One of our readers just switched over from T-Mobile to AT&T, but he discovered that pretty much everything the salesperson promised him at the retail store turned out to be a lie. At least, that’s what the angry AT&T customer service rep told his wife when she called in to dispute her first bill.
My wife and I used to be with T-Mobile for years. We didn’t really expect much from them – all cell phone providers are pretty bad – but given that we moved to an area where there is very bad coverage (Western Massachusetts), we decided to find a new provider. Just to give you an idea how bad coverage is: In our apartment – which is in Northampton, MA (so we’re not talking about any of the hill towns) we had no reception.
So we went to AT&T, which, we had heard from people in the area, have the best coverage in the area. We told the store employee about why we wanted to switch, and we also told her about some of the very bad customer service that T-Mobile had “offered” us. No problem, we were told, AT&T would do better. So she waived the activation fees, gave us free phones, told us that some GPS service would only be free for a month, but after that it would deactivate on its own (unless we told them we wanted it). etc.
Turns out none of that was true. Our first bill was huge. It listed all the charges that – supposedly – had been taken off. We went back to the store, spoke with another person, and she took everything off again, telling us to send in a fraction of the bill – the actual charges. Which we did.
Today, AT&T called my wife, telling her that we owe a ton of money.
My wife had herself transferred over to A&T’s billing department, and then came the shocker. Shocker in terms of shocking and unexpected honesty. The person in the billing department was honest and frank.
She said that the employees in AT&T’s stores tend to tell people they waive the fees etc., but it’s usually not true. Their commissions – so she said – are based on the amount of money made, and they have no interest in taking charges off. So the activation fee wasn’t taken off, the phones weren’t free, and that GPS service (that we never wanted, but were told would remove itself) also had to be de-activated by us. The lady at the billing department took off the charges, and then she complained to my wife how the employees we had talked to had literally lied to us. In fact, as someone in the billing department she constantly had to deal with angry customers like my wife, who are calling because they are asked to pay for charges they thought would never show up. My wife and I actually ended up feeling bad for her, because that job must really suck.
I will admit I am a cynic, but I wasn’t cynical enough to assume that a company like AT&T would so blatantly lie to its customers. Is that even legal? Is there no consumer protection at all? I mean I’ve heard of “caveat emptor,” but apparently the paperwork we got – the charges that were crossed out by the store employee – were basically meaningless.
If you get any sorts of discounts or promises from a cellular carrier’s salesperson, get it in writing and double-check with customer service.