About half a year ago, I decided to go sign up for a VonageÂ account. This was mainly because I found myself needing toÂ send faxes quite a bit, and it didn’t seem too expensive. So I signed up.
A week later, I got a special Linksys into which I’d plug aÂ regular phone and my computer. Setup was pretty straightforward,Â and I was able to place a call over it immediately. Success!
But even over the first week, there started to emerge someÂ weirdnesses. Like how the ringing sound would keep playing aÂ few seconds into an answered conversation or into the beginningÂ of a voicemail greeting. Or how the router itself would rebootÂ about once a day, sometimes requiring a full power cycle inÂ order to start routing packets again. Or how incoming phoneÂ calls sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t, depending on theÂ phase of the moon or something.
The worst part about it was that the primary reason for gettingÂ Vonage, sending long-distance faxes, fell through. About twoÂ thirds of the numbers I tried to fax to didn’t work. It wasn’tÂ even that the fax didn’t succeed two thirds of the time – trying again to fax a number where it didn’t go through wouldn’tÂ help. As soon as I plugged in the good old fashionedÂ analog landline, 100% of my faxes went through.
I decided to cancel Vonage. I called them up, spent 10 minutes on hold,Â and explained I wanted to cancel. They transferred meÂ to the account services department after another 5 minutes ofÂ holding. They then explained that they could have a technicianÂ call me back and talk with me about my fax problems to see ifÂ they could be resolved. I was dubious, since this didn’t reallyÂ sound too much like a user error: there was no speciallyÂ configuring the router for “magic actually working fax” modeÂ as far as I could tell – it was just a matter of when I pluggedÂ my fax machine into Vonage, it usually didn’t work, and into theÂ land line and it was happy. But all the same, I was plied intoÂ not cancelling with two free months of Vonage and a promise that nextÂ Wednesday afternoon, a technician would call me back to work outÂ the faxing problems with me.
The technician never called. I forgot about Vonage, except forÂ whenever my crappy Linksys Vonage router decided to reboot. TwoÂ months passed, and I started getting billing notices fromÂ Vonage again, despite the fact that I hadn’t made a call onÂ Vonage in half a year. I called them up again today to cancel for real.
This time I spent half an hour on hold before I could get theÂ chance to talk to someone who could cancel my account. And onceÂ I did manage to get a hold of someone,
they had this wacky bug with their phoneÂ system, such that it actually started playing out voice promptsÂ on top of our conversation. It was stunningly unprofessional, ifÂ a little amusing in retrospect.
ME: Hi; yes, I’d like to cancel my Vonage account.
SUPERVISOR: Okay, I’ll start the process, I’ll just…
SYSTEM: THANK YOU FOR CALLING VONAGE; WE APPRECIATEÂ YOUR…
BUSINESS. FOR ISSUES WITH YOUR PHONE SERVICE, PLEASE PRESS
I WOULD LIKE TO CANCEL!
I’m very sorry sir, hold on just a second.
ONE. FOR ACCOUNT ISSUES, PLEASE PRESS TWO.
[sigh] I’ve been on hold half an hour.
TO SPEAK WITH A VONAGE REPRESENTATIVE PLEASE…
After all that, the supervisor didn’t actually cancel myÂ account. No, no, that would be too easy. She instead merelyÂ indicated that she had initiated the cancellation process andÂ gave me a lengthy numerical transaction ID to indicate that was now in their system queued for terminiation. She askedÂ for my cell number and told me that in the next few days IÂ could expect a call finalizing the cancellation.
I’m really missing something here.
When I log onto the Vonage customer interface, there should beÂ a button labelled clearly “cancel”. I click it, my account isÂ gone, presto. Instead, they try and put you through thisÂ ridiculous rigamarole. The intent is clearly to make it soÂ painful to leave that you’ll just give up and let them keepÂ charging you $20+/mo for a service you never use. If you makeÂ someone wait half an hour on their cell phone, make them jumpÂ through hoops and Interactive Voice Response Systems andÂ multiple levels of call supervisors and processes, then itÂ perhaps just becomes not worth someone’s time to cancel yourÂ service.
Where this works against them is that people, burned byÂ experiences like this, will stop subscribing to similarÂ services. And it will also hopefully work against them whenÂ annoyed customers like myself publish jeremiads like thisÂ warning customers about their company.
So I’ll just come out and say it – don’t use Vonage. It hasÂ a few neat features, but they’re not worth the price ofÂ admission and they’re absolutely not worth the price ofÂ trying to leave if you don’t like it. Use Skype or your cell phone.
August 1st, 2005
UPDATE December 3, 2005
So Vonage tried to continue billing me, after they had swore toÂ me twice the service was cancelled. I issued chargebacks on eachÂ one, which Vonage STUNNINGLY decided to rebut, including inÂ their rebuttal the information that I had cancelled and that theyÂ had tried to bill me post-cancellation. I called my bank to blockÂ the charges from Vonage, to be told alternately that that was andÂ wasn’t possible. After receiving two more notices that Vonage hadÂ continued charging my account in October and November, IÂ finally was pushed over the limit and sic’ed the BBB on Vonage.Â It worked! Vonage refunded me my money, minus a surprise $40Â cancellation fee. Amusingly enough, they tried to send me anÂ email after that that asked if I wanted to terminate service withÂ them, and if I did, to call a certain number. The tirade I launchedÂ in return seems to have guaranteed that I won’t hear from themÂ again. Vonage is the worst company I’ve ever dealt with.