Cingulars Version Of Alice

By Evan Schuman  |  Posted 2005-03-02 Print this article Print

in Wonderland"> A call to customer service to order the plan left the rep baffled because her screen didnt show that plan at all. But it did show a $39.99 unlimited plan that seems to be for PDAs. Thats getting closer, but the $39.99 plan is only for the BlackBerry and is not the Treo plan. However, nowhere on the customer service reps screen did it say that. The Web site doesnt mention it at all. It turns out the Treo content plan is a $24.99 unlimited data plan. Again, there is no centralized place that compares the plans and indicates what they are for.
No fewer than three customer service reps tried to sell me (and when I let my guard down, one did) several different text messaging plans so that I could integrate AOL Instant Messenger, an favorite app. But AIM uses its only client software, and theres no need to pay extra for that. AOL hasnt released the client app for the Treo 650 yet, but thats another story. I cant criticize AOL too much as PalmOne has been shipping the Treo 650 for months and has yet to ship the cradle that is talked about on the PalmOne Web site. Some retailers are trying to avoid just these kinds of growing pains often associated with e-commerce campaigns, the Casual Male clothing chains CIO thinks. To read more, click here. Speaking of PalmOne, I initially tried purchasing the Treo 650 from the PalmOne Web site, which was heavily promoting its new version for Cingular. Calling the toll-free number, a hold recording said that orders for the Treo 650 for Cingular must be completed on the Web site and not on the phone. OK, I thought. So I worked through the forms and I told the site that I wanted to keep my cell phone number. It aborted the order. Turns out that its tricky and the site isnt set up to handle it. And yet, customer service at PalmOne is under orders to let it go through the site. After a few rounds of this Catch-22 fun, I resigned myself to buying the hardware from Cingular. When I finally get through to Cingular sales, the voice portion of the order went through smoothly, not surprising for a company that is at its heart a telco. And thats the point. When the Treo consolidated voice and data into one unit, it forced the sales and support teams to do the same. Facing stiff competition from the rest of the music world, Tower Records decided it needed to learn more about how its customers were interacting with its Web site, to avoid the kind of problems Cingular is facing. To read more about Towers approach, click here. When I tried ordering the data and—heaven forbid—asking some questions, everything fell apart. There was lots of hold time, while reps talked with their supervisors. Its OK that they didnt know this stuff, but they had no one to transfer me to. After several calls and lots of supervisors and hours of hold music, I eventually gave up and figured that I should just buy anything and that Id clean it all up with customer service when the phone arrived. Next Page: After the Treo arrives, the fun continues.

Evan Schuman is the editor of's Retail industry center. He has covered retail technology issues since 1988 for Ziff-Davis, CMP Media, IDG, Penton, Lebhar-Friedman, VNU, BusinessWeek, Business 2.0 and United Press International, among others. He can be reached by e-mail at

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