AT&T Won't Let Me Drop Old Landline After A Move

When Deanna moved from one unit to another in the same building, she figured it would be simple enough to move her AT&T landline account from the old apartment to the new one. Despite numerous dealings with AT&T’s bumbling customer service, she can’t seem to shake the old account.

She writes:

The day of my service move, October 11, I took the day off from work because AT&T could not give me a timeframe for their visit. But, I was supposed to get a call in the morning to share if they would be around before or after lunch. No call came. At 1:00 I called AT&T with my service move conformation code. I was told that the move was not scheduled for the 11th and there was nothing they could do. They explained that my new apartment was not in their files and that the unit would need to be rewired for AT&T. Just plain not true. The building I live in was built in 1955 and converted to apartments four years ago. My address exists and has been wired for AT&T since the conversion because it is the only carrier downtown.

After an hour and a half on the phone, because my AT&T wireless service kept dropping my call when on hold, I was told the soonest someone could come was October 13. I could not afford another day away from the office, especially since I had already taken this one off, and asked them to cancel my service all together. They offered no additional consolation. Well, I had to be transferred to another department to cancel and the call dropped again. It was the end of the day, so I gave up.

The next day I walked over to a corporate office down the street and the cell phone store at this location let me sit with one of their landlines. Supposedly I canceled my service and was given a conformation code.

On November 5th I got a bill for service through November 28th from AT&T. What? No customer service was available until Monday. When I called, with my cancellation code, they verified the code and said the service was never turned off because the move order was never fulfilled. I said, “This is your problem, not mine, right,” and they agreed. Supposedly they proceeded to remove the charge for service that I could not use if I wanted since I moved out of that apartment and finally canceled my service. I am skeptical. I asked for conformation codes and emails to verify. My cancellation code was not changed from the original request and no email has arrived.

A simple move within one building turned into a nightmare. I asked to speak to a manager or director to share my story in hopes it might help others from a similar fate. I was transferred to voice mail where I said I had experienced terrible customer service and if the person did not return my call, or have someone else return my call, it would be one more indication of the terrible AT&T customer service. So far, no one has called.

What’s the most difficult experience you’ve had transferring phone service?


Edit Your Comment

  1. cosmic.charlie says:

    Summary Paragraph.
    “Email from customer (in big quotes)”
    Simple question with no suggestion or response.

    /End post

    Can I write for the consumerist now?

    • jaya9581 says:

      I’ve been a huge fan of this site for years but I agree, this is getting pretty silly.

      • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

        also been a huge fan for years.
        seems like most of the posts nowadays are either rehashes of news stories, or customer complaint letters posted word-for-word with an editor’s comment along the lines of “what should [customer] do?”

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      Big +1

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        So, Tux, do you want a consumer-based website that tries to advocate for specific companies, or would you rather have a blog consumer-based website that tries to stay neutral, except when it’s hilarious?

        Personally, I like that the writers don’t tell us what to think.

    • searonson says:

      Phil is probably afraid that if he attempts any kind of commentary, he will get attacked by commenters.

      So, if he just re-posts the complaint email with as little additional writing as possible, he should be safe. Right? Right?

    • A Pimp Named DaveR says:

      Let me flesh that out a little more:

      Summary Paragraph.

      “Email from customer (in big quotes): I had a problem with a company. I [complained/cancelled my service/threatened to cancel my service]. They said [they’d fix it/they’d give me a credit/they’d fix it and give me a credit]. That was just before I wrote this email. Since I don’t trust the company, I assume the problem won’t be fixed, so therefore their customer service is crap.”

      Query whether reader has had crappy customer service as well.

      /End post

      This isn’t really consumer advice anymore; it’s just taking potshots at various companies, some of whom actually deserve it.

      • Zernhelt says:

        Don’t forget to redact any information that might help inform the readers what stores (if the story involved a brick-and-mortar store) to avoid.

