AT&T Will Say Anything To Get You As A Customer

Greg wants to know why AT&T doesn’t feel the need to honor its quote for a Dish Network package. He notes, “I were to claim I made a mistake in agreeing to a two year commitment, I hesitate to think you would let me claim that I should not be held accountable for that.” But it’s not that AT&T “mistakenly” quoted him a price. An AT&T rep gave him one price, and another rep agreed to honor it and to make a note on his account. Now there’s no record he ever spoke to anyone, and the rep who originally helped him won’t return his calls.

Here’s a copy of the letter Greg sent to AT&T’s execs:

Dear Mr. Stephenson and Mr. Pund,
 
I apologize for raising my concern to your level, however after 7 months of inability to get my problem consistently resolved through the customer service centers, I felt stronger action was necessary.
 
I have been a customer of AT&T/Dish Network since July of last year.  When I agreed to leave Comcast for your company it appears (we would find out retroactively) that your sales customer service representative erroneously priced the bundled satellite, internet, and phone package.  I entered into the verbal agreement based on the price that was given to me by the representative, whether she made the mistake or not.  Over the last 7 months I have been told that while this person made a mistake, I would in the end have to pay for it.  This person was a representative of your company and if I were to claim I made a mistake in agreeing to a two year commitment, I hesitate to think you would let me claim that I should not be held accountable for that.
 
Upon finally working with a manager at your Arlington Heights, IL customer service location I was able to get the situation resolved, or so I thought.  A manager named Lenell had agreed to go into the system monthly, with a reminder on his calendar, to adjust my bill to the agreed upon amount.  This was $89.98 due to the fact that we had added services such as HBO and DVR.  Since this agreement, the bill has consistently not been corrected and I am having to spend multiple hours every month to get it adjusted.  I have left multiple messages with Lenell’s desk, only to have them go unanswered.
 
When speaking with a customer service representative last night I was told that the case notes do not have any notation about Lenell crediting me this amount every month and that he gave a “good faith” credit to adjust it.  I was also told that it was outside of policy to change a bill to the price Lenell agreed to so they could only give a ~$35 credit which would put my bill at $130 versus the $89.98 that was agreed upon.  Again, as a representative of your company, Lenell agreed to adjust my bill and has failed to live up to that expectation whether it is in your policy or not, and I am now being told by your customer service team that I am incorrect that this agreement was ever made.  For this reason I am attaching the detailed notes that I have kept since October 2007.  I think you will find that these notes match precisely with the calls I have made to your Customer Service Centers and are very detailed about the exact conversations that were held.  I have also requested that every recording of every conversation I have had with your customer service team be pulled in order to verify my claim.  I do not appreciate being called a liar in a round about way since notes were not kept properly by the agents at your sites.
 
Again, I apologize for having to raise this to your level, but feel that when a company agrees to service a customer at a certain level, for a certain price, they have an obligation to live up to that.  I would not have left Comcast had I not been given such a good price quote.
 
I would also like to notify you that I will be running a comprehensive credit report and if I find any negative reports from AT&T associated with this issue, I will be filing a claim with the FCC and pursuing legal action.
 
This was an opportunity for your customer service team to make a great impression on how issues can be handled and resolved, and I believe that the entire team has failed.
 
At this point, I would like to pay my service current at the agreed upon rate and terminate my service.  I would prefer to pay more at Comcast than to have these struggles ongoing.  I am looking forward to your response.

(Photo: mrbill)

Comments

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  1. akede2001 says:

    Why does this Dawker Artists ad being shown above the comment box have a person on the left side on their hands and knees with a stick in their ass?

    Image link [m1.2mdn.net]

  2. midwestkel says:

    @akede2001: The guy in front is holding a pick in front of the guys hand. It just look like he is shoving something in his ass.

  3. Honus says:

    I think this, while not the poster’s fault, exemplifies why it is important to always get quotes in writing.

