Ring Around The AT&T Help Lines

Rachel, who had recently moved, called AT&T for help with her DSL line, but was told she’d have to call a different number because her account originated in a different state. She’s discovered that her cell phone’s area code forces AT&T’s system to transfer her to the wrong customer service center.

She writes:

My fiance and I recently moved from North Carolina to Ohio. I have a North Carolina cell phone number, and set up our DSL service with that number on the account, as we are some of those crazy Millennials who don’t have a land line.

Our modem manual instructed us to call AT&T for a password so we could log in, and set up our account. So, I called the number given, and, when prompted, entered my cell phone number as the one associated with the account. When I finally spoke to the CSR, she informed me that I was on the help line for the 9 states region, and, as my account was an Ohio account, I needed to call a different number, which she gave me.

I called that number, and, again, when prompted, entered my cell phone number. Again, I ended up in the 9 states region help line. The CSR gave me the Ohio number,

“But I have that number. That’s the one I just called!”

The CSR apologized, and offered to transfer me directly to the Ohio region help line. I was transferred, and, for a third time, was told to enter my phone number. Once again, I did. Once again, 9 states region help line. I apologized to the CSR:

“I know this is the wrong number. I’ve tried dialing the Ohio number, but since the number on my account is a North Carolina number, I keep getting routed here. Is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening?”

She thought for a moment.

“No, I’m sorry.”

I asked to be directly transferred to a CSR in the Ohio region. She said she could, and then the line went dead- no hold music, no anything. I waited a few minutes, and hung up.

My fiance finally figured out the solution. When asked for the number associated with the account, he simply kept saying “I don’t know.” He got to an option to enter our account number, and off we went.

It seems like this is a problem that’s going to crop up more and more in the future- I understand that it’s easier for people to remember their cell phone number then to look through piles of paper for their AT&T account number. But if their could be some sort of prompt to ask which state the account was located in, it would make life a lot easier for those of us whose cell phone numbers aren’t local numbers.

Have you encountered a glitch like this with AT&T or another company?


Edit Your Comment

  1. MDSasquatch says:

    I am a Verizon Wireless customer. I moved from Texas to Maryland and because I tend to procrastinate, I never got around to changing the numbers to a Maryland number (4 phones). I then bought a Chevrolet and added the OnStar/Hands-free phone to my account. Because I had Texas numbers, they assigned me a Texas number for the Chevy even though I lived and bought the car in Maryland.

    Fast forward – I switched all my phones to Maryland numbers, but have not had any luck getting the number switched in my car. Apparently because it is “attached” to an OnStar feature, Verizon’s normal CSRs cannot do the change.

    I don’t pay for long distance, so I just learned to live with it.

    • JoeDawson says:

      I am never changing my area code (312 ftw!) regardless of where i live. Cell phone “Long distance” is just included in the monthly minutes, so whats the point?

      • MDSasquatch says:

        I feel the same way; I only changed because I was job searching and the out of Maryland numbers confused my family.

        • Silverhawk says:

          Thankfully, Google Voice is now public. That’s how I deal with that. I still have my old number I got a decade ago from 3 states away, and a GV number for my new local number that I give out where I live now.

    • qwickone says:

      Just connect your blue tooth in your car to your cell, then you dont have to use the On-Star to call and it’s included in your existing phone bill.

  2. keepntabs says:

    Since it is very likely that you will have future problems with your DSL service, I recommend that you write you account number right next the customer service number that is provided on your modem. Then you won’t have to search for the account number, and not have to go through all of the shenanigans of AT&T’s auto-routing.

  3. Dover says:

    Something similar happened to me back when Cingular bought AT&T wireless. Since I had a line from AT&T, I kept getting blue (old AT&T) customer service when I needed someone from orange (Cingular) to port my number. No matter what number I tried, I was sent to blue customer service because I was calling from that phone. Ended up being the least of my problems with Cingular, but that’s another story.

    In OP’s case, I can’t believe It took that many attempts before they tried something else. Maybe I’m less patient than other people, but if I can’t navigate a company’s phone system on the first attempt, I brute-force my way to a CSR with whatever combination of “representative”, “I don’t know”, “Español”, expletives, 0, or random button pushes I think will do the trick.

    • Dover says:

      Upon rereading, maybe OP’s attempts were reasonable and I was just being a bit cranky. In any case, AT&T’s system should look up the account and route the call to the correct center based on the service location. It really can’t be that hard.

  4. padams89 says:

    I always have that problem with Comcast. I am a college student in Pittsburgh but am from Philadelphia and have a Philadelphia area code. Even though my Comcast account was opened with the Philadelphia area code in Pittsburgh, I always end up talking to Philadelphia who can’t/won’t help me.

    I have resorted to entering my roommates phone number since he is local, then when I finally get a CSR, giving her the one connected to the account.

    • backinpgh says:

      I am in Pittsburgh and have the same problem. I asked a rep for help, who said to ignore the system when it asks you for a phone number. After a couple tries, it will finally ask you for a billing zip code instead and route you to the correct center.

