You Order 2 iPhones, AT&T Ships 4, Sends You To Collections

Redditor Sketchampm says he and his girlfriend ordered two iPhones, and AT&T shipped them four. They sent two back as instructed and got refunded, but AT&T kept sending them bills for the other two phones, which customer service told them to ignore. Today, 3 months later, they get a call from a debt collector, demanding $1,100.

That is just all shades of wrong. Here’s some executive contact information for AT&T he could use to boot his issue up to the office of the president. We’ve reached out to AT&T for comment.

AT&T is FUCKING us, what can I do? [self.AskReddit]


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  1. digital0verdose says:

    Tell the collector to sue or STFU.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      This. I had something similar happen to me with Charter and it was actually over with faster and easier after it went to collections. I sent them a drop dead letter and that was the end of it. With Charter the CSRs kept saying they fixed my account but never did.

  2. AI says:

    As long as the OP have a record of receiving 4, and a record of returning 2 and receiving a refund, collections has nothing. They can’t prove the debt. Definitely EECB.

  3. milrtime83 says:

    Were they even legally obligated to send those 2 back?

    • AD8BC says:

      No, but it was the nice thing to do.

      • LHH says:

        Annnndddd look where that got them.

        • MauriceCallidice says:

          Sounds like they were going to get charged either way, but it would have been a whole lot harder to fight the charges if the hadn’t sent back the phones.

          • YOXIM says:

            Sounds to me like they were sent 4 and were charged for 4. Hence the part about getting refunded after they sent them back. Otherwise, if AT&T had sent them 2 free phones, and never asked for them back, they should’ve kept their mouth shut and sold the phones. While it may not be a “nice” thing to do, it would be a smart thing. The amount of money AT&T charges for text messages (which don’t cost AT&T a dime) is neither ethical or nice, but they still keep doing it. I wouldn’t mind seeing them get a taste of their own ripoff medicine.

    • LatinoGeek says:

      No, but it’s the right and honest thing to do.

    • maggiemerc says:

      Sounds like they got charged for the two and they sent them back and were refunded for them.

    • AI says:

      No, because they paid for them. They returned them for a refund.

    • Dover says:

      According to the FTC’s rules, maybe not. Ethically, yes—assuming AT&T is footing the bill for shipping. The distinction is that this was a mistake by a (supposedly) reputable business rather than a scam. If they were somehow trying to rip him off, I’d consider keeping the incorrectly shipped phones as a “gift”.

  4. GrayMatter says:

    Before the folks start to blame the OP, or say the bill is for the remaining two phones:
    –The article says the credit card was billed for all four phones
    –The article says that after repeated calls, they got a refund for two phones.

    Then the article states that they THEN started being billed for two phones, and that is the thing that went to collections.

    • Dover says:

      Thanks for pointing that out, Ben was a little unclear and I can’t get to Reddit from here. This doesn’t surprise me coming from AT&T Wireless.

    • runswithscissors says:

      Oh they will still find some way to blame the OP here. Never doubt the lengths commenters can go to in order to blame every OP.

  5. Hi_Hello says:

    hope they did some sort of tracking when they return the phones…

    • BluePlastic says:

      It doesn’t sound like they did, since AT&T told them they never received the phones.

      • Phil Villakeepinitrreal says:

        Whether AT&T says they got them or not really has no relation to whether they used tracking. How many times do we hear of companies refusing to admit they received something that was returned to them even when it’s clearly stated there was tracking showing it was delivered, or even a signature from the receiving employee on file?

      • Jachim says:

        That wouldn’t surprise me one bit. I had an iPhone shipped back as a return. It went USPS and the only scan they ever found was from the package pickup. No clue to this day where the phone went.

  6. ARP says:

    So AT&T got their phones back and probably made some money selling their debt to a collections agency, how convenient for them. I’m sure they have all in the incentive in the world to make this right.


  7. sqeelar says:

    Swear out a warrant for theft of 2 phones by the CEO of ATT and his agents. You may be surprised that cops have dealt with ATT as consumers. Involve the collections people as a RICO criminal conspiracy. Someone on the inside is gaming the system.

    • Chaosium says:

      “Involve the collections people as a RICO criminal conspiracy. “

      Uh, no. That’s dumb. Just find the applicable portion of the fair debt collection practices act.

  8. william says:

    I say if they have all the documents and the case is super clear…

    Send the collection a nice letter (registered) with photocopies of all evidence that they own nothing. Tell collection if they ever contact them again, they’ll sue under fair debt collection act.

    wait for collection to phone/email/letter again, sue.


    if the collection is smart, they’ll shut up after they got the letter.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      Include reporting to a credit report along with the contacts. It works, I disputed a bill with another company (had canceled check) and they never straightened it out. The collection agency never contacted us or reported after we sent them a letter and a copy of the canceled check via certified mail.

  9. Radoman says:

    Wow, that was fast. This story just popped on Reddit about 7 hours ago, and one of the first things people suggested that the OP do, was to send out an EECB, and contact Consumerist.

    Here’s a link:

    Betcha it gets resolved quickly now due to “taking this seriously” and such. Hi to all my fellow Redditors.

    • GrantRyan says:

      Same here. When I read it (….reddit) the first thing I thought was to send them over this way. Then lo and behold, it was already here.