  4. camman68 says:

    Good Luck! For 6 years I had AT&T (SBC) DSL at my house with a posted speed of 3.0 up to 6.0 but the fastest I ever received was 5.0. A few months ago, my speeds seemed like they had dropped considerably. I figured everthing would clear up so I wasn’t too worried about it. After 3-4 months, I had some free time so I ran a speedtest through the ATT website. I couldn’t get anything faster than 1.5.

    I checked my modem settings and they were configured up to 6.0. After talking to numerous people at Yahoo and ATT, I found out that the settings on the local ATT server that handled my address were throttling me at 1.5 After reaching the correct dept (3+ hours later), they corrected the problem.

    I contacted the billing department to ask for an adjustment. I was told that it was MY responsibility to make sure I was getting what I paid for. I disagreed with them. If I was paying for 3.0 to 6.0, they should be providing it.

    They were probably overcharging quite a few people and I’m sure they aren’t going to volunteer to refund the difference. In the end, they finally credited me ($10) which was the price difference between the two speeds for one month.

    I know my $150+/month isn’t even a drop-in-their-bucket, but I have since canceled my home phone and my ATT/Dishnetwork. I also downgraded my DSL to the $19.95 dryloop plan. My annual spending with them has gone from $1,800 to $240 and will drop to ZERO as soon as my SERO data card arrives.

    (I had great service before AT&T bought out SBC.)

  5. JiminyChristmas says:

    Hmm, based on this story and many others before it, I think I have learned something about CSRs.

    When they say: “I’ll make a note in your file.”
    What they really mean is: “F$%k off and die.”

  6. Pylon83 says:

    Empty legal threats get you nowhere. All they do is put people on the defensive. Up until that 3rd to last paragraph, I was more or less OK with his letter. I think it makes some questionable legal conclusions (verbal agreement, etc.), but otherwise it was pretty strong. At least until that part about legal action. That will likely land his letter in the General Counsels office rather than the CEO’s, and it will take an unnecessarily long time to get a response. Companies don’t like legal threats, and they usually direct all such threats to their lawyers. The lawyer will be less sympathetic than the executives.

  7. Moosehawk says:

    Me and my girlfriend were just talking about this the other day. She’s a sales rep at T-mobile in a mall and she mistakenly told a family that she could get them signed up for a family plan and get them some phones for free if they signed up now.

    Well, it turned out she couldn’t get the phones for free so she had to tell them sorry. They ended up bashing her and telling her how they were going to get her fired.

    On her lunch break, they followed her out and sat right next to her in a wide open food court and just stared at her. Now, I agree, they should have been given the quoted price by escalating it to corporate, but some people are just crazy.

  8. EricaKane says:

    You threaten a lawsuit, you lose. never threaten lawsuits if you want CSR to take care of issues.

  9. stinerman says:

    @Moosehawk:

    That’s damn close to harassment and/or menacing behavior. I’d have called the authorities.

  10. Pylon83 says:

    @EricaKane:
    My point exactly. I was a CSR for a major consumer electronics manufacturer for awhile. If a customer threatened a lawsuit, the procedure was to say “I’m sorry sir, I can no longer continue this conversation. Any further correspondence should be directed by mail to our legal department at “insert address here”” and we hung up the phone.

  11. dragonfire81 says:

    It’s not just AT&T. When I was with Sprint, I would get multiple calls A DAY from people upset because a salesperson had promised or “guaranteed” them was not occurring.

    In some cases I could correct the error, other times they were things I simply could not fix (for example, a customer was told they could get a discount on a special promotional plan that does not allow for discounts). Commissioned salespeople, especially when it comes to communications, will indeed say anything to get you as a customer.

    After they hook you, they get their commission and don’t give a rats ass what happens to you beyond that point, thus leaving it up to me and other CSRs to attempt to separate lies from the truth.

