“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Cingular scam or post office disdain…hmmm

Posted by direwolff on January 7, 2006

  So it’s been about 16 days since I purchased the new crackberry from Cingular.  Like most phone deals these days it came with a $50 rebate offer.  What’s strange however, is that the rebate process, in addition to requiring the serial number information off the original box to be cut out and included along w/a copy of the purchase receipt, also requires all of this be “snail-mailed” to a special Cingular address.  To any one accustomed with rebate offers, this doesn’t sound so strange, but let’s think of what’s going on here and whether this rebate is indeed a good faith act on the part of Cingular (OK, I can see heads nodding, “dude, they know some percentage of the people are never going to go through the trouble…they’re not trying to make it easy”).

In order to deal with this issue, let me go down a slightly different path.  With all of the encouragements, both in terms of practicality and in terms of bill providers marketing this, I no longer get most of my bills by snail-mail.  I also no longer pay them that way, using my bank’s BillPay service.  In other words, I now have very little interactions with our postal system.  I still have a batch of stamps, but since my last use, postal rates have gone up twice.  This most likely because of the very actions that I’m describing here given that now the postal service has to sustain itself on much fewer people using them.  You may notice that the envelope in the picture is a bit beat up and has no stamp.  The reason for this is that I’ve been carrying it with me every day to the office in hopes of making it to the post office 1 block away to get it stamped and mailed.  Given that I’m writing this 16 days into my purchase, you can tell that I’ve been very unsuccessful in these attempts.

Last week, I actually made it to the post office one day, and to my amazement, during the peak lunch hour, there was only one teller working and a line of some 20-30 people.  Wha-wha-what?!!!  So not only are postal rates climbing but less personnel is being deployed.  You can imagine that I wasn’t waiting in line for the hour it was going to take.  Looked over at the automated stamp machines, and the two that were there carried handwritten “Out of Order” signs on them.  This couldn’t be happening.  Now there are less repair people to fix the post office stamp machines…all this because I no longer use the postal service.  And given the depth of the cut in services, it appears that I’m not the only one who’s reduced usage has so deeply affected their ability to continue to provide a quality service.

Which brings me back to Cingular.  If it’s getting harder and harder to mail in a rebate offer, are they truly scamming us here with these offers.  As I thought about it, at the time of my pruchase in the store everything required to satisfy the rebate offer could have been determined and provided without incurring any additional costs to their system, while making me a much happier customer.  At this stage, they just come across like scammers.  In past such experiences with cell phone companies, they some times go so far as to explain that they need this info to go to another department (or subcontracting company who handles rebates), but considering that they have all of the info they’re asking of me, who are they kidding here?

Anyway, any one facing a rebate offer that requires a snail-mail component and doesn’t offer a Net-based way of addressing this, know that you’re being scammed.  It’s dishonest and goes to the heart of what it means to violate people’s trust.  Trust is an issue that I’ve been giving a lot of thought to and hope to cover in a future blog posting, but suffice it to say, this plays a role in its erosion.

What’s ironic here, is that the device I bought is a direct contributor to my reduced use of the postal service…doh!


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