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devedander

join:2002-12-15

1 edit

Long time sonic member, negative experience.

This is very long winded and to those who don't want to read the whole shebang, there is a summary at the end. I only post so long because I think it's important to put the details down so the whole story is there. It's not really fair to post a negative experience without providing all the detail.

To start off I have been a sonic member since very early on in their dial up days (some part of it while I was living at home) and alwyas been very happy with sonics performance and especially their customer service.

I have always felt like sonic was not like "all those other businesses" just trying to squeeze every last cent out of you and give you the least attention they can. And this has lead to me telling my friends and clients (I do onsite computer service as a personal business) "The extra few bucks is worth it to go with Sonic.net, they are a good company and will treat you right".

Basically sonic never seemed like a company who was going to try and lure you in with a sweet sounding deal only to try and nab you with high unexpected costs later and would take care of you in a reasonable way if something went wrong.

Then I had a run in a few days ago with my most recent referral.

I didn't realize Sonic had changed their service offerings in march as most of my recent clients have been wanting cable and so I have had no reason to look. However my most recent customer was a prime DSL candidate so I went to get her setup with sonic.net.

Fast Forward to my updating myself on sonics monthly only offerings and promotion rate setup.

Now I signed up with sonic over a year ago for DSL (having had a stint where my work paid for my internet with a different company) and when signing up I opted for month to month and was told by the lady on the phone (paraprhasing as I dont' have a transcript but I would bet my left foot I am accurate as I pay close attention when I grill anyone on a sale situation):

"This is the current rate, you can lock it in if you go for the annual rate, but if you go month to month you will get an email 30 days in advance of your rate changing and you can decide what you want to do then. You can probably just call back and get a better rate."

I probed and clarified with her for a good 10-15 minutes more on this and came away satisfied that if I jut watch my email, I will see this "Subj: Your rate will go up" type email from Sonic at some point and act on it.

Especially to note, this was note sold to me as a "promotional rate" at the time, just "this is our current rate and it may change". I believe at the time I ordered perhaps this process was new to the sales people and they were not detailing it properly. I don't think she intentionally swindled me, but perhaps didn't realize the details of what she was describing.

For a long time all I see is every month a "Subj: Receipt for your automated payment" or some such, it never changes the subject and after a few months of seeing them stack up they just become mundane.

Now, first off I will say, I do not double check my invoices as carefully as I should. I don't double check my grocery receipts on the way out, and when my cable bill shows up every month I know it's the same amount becuase the notification of rate change from them comes in an orange envelope so I don't miss it. So maybe companies being honest and forthright and looking out for their customers has made me lazy.

And this is the stickler...

I never got a conspicuous and obvious email that my rate would change.

What I did get, was in one of my many identical automatic payment reciepts, a blurb at the top that said my promo rate would run out soon.

Now if I was the kind of person to look at my invoice every month I would have seen that. Fair enough.

But I spent quite a while talking on the phone to the sales lady when I ordered making sure of two things:

1 The rate would not change without me being notified
2 I would recieve an email notifying me in advance of the rate change

Now trusting sonic not to pull a fast one on me, and never having seen anything looking like a rate change notification, I didn't bother reading my invoices as that's why I sign up for auto pay, so I don't have to micromanage something that should be simple and straightforward.

Now if you are the kind of person to say "you should read your invoices, caveat emptor" that's fine. I can't fault you on it. And in the world of business today, I agree it's good advice. But it's the fact that I never fealt I had to before with sonic that has been a big part of me recommending them to my clients even at a premium price.

Here is how I feel about the situation overall:

If I signed up for a Visa car and balance transfered $10000 to it, and they said "you have 0% on balance transfers as a promo and we will send you a letter when we up your rate, in the meantime we will automatically withdraw $100 from yoru bank account each month to pay off yoru balance". I would expect that every month I get the same invoice I always get, showing $100 withdrawn and one day a conspicous and obvious letter would come in notifying me of a rate change.

