Cingular Charging Me $349.99 For Phone I Already Returned

Chris exchanged his messed up Blackjack with Cingular (now the new AT&T) under warranty replacement. Now Cingular (now the new AT&T) can’t find the phone that he sent back and keeps trying to bill him $349.99 for it. Repeated calls to customer service are unsuccessful and provide contradictory information.

At one point, a Cingular (now the new AT&T) rep, offered a refund, but it won’t show up for two months.

Essentially Cingular (now the new AT&T) wants him to pay the $349.99, let them keep it as an interest-free loan, and then they say they’ll refund that.

That’s not good enough for Chris.

His complaint letter, and our advice (hint: it begins with the letter E), inside…

(Photo: feelingcingular)

Chri writes:

Let me give you an overview, and see if this is something you’d be interested to hear about:

In January or February, I experienced data issues with my Samsung Blackjack phone, and went through a variety of troubleshooting steps including resetting the phone, getting a new SIM card, and finally Cingular Customer Support suggested I exchange my phone under warranty. When I received the refurbished(!!) phone, I followed Cingular’s instructions to apply the label, seal the box using included tape, and drop it in any USPS mailbox.

Fast forward a few months. By the second week of April, I began receiving harassing phone calls from a Cingular warranty logistics contractor claiming that they had not received the phone, that I need to send the phone back to them, and that if they didn’t get the phone within a few days, I would be charged $349.99. Obviously, I was caught by surprise as I had sent the phone back ages ago. When I spoke with their contractor, they were rude and unhelpful, unable to tell me anything. When I contacted Cingular, I was told that they did receive the phone, but didn’t have a tracking number. After many more hours of phone calls, on April 17th or so, I was assured that everything will be taken care of, and I should not have to worry. After all, I did my part, and if the phone is lost, it isn’t my fault.

When I checked my bill on May 7th, I saw my bill was increased by $349.99. Obviously, the Cingular rep had either lied to me to get me off the phone, or just screwed up. I spoke with a helpful rep by the name of Melissa Brown (who works 10 hour shifts, and has 3 kids at home to support — she told me this while we were waiting for someone who could actually get things done) who tried to help me solve my issue. She determined that I was in fact charged, and spent almost an hour and a half trying to find the tracking number for my returned phone that comes up only as a ‘*’ in their system. When she was unable to find the tracking number, she put me in touch with a gentleman by the name of Mike M. from the warranty exchange. Mike went through the entire ‘are you sure you mailed the package’ process with me, and finally determined that he is able to provide me with a credit — it would take up to two billing cycles from now! Until then, I was told, I would have to pay the entire $349.99, and have the
amount credited back to my bill at a later date. So, in effect, Cingular was asking me to provide them with an interest free loan for $349.99. Unacceptable. Melissa, the customer service rep claimed that she could put the disputed amount on a ‘payment plan’, so that nonpayment of that amount would not cause Cingular to terminate my service. I had spent over two hours at this point, and I felt this was the best that could be done. At that point, I thanked them, and we ended our conversation.

Today, May 8th, after all the lies and screw-ups I’ve witnessed with Cingular, I felt that I ought to check up on Cingular to see if I was in for a surprise. Of course, there was no surprises here. When I called in, a barely-intelligible rep told me that I was responsible for the entire $349.99 plus my monthly bill, and failure to pay that will result in late fees and suspension of service. I immediately asked for her supervisor. After approximately 30 minutes of waiting, her supervisor determined that yes, what I was told on May 8th (which was completely different from what I was told on May 7th or in April) by the latest rep is correct, but she would try to figure out a way to prevent that from happening. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly busy, and she would have to call me back in 5 minutes. It’s been over an hour, and I’m not expecting a call back any time soon.

Unfortunately, I got suckered into a contract with these jerks, and I can’t leave under fear of EVEN MORE charges. I’m at my wit’s end, and I don’t know how to resolve this situation so I can go on with my life without fear of harassment from Cingular or their arbitrary bills. If they had told me that I would be harassed every few hours by Warranty Exchange to return a phone that I had already returned, and eventually charged for someone else’s screwup, I would have told them to shove their broken phone, and cancel the contract with ETF and go with another provider who might possibly screw me over less.

So, Consumeristas, what can I do in this situation?


