AARP’s Consumer Cellular Scams Seniors

 

Okay, so my sister really likes AARP because of their discounts at restaurants. I suppose there are others who enjoy discounts at retail outlets and hotel/motel chains as well. A word of warning, however. Their Consumer Cellular Program Is Terrible. I subscribed to this service for several years and everything was okay…until I had a technical issue with my phone. At that point, I discovered that their service was pitiful and unprofessional.

About six months ago, after living for years with a cheap phone, I decided to upgrade. For $125.00, I purchased a new Samsung Galaxy J-3 through their website. I also signed up for the Square Trade guarantee so that, if the phone was damaged, I could get a replacement. Around two weeks after receiving the phone I dropped it on concrete. The screen shattered and the phone was rendered inoperable.

I panicked and immediately sent the phone back to Consumer Cellular along with a note explaining what had happened. I waited a few days and contacted them via email to see if they had received the parcel. I received a communication stating that it had not been received. I checked the USPS website and it confirmed that the package had been delivered. After some time they contacted me and said that they found it but would have to send it back to me because I needed to send it to Square Trade. My Bad.

Got the phone back and contacted Square Trade. They sent me a replacement unit and said that I needed to send the broken phone back in X number of days or I would be charged for it. No problem there. I sent it back immediately.

At first, the replacement phone seemed to work okay but I noticed that I was having difficulty dialing out from my house. I would call my daughter and could clearly hear her saying “Hello.” I would say “Hi, Cori. This is your Pappy,” Her response was: “Hello…Hello.” I would repeat my greeting and, once again, she could not hear me and hung up. I repeated the process with the same results. She finally recognized my new phone number and called me back. I answered and we could both hear each other.

Turns out that people could call and would hear me but, if I dialed out from my home, no one could hear me at all. I thought maybe this was a temporary issue with the cell tower connectivity. I went up the street to the fire station and dialed out. Most of the time this worked. I figured the signal might be stronger there. Every day I would trudge up to the fire station to conduct my business. By now I was actively involved in an email correspondence with Consumer Cellular to try and figure out a solution.

Weeks passed and still no resolution. Finally, one Consumer Cellular rep told me that I should go to Sears and speak with one of their employees. “Ask to borrow their phone so we can help you troubleshoot your phone”, she said. Are they even aware that Sears is on the skids? I went there and saw they had one sales lady trying to sell stoves, dishwashers, refrigerators, microwaves, TV sets, washers and dryers, and…oh, yes…Consumer Cellular phones. Waited around for a short while but finally gave up when I saw how beleaguered she was. Sears has since closed down this location.

She also suggested I try Target. Not much better than Sears.

By now, I had been without any sort of reliable phone service for several weeks. I didn’t have a land line. I am 67 years old and living alone. If I had a medical emergency I had no idea if I could dial 911. Add to that, the isolation of my residence which was definitely off the beaten path. (That’s me next to the tractor on family acreage).

I contacted my oldest daughter who is in the Coast Guard stationed in Florida. She is a technical whiz. She told me that I could get onto her T-Mobile family plan for $20 per month. That was less than half of the $45 per month that Consumer Cellular was charging me. She said that service and connectivity were first class as well. Melissa sent me a Sim card and I drove to the T-Mobile HQ which was about ten minutes from my home. I had not installed the Sim card yet.

Hoping that I might be able to use my Consumer Cellular phone in order to save money, I showed it to a T-Mobile employee. She tried to dial out and the party could not hear her. She was stymied and suggested that I go to a phone repair shop across the street. Went there and the technician experienced the same issue. He dialed my number on his personal phone from behind the counter and it worked perfectly. I told him to try and dial my daughter across town and the problem repeated. No response on the other end. He said that the internal microphone may have some issues but that the phone was not worth the cost of repair. He suggested another repair service nearby and they came to the same conclusion.

The replacement phone they sent me was defective.

Having been without a properly working phone for weeks and disgusted with Consumer Cellular, I went back to the T-Mobile office and purchased an identical phone. The young lady I had spoken with earlier spent over half an hour helping me set up my new phone. Now that’s real customer service! Below is a picture of the two phone boxes proving that I had to purchase a replacement out of my own pocket. I took the picture with my T-Mobile phone. The phone in the picture is the defective one. (Note the red T-Mobile sticker on the right-hand box).

I returned home and immediately contacted Consumer Cellular to cancel my service. They responded by saying that they billed for the previous month’s service and that I still needed to pay them $45. I told them I did NOT owe them anything because of the poor service and the useless, broken phone. I even offered to send back the defective phone to cover what I owed. Trade my $125 phone for a $45 invoice. Seemed fair to me. Nothing doing they said. Give us the money. Eat the phone. I tried to return the broken phone to Square Trade as well but they said my warranty was invalid as I had just canceled my Consumer Cellular plan. Again…Eat the phone.

