Sorry, It's Your Problem That AT&T Rep Lied About Smartphone Data Plans

Robert, an iPhone user and AT&T defender, tells Consumerist that the company has managed to turn him against them. What? No! And it’s all thanks to a misinformed retail store rep and some subsequent bad customer service from call center reps. Apparently, the employees at his local store don’t read Consumerist, or they would know that AT&T no longer allows customers with smartphones to cancel their data plans.

Yesterday, my wife’s Blackberry Pearl finally succumbed to a lifetime of drops to the pavement, and as such, I set off to secure her a replacement that evening.  We’d thought about getting her one for a while, but always came to the conclusion that it wasn’t necessary, as her sturdy Blackberry continued to satisfy her requirements.  So naturally, with it being time for a new one, we knew there was only one type of phone to consider for her – a Blackberry.  I’m an iPhone guy, but even I can see the attractiveness of a phone like the Blackberry Curve (the new one with the mouse like contraption, versus the pearl). 
So knowing that, the CSR, M., took the time to show me the Blackberry, along with several alternative phones, but based on the relative price points, I felt more than satisfied paying $99 for what seems to be an exceptional phone.  I was informed that in addition to the $99 for the hardware and the $18 upgrade fee, I would need to add a $30 data plan.  I looked at this as a 1x cost, because my wife doesn’t want/need a data plan, so I just planned on canceling the data plan ASAP.  Sidebar, I got this idea because prior to getting my iPhone, I too considered a Blackberry before ultimately going with the iPhone.  At that time, they had the same requirement for adding a data plan, but the CSR told me I could cancel it as soon as I wanted, no penalty involved.  Anyway, remembering this tidbit, I told the CSR that I planned on doing this, and he acknowledged the validity of my plan, though he wasn’t entirely bombastic about it – and I wouldn’t expect him to be, since it’d probably be against every bit of training he’s received to approve of me dropping features.  After a relatively quick and painless check-out process, I was on the road with a pretty new Curve, ready to make my wife’s night.
After showing her the phone, I decided to go ahead and remove the data plan, so I didn’t forget to do it at a later time.  I dialed 611 and after a short wait B. answered my call.  I explained my plan to him, at which point he proceeded to tell me that, no, I couldn’t drop my data plan because their new policy REQUIRES all smart phones to have a data plan (with an activation post-September 6th).  Um, excuse me!?  I became very unhappy with AT&T (with reason, I think), and I expressed my displeasure about this policy to B., who proceeded to cop an attitude with me, at one point telling me “what do you want me to do, dude?”  First off, I am not your dude, nor do I want to be.  Second off, wait, back to the first, did you really think calling me dude would help?!  Third off, why are you getting an attitude with me, someone who is admittedly overly nice with all customer service.  And finally, why didn’t the rep in the AT&T store inform me of this new policy, and furthermore, why do you have this policy in the first place.  Oh wait, that one’s easy: make more money off of a captive audience. 

After putting up with even more attitude from Brad, I was finally on hold to speak with a supervisor.  Meanwhile, my wife called from her phone, and got another CSR (S.) on the line, who somehow was able to manage to get the data plan removed, because he was able to use a modicum of creativity in manipulating the system (Other qualities S. possessed that B. did not: the ability to ask question, a genuine desire to treat my wife with respect while displaying a real sense of understanding, etc).
Around the time my wife was getting the issue resolved with S., the supervisor answered the phone with an immediate air of hostility and resentment.  I told him the entire story, and the first words out of his mouth were “well, B. was right about the policy.”  Really supervisor (I can’t remember his name)?  That’s your initial volley in this conversation?  No apology for the complete lack of respect shown by B.? 

At this point, I was done..I’d had it.  I blasted the supervisor for STILL not apologizing (at which point he did), and then he lectured me on how I should go to the store and let the CSR know he is giving out mis-information.  No, Mr. Supervisor-man, I will not do that.  This is not my company, nor do I ever want it to be my company and as such I feel zero responsibility to do this.  You provide me with cell phone service, I give you money.  I am not a special training consultant, nor am I a regulatory body.  Do your freaking job!!! 

I did think the conversation had a nice ending point, however, as when the supervisor asked me if they had completely resolved my issues, I replied “S. did” and then bid them good eve.
Moral of the story: I’m done defending AT&T customer service (except S., who I like)…oh and I officially joined the camp of “those that hate AT&T.”

We can only hope that the AT&T brass don’t get hold of S.’s identity and fire him.

AT&T To Require Smartphone Data Plans For Smartphones

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