My cable company does this, my phone company does this, even when I sign up for free trials on the internet, they are curteous enough to send me an email seperate from their normal email saying "Your free trial is about to run out! Please act if you don't want to be billed!"

Not so with sonic.net and so I have bene paying $50 for 1.5mbps dsl for 8 months now.

I called support to see if they could do something for a long time customer who I fealt was not properly informed at the time of sale as to what to expect. The tech said he understands my situation, and offered to credit me my about a month and a half of rate change.

I am glad he did that for me however I didn't feel it was really meeting me in the middle, which I would think was more fair, but his response when I asked if there was anything more he could do (as I really did feel that regardless of whether I could have been more vigilant, I shoudln't have to be when I go out of my way to make sure I will get an email in advance and instead get a blurb in my normal invoice) was a rather unpleasant "Well we didn't even have to send you that notice at all, it says right in the original statement your rate may go up."

Now I would say that if your sales person says right on the phone that you will receive an email with a notification, then actually you DO have to send the notification. And it comes off pretty snooty to say "well we didn't even have to" inferring it was some kind of favor and not just good business practice to do what you say.

Add to this that another support person I spoke to when I first called in, looked in my email and said he also couldn't see any email warning of rate change I had gotten. Not until he went and checked with a supervisor did he spot the blurb in the invoice.

Now here I ask, if your own support people are expecting to see an email clearly labled rate change, doesn't that say something about how unreasonable it is not to actually have that email labled that way?

I would think this only goes to show it's very reasonable to expect such an email, and embedding the rate change in an invoice is pretty shameful.

Anyhow - Summary:

I have to say I now feel Sonic has stooped to the levels of bait and switch that so many of the big companies out there do. Low introductory rates, hope you forget to change things down the road and leave you holding a rediculous bill ($50 for 1.5 mbps is the REGULAR price? That's pretty rediculous).

Add to that the method of notification they give you (yes technically I did recieve notification, and yes it did come by email - and no I don't think it meets the description implied by the people at sonic - the tech support guy who coudln't find my email warning only strengthens that conviction) being borederline slimy in presentation (just a little blurb in a statement you receive every month with the same subject line) and I have to say I can no longer say sonic will treat you right or is better than the competition.

The final straw being that hold times for tech support and sales were longer than I can recall ever in the past this time around and the support person I talked to did not do much to make me feel better about the situation and in fact made me feel worse with his condescending "we didn't even have to send you that warning" and I have to say sadly that sonic has lost a long time supporter.

Now it comes down to $ for dollar value. I still realize that sonic offers services that others don't, and I will continue to factor that in when helping my clients choose a provider, but just like I always told people it was worth a few more dollars to go with a good local company that treats you right, I will now have to say "It might be worth paying a bit more from the big bells who's busines practices I don't particularly like, but I don't feel are quite as questionable as sneaking $50 a month dsl on you."


DaneJasper
Sonic.Net
Premium,VIP
join:2001-08-20
Santa Rosa, CA
kudos:9

1 recommendation

The bottom line is that we cannot do business at the promotional rates. It's impossible to run the network and pay the staff who answer the phones at intro costs.

So, the entire industry is doing some really frustrating teaser rate stuff, with future price hikes that affect mostly those who are not paying attention.

We've tried to do what we can within reason to be transparent. For example, if you do have a promotional rate, it's clear on the bill what your non-promotional rate will be. It also shows on every invoice when that promotional discount expires. Finally, a month before it does, we insert text, "NOTICE: Your rate will increase...etc. If you have questions about your bill, contact us..etc".

There's a clear conflict here, and I don't think it's right to try to weasel out of noting it here:

We cannot survive as a business if average revenue per circuit is $25. We can survive if it's $45, so there will always be pressure in the upward direction.

Our goal is to be competitive, but I also note that we are NOT the cheap product. If price IS the only factor, we are probably not the correct ISP for you.

