AT&T: Don't Worry, We Reject Everyone On The Basis Of Their Credit

Jim writes to tell us that he ordered AT&T U-Verse (it’s supposed to be installed tomorrow) and was surprised to find a letter in his mailbox telling him that AT&T had decided to “Limit and/or deny the purchase of products and/or services” based on his credit report.

The letter said Jim could request information about the decision, but when he called to do so the CSR told him not to worry, AT&T sends that letter to everyone.

What? Jim tried to talk to a supervisor but the CSR hung up on him. Does anyone work for AT&T? Can you explain this strange conversation? Because we can’t. Jim says the CSR confirmed that his installer was still scheduled for tomorrow and that everything was peachy with his order. We’re as confused as Jim is.

Jim writes:

I’m confused. We just bought a car (a Yaris, it’s awesome) 10 days ago and the guy commended our credit score and history. We got a fantastic rate on the loan, and our credit history was frankly cleaner than we thought it would be.

We are scheduled to have AT&T U-verse installed tomorrow, starting between 12:00 and 2:00. We ordered it last Thursday. Today we got a letter which frightened me, here are the relevant bits:


Addressed to me with my legal first name, not the name I go by and use for this account.

“Dear My-Last-Name” Like ‘Dear Smith’,

“…Based in part on an assessment of your credit history, we have made the following decision to:

Limit and/or deny the purchase of products and/or services

…You have rights, etc…call Equifax…

If you would like to know specifically the principal reason(s) for our decision, please contact us within 60 days of the date of this letter. We will tell you the reason for our decision in writing within 30 days after receiving your request.

Should you have any additional questions, please contact us at 1-800-288-2020.” XOXOXO, AT&T.

I surely did want to know, specifically, the principal reason(s), so I called to make that request. I’ve been watching tv via rabbit ears for the last three months, and obsessively defending my credit for years, so I’m about to have a stroke, but I stay calm.

The first rep listened to my request, tried to transfer me, and disconnected. The second rep disconnected while verifying my info. The next rep, Dwayne, looked up my account and this is the mostly verbatim version of the conversation:

I got a letter that says yada yada. So, I’m calling to request the specific items in my credit history that caused this decision.

We send that letter to everyone, it just means we checked your credit.

But it says, based on my credit history, AT&T has decided to ‘limit and/or deny the purchase of products and/or services.’ (I quote the part about requesting specifics). I want to know what is on my history that caused this.

You’ve already been approved though. You wouldn’t have received the letter if you weren’t approved.

But it does not say I have been approved, it says I will be limited and/or denied. (I quote the letter again).

We, the CSRs, we don’t send that letter.

I understand that.

That letter comes from another department. We send it to everybody, it just means we checked your credit.

So you tell everybody that they will be limited and/or denied? (What does limited mean anyway?) I don’t think you understand what the letter says. (I start quoting. Again!)

I don’t think you understand what I am saying to you.

Can I talk to a supervisor? I’d like to escalate this. I’m not going to complain about you, but I don’t understand this letter, and I’d like the specific information it offers me. You’ve been very courteous, I just think we’re not communicating well, and I’d like to have a second opinion on this because it’s very serious and completely baffling.

Ok, no problem, I can transfer you to a manager. But I’m telling you, it’s fine.

So I still have an installation scheduled for tomorrow at noon?

Yeah, it’s right here. Between 12 and 2. Eastern.

And I get U400 and the DVR and 3 months free and…

…and free equipment and free install and etc., etc. That’s what we hooked you up with. You ordered it from Susan on … last Thursday. Is that who you ordered this from?

I don’t know, my wife ordered it.

Ask her.

She’s not home. (Where is this going? Is he proving he’s an honest chap or something?) So this letter that says I will be limited and/or denied, and advises me to contact Equifax, and contact you for specific information, actually just means all is well?

That letter says we checked your credit. If you hadn’t been approved, we wouldn’t have scheduled the installation, and you wouldn’t have received the letter.

On and on, so I ask for a supervisor again, he keeps up the “all is well, please disperse” for a few more minutes. I finally cut him off and calmly explain again that I think he and I are having a miscommunication, and I’d still like to speak to a supervisor because this doesn’t make any sense. He tries to transfer me to a supervisor and I wait on hold for 5 minutes before an automated voice says “Thank you for calling. Goodbye.” and I am disconnected.

I’ve had letters like this in the past, back when I wasn’t such a good kid with my credit, and I know they usually mean “Limit and/or (especially, emphatically, while cackling mischievously) deny the purchase of products and/or services (forever!).”

So, naturally, tomorrow I am checking my credit reports, and I guess expecting the “professional installation”, and requesting the specific information again, but what is wrong here? Could the car be the problem in my history? Is there a problem? I am curious whether this has happened to others, and why AT&T might be causing unnecessary panic with poorly worded letters, or, more likely, why Dwayne might be causing unnecessary peace and tranquility. After the 5 hour (!) install tomorrow is some goon going to come back and take it all out? While telling me they do it to everybody?



