Vonage and "The customer is always right"

Date: Thu May 14 2009
I've been using vonage for several years primarily so I could make long phone calls w/o killing the anytime minutes on my cell phone. Vonage is a "voice over IP" telephone service (VOIP) and they've been in this business for quite awhile. Their service acts pretty much like a regular telephone but the connection is over the Internet. In my case I had a special router with a telephone jack, and a regular telephone gets plugged into that jack. Upon picking up the phone (like normal) you get a regular dial tone, you key in the phone number etc the same way as a regular telephone line. But it's over the Internet.

The service runs pretty well and works relatively well. The biggest theoretical concern is what happens when you need to make an emergency call. They don't connect correctly with 911 services and the fear story is if someone breaks into your house and is rummaging through your jewels or raping your wife will you be able to get through to proper 911 or what? I think they fixed that, but I never checked.

I spent a lot of thinking on this, is the monthly Vonage bill worth the cost? I am not utilizing my "anytime" cellphone minutes anyway and the calls I'm making with Vonage could easily be made with the cellphone. Originally I got the Vonage line because I'd been making lots of daytime phone calls, running out the cellphone anytime minutes and ending up with multi-hundred-dollar cellphone bills. But my conditions had changed and the past was no longer true.

So I called up Vonage a few minutes ago.. their account cancellation procedure is for the customer to call them on a phone line and request by voice that the account be canceled. Perhaps there are good and proper security reasons behind this. I dunno. But it's a bit of a hassle to call them on the phone for this, so I eventually did so. What I did not expect was the major wringer the account rep on the phone put me through to actually accomplish closing the account.

It took perhaps five minutes of hassling from the account rep for her to actually close the account. First it was simple, she was asking the obvious "are you sure" questions that one would expect. But after the third such of these questions it seemed like a grilling, like she was attempting to wear me down so I could relent in my goal to close the account. Part of this was dangling various special offers in front of me such as two free months of service so I could think about it. Uh, lady, I had already thought this through, I had already made up my mind, I wanted to close my account, but she wouldn't listen and kept badgering away with the facts I'd been a "member" for 4 years, and surely I must be crazy to want to close this account I'd had for 4 years.


I didn't tell her this but part of my thinking is to use Skype for some calls. Clearly there is a risk of running out of anytime minutes on the cell phone. It turns it's best to consider the tradeoff between the monthly bill with Vonage (in my case $17.95/month) versus the cost for a different service. Would some replacement service cost more or less than the Vonage bill, that is the question.

I do make a few long distance long running phone calls per month. However it's nowhere near the 500 anytime minutes per month my cellphone plan has, and in any case Skype's long distance cost within the U.S. is only $0.02 per minute. That equates out to over 800 minutes of phone calls. Further Skype doesn't carry with it a vestigial telephone number that I'm not going to use. You can get a phone number for your Skype account if you like, but it's not required. You are able to get just the services you want rather than a full package of services you may not want.

The only real issue I have is with the Vonage service I was able to use a portable cordless phone and walk around the house while on the phone, and with Skype I kinda have to be tethered to the computer because of the headset. UPDATE: Just yahoogled "skype cordless headset" and learned that a bluetooth handsfree earbud thingymajob can be paired with a computer bluetooth adaptor such as the one built into my Mac laptop. Once paired Skype will recognize it as a audio I/O device and allow you to use it for calls. Sounds like the thing. I haven't gotten one of those thingies (yeah, yeah, I am sometimes reluctant to adopt new stuff) but this might be a thing to try out.