The "New" AT&T Sucks The Same

Even a TV producer with 5 years experience in doing consumer complaint stories is powerless against AT&T’s incompetence. Anderson writes:

Dear Consumerist,

For five years I worked as a producer for two different television station consumer units, sorting through viewer e-mails, phone calls and letters. From this vast list of complaints, I would choose cases to investigate and feature in our on-air reports. If I were still working in TV news, I would have chronicled my two-month experience with “the new AT&T” in a multi-part report. The resulting series could have won an regional Emmy when I documented the double-speak, screw-ups and sloppy service I encountered.

This case starts with a loyal, longtime customer making a simple request to transfer existing service to a home I was buying. It ends with a frustrated customer so exhausted by his entire AT&T experience he finally cancels his $1428 a year phone/internet due to numerous billing errors, poor customer service, and five service outages in the span of 60 days. Even after the cancellation, the billing problems and nightmarish calls to “AT&T’s award winning customer service” department will have to continue just to get the final bill sorted out.

Here’s a summary:

I called 12 days before my move to transfer service to a new address. The next day, I had no dial tone or DSL. Seems my service was turned off. I had to call and have the phone and DSL service restored. This restoration apparently set into motion a series of events including the cancellation of my pending transfer, activation of a second transfer order (which meant I had another phone number change), cancellation of that second request and a return to the original transfer order.

Repair Service

The day the phone was turned on, it would ring in the house but callers would hear heavy static. Immediately I used my cell phone to call Repair. When I checked on my repair request the following the day, there was no record of my call. I should have gotten a name because I would have been cozy with them after six calls to the repair line. In general, the phone would be repaired on a Tuesday work fine a day or so, then heavy static would appear on the line and by Friday, it would go out all weekend. This occurred five times. During the final outage I was supposedly moved up to expedited service, only to get an automated call on my cell phone early Sunday morning: “Due to heavy work loads in your area we cannot honor your request for expedited service.” Later that evening, I got a call from a technician who told me “I’ve fixed this line three times already. There is an underground cable going bad in that area.”

Billing Errors

A few weeks ago, I had to call because I was getting a bill from my previous address. It seems service was still on at the apartment, even after I moved and called to turn it off. A rep said she was clearing the account on December 10 and my online bill showed a zero balance.

All the back and forth on the order apparently caused numerous services (such as “inside wiring maintenance plan”, “PC internet security suite” and “equipment protection plan” to be added to my account without my authorization. When I called to have them removed, the first rep argued with me about the equipment protection plan. “It doesn’t cover my phone which is cordless with a built-in answering machine,” I said. “Oh yes it does,” she said. “Lady, I’m looking right now at your terms and conditions for the plan and it does not cover this kind of phone.” She continued to argue with me, so I finally asked for a supervisor. “None are available. They’re in a meeting.” I told her she was incompetent, hung-up and got another rep who supposedly removed the charge.

When she was finished, I asked for a supervisor. After a short delay (meeting must have ended early) I got one. She basically called me a liar saying “Our representatives are trained to go over each aspect of the order with the customer. You just didn’t pay attention.” As a person who reads the fine print, I know such services are essentially worthless (to me anyway), and there is no way I would agreed to having $13.50 crammed onto my phone bill (especially the internet security plan which does not work on a Macintosh).

This exchange left me so angry and frustrated I immediately called back and had my services turned off. The notes on my account must have been extensive because the rep didn’t even try to convince me to keep my services.

Today, I get a letter dated January 1, 2009: “We recently sent you a final bill for your former telephone service. Our records indicate $48.86 is past due.” I called about the problem, waited 24 minutes, and customer service sent me to the billing department . They tell me they only make payment arrangements, so I had to hang up and call back (27 minutes) for the rep to “make a second request to clear the account.” I also asked that a supervisor call to help me clear this up. She refused to transfer (“they’re in a meeting” and took a number. Two days later, still no callback.)

From October 23 to January 5, I only wish I had made all my calls on speaker phone and on-camera. My time on hold, staticy service, conflicting automated messages, flurry of mailings (Welcome to the New AT&T!) would have made a
nice series or reality show.

Maybe I’ll do that as I try to get Brighthouse to actually show up and install a cable modem and digital phone service. (I’m only into my fourth call to them so far!)

Sincerely yours,

Anderson W.

ESCALATE! For the love of god people, please escalate. Do not let the first-tier, outsourced reps and their always-in-a-meeting supervisors dictate the level of service you’re going to receive. Ask for the supervisor’s supervisor, EECB’s, executive customer service, you have the powah. [sic] Otherwise, if a consumer news tv producer can’t make it happen, there’s no hope for the rest of us.