(Photo: epicharmus)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Doc Benway says:

    I got the same type letter from GEICO and it freaked me out. It basically said I didn’t get as good a rate as I should have partially due to my credit score. I know my FICO is in the mid-700s and when I called them, they gave me the same lame excuse.

  2. voltronguy says:

    I’d like to know if he authorized AT&T to do a credit check. That’s what scares me. Perhaps it was a soft (is that the right word?) inquiry that only you can see?

  3. joeblevins says:

    What is U-Verse?

    I would wonder if anyone else has recieved the same letter.

    I have had the same issues speaking with off-shored call-center resources. Sometimes the subtle language issues can really tie up a conversation.

  4. beyond says:

    It sounds like its a generic letter that’s just poorly written. It probably is technically correct, as I’m sure there are some products they offer that they would decline you on.

    The CSR was just lazy, like most of them. If you bring to their attention a problem that isn’t on their computer screen, they just don’t want to help you. The supervisor is in his office talking on his cellphone and would probably get pretty mad if his CSR asked him to take your call.

    I get great customer service from the companies I deal with because I avoid talking to them at all costs. If I actually have to talk to any of them without the intention of buying something, their level of service goes downhill quick.

  5. banned says:

    Judging on yesterday’s post concerning credit, your car loan may very well have dropped your score, however it may just be a simple mistake. When I worked for T-Mobile, there were times dealers would choose the wrong version of a plan, and on activation you would get the right version but would trigger an automatic rejection letter for the wrong plan. It was confusing but meant nothing.

    • Bailen says:

      @banned: I didn’t think the car loan would show up that fast. I know that here in Canada it takes 90 days for ANYTHING to appear on your credit report. Which is why when people apply for a mortgage here you have to provide proof of where any large sums of money recently deposited into your account came from. Because if you have recently taken out a 50k loan and have thrown it into your account for a down payment the bank cannot see if it is from another lender until the 90 days have passed and it shows up.

  6. B says:

    Did the bottom of the letter really say XOXO? It sounds to me like some sort of phishing scam, one where the scammers haven’t worked out the kinks yet. When you called, did you call the number listed on the letter, or the number on AT&T’s website?

  7. jaredharley says:

    @Doc Benway: When I first had Geico, I got the same letter, and then again when I switched to USAA Auto Insurance – these letters basically said “By the way, we checked your credit, and it COULD affect your rate.”

    Like the Consumerist likes to recommend, I’d call some PR people – your CSRs can’t do anything about this letter, but maybe if you let the Public Relations office of AT&T know that either 1) the CSRs are doing something wrong or 2) the company is needlessly scaring the crap out of good, honest citizens, they’ll actually do something about it.

    @ Jim: I like the way you told the CSR “I’m not complaining about you” – that’s not a bad idea!

  8. Thrust says:

    So if your credit is approved, you get a letter saying you were declined because of your credit. But if your credit is DECLINED, you get NO letter? I really think AT&T’s customer notice department shouldn’t be allowed to snort lines off the crotch of a dead zebra while performing lewd acts with a bowling ball while they try to write these damned things.

  9. Naomi says:

    Ex-Employee here again…

    The CSR was right, no need to worry….I’d say 95% of people get that letter. It doesn’t mean that you have bad credit. It means that AT&T is going to limit what you can purchase in some way. Especially with HN, DVR, and such equipment, customers can have a high value of equipment in their home. They might only be limiting is saying you can’t have more thatn $500 dollars worth of equipment at a time. Not a big deal.

    Also something to keep in mind is that AT&T doesn’t only check you credit score. They also have a utility database they check. So you may have a really good credit score…but if you pay your phone bill late…they care about that almost more than the credit score.

    Hope this info helps.

  10. timmus says:

    “He tries to transfer me to a supervisor and I wait on hold for 5 minutes before an automated voice says “Thank you for calling. Goodbye.” and I am disconnected.”

    OMG! That is totally what SBC’s phone system used to do when I called with problems several years ago! Then again isn’t SBC now AT&T?

  11. badgeman46 says:

    There really needs to be credit reporting reform! Seems to me every time I want to purchase something, they run a credit check. I’d much rather just pay cash or not use the service or goods then have my score dinged. This happened last time I moved when all the utilities, comcast, verizonwireless, and Geico, all ran my report at once. Dropped it by 50 points.
    Based on this, we are living in End Times officially!!!! Credit Reporting companies are the Antichrist! I shall enlighten you…

    “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six” Revelations 13:18
    There are three credit reporting companies, with three scores, and most monitoring services send you a report every six months. Also 600 seems to be a threshold of an average score! Next compelling evidence….

