Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How do I hate thee, AT&T? Oh, I'm going to count the ways.

This doesn’t happen very often, peeps, but your usually mild-mannered host is gonna hafta go on a rant. It might be kind of long, so I understand completely if you want to bail now. If you do plan to stick around, make sure you’re nice and comfy. And that you won’t be insulted  while I repeatedly skewer AT&T, because they’re jerkin’ me around.

Mr. Nerd and I have had cell phone service through AT&T for at least six years. In June of 2009, we got smart phones, signed a new two-year contract, and upgraded our service (at an extra $30 per month) to include a data plan. We’ve been good customers—I’ve even recommended AT&T to a couple of folks who were dissatisfied with other carriers. Last year, I learned from a co-worker that it is sometimes possible to upgrade your phone prior to the end of a contract. I have never been very fond of our current phones, so I started checking on the possibility of an upgrade last fall.

Due to a bad case of New Phone Fever, I’ve spent a lot of time online looking at phones, where each site has a little widget that can check your upgrade status. I was routinely checking that status on at least five sites. (I tried, on several occasions, to check our status on AT&T’s site, but I couldn’t get it to work, even after a call to customer service.) Imagine my excitement when, in December, I found that we were finally eligible. Yay! I started looking at phones in earnest. Last week, I was able to get Mr. Nerd on board with a great web special for a free Android phone from Radio Shack. Sound the trumpets! Cue the singing angels! Begin the search for cases, car chargers, and all of the other fun paraphernalia that accompanies a new phone. We ordered the phones Sunday morning, and all of our chosen accessories Sunday afternoon. Monday night, after work, I reminded Mr. Nerd to check his email and see if our phones had shipped, since the account is in his name.

The phones had not shipped. The order had, in fact, been cancelled--because we were not eligible for an upgrade until February 23, 2011. The cases and other accessories, however, were well on their way.

Thinking that there must have been some kind of mix-up, I called AT&T. There was no mix-up. I asked one customer service rep, her supervisor, AND one “conflict resolution specialist” why we were suddenly labeled ineligible. Their explanation was that the sites where I was shopping for phones (Amazon, Best Buy, Target, Wal-mart, and Radio Shack) were all third-party vendors, they all had the wrong information, and AT&T had no responsibility whatsoever for the information that was provided. *brushes off hands in the traditional “glad to be rid of you” gesture*

By this time, I was furious. (But polite. I never raised my voice, used inflammatory language, or blamed the person on the phone for the situation.) I politely requested that a) we be allowed to go ahead and upgrade now, or b) a credit be added to my next bill to cover the cost of the accessories we had ordered for the new phones, since I consider AT&T to be responsible for the faulty information provided to the third-party vendors. At this point, I was transferred to the conflict resolution specialist’s supervisor, who will henceforth be known as Ms. Snottypants.

Ms. Snottypants came on the line, her voice dripping with disdain before I ever said a word. She reiterated everything the other three people had told me (no responsibility, not eligible, wait until February 23rd, we don’t care that you  are out money for accessories for the phones that you will never receive, "you can just return that stuff," you’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny, etc.), but with an unspoken, “Oh, and you're a massive idiot,” at the end of every sentence. She said that it was ridiculous for me to expect her to approve the upgrade now, and even more ludicrous to think that she would credit our account when we had not purchased any items from AT&T. (Except, I could point out, six previous years of cell phone service.) Ms. Snottypants added that it was our fault that we acted on unreliable information. She insisted that those widgets had nothing to do with AT&T. (I call shenanigans on that. You enter your cell phone number and it tells you whether or not you are eligible, so it has to access AT&T's information somehow.) She noted, as if I was a complete moron for not knowing this, that we could have checked our upgrade status by pressing “star six nine three four pound star” on our phones. (Well, that’s intuitive. How exactly was I supposed to know that? It wasn’t in the manual, and I couldn’t access our online account.) I told her, even after having tolerated her nasty attitude, that I would give her a chance to keep a good customer. If she would approve the upgrade, we would sign another two-year contract. If not, we were going to wait out our current contract and switch carriers in June. More nastiness on her end...rage building...feeling of imminent stroke-out...so I finally just gave up, and hung up. I felt like I was being jerked around, but I doubted there was anything I could do about it.

After I calmed down a bit, I decided to go back to all of the sites where I had received the incorrect information and make print screens of the message that said I was eligible for an upgrade, in case I wanted to make a formal complaint against AT&T. It was at this point that I knew, for certain, that AT&T was jerking me around. All of the five sites--Target, Wal-mart, Best Buy, Radio Shack, and Amazon—are now showing that I am not eligible for an upgrade until February 23rd. To me, this indicates that, sometime during or after my lengthy conversation with them, AT&T realized they were busted, and triggered something, somehow, in their system that would result in a message indicating an ineligible status. I was floored.

Since I am still aflame with the mighty light of self-righteousness, I can't tell if I'm being unreasonable.  Am I making too much of this? I know it seems like kind of a petty thing to be so upset about, but I really, really hate it when huge companies routinely stick it to their customers just because they know we have no recourse. They're too huge for one lone customer to be able to put a dent in them. I know that AT&T has been the subject of thousands of formal complaints and reports to the BBB, so clearly I am not the only person who has had problems with them, but I don't know if anyone has ever had a satisfactory resolution.

So that’s why I hate AT&T with the white-hot passion of a thousand burning suns, and why I have been walking around all day with stabbing forehead pains and an eye twitch. If you stayed around for the conclusion of this epic tale of betrayal, thanks for reading. Now, I have a favor to ask. I’m not really all that into promoting my blog. I like writing, I like being “blog friends” with a lot of smart, funny people, and I don’t have much extra time to put into all the networking that goes along with serious blog promotion, so I really just write for fun. But, just this once, I am asking for promotion. If you feel like my complaints have merit, and you might like to have some part in helping me stick it to the man, please tweet, Stumble, share, or link to this post. Nothing would make me happier at this point than for some muckety-muck from AT&T to get wind of this and contact me. There’s no guarantee that I would get anything out of it, but at least it would give me a chance to be heard by someone higher up the food chain than Ms. Snottypants. It's going to be hard for me to rest knowing that someone that foul had the last word. Here's a final suggestion, AT&T: PEOPLE WHOSE PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY IS TO RESOLVE CONFLICTS SHOULD NOT TREAT YOUR CUSTOMERS LIKE CRAP WHILE ACTING LIKE RUDE, SNIDE HEIFERS. THAT DID NOT RESOLVE MY CONFLICT OR IMPROVE MY EXPERIENCE WITH AT&T. That is all.


LynC said...

Do you use Twitter? I have heard of people having fast resolutions when they take a complaint to the masses.

Free Poker Bankroll said...

What is your twitter id?