I've recently traveled for 10 days from the US to Norway, Romania, and England. Somewhere in Romania my data access seemed to suddenly stop working, and in the most annoying way - I'd see good signal, connection to LTE, and everything would time out. I chalked that up to some obscure issue with the Romanian cell provider and was hopeful that things will work just fine in London.
They didn't. So I land in LTN and prepare my route to the hotel (Aloft Excel) on Google Maps using airport's WiFi (also loaded offline maps). The route involved one bus, one train, two subways, and some walking over the span of two hours. At some point along the way I must have taken the wrong subway because I got to a subway station I wasn't supposed to be at. So I just exited with a suitcase and a backpack in a random corner of London past 10 PM trying to find my way to the hotel. And of course there was no cell phone data. Google Maps (even with Offline Maps) is useless for finding trains, kept on saying "No Route Found". No Uber. Fortunately I could flag a taxi that took me to the destination for $35 more than planned.
I email Ting customer service asking what's happening and got a most surprising explanation. Ting places a cap on roaming so customers don't get shocked at the end of the month with a large bill. Raising that cap took Ting 24 hours, meaning one more day without navigation around London.
Just to put things in perspective, the bill from that period ended up $65.71 (two phones total), which is below my average Ting bill of $73.76 and way below the two largest Ting bills I paid ($231.08 in September and $169.98 in November on account of similar travels). These still compare well with the competition! So Ting was protecting me from a surprise I wasn't going to have.
There must be better ways of doing well by traveling customers than leaving them without data exactly when they need it most. There are simple solutions to announcing the customer of inflated bills. The Ting app allows alerts to be set. A few ideas follow:
- Why are there alerts for SMS messages, megabytes, and minutes, but not for money? It would be really useful if people could set alerts "Your bill has reached $60." The accumulated bill is available in the app and online, shouldn't be too hard to put alerts on it.
- When someone gets near their roaming data cap, DON'T CUT THEIR DATA! It's about the worst you could ever do to someone traveling. Send an SMS "Your roaming data usage is high ($50 MB/$15). Reply YES to add $15 more data roaming capacity, NO to suspend data roaming for this billing cycle".
- How about an alert that the running bill has crossed the average monthly bill? "Warning: your current bill of $80 is larger than your average past bills of $73.76."
- How about an(other) alert that your bill has reached a new high? "Warning: your current bill of $235 is greater than your largest past bill, $231.08 in September 2016."