Many of the estimated 45,000 Portlanders who have signed up for wireless Internet since last year from Clear are already aware of the company's sporadic signal strength and unpredictable download speeds.
But one Portland customer says the company's customer service is just as spotty—earning the Kirkland, Wash.,-based company this week's Rogue dishonors.
Michelle Sorensen, a 35-year-old single mom who works as a research assistant at Oregon Health & Science University, walked into a Clear store at the Washington Square Mall on April 26 to shop for home Internet service. The company launched its first 4G WiMAX wireless broadband network in Portland in January 2009 and has since expanded to more than a dozen other U.S. cities.
A clerk sold Sorensen a mobile USB device to pick up Clear's signal and signed her up for a monthly plan. She paid $60.99 and walked out of the store excited to get online. But when Sorensen arrived back at her house in Southwest Portland, she found the device wouldn't pick up a signal in her home.
Sorensen says she returned the device to the store the next week, saying she needed Web access at home. The next day a Clear representative called to tell her the coverage area had just been expanded and her home was now in range. The rep offered to ship Sorensen a home-Internet device and told her it would definitely work. Sorensen agreed.
The boxy device made by Motorola arrived two days later. Problem was, Sorensen says, it didn't work. A technical-support assistant on the phone told Sorensen to move the box around to different locations in her house, but still there was no signal. So Sorensen sent the device back, confident Clear would refund the money she'd spent on the box.
Sorensen waited several weeks for the money to appear in her bank account, but she says it never did. Finally she called Clear and was told she was out of luck, because she failed to go through the process of officially canceling her account within 14 days. Sorensen says she spent two hours on the phone with different representatives and supervisors, including being put on hold for an hour, all to no avail. She says Clear reps admitted the situation was unfair, but they refused to refund her money.
"I am disgusted," Sorensen says.
Portlanders aren't the only customers who have problems with Clear. Disgruntled customers in Washington slapped the company with a class-action lawsuit last year alleging false advertising, exorbitant termination penalties and other hidden fees.
"We work with our customers," says Clear spokesman Guy Jones. "We have actually modified policies based on customer feedback.... We're definitely a customer-friendly company."