Ask Natalie: "My Apartment Gets Terrible Cell Phone Service"

I can't help with bedbugs, but I can help with this! *Million Dollar Smile!*
Publish date:
August 25, 2011
cell phone

Dear Natalie,

I just moved into a new apartment (movin' on up!) but there's a teeny 21st-century issue: It gets terrible cell phone service. I'm not sure if the whole building gets bad service or if mine is extra bad because I'm on the ground floor, but despite shelling out for Verizon service, I am always at 2-3 bars MAXIMUM, usually 1 or none. And there doesn't seem to be too much rhyme or reason to when it comes and when it goes -- my bedside table sometimes has 3 bars and sometimes has none, and shows that big red SOS thing. This must be a problem for other people! Is there some kind of way to fix this? I tried this Verizon network extender thing which was a huge ripoff and didn't work at all. Rude.

What should I do??


Molly, homeslice, I've thought about this all summer, and this is what I've got for you three crappy options and one fun, memorable, frugal option.

1. Get a new cell phone provider.

I know; ehhhhh, I hate this option, too. Since that whole provider-by router option turns out to suck beyond comprehension, it's almost worth a half-assed try. Here's what you could do: Go to 7-11 or your local purveyor of cheap, disposible "go phones" (Best Buy, Wal-Mart). Pick out the cheapest from each major provider (AT&T, Boost, Verizon, Sprint, Virgin, possibly others), and take it home to carry out a fun science experiment, which is, incredibly, Which Provider Has the Best Service Here? Then return them once you have a consensus because the point of them is pay-as-you-go.

2. Get a landline.

Hay, seriously, landlines have some very practical purposes, like serving as a backup when you have no cell phone service, or giving false hopes to the telemarketing industry, or serving as a backup when you have no cell phone service.

Oh shit! I did not actually mean a Land Line as those old traditional phones in which you pay for phone-service as one third of the "Triple Play" as they say. I meant Skype. Or Google voice. This is really option 2.5. Sorry for my lack fo clarity here -- red wine makes me romantic for those olden days when the the landline meant something. Nowadays, even Cabletown is charging you $30+/month for a glorified Vonage service (hint: it connects through your modem, which also powers your internet). Land? Line? What does that even mean??

3. Move.

Yes, you just moved. This is not your best option. But maybe your apartment is owned by the federal government and its iron-chamber walls prevent data penetration from external sources. I'm not here to judge; xojane expressly prohibits J You Dee Gee Eeee -ing of any kind, but maybe it's time you considered stepping out from beyond your apartment's X-ray vest walls and getting some new digs in the process.

OK, again, I admit, this isn't your best option, but it might work for others.

Know what's the best solution of all?

4. Throw a goddamn party.

Invite a bunch of people over. Threaten to have kegs of Six Point Lager something or other. Invite some friends, and some friends of friends, and maybe even some friends of friends (with the obvious caveat that they must be cute geeks, plz). Make a note of the attendees who can can possibly invite more bummy stragglers to your little borough-corner of heaven. Try to have this party on New Year's because I'll be damned if drunk people aren't making inebriated phonecalls a-plenty at midnight.

If nobody can complete a call without hanging halfway off your fire escape, then invest in some nice outdoor rug decor and miniature grilling equipment, because you better well make the best out of your many hours spent out there. If some scruffy cutie can complete a call, you best (1) figure out dat cell provider and (2) get dem digits. I cannot recommend this strategy strongly enough.

Oh, phones. WHO NEEDS 'EM? Yeah, you're right; I do, too. But, I hope this helps a smidgen, Molly, until those cell-tower-overlords solve this problem for you.