  12. danseuse322 says:

    Ah, ATT… They won’t tell me anything. Maybe they already read this but now it warns me that even if they give me what I need I probably ought not believe it. I am moving. Need high speed internet. ATT DSL is cheaper than Suddenlink where I am going–my only 2 choices. SO I call. ATT says yes, I can sign up but I MUST purchase their modem even though I have a compatible modem ALREADY. I am unable to buy DSL without purchasing a modem but I can RETURN it later for a credit (yeah, minus the REQUIRED 12.95 shipping, I am sure). I told them no way. I want their DSL but their is no way on this earth I am spending 79.95 for a modem but 13 shipping and then going through a return hassle. I have a Sudddenlink modem too–and they will let me use it. Do the math ATT. ARGH! Are these people STUPID!

  13. ringo00 says:

    @danseuse322: “are these people stupid!”

    The answer on an individual level is probably not. But I have come up with a formula to determine the customer service IQ of a corporation. It is really quite simple. Take the average IQ of all the company employees. You will likely get a number close to 100. Then, to determine the corporate IQ, divide that number by the total number of employees. By this method, you find that ATT’s customer service IQ is only very slightly more than zero.

  14. macinjosh says:

    @akede2001: It looks like a crack.

    Err, two cracks actually.

  15. ChuckECheese says:

    @Honus: No utility gives quotes in writing anymore. I think the solution here is that we must record every phone conversation and scan and file away every relevant receipt and piece of paper.

    The pic in this thread is freaking me out, because it looks like the OKC Bombing Memorial with the AT&T logo stuck on it.

  16. consumerd says:

    @camman68:

    post over here and let these people take care if it. I haven’t had a problem with them yet. Albiet I have only had to contact them 2x but it was better than calling. I figure I could wait a couple to a few days for a right answer or wait 45 minutes for a wrong one. I am now glad I chose the former not the latter. In about 2 weeks when I get ready to start looking for houses to move to, I am going to let them tell me where a good signal is at. I won’t waste time on the phone anymore.

    [www.dslreports.com]

    or if you want here’s the guy that assisted me.

    [www.dslreports.com]

  17. Parting says:

    @dragonfire81: Unfortunately, I met a lot of customers who would outright lie to CSR about information we gave as sales reps. (I work for a different cellphone provider, too.).

    Often, we would have to compare our notes , so bad customers wouldn’t get any undeserved freebies.

    I imagine there are dealers that give wrong info to the customers based on ignorance and/or greed. However, for every customer like that, I’ve met 5 that were outright lying.

  18. Parting says:

    @ChuckECheese: That’s why I prefer dealing by e-mail. If a company cannot give me information in writing, then I prefer to pay a little bit more, and take my business elsewhere.

    And in the end, I always got my problems resolved easier, when something happened. Every company makes mistakes, it’s their resolution that shows which companies are the best.

  19. ChuckECheese says:

    @Victo: That’s a good idea. You just gotta find companies who are willing to transact all their bidness by email.

  20. Pylon83 says:

    I’m sitting here thinking whether or not they would be bound in any way to a quote given over the phone for something like that. I don’t think they would be. Even if you could construe the quote as an offer (which I’m not sure it is), unless they say “this offer doesn’t expire until…”, the default period is after a “reasonable amount of time”. In this case, I think the offer would expire when you get off the phone without accepting. So when you call back to setup service, they are making you a new offer that you are free to accept/reject. So even if you record the conversation, it’s simply evidence of an offer that expired at the end of the conversation. I DO think it’s a pretty crappy way to run a business, but I don’t think that it’s any sort of breach of contract like some are alluding to. It’s not entirely clear from the OP’s letter whether he got a “quote” and then called back later to setup service (what I’m basing my comment on), but I usually get “quotes” and then make a decision based on them at a later time. If this was the price that he was offered and immediately accepted by signing up for service, that’s an entirely different story and my analysis doesn’t apply.

  21. camman68 says:

    @david_consumerist: Thanks for the info. If I hadn’t already made the changes I would get in touch with him. Switching from AT&T DSL to a SPRINT wireless card may be like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire, but AT&T has already “bent-me-over” once.