Instead, we try to deliver more, so we can justify and earn the money that we charge. Our support is one example of this (70 second average hold time, no scripts, no bull), but we also try to add value by providing services like our free personal web hosting. (You can have a totally free new domain, with free registration for a year, a pile of mailboxes, and totally free hosting for as long as you stay with us)

I hope this clarifies a little bit. We can't satisfy the desire for the product to be super cheap forever, but my goal is that you feel like you're getting good value overall.

-Dane

devedander

join:2002-12-15

4 edits
reply to devedander
Thanks for the reply Dane.

First off I have always known Sonic offered the best service and not the cheapest, I have told people for many years now that sonic was worth the premium (although it was usually only a $2-5 premium that's still 25% if you are talking a $20 service). So don't get me wrong, I have no problem paying for better quality.

I think a few issues are being obfuscated by the amount of information I tried to cram into that post, but the short of my negative exerpience with sonic wasn't even so much the cost (although I do think $50 is not a reasonable price for 1.5mb DSL even if it does have a lot of nice bundled servies) but rather the method which business was conducted.

I have always been appalled by a company that stands by "it's in writing, doesn't matter what we said" sort of approach and that's very much the feeling I got from the support guy I spoke to when try explain to him that I do understand what is in writing, but it's not what was represented to me by the sales person.

I am one who believes in sold ethical business. If I make a mistake and missrepresent myself or my business in an honest mistake, I make good on it. I have given away thousands in free services because I slipped up and I always admit it and move right on. Customers are not thre to double check my business and worry abuot my profits. They are there to get from me what I tell them they will get. When I tell you something, that's what it's going to be, you don't have to read my contracts before you sign becuase I stand by what I say. You probably SHOULD read the fine print even after you have been given the verbal explanation, but when you HAVE to that's when I think a company slips out of being premium service and just another business.

The main points I have are that I truly feel that I had the situation (unintentionally) missrepresented to me by the sales person and based on the way that sales persons language directed my actions, I have suffered.

The sales person did not mention promotional pricing, just that this is what our price currently is and may change.

The sales person said you will recieve an email with a warning which I clarified many times and which technically does cover a blurb included in your normal email, but which I think almost any person will understand as a seperate, obvious and conspicious warning (againg I point out that one of the support techs that I spoke to who works for sonic.net himself thought the same thing and was looking for some warning email).

I understand that in the business world, writing trumps all and caveate emptor is the favorite fall back.

I am just dissapointed that it has to be that way with sonic.

You say it yourself, the rate teaser stuff is frustrating. I agree, everyone does do it. I don't think that makes it ok or excuseable (I would never do it to my customers, and if I couldn't make money not doing it, I would think I was in the wrong business. I like to be in the business of selling services, not finagling a profit).

But I disagree with you that you have done what can be within reason to be transparent. At least in my case.

Maybe now the sales people are more clear on the details, maybe they now say "watch your invoice for a notice that things may change". But I can tell you that that is not what was said to me and what was said to me did not make it transparent.

The short end of the deal here is: I get notices from any number of businesses I am involved with and this is the first time I can recall every having a (I think we can agree) very important piece of info delivered to me in a very inconspicuos way.

Either all those other businesses are opperating outside of reason, or sonic is not really doing all they can within reason.

I would say that it costs sonic nothing but a few electrons to send a seperate email reminding the customer. And I would say if you are going to opperate as a good faith service partner (not just a business which looks out for profits) that this seperate email is in no way out of reason and would make you 100% transparent.

And I would definitely say that if that expectation has been set verbally by the sales person (regardless of what technical outs you have in writing) and it's reasonable enough that your own support department draws the same conclusion from the wordding that you should consider that a short fall on your side. That's just ethical business.

Addressing the cost of opperating, I have never fealt it was in good taste to try and justify any business practice by saying "we had to because our costs are X and we need to make money".