    • DigitalShawn says:

      Don’t like to be on this website? Then leave. It’s quite simple actually.

  2. citking says:

    I love that AT&T was giving it to the OP with both barrels: Terrible customer service for the landline and shoddy cell phone coverage.

    Today I had to call AT&T’s business repair department to get them to enable NETSYNC over a digital circuit. I can explain why to the right person in about 45 seconds, and it would take maybe a day (at most) to enable. Instead I lost an argument with the voice prompt thingy, was disconnected, and could not get to a human until after lying my way through the ticket creation system.

    I hate AT&T.

    • Kevin411 says:

      I’ve been with Bellsouth/AT&T for over a decade of DSL and phone coverage, plus they now have my mobile service. They’ve always been a shining star of customer service, problem solving and empowered phone reps. They burned through 11 years of goodwill in one week during my recent move.

      Without going into detail, the central problem was about my inquiry to sales if I could leave on the internet service at the old place for a couple of weeks after it was set up at the new place if i carried my DSL “modem” with me. They said I could. When I could not log on as scheduled at the new place, I was told by tech support that that can’t be done within one account and that “sales is always telling people it can be done” and that this is a consistent complaint. (I joked with the tech that I was going to report this on Consumerist and he actually said, “Please do!”) I asked them to go ahead and switch on the new location, because it was a priority, and he said that if they changed the service date now that the service date had been changed (by not turning it on when sales programmed it to) that the system could likely get messed up so bad that I may not have service for a couple additional weeks. Wierd, but I could read honesty in his voice and let it go. I’m now up and running at the new place.

      AT&T…remove the gulf you have created between Sales/CS and Tech Support and you may earn your way back to to top of my Customer Service list and that of others.

  3. Macgyver says:

    All they doing is changing a phone number from one apartment to another. Can’t that be done from the telephone pole?

    • Gregory says:

      It can usually be done in the basement.

      • shepd says:

        Literally, this would take punching down two wires. Four presses of the Krone/66/110/Bix tool and it would be done. That’s it. The tool even cuts the wire for you. Any competent technician would be able to do this on a (labelled) panel in, I don’t know… say… 15 seconds?

        • kc2idf says:

          Ten, even.

          It is just mind-blowing how horrible the telcos really are. I suppose they also wonder why people migrate off of land lines and onto VoIP or cell-phone service?

          At work, I sit next to our in-house telecom specialist. It’s painful listening to him on the phone with the various telcos he has to work with, especially since most of the time he is just trying to keep the existing lines to the company working!

    • scoosdad says:

      It’s the record-keeping and billing address change that’s most challenging for AT&T, apparently, especially when their computer says the address doesn’t currently have service but it really does.

  4. Hotscot says:

    I love Consumerist but is there any way to develop a forum for a company rep. response?

    I know they may not want to do this anyway but I always want to hear the other side of the story…

  5. sqeelar says:

    I’m still waiting for AT&T to install DSL since 1999. Every installation phone number they gave turned out to be a non-working number in another state. They didn’t call even when I worked for them as a contractor in one of their secret research facilities for a while. Needless to say I got cable broadband. They pay contractor well however.

  6. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    I moved to a new town, in a new state, with a new phone company – Qwest. Before moving in, I called to order service, so I would have a phone when I moved in. Just basic service, nothing more. “Are you sure you don’t want call waiting, bla, blah” “NO” I answered. As promised, the phone was on. After a week, I began hearing tones when I was on the phone, but thought nothing of it – Until I got my bill and discovered I had been “Slammed” with 3 services I had never ordered. It took two calls – and 1/2 hr. each time on hold – to get the services and charges removed. I later found out this “slamming” was standard practice for Qwest CS, as they are required to “upsell” a certain amount or get terminated!