    “Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17: so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name” Revelations 13:16
    Obviously these days its nearly impossible to buy any sort of service without a credit check, and those who have no credit are often denied service, as is the subject of this post. Remember, only those who reject the Beast will be saved! Ditch the cable! Ditch the cell phone! Pay cash!

  12. Jim says:

    @badgeman46: Thanks, now I’m REALLY scared. At least I will have more than 7 channels tonight to help me forget.

  13. Tallanvor says:

    Look at it on the bright side: Now you can get a free credit report from Equifax!

  14. jferg says:

    I recently got a similar letter from American Family regarding my car insurance; it basically said “as part of our annual rate review, we checked your credit report, and are unable to offer you our best possible rate due to something on your credit report”. This triggered me to get my free yearly credit report, which I’d been intending to do anyway, and there was absolutely nothing negative on it. So I waited another few days, until my AmFam bill arrived, and lo! and behold, my insurance rate was exactly the same as it had been the previous billing cycle. Apparently, any company who uses a credit report to determine your “worthiness” and doesn’t give you the absolute highest rating (or lowest price) for their products and services as a result of your credit report is required to send out a letter of this sort, as notification that you’re not perfect. (Or that they screw everybody.) Just look at it as a friendly reminder of that, and as long as your report is clean and your score is high, toss it in the trash. (Or use it to get another free credit report.)

  15. aparker81 says:

    Holy crap! I just ordered UVerse online after 8 attempts. Apparently, according to the UVerse tech support, the UVerse site doesn’t like Firefox. So using IE7, I tried 3 times. I finally got it scheduled for 7/2/07. My credit is okay (one medical debt collection). I wonder if they’ll have enough time to send me this letter. I’ll wait and find out.

  16. sumkins says:

    The credit check is likely for PPV purchases. Most MSOs have limits on how many movies you can rent in a month, since you have to pay for it at the end of the month. This limit can be $50, $100, etc.

    I also got a similar letter from Sprint a few years back. It didn’t have any effect on the service I got.

  17. Jim says:

    @jferg: “Apparently, any company who uses a credit report to determine your “worthiness” and doesn’t give you the absolute highest rating (or lowest price) for their products and services as a result of your credit report is required to send out a letter of this sort, as notification that you’re not perfect.

    This actually sounds like it might be the answer. I will buy this, it sounds appropriately lawyer-ly.

    PLUS: I hadn’t thought about it until your post but I had your same AmFam experience with our Allstate policy not long ago. I had forgotten.

    So yes, this must be SOP now.

    To update, the installer is at the house and my wife has fresh batteries in the camera, wish us luck!

  18. CSR says:

    “Jim tried to talk to a supervisor but the CSR hung up on him.”
    Um…after reading the letter, it sounds like the automated system hung up on him, not the CSR. The way this is phrased makes it sound like the CSR disconnected on purpose.

  19. RebekahSue says:

    I don’t understand why the letter says to call if no one can help the OP.


    If I need a supervisor, I have had success with, “I’d like to let your supervisor know what a good job you did helping me; could you transfer me?” It hasn’t failed yet.

  20. weave says:

    This makes me wonder about all those people buying iphones tomorrow and then activating later with itunes. What happens if they have lousy credit and don’t qualify for a post-paid account?

  21. guymandude says:

    STOP GIVING OUT YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS!! It’s against the law for a business to deny you performance or service for non disclosure of you SSN unless the law *specifically* exempts them. *THERE IS NO LAW THAT SAYS ANYONE MUST HAVE A SSN* So why do you empower these idiots to do this to you? Dont give them your SSN. If they baulk just tell them you’ll be happy to give them a deposit which you expect to be credited to your account after 6 months in good standing.

  22. atkoester says:

    I just got my hookup with AT&T and got the same letter. The (much nicer) CSR that answered my confused call explained that they send out three types of letters: (1) denied because of credit (2) limited because of okay credit (3) totally approved with perfect. You (and I) got the second letter which means they need $50 and credit card number to hold over you in case you do not return their equipment – Both of which you probably supplied when you ordered the service.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Out of the blue, I received a similar letter dated 10/30/2008 ,,, so AT&T is apparently continuing this “practice”. I found the letter disturbing because 1) I did not attempt to purchase any AT&T products/services. 2) I had previously registered for the credit opt out (of free offers). 3) I never gave AT&T permission to check my credit. 4) Upon receiving the letter, I pulled my credit report and my credit history continues to be pristine/perfect.
    So I called AT&T and spoke with a live person, he said to ignore the letter because it was sent in error and that AT&T did not actually pull a copy of my credit report. Um, okay.

    Seems odd that AT&T hasn’t yet cleaned up it’s procedures regarding this form letter.