People may scoff, but I find the books to be very feminist, despite being written by a man!  The main characters get a little ridiculous and unbelievable, especially in the second and third book, but I don't mind ridiculousness with a good story, which this had.  Salander is a cool character.  No one knows if she has Asperger's Syndrome or what, but she's a criminal mastermind who looks like a sullen Goth teenager, so who cares?

And I just finished listening to Scott Sigler's THE STARTER, a sequel to THE ROOKIE.  Yes, that's right, I don't have a clue about sports or football, yet I read two books about football.  I'm just a hopeless Sigler fan.  I guess it's weird that I like his alien voice acting and his super-weird alien universe, where humans play pro sports alongside drooling alien teammates.  What a cool idea, though.

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