      Hope it all gets sorted out.

  10. Galius Persnickety says:

    This is why you order directly from Apple, and cut ATT’s incompetence out of the loop…

  11. Duckula22 says:

    My cell phone makes phone calls, that’s it.

  12. jdmba says:

    No matter how many you order or how many you received; you STILL won’t get a signal … but heck, its a purdy phone!

  13. muzicman82 says:

    Damn, that sucks. It’s AT&T’s mistake and they should be the one’s fixing it.

    Sprint accidentally shipped me two HTC Touch Pro’s a few years ago when I ordered mine. They arrived separately. I held on to it for 6 months to see if they caught their mistake and wanted it back. No one called and I got no bill, so I gave the phone to a friend.

  14. gialablau says:

    This is a violation of the fair debt collection practices act and you can easily sue for it. I’m currently in the process of a law suit for the same thing. Find a consumer rights attorney. The act requires violators to pay one thousand dollars per violation plus legal fees, if it even gets to that point.

  15. Mike says:

    I like what the OP said in his original article: “Switching to AT&T is one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made.”

    It could have been worse. Not that all the other phone companies are that much better, but if I based my buying decisions based on Consumer Reports and Consumerist articles the worst decision you could have made would be to buy your iPhone at Best Buy and have Geek Squad get within 20 feet of it. THAT would have been much worse.

  16. jp7570-1 says:

    AT&T’s collection group tried calling them first, but the iphone’s kept dropping the calls!

  17. Pax says:

    OP and his girlfriend should have paid to send the phones back with Return Receipt service, and should have paid to insure the packages as well.

    Then they should have demanded AT&T reimburse them for those expenses, the need for which were entirely AT&T’s fault.

    • Pax says:

      Just to clarify: I’m not blaming the OP. I’m merely describing what they should have done, to have an airtight “Oh hell no, those phones were signed for by _____, at ?:??pm on the __th of ____. YOUR problem where they went to, after that!”

      Or, if they really did get lost, they could simply have made an isnurance claim, and used that to pay the fee for the missing phones.

  18. sarahmvp says:

    I think it is safe to say when analysts look back they will say that the WORST business move of this century will be Apple’s exclusive contract with AT&T. AT&T is a hideous company with horrible customer service and a network that can’t handle the needs of its customers. If I make it through a call without being dropped, I’ll call them and thank them. That hasn’t happened after two years of using my iPhone. I can’t look at my phone with anything but ire and bitterness.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      Not the worst from a profit standpoint, I don’t think. There are enough people who will put up with any of it as long as they can have their shiny iThing.

  19. balderdashed says:

    A few years ago, I had a cell phone through AT&T. One month, I received a bill that was obviously much higher than it should have been. I contacted AT&T customer service, and talked to a guy who eventually agreed I did not owe the amount in question, but told me I should pay it anyway, and would later be credited for my overpayment. I said, “What? Hey, I’m not in the small loan business — if AT&T wants a loan, it should go to a bank.” The customer service rep kept insisting I pay the amount I did not owe. Instead, I decided to pay a $150 early termination fee — worth it, I figured, to ensure I would have nothing further to do with this company. No such luck. Even after I paid the $150 and cancelled the service, AT&T continued to bill me, and it took several months and multiple phone calls to convince them to stop harassing me for money I did not owe. Suffice it to say: I’m not surprised by this OP’s story. And though I’d like an IPhone, that’s not going to happen, as long as the worst cell phone company in America is the only vendor.

    • sheriadoc says:

      That happened to me with U-Verse. We cancelled TV service, but when the next bill came we had been charged for the next month of TV service. I called to see if/when the bill would be adjusted. The guy told me to pay the balance and I would be credited the amount I didn’t really owe. Well, I asked him if there was any other option since I didn’t want to fork over $60 for phantom TV service. He told me to deduct the cost of the TV service from the bill. So I did that.

      Next month I was hit with a late fee when I didn’t pay my bill late. I called to find out what had happened, and the woman told me it was because I hadn’t paid the balance in full. So I told her the guy the month before TOLD me to do that. Well, she said he was in the wrong and credited me the late fee. So, it ended happily, but I know that guy told me to do that knowing I would be hit with a late fee. Douche.

  20. mhutt says:

    How did you get a photo of my husband’s phone? or is that my phone? Yep, we both have shattered the glass. btw, it is a $200 repair fee…

  21. Amnesiac85 says:

    Wow, that is really fail on AT&T’s part.

    One thing I always do: if I ever send out a package with a few hundred dollars worth of electronics in it, I make sure I track it every step of the way. This way when they pull the “We didn’t get the package!” excuse, you can pull up your tracking history and say “Uh, well actually you did.”

  22. dwm says:

    Sue them in Small Claims court. I did that to another carrier once and got thousands of dollars as a return on investment for something did exactly like this to me. I even got the ding removed from my credit report.

  23. Plasmafox says:

    U.S mail law says if a company sends the wrong product or products you didn’t order, you have no liability. ESPECIALLY when you RETURNED THEM. Tell AT&T to shove it, and tell the collectors if they contact you again you’ll sue.

  24. Benzona says:

    Hopefully having it on here helps resolve this Redditors issue.