Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CLEAR Internet

I really-really-really wanted to fire AT&T on Sunday after their automated troubleshooting system told me there was no problem and hung up in my ear.

So, I went to CLEAR.com and gave them my credit card number.  (Big mistake.)

They have a cute application that will take the MAC address of your laptop's wireless modem and tell you whether it will do WiMAX.  I typed mine in and it said, "Yea, verily, you can do WiMAX."  Unhappily, it lied to me.  More on that in a moment.

In the meantime, my CLEAR home modem came today.  Oh, boy!  I'll set that sucker up and fire AT&T!  Revenge is nigh.  (Wrong again, dog breath!)

Before decomposing my whole home network, I connected the CLEAR modem to a ThinkPad and fired it up.  Two bars on the signal strength scale; only one bar if I stand close by.  {Sigh.} But maybe it will be OK... I'll run the Speakeasy Speed Test and See What Happens (tm);.  Maybe it'll be OK.

Too bad... you can't run anything on CLEAR without accepting their on line agreement.  They present the agreement in a scrolling text box that's about five lines high, but they do provide a link to a printable version.  If you are signing up with CLEAR, print it!  And read it!  You really need to read this. Among other things, you agree to binding arbitration.  You might also be agreeing to termination fees, too.  The text of the agreement is ambiguous.  Since it was written by lawyers, I have to believe that was purposeful. {Sigh}  Since it was written by CLEAR's lawyers, I have to believe it is to CLEAR's advantage.  And so, I worry about it.

The binding arbitration clause means you give up your right to sue and your right to trial by jury.  If I were pretty sure CLEAR was going to work, and/or I were pretty sure I knew what my financial exposure was, that would be OK.  However, you have to accept the onerous click-wrap agreement before you can test, and that is not OK.  Don't do it!

I mucked around with the modem's Web interface before I fired CLEAR.  You can turn DHCP off, but I couldn't figure out how to set the "inside" address for the modem.  (The outside address is determined by CLEAR.)  Not being able to set the inside address is a problem if you have a non-trivial home network, as I do.

CLEAR doesn't have an email support option.  (Don't want a written record?)  The on-line chat support was responsive (time-wise) but not helpful.  ("You have to accept the agreement before you can use the service."  Well, I knew that!  That's the crux of the problem.)  They did give me a toll-free number to cancel service, and that appears to have worked.  They're supposed to be sending me a return label for the modem.  We sh'll see.

And then there's that cute app that determines whether one's laptop speaks WiMAX.  As I mentioned earlier, it lies.  So, I found out about the lie after I ordered (for $$$) a suitable WiMAX modem for my laptop.  It hasn't arrived yet, and I won't be able to use it when it does.  Too bad for me.  I should have kept my pants on and tested CLEAR before I ordered the modem for the laptop.  (Not from CLEAR.)  Oh, well.  One lives and learns   If one is lucky.

Bottom line: CLEAR has an onerous contract to which you'd be a fool to agree.  Their lawyers think we're fools.  Time to prove them wrong.  Don't buy anything from these turkeys!  You cannot tell (because the document is ambiguous) what you're agreeing to, and you have agreed to binding arbitration.  Don't do it!

On December 12, 2009...
Clear did send a return shipping label, and they sent it promptly.  They went up a couple of notches in my estimation because of that.  Unhappily, the increased estimation was temporary.

It took a couple of weeks before they posted a credit to my credit card account.  I shouldn't have been surprised when they held back $25.00.  In other words, my "refund" was only a partial refund.

I filed a dispute with my credit card company.  Still waiting to see how that turns out, but the bottom line remains, you can't believe what CLEAR tells you.

On December 16, 2009...
I disputed Clear's hold-back and my credit card company agreed with me.  (I've been their customer for 25 years and only disputed one other charge.  YMMV.)

Instead of challenging the dispute, Clear just charged me another $25 on a new charge.  Turkeys!

And then they did it again!  As of this morning, I was $50 in the hole.

I'll dispute those and eventually get my money back.  What this means to you, dear readers, is that it is not safe to give Clear a credit card number because they have shown they will make unauthorized charges to your account.