    As “W” says, …”fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.”

  22. gomakemeasandwich says:

    @ Moosehawk

    I feel sorry for your girlfriend. Everyone makes mistakes, and while I can understand the family being pissed off, borderline stalking isn’t the solution to the problem. Some people are fucking crazy, and I’m surprised your girlfriend didn’t call the police.

    To the OP:

    “I apologize for raising my concern to your level,”

    “I apologize” was your first mistake. Being nice gets you nowhere with these people (I mean corporate and the level you were writing to, but be nice to a CSR on the other hand and you might be pleasantly surprised). You have to play hardball with these people, and also I would suggest saving the legal threats for a letter specifically for their legal department.

  23. bms says:

    How is this different than any other company. All businesses want you as a customer and will do whatever it takes to get you signed up for their product.

  24. cortana says:

    @camman68:

    Before AT&T did what? SBC bought everyone, then decided to use the AT&T name because it had more appeal to the market. SBC = AT&T (and more)

  25. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Yeah, AT&T lies on a regular basis. They’ll tell you that you can get rebate if you get your modem from them even though you’re getting dry-loop DSL and then tell you differently once ordered it.

  26. quirkyrachel says:

    Sure they’ll *say* anything, but when I was a customer they wouldn’t actually *do* anything…(to fix the DSL that never worked, even after hours on the phone and at least 4 techs, and 3 months)

  27. blackmage439 says:

    I’m not even going to bother reading the entire story. There are two lessons that every should learn.

    1. Verbal “guarantees” are entirely worthless, i.e. there are not legally-binding.

    2. Only negative things about you are ever noted on your account. That price you were quoted, twice, that was to be “noted in your account”? It doesn’t exist.

    Cmon people. This is the digital age. The best offers are to be found on the Web. With AT&T this is the truth. We recently upgraded our phones through AT&T, Upon speaking to a couple of reps on the phone, we were told specifically that in order to get the cheapest price, “DO NOT call [again] or step foot inside a store; use the website.”

  28. EdithBurlington says:

    Comment on AT When he says in his letter that one month they gave him a credit for $35 and that brought his bill down to $130 that means his normal bill was $165 and he wanted to pay $89 for $165 dollars worth of product/services? For how long was the deal for 6 months a year? Forever? I am sorry someone gave him an incorrect price, but it sounds like he wants something for nothing.

  29. basilb says:

    blackmage439, actually, verbal guarantees are quite binding in many (if not most) jurisdictions in the U.S., assuming you can prove them.

    Proving it, of course, is the most difficult part of the equation, which is why written guarantees and contracts are preferable to verbal ones. Nonetheless, an incriminating recording of a conversation, or multiple witnesses can substantiate a verbal agreement.

    Note that the big lawsuit between Pennzoil and Texaco (where Pennzoil had a verbal agreement to purchase Getty Oil, only for Getty to decide to sell for a better offer from Texaco) yielded a massive settlement in Pennzoil’s favor. (Web search for “Pennzoil texaco lawsuit” for gory details. One good link is [www.agsm.unsw.edu.au] ).

  30. ConsumerAdvocacy1010 says:

    Record your phone calls (if legal).

  31. Amos79Greg says:

    Update:

    My bill seems to have been corrected to the agreed upon amount. Not sure if it is a result of my letter or the messages left. Still missing $12 I had to overpay last cycle, so I may have to keep pressing.

    When I was quoted the price, it was quoted for 12 months, then 12 months at the higher rate and I accepted based on that. In Business law class the one thing I remember is verbal contracts are just as binding as written, so I am glad I kept notes from every call with them. Didnt want to record since I wasnt sure if legal, but I think Mr Stephenson, legal, the admin, or whoever gets that will like the 7 page attachement of my notes.