The customer pays for a service, what you have to do to get that service is what your employees are paid to consider and deal with, not something the customer should ever have to consider.

But that asside, I would call into your own sales lines a few times over the next month and pretend to be a new customer. I would bet you get told that when the promo expires you can just call in and ask to be re rated and that you will receive an email 30 days in advance notifying you of rate changes.

Now if you can't opperate on $25 a month but your own sales people tell customers to call in and keep getting that $25 rate, the only logical conclusion is that you hope to suppliment the $25 vigilant users with the $50 users who forget or otherwise let slip. Not what I would consider a postive business methodology.

And if you think the current method of a paragraph at the top of your invoice fulfills the expectation of "you will recieve an email with a warning 30 days in advance" then I guess we just have a difference of thought there. But I still hold that a solid business, interested in being honest and transparent, would actually send a sperate email for a piece of information that can double your monthly rate.

In closing, I again don't claim to be clear of fault here, but I just think that sonic has fallen from graces in a few ways that aren't necessarily financial. Basically I am a small business person and I do business how I would like others to do business with me. I think for a long time sonic has done business very much that way.

There aren't that many businesses out there that do like I do anymore, but I don't think that excuses joining their ranks.

I think sonic still does a lot of things right and well, but I just hope as you grow you don't become of the mindset that the right hand doing good deeds excuses failing with the left.

Kudos on trying to make sure you are worth what you charge by value adding servcies.

But not so much on (at least this instance) of honest, ethical and transparent business.


bobrk
You kids get offa my lawn
Premium
join:2000-02-02
San Jose, CA
Reviews:
·SONIC.NET
reply to DaneJasper
said by DaneJasper:

Our goal is to be competitive, but I also note that we are NOT the cheap product. If price IS the only factor, we are probably not the correct ISP for you.
QFT.
--
Iraq Coalition Deaths | bobrk

devedander

join:2002-12-15

1 edit
said by bobrk:

said by DaneJasper:

Our goal is to be competitive, but I also note that we are NOT the cheap product. If price IS the only factor, we are probably not the correct ISP for you.
QFT.
While I know I said $50 is high for 1.5mb, I probably shoudl have just not confused the post with that, as price for service is not the point of my post. Operations is.

Please not, right off the bat I said

quote:
I have always felt like sonic was not like "all those other businesses" just trying to squeeze every last cent out of you and give you the least attention they can. And this has lead to me telling my friends and clients (I do onsite computer service as a personal business) "The extra few bucks is worth it to go with Sonic.net, they are a good company and will treat you right".
The reason I mention it being $$ for $$ at the end of my first post is that if sonic's business practices aren't going to stand above the rest, then it really does come down to what do you get for your money and I can no longer toss in that a quality business is worth a premium.


Tronix74

@sonic.net
reply to devedander
One thing that I like about Sonic.net compared to other companies out there is that when they say that they offer unlimited internet, they mean it. Companies like AT&T and Comcast are currently looking into imposing bandwidth caps and they aren't fair at all. I've read they will be set around 20GB/month or so. Of course if you go over, they will gladly continue your internet service but at an escalated fee.
What Jasper said is correct... It's better to pay for what you get up front regardless of the fact it's not a bargain price than to be scammed, nickled and dimed later on down the line. The choice is yours.

devedander

join:2002-12-15

2 edits
reply to devedander
I keep hearing about caps but have yet to see them in my area, and it sounds from your post you dont have themeither making this rather a straw man.

Certainly if you are in an area that has caps, thats important to cinsider price wise but unless the companies are hiding the fact they have caps I dont see how it's pertinant.

Even more I believe dane alluded in another thread that sonic may go the capped or pay by use method when and if att does.

Yes sonics unlimited is truly unlimited now and someone elses capped is capped but that says nothing about quality of business.

And one has to wonder how far over your cap you would have to go before hitting $50 a month on a 1.5 tier.

But again I say the main point I was making was not about cost, but the way business is conducted.