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Branding is often viewed as window dressing for the sake of making an initial impression and closing a sale. The problem is that if your company changes a slogan, but not its practices or service, the slogan will eventually fall flat. If you don't live up to the hype your customers will lose faith, as I did recently.

I purchased mobile phone services from a company I switched to after a bad experience with one of its competitors. Has anyone had a good experience with their cell phone provider?

Here’s my dilemma: My PDA phone is dead…Intermittent signal (a bad antenna). Difficulty charging and holding a charge, but not just a bad battery. The bottom line is that it’s not working and it’s time for a replacement.

Luckily, I thought, I insured my equipment, so it should be simple enough to get a replacement. Buying insurance for my phone was a bit of a leap of faith, because I am generally not one to buy the extended warrantee from big box stores. I think of them as a bit of a racket, just another profit center for the store offering pretty minimal value to the customer.

I dropped by my local mobile service provider, thinking I’d get a new phone, a different phone, since I wasn’t happy with the fact that my old one died shortly after it’s one year warrantee elapsed, as in on cue.

Here’s what I found:

My insurance policy does not allow me to get a different phone.

The PDA phone I have has not been discontinued.

I’ve paid about $120 in insurance fees and the deductible is $110. The phone retails for $300 new(it goes for $100 with a new plan).

Imagine if your auto insurance required you to replace your broken down car with one of the same make, model and year, and your deductible was more than a third the original cost of the car. No you can't take the money and put towards a different make.

I’m thinking my mobile service provider wants to keep me around. After all, I have a family plan, data plans, a couple of PDA phones, a Wifi plan. They are unmoved. It turns out that the replacement won’t come from them, but from the insurer. I can either call them from the phone store, or from home. It doesn’t matter, because the new phone will be shipped to me at home. Not very convenient when your phone dies in the middle of a business trip, as mine did.

I left the store with an 800 number and a web address for a company I had not heard of before(not particularly happy). I am reminded of why I don’t buy those extended warrantees.

When I got home I took a look at the insurance company web site. My replacement phone will be "either a new or refurbished phone" and I must send my broken phone in within 30 days or may be charged up to $300. Colors, features and accessory compatibility are not guaranteed.

Are you serious? Send us your money and your phone and we’ll decide what to send you in return. If it doesn’t work with your Bluetooth headset, you’re on your own. I imagine getting a phone in the mail. I open the box to find a pink phone, studded with fake rhinestones. Nevermind the fact that my phone doesn't come in pink and rhinestones aren't a factory option...this is my nightmare.

Imagine that replacement car again. The same model and year as your broken down car. It’s had a tune up, but color and features are not guaranteed. No A/C perhaps, or heated seats.

Part of me thinks I should have read the fine print. Part of me knows that if everyone in line to buy a new phone read the fine print of their contracts, the mobile service providers would go out of business.

Now I find myself shopping for a new phone and quite possibly a new service provider.

David Oliver | Cusp |