Reader “ValentineHumphrey” has a part-time job with a company that gets a 25% discount from AT&T. It sounded like a good deal until she found out there was actually a fee for signing up for the discount. What?
I call the 800 number for AT&T and ask the nice gentleman on the phone if there is anything he can do, can he add the discount even though I already signed a 2 year contract? YES! You (the consumer) can add a discount at any time. He is unable to do so, however, due to the computer program (they do not have access) but he is more than willing to walk me through the process. “Do you have a work email?” No, I’m out of luck online. I can add the discount myself with the discount sponsor code, but without an employee email for employment verification I will have to go to a store.
No problem, there is a store near my home. I called on Wednesday, and went to the store on Friday. I know they will want employment verification so I bring my name badge, photo id, the paper with the discount code. Go in and the man at the desk goes about setting me up. Then he says this “There is an activation fee of $36 to add this discount to your account.”
I look at him shocked. I asked how long they were doing this for, the answer, it started just this week. He was unsure of his words, and seemed like he anticipated my reaction.
I asked “what?! Are you becoming an airline? You want to charge me for a discount, why? Is it because AT&T thinks they lose money on a discount?” He responds with “No, they don’t think that”. In shock I say “so what you are saying is I won’t actually get my discount for 3 months, my discount comes to be about $12 (this was rough calculation in my head on the spot), so it will take 3 months for me to see any discount for my phone.”
The guy was nice, I wasn’t being belligerent, and let them know that I am sure others will feel the same. I signed my papers stating I worked where the discount was coming from and was on my way, along with a copy of their estimated bill.
I then immediately called the 800 and spoke with a very nice woman. While she was pulling up my account I told her why I was calling. “I just want to know why the gentleman I spoke to on Wednesday did not tell me of the $36 activation/sponsorship fee for adding the discount to my account.” The agent was shocked “He didn’t tell you!?”
It turns out the notification of the fee was JUST released to the call centers that week. It was brand spankin’ new and she wasn’t even aware stores had started charging it. I was willing to pay, was not on the phone to get the charge reversed (although that was my hope!) but said, in the future, if any fee is even being considered, they should let the consumer know that “we will soon be assessing X fee” so we can be informed.
She sympathized with me and said if she were in my place she would be upset too. She offered to speak with her supervisor to “see if there was something they could do”. She had me on hold for a few minutes and came back saying they would reverse that charge.
Since my acount balance was zero (I had just paid the bill) I would have a credit of $36 on my account, so when the new bill hits (with the activation/sponsorship fee) the fee will essentially be gone.
So, just a heads up, being uninformed is good if you get wonderful customer service and someone who sympathizes. I was not rude, nor angry, nor beligerant. I was more sarcastic and shocked, and jokingly compared them to an airline – a fee for everything and everything for a fee! I went to the source of my information (the call center) to iron out why I was not informed and did not ask for anything… she offered it to me. Although had she not offered, I would have asked if there was anything she could do for me.
We’re glad you got the fee reversed, but we’re still blinking at the idea of charging a fee for a discount. It’s like those coupon books that school kids try to sell you, only it doesn’t help any school kids.