  5. agpc says:

    AT&T’s phone system is the worst out of any company I deal with. I have both uverse and wireless with them, and it automatically detects my wireless number when I call. I have to go through 5 different automated menus before it asks me about uverse. It adds up to wasted time when you have to keep calling because the system disconnects you when overloaded with calls.

    Once you finally get to an actual person, they are usually nice but uninformed. I called on the first day of NFL football because redzone didn’t work. They initially told me it was a technical problem and would be fixed in 30 minutes. When it wasn’t, I called back and was told I had to pay $5.00 per month for redzone (I have the u450 which is all the movie channels ect. And had asked about redzone when I subscribed).

    Tldr: Att’s phone system sucks real bad.

  6. DanRydell says:

    I had a similar problem when I called Comcast with my work cell phone which had a Florida number (because my home phone didn’t work when my Comcast service didn’t work). When they gave me the NJ number it worked.

    • tsumeone says:

      When I call Comcast, it asks for my phone # which is from an area they dont even have service (Oceanside, ca). I go thru the whole IVR, and when it is about to xfer me to a person, it takes me right back to the start of the IVR. Except this time after it asks for the phone number it makes these stupid sounds like its thinking, then asks me the same questions I already answered, and THEN I finally get a person

  7. Bdog59600 says:

    Had this problem with the red cross 1800givelife number. The different regions are sort ofbautonomous and the number kept directing me to the one for my old area code when I moved and they couldn’t transfer me nor was there a number for each region. Had to get the direct number of the local office to make an appointment. No problem now that they contact me every 2 months without fail.

  8. Bluefreak says:

    I have run into this problem when calling AAA road service using their national toll-free number. Their system seems to automatically route you to the local club based on your area code, without any way to override this–if you are lucky the person who answers the phone (but is nowhere near your location) will have access to the actual local number you need. I’m sure this worked great in the era of pay phones, but this feature is useless now that everyone travels with cell phones.

  9. backinpgh says:

    This happens to me with Comcast. When I call, it asks for my phone number, which is an out of state number from when I was in school. It took us quite a while to figure out what was happening. The reps kept saying, we can’t access your account, are you SURE you’re a customer? What’s your address? What’s your account number? Then when we repeated “PIttsburgh PA” in our address for the 20th time, the rep goes “Oooohhh!!! We are in Mihcigan.”

    Another time we called in we knew what would happen, so we immediately asked the rep to transfer us to a Pennsylvania service center. They were puzzled for a while then figured out what we meant and transferred us. But the same thing happened: I can’t access your information. You must not have an account with us. That’s impossible. This rep kept insisting that they can access any account from everywhere. Then we figure out they are in FLORIDA, so we hang up and just try again. Doh!

    After having all kind of issues trying to get transferred I asked a Comcast rep for advice. He said when it asks for your phone number, don’t do anything. It will ask again; don’t do anything. Then it will ask for your ZIP code, which is when I can put in correct information. Now we know, but I can’t figure out why the reps themselves have NO idea what is going on in regards to this problem, which I agree must be a huge problem considering the number of just college students who sign up for cable and phone services with an out of state number. Get with the times, companies!

  10. backinpgh says:

    And to make matters worse, AT&T wants to charge me $36 to change my number to a local number! (Unless I lie and say the number change is due to harrassment) I don’t think so.

  11. baristabrawl says:

    This happened to me. I had to eventually *69 before I dialed their number and put in the area code I wanted with a fake number that was mostly 9’s an 7’s. Feel free to steal this idea.

  12. GearheadGeek says:

    I had a slightly different version of this issue with Charter cable. I have a voip line (not from Charter) and they’re based in NY. When you call through a PBX like that, there are 2 versions of your outbound number… one is the caller ID that in my case is an area code that corresponds to my geographic location, and the other is the actual DID the PBX is using to make the outbound call.

    We figured out after a while that Charter was using the DID to identify the source of the call on their 800# and ignoring the caller ID number, so every time I called in I got connected to the east-coast customer support center and had to be transferred to the west-of-the-Mississippi center. After a year or so it finally stopped, so I’m guessing they switched to caller ID.

  13. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    “…called AT&T for help…” Hahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!

  14. bdgw7 says:

    This happened to me with Comcast just from moving from one county to another within the same state. It affects my USAA access too. Based upon my cell number, they think I’m on the West Coast, rather than the East, so I can’t get customer service on the line until late in the morning my time when the West Coast CS opens.

  15. Weekilter says:

    Not exactly the same thing, but I have two cellphones with T-Mobile. One is a monthly ‘billed’ account and the other is a prepaid. Well I don’t have a regular land line any longer so I called from my monthly billed line to get service on the prepaid. Every time I entered the number for the prepaid when calling the monthly billed line it kept telling me I had called the wrong number and would proceed to connect me to the monthly billed line. I finally had to have the person who entered stay on the line til the right service answered.

  16. tweeder82o says:

    at&t knows absolutely nothing about phones and how they work.