  32. arkitect75 says:

    @camman68:
    Having had AT&T DSL for a few years previously, even if you are paying for the 3.0 – 6.0 speeds, the fine print will state that you are never guaranteed those speeds. The kicker for me to move to Comcast cable modem was that when I I went to upgrade from the 1.5MB DSL to the 3.0 or 6.0, I was initially told that all was fine, and that the lines in my area supported it; however; I remembered back to when a tech had come out to my house for a repair and told me that in my area, the old copper wires were in need of a major upgrade and I’d probably never get anything faster than 850kB. When I asked AT&T to confirm before finalizing the upgrade to 3.0MB, they finally came back to me a week later and said that I couldn’t get anything faster in my area. So yes, be careful, b/c sales will tell you what you want to hear in order to get the sale.

    PS: The Comcast service has been great and with no evidence of throttling.

  33. calvinneal says:

    To danseuse322 et all. I am one of those with an IQ of zero to whom you make reference. ATT’s biggest problem is the 300,000 employees. The corporation is so large it is difficult to communicate with everyone. Many times, not everyone is operating on the same page. I am employed by ATT and have had customer service issues myself. Most of my fellow employees have had the same issues, however, I have dealt with many companies who are far worse. With ATT, its all who you talk with. Don’t like the attitude, call back immediately. With the ACD systems, you will likely not get the same employee or even the same call center. Find out the name of the rep, city and who employs them. If actual ATT employees, ask for their 6 digit ATT i.d. It is always 2 letters and 4 numbers. Most of our employees are invested in their jobs, have good benefits and want the company to succeed. As in any large group, some have attitudes, are not fit for the job or should be doing something else. Get specific identification whenever possible, A generic “Rosa” is not as good ac GW1234 etc. when complaining. Their may be 50 Rosa’s scattered over the call centers and sub contractors. Ask for a supervisor and get their i.d.

  34. tangoholic says:

    I presume that you are being recorded as you enter into a service agreement over the phone. Thus, I think it is perfectly appropriate, as the agreement is being finalized, for you to say “Just so we both understand what we have agreed to, I’d like to record this conversation.” Any hesitation on their part and I’d simply hang up. After they agree, then pause a little bit and act like you are turning on the recorder. (It is almost irrelevant whether you are actually recording or not. They are completely freaked out by now.) Then come back and say something like “This is [your name] on [date] and I’m talking with [rep's name]. Rep, do I have your permission to record our agreement?” Then state your understanding of the agreement and ask them if that is what the agreement is. Iterate until you have said it and they agree with it, or they have said it and you agree with it. This will put the fear of god in them so much that I doubt there will ever be any issue with the agreement. Keep written notes, too, of course, and maybe fire off an email to them for your records with your understanding of the agreement.

    Even better is to turn any verbal agreement (that only they are recording) into a written agreement. Say “I have a hard time understanding all these details on the phone. Please write down your offer and email it to me, or give me the URL of the written offer, so I can print something out for my records.” If they won’t email the actual amount you will be charged, I would run, run, run. You are being played.

  35. camman68 says:

    @calvinneal: They screwed me again today. I am in Colorado and my roommate can’t connect at home in Kansas. I called tech support and was told by a CSR that they would have to research the problem and contact me tomorrow. I told them this was unacceptable and I shouldn’t have to wait 24 hours. She said there was nothing she could do. I asked for her supervisor and she transfered me. He was very friendly and tried to help but said he would have to research the issue. He promised me a callback within 2 hours but I never heard from him. I did not get his ID but he did give me his email addy so I could connect at Starbucks. Is it possible for me to find him using this addy (it is only his first name) or will I have to start from scratch?

  36. skeleem_skalarm says:

    My mom went through somewhat-the-same kind of stuff with AT&T and Dish after a salesman came to the door. When I realized Mom had been ripped off, I called AT&T and told them the prices/services she’d been offered were not what she was billed/received. They didn’t care – they were going to hold her to her contract – until I told them Mom had brain cancer and could not be bound to any contract she signed after the cancer was diagnosed. The CSR immediately apologized and cancelled her subscription to Dish and AT&T dsl on the spot. It’s a shame you have to be dying to not get ripped off by these people.