My Kingdom for a Cellular Provider that WORKS

With the exception of Cingular, I've had wireless accounts with almost every cellular provider that services the New York Metro Area. Why? Because I can't find one that provides services that actually work as advertised.

My partners know that poor cellular service makes me go positively bonkers. I've been known to throw phones out windows when they don't work. (I once through my Motorola i1000+ out the window of a moving cab on the FDR Drive when Nextel dropped an important client call.)

Anyway, I thought I had found a reliable partner in Verizon Wireless, until recently. They seem to have great coverage everywhere I travel (within the U.S.) and reasonable rates. But I'm running into all sorts of problems with voice mail.

Apparently, Verizon Wireless' concept of voice mail service involves not notifying users when they have important voice mail waiting. When I hear the chime on my phone that notifies me I have voice mail, I never know what's going to confront me when I log in. Could be a message from five minutes ago, could be something from a week ago.

Based on recent experience, a message can sit in Verizon's system for up to five days without my phone being aware of it. It happened again today. I got up this morning, took a shower and heard the voice mail chime while I was getting dressed. I dialed *86 just like I'm supposed to, put in my voice mail password and was greeted by a voice mail left for me by fellow blogger Rick Bruner. Problem was, the voice mail was a day late. If it had been something terribly urgent, like a relative calling me about something family-related, I would have thrown a fit.

It seems like the only way to combat this half-ass service is through class action lawsuits and the like. A subscriber will notice how crappy voice mail service is through Verizon Wireless, mention it to some opportunistic lawyer type and then there will be some sort of settlement of $0.86 per user (if you remembered to respond to an e-mail, piece of junk mail or some other such notification to join in the class action.)

Isn't there another way? Maybe that 142-page contract I signed when I opened up my account with Verizon Wireless says otherwise, but I think I should be able to exit my contract pronto if services don't work as advertised. Or maybe I should bite the bullet, throw my phone out the window again and see if I can try Cingular out. I wonder if they support the Handspring Treo 600? Hmmm...