Only when a problem arises do you realize how completely disorganized and out-of-touch Consumer Cellular is.

When you try to quit your plan that’s when the problems really begin. Their employees are like a cult. They seem to take rejection personally.  Consumer Cellular is a complete and total ripoff. Their monthly fees are not just way overpriced but there are limitations on the size of videos you can send via messaging. Anything over 23 seconds long would activate a notification saying the file was too large for “my plan” and would I like to upgrade? If something goes wrong with your company supplied phone, it takes them weeks, if not months, to correct the problem.

Now they have turned me over to a collection agency. At first, they said I owed them fifty bucks. Now that amount has magically transformed into one hundred forty-eight dollars. By the time we get into a courtroom they will be demanding a million dollars and my first born. Such is the arrogance of this tin-pot corporation.

I am going to try and fight them in court. I have been researching the issue and have a basic understanding as to how to contest a debt. I may very well lose but, at the very least, I will be able to tell the world what a bunch of self-serving cretins these people are. John Marick, the multi-millionaire CEO, will probably win this fight (money-wise) as he sics his lawyers on this old man but he will have to live with this damning indictment of him and his creepy enterprise. In the months after I post this article, you can Google “John Marick CEO Consumer Cellular” then click images and you will probably see the photoshops from this article. Even if they succeed in making me take down this article, the original photoshops I constructed will always be there as it is next to impossible to remove an image from Google once it has been posted.

One last note regarding Consumer Cellular. If you go to their website you will see the following:

The #1 Rated Cell Phone Service. No Contract Plans Start at $10/Mo!
Nationwide Coverage · 30-Day Guarantee · Family Plans · US-Based Customer Support
Ranked Highest Among Non-Contract Wireless Providers
Imagine That! Their Own Website Rates Consumer Cellular as #1!
If, however, you go to any number of independent review sites you will see that they are rated very, very low in customer satisfaction, service, pricing, and connectivity. Complaints, in the hundreds, can be found at the click of a mouse. I found some truly horrible reviews but the one below (from Consumer Affairs) was the worst:

Maybe she should have buried her husband with his phone in his pocket. I would not be surprised if Consumer Cellular employees were to gleefully line up to take turns harassing a corpse.

 

I also canceled my AARP membership as well as my auto insurance through the Hartford. At my daughter’s suggestion, I contacted GEICO where I saved $200 per year and got free roadside emergency service. Roadside emergency service is extra through the Hartford.

Fingers crossed…the Hartford hasn’t started harassing me…yet.*1

AARP uses pressing political and economic issues to solicit donations and make you feel like you are a warrior for truth. They will also collect your membership renewal fees and a few weeks later send you another bill, then another, then another. I received so many requests for renewal after I had made my annual payment that I finally penned a letter and told them to knock it off. No telling how many confused seniors pay double, triple, or quadruple fees to this questionable enterprise. Hopefully, some enterprising law firm will sniff this tidbit of information and sense the possibility of a class action lawsuit.

In case Consumer Cellular’s CEO, John Marick, takes umbrage with this article (and the pictures contained herein) he needs to note that, as I was being harassed unmercifully for money that I did not know, I responded that I was an active blogger and that, if they did not cease and desist, I would publish an article detailing the astounding level of corruption, incompetence, and dishonesty extant at Consumer Cellular. I even included three photoshops in my communications with both Consumer Cellular and AARP (All but the dead horse thing. That was a last minute inspiration).

I offered them ample opportunity to back off. Maybe they didn’t take me seriously. Perhaps they are simply a swaggering pack of dolts who are incapable of logic and reason…swilling from the cesspool of corporate arrogance…so vested in the moment that they are unable to recognize that actions have consequences. So be it, Mr. Marick, you get what you pay for and you reap what you sow.

If you, the consumer, are looking for deals on hotels, travel, or meals I suppose you can save money. You need to avoid their cell phone and auto insurance services like the plague.

Look up the Hartford/AARP and Consumer Cellular on Ripoff Report and other consumer friendly sites. There are literally hundreds of complaints.*1) Update on the Hartford auto policy. I sent them a certified letter on July 1 telling them I was canceling my policy. Evidently, that is not sufficient for these folks. Four weeks after I mailed that letter I get a form from them that they want me to submit requesting cancellation. WTF? All these schmucks are doing is trying to screw with me for money. I am sending their stupid form but I fully expect that, like Consumer Cellular, they will start harassing me anytime now.

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