Ernie Thomas of Santa Monica, Calif., didnt write in to complain about data integration issues, but he did have some concerns about hold times. One theory that another reader offered is that Cingular people had heard a love song called "Hold Me Forever" and misinterpreted it as a business directive. Its just a theory. Thomas tale of being held too much: "After three phone calls and more than an hour on hold, I called and asked a supervisor if he realized the hold time was this long and what Cingular thought was an acceptable hold time. They knew that hold times were long. I asked why the rep did not warn me before putting me on hold. They had no answer. The supervisor also said acceptable hold times were 3-5 minutes. I think that is too long. I called Motorola a few days later, waited less than a minute to talk to a tech, and they helped me fix the phone quickly."Another Cingular user, who requested anonymity, told of his effortswith another employeeto make a Cingular data purchase. "We both tried many times by phone to get a data plan and through many, many calls, we never got the same deal. Ranging from the same $69 unlimited to a $19 plan. I was told I didnt need a voice plan on one call. I even got quoted the only data plan available (at his institution) was the unlimited $69. No two calls were the same." Labs looked at wireless data services from three carriers. To read the reviews, click here. The university users story continued, with the users colleague being "told that the deal he got only existed until Feb. 7, 2005, which meant that the plan did not exist for me after I purchased my phone. When I called, the salesperson had no knowledge of the deal or limit. I was told the business contract of a one-year contract did not exist as of Jan 15. When I made the next calla few days laterthe one-year was not a problem. Shopping by phone was a game and you could tell in about 30 seconds that someone had no clue as they marched through their online support or lack of support and certainly no clue about what a data plan meant and what Treo support meant." A PalmOne employee wrote in to say that he, too, was subject to Cingulars confusion. "I currently have the $80 data planwhich Im sure they dont want to switch me off ofand they just attempted to sell me the $39.99 plan, even though I just go though telling them I have a Treo, not a BlackBerry. And, of course, they can neither find nor claim to know of any plan for the Treo, i.e., the $24.99 plan. Ive since been transferred to the business group, which then promptly hung up on me, so Im back to square one. What fun it is. Just thought you might like to know they werent just picking on you." To be fair, I dont think Cingular was picking on anyone. The consistentand most encouragingtheme from all of what were hearing is that Cingular people are honestly trying to do whatever they can to help. This is not a criticism of their customer service or sales people, but merely a suggestion that those people need radically large amounts of training to adequately support this new generation of smart phones. Telco execs: If you treat these data devices like mild upgrades or add-ons, it wont work. But dont take my word for it. After all, my experience was just an isolated situation: Ask anybody. Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman has tracked high-tech issues since 1987, has been opinionated long before that and doesnt plan to stop any time soon. He can be reached at Evan_Schuman@ziffdavis.com. To read earlier retail technology opinion columns from Evan Schuman, please click here. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on technologys impact on retail.
Thomas then compared the hold of another key telecom player: "I also have a T-Mobile BlackBerry phone. I was curious as to how long their hold times were, so I called right after I hung up with Cingular. A representative answered the phone in under 60 seconds. Thats acceptable."