Attention AT&T: Don't Lie About "Massive Outages," Reporters Have Phones Too

When Stephanie the AT&T “escalation affairs administrator” lied to Jan about why her phone couldn’t be repaired for several days, she probably didn’t know what Jan did for a living.

Stephanie told her that AT&T was experiencing “massive, massive outages.” Jan is a journalist. Whoops.

From the Arkansas Business:

“Massive, massive outages” is a news story to me. I told Stephanie so and went into reporter mode. Stephanie said a media relations officer would call me at work “by the end of the day,” while declining to give me that person’s name or her own last name.

I called the Public Service Commission in my capacity as a reporter. The agency knew nothing of “massive, massive outages” but would check. The PSC a bit later: “We’ve had one outage complaint from North Little Rock on the 25th for AT&T but nothing from Little Rock.”

It turns out that Stephanie was lying. Suprising? No. Did they turn Jan’s phone back on once she put on her reporter hat and went digging? Immediately.

Jan doesn’t think that’s fair:

More calling. Finally, Andy Morgan, a spokesman for AT&T in Oklahoma City, told me, “We’re under a service emergency. The primary reason is the rain.” But instead of “massive, massive outages,” it was more like “several hundred,” Andy said.

I assured Andy I didn’t want special treatment, that I’d called as a journalist only because of Stephanie’s explanation of “massive, massive outages,” that I’d wait my turn. But when I got home from work that day, my phone was working.

It shouldn’t be like this. You, Dear Reader, are probably not a journalist. But you deserve the same consideration. And if your utility is indeed experiencing “massive, massive outages,” you’ll probably try to be patient.

But you might not seek to verify the explanation. You might not have the time or energy to call the PSC or to keep going up the chain of command until you get a straight answer – or a solution. And that’s not fair.

It certainly isn’t.

Failure to Communicate (Jan Cottingham Commentary) [Arkansas Business]


Edit Your Comment

  1. mk says:

    So the next time a utility says they are having “massive, massive outages” and it sounds dubious, call you local TV network. I’m sure they’d love to follow up on the story for you.

  2. Bay State Darren says:

    @melking1972: No. Next time say you’re a journalist.

  3. @melking1972: Why? they prefer to report on what the latest scandal is with some guy in Hollywood who makes more than you and I combined.

  4. mgyqmb says:

    Or, pretend to be a journalist.

  5. mgyqmb says:

    @Bay State Darren: Beat me to it!

  6. itsgene says:

    When it rains that causes a “Service Emergency” at AT&T? This explains a lot.
    Incidentally, rain is a great excuse for companies to toss service out the window. I once had a run in with FedEx about a delayed package — it took 3 days to deliver a priority overnight letter. They wouldn’t refund the charge because their service guarantee is null and void if it rains. And it turns out that the small print basically means “if it rains ANYWHERE in FedEx’s service area.” Which, basically, is the entire world.

  7. MeOhMy says:

    Didn’t a court just basically rule that if you blog, you ARE a journalist? Time to start a blog and reap the rewards!

  8. alfista says:

    Why would you be patient if your service provider reported “massive, massive outages?” That sounds like reason to look for another provider.

  9. hhole says:

    Is it wrong that on more than one occasion I’ve gotten movement from a company that I’ve complained to by mentioning I’m a contributer to The Consumerist? I’ve been putting my reporter hat on for a long time.

  10. Bay State Darren says:

    @hhole: That is far from wrong. I’d love to hear more.

  11. BigNutty says:

    I guess it wouldn’t work if I called and told them my payment would be late because of massive, massive postal service delays.

  12. themanishere says:

    I always tell the girls it’s ‘massive’. Then I turn out the lights and claim it was a power outage.

  13. Nighthawke says:

    Are you are journalist? If yes, then say so to them. If not and you still say yes, then they can nail you with libel, or worse. Still, a phone call to the local paper or TV station is worth a shot, especially if they have a consumer advocate on their payroll.

  14. axiomatic says:

    @themanishere: I see what you did there….