Christopher in NJ

Chris, all you gotta do is these three things: escalate, escalate, escalate! Get your issue into the hands of decision making people. Make noise! Squeaky wheel, meet grease!

1-404-236-6000 Corporate HQ. Try asking for Mr Sigman’s office. (There’s also the other management listed here)
How To Launch An Executive Email Carpet Bomb


About 35 direct numbers to people’s desk and cellphones in the corporate offices. For an up-to-date list, go to

Letters to Cingular can be addressed to:

Cingular Wireless
5565 Glenridge Connector
Atlanta, GA 30342
Main phone number: 404-236-6000

Media Relations Contacts
National Contacts

Media relations planning and strategy, principal company spokesperson
Mark Siegel
Executive Director Media Relations
404-236-6312 (office)
404-374-2799 (wireless)

Corporate initiatives, marketing, sports-oriented sponsorships
(To apply for sponsorships, please go to Please do not email or call about applying for sponsorships as funding decisions are not made by public relations)
Clay Owen
Senior Director Media Relations
404.236.6153 (office)
404.538.0124 (wireless)

Public policy initiatives, regulatory and legislative issues
Rochelle Cohen
Senior Director Media Relations
202-419-3007 (office)
202-341-5967 (wireless)

Consumer offers, handset/product initiatives, youth programs,
sponsorships (non-sports related)
Jennifer Bowcock
Director Media Relations
404-236-6319 (office)
404-213-1204 (wireless)


Kelleigh Scott Beal
Manager, Media Relations
404-236-6321 (office)
404-285-0172 (wireless)

Business-to-business initiatives, industry analyst program
John Kampfe
Director Media Relations
973-637-9387 (office)
908-432-3473 (wireless)

Technology and network initiatives, industry analyst program
Ritch Blasi
Director Media Relations
973-637-9449 (office)
908-512-1760 (wireless)

Hispanic and Diversity Public Relations
Maria Schnabel
Director, Hispanic Public Relations
404-236-6432 (office)
404-401-7477 (wireless)

Regional Contacts
Please refer to specific states

Northeast Media Contacts

Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington D.C.
Alexa Kaufman
Director Regional Public Relations
301-489-3610 (office)
301-742-0888 (wireless)

Delaware, Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York City
Ellen Webner
Director Regional Public Relations
973-637-9357 (office)
201-532-7292 (wireless)

Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Upstate New York
Kate MacKinnon
Director Regional Public Relations
781-690-5057 (office)
508-498-5547 (wireless)

Northeast Regional Backup
Susan Ramsey
Director Regional Public Relations
973-637-9467 (office)
203-722-1145 (wireless)

Southeast Media Contacts

Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi
Dawn Benton
Director, Regional Public Relations
404-236-5305 (office)
404-202-6335 (wireless)

Kelly Starling
Director, Regional Public Relations
561-775-4259 (office)
561-301-1414 (wireless)

Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina
Laurie Parker
Director, Regional Public Relations
615-221-3690 (office)
615-202-3463 (wireless)

Southeast Regional Back-up
Caroline Crowe
Director Regional Public Relations
678-867-4330 (office)
404-808-8254 (wireless)

Central Media Contacts

Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska,
North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin
Chris Comes
Director Regional Public Relations
847-765-3602 (office)
312-282-0539 (wireless)

Kansas, Ohio, Western Pennsylvania,
Indiana, Missouri, and Michigan
Tara Traycoff
Director, Regional Public Relations
314-543-6435 (phone)
314-809-6112 (wireless)

Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas
Frank Merriman
Director Regional Public Relations
469.229.7613 (office)
214-538-3496 (wireless)

Central Region Backup
Meg Frainey
Director Regional Public Relations
469-229-7784 (office)
214-497-6072 (wireless)

West Media Contacts

Arizona, New Mexico, Northern California, and Reno
Lauren Garner
Director Regional Public Relations
Phone: 925-819-5362 (wireless)

Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming
Mike Broom
Director Regional Public Relations
425-580-7710 (office)
206-390-5993 (wireless)

Greater Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, and Hawaii
Art Navarro
Director Regional Public Relations
562-468-6520 (office)
949-300-1329 (wireless)

West Regional Back-up
Mike Broom
Director Regional Public Relations
425-580-7710 (office)
206-390-5993 (wireless)