    Fast forward 2 years: We had built a new house, and we wanted our phone transferred. First, they told me my house didn’t exist, and it took several calls to get them to recognize my address. Being a new home, someone would have to come out and hook it up. Understandable, and since my wife was home while I worked, not a big deal. Appointment 1, they missed. Appointment 2, I came home and my wife told me their tech couldn’t do it because there was no ground, and to call Qwest. Qwest informs me that I need an electrician to install the ground, as their “technician” refused to do it.

    Tired of their crap, and unwilling to wait any longer (3 weeks with no phone by now) I walked out to the phone box, opened it, ran a wire to the ground 6 INCHES away! Another week later I finally had phone service.

    I fired Qwest 1 year later when I bought a Magic Jack – I now pay under $2 a month for more features and unlimited long distance than Qwest could EVER provide me.

    • lemortede says:

      Magic Jack is great. Its not perfect, for $20 a year vs 300+ per year for a line that doesn’t get used alot and I am more than willing to overlook some of the quality issues I have had.

      • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

        The biggest problem that people seem to have with MJ is running on their regular computer that is loaded with crap – you know, the same one they are running netflix and the kids are going to facebook with.

        Best solution is an old laptop with NOTHING but win xp, firewall, and anti-virus, running NOTHING ELSE. As a bonus, the laptop gives me 2 hours run time in a power outage.

        • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

          Okay, your laptop works for two hours in a power outage, but what about your cable/DSL/FIOS modem? Do you have a UPS for that (and I guess as well, your router?) Hence, although MagicJack seems like a deal, when the power goes out, you’re basically screwed.

          • kc2idf says:

            True of any VoIP solution.

            Personally, I don’t like MJ because I don’t want any Windows-running computer in my home, nor do I want my phone reliant on my computer (though I don’t mind it being reliant on my network). As such, I chose Ooma.

  7. stint7 says:

    I heart Nashville. I want to go back soon…

  8. coren says:

    The problem was not that they wouldn’t let her do it. They didn’t tell her “no, you can’t do that” or “you’ll be charged a fee for that” or anything of the sort. They did, however, do this incorrectly (and her whole move was done incorrectly). Poorly summarized article is poorly summarized.

  9. JM says:

    Something very similar happened to me the last time I moved. I called to cancel my landline with AT&T, as I now just use my cell phone and have internet through the cable company. I called about 2 weeks before I moved, and the lady turned off my phone right then. I had to explain that I wanted service to continue until I moved at the end of the month. This must have confused them terribly because the next month I got a bill for a landline at my old address. So I called and was assured that it was fixed now (they gave me a confirmation number too which is meaningless). Then a month later, another bill. So I called again and was told that this time it was fixed (I gave them the confirmation number from before and they had no idea what to do with it). Then I got another bill and collection notices and threats of lawsuits if I didn’t pay. It took me another 2 hours on the phone as I refused to get off the phone until they could assure me without a doubt that it was fixed. Then I searched and found the email address for the president of AT&T and emailed him. Someone from his office called me a couple of days later and magically my account was fixed and I even got a refund.

  10. Speak says:

    When I moved 5 years ago, my Verizon phone line was hooked up within a day or two without a problem. However my DSL I was told would take a week or two to activate at the new address. When I talked to customer service they said I could get dial-up free for 1 month. I signed up at the same time as I canceled my old number and set up the new one. I canceled my dial-up as soon as the DSL was working. The next month comes and I get a bill for dial-up. I call and give my cancellation number, and they can’t figure it out because there was no dial-up ever associated with my number. They wave the charges and I think everything is fine until next month when I get a bill for 2 months of dial-up. I call and again they wave charges and say no dial-up on my account. Third month, now I get a bill for 3 months of dial-up and late fees. I call again, this time they do a little more digging and find that the dial-up account is associated with my old, inactive number, and not my current number. They are able to finally cancel my dial-up and reverse the charges.

  11. redskull says:

    That AT&T building is reminding me a lot of Sauron’s tower.

  12. EdaDiores says:

    Hmm, most difficult experience transferring phone service? Lets see, I had to log-in to my VoIP service provider’s customer page. I had to update my 911 info and change my billing information. I almost broke a finger doing it. Get with the times and get rid of the P.O.T.S.

  13. Mom says:

    Back in the days of dial up internet, I had two phone lines. When broadband came, I dropped the second line, and got DSL. Several *years* later, I started getting bills for long distance calls that I didn’t make. An hour to Australia here, an hour to Ohio there. A couple of big, expensive calls a month. The first time I called AT&T, they removed the charges. The second time I called AT&T, they didn’t believe me, and opened an investigation. After some discussion, it turned out that they were charging me for long distance calls made on the second phone line that I had canceled years before.

    • Not Given says:

      That happened to me. We closed a business and DH’s new employer forwarded our business number to their own number for a year and then shut it off. BTW, we never had AT&T, local or long distance. Several years later I started getting bills from AT&T for long distance calls from that number, but it was a residential account, not a business account. It took me three months to get it stopped. The first time they credited the account for the calls but I was still billed the next month and the next. They claimed my local phone company told them the address to send the bill, I still had the P O Box from the business. I told them I had asked the local company and they claimed to have no record of us ever having that number. I finally sneered at them, “Why don’t you just call the damn number and ask where to send the bill?”
      By some miracle, they stopped bothering me with somebody else’s ridiculously high long distance charges to states where I know nobody.

  14. keepher says:

    A few years ago we lived full time in our motorhome. Its was a lot easier to raise the jacks and unplug the cord than renting other people’s crap for each new job location. Well, I digress.

    We moved in to an RV park for the next job assignment. Ordered AT&T and all was great until it wasn’t. Suddenly the phone is not working, I call they say OK we’ll fix it and they did. After this happened a third time it was no longer fun.

    Turns out that every time they turned on my phone service at the motorhome they turned off the phone in the park manager’s house. Phone service existed in both places without incident for years but for some reason when we got there they assigned the site address to the house some where between the last person who was parked at that site and us moving in to it.

    The park manager and I both got on the phone at the same time, her repeating the actual address of her home repeatedly and me confirming that the site address was correct. Finally a tech came out, stood there in puzzlement because all was right but some one in switching kept messing the whole thing up.

  15. SnickerDoodle says:

    I’m with Bell here in the cold frozen north.

    I wanted to make an administrative change to my account, it was either to add or remove a service from my account. I wasn’t moving or cancelling my phone service.

    There were no problems and the change would be taken care of within 3 days, I would get a confirmation at that time. All went well, I received my confirmation, probably a call or e-mail.

    I get home from work that evening, no phone service!
    Fortunately I have a cell phone so I wasn’t completely without some form of communication.

    I called the next morning and got the service reconnected the next day, it was their error and I was assured there would be no charge.

    I continue to receive and pay my bills, but every couple of months I would receive a check from bell. I then receive a letter from Bell stating that I haven’t been paying my bill….funny I have my cancelled cheques and my confirmation numbers from my online payments. Another customer service call….Yes they agree I have been paying my bills…to the wrong account?!?!?

    How is this possible you ask? Well, when bell connects your phone you automatically get a new account number, who knew!

    Fast forward a few years, again I call to make an administrative change, and I politely remind the CSR that I don’t want my line disconnected again. she notes that.

    Guess what…I get home and no phone!

    It was reconnected again, no charge again, new account number again.

    On the other hand, I’ve had no complaints or problems with my phone line.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      That’s why I’m scared to drop my landline and get naked DSL from AT&T. I can live without a phone (I got a cell, finally), but I’m like a screaming, lost baby without my interwebz!

  16. scoosdad says:

    I got a replacement cellphone at work (they pay for it), and the person in the phone/IT department at our head office, when working with Verizon to activate it, mistakenly gave them my home phone number (a landline) out of the company directory, instead of my current cell number. So magically my home number, unbeknownst to me, was ported to my new work cellphone. And my home phone line went dead as a result.

    When I figured out what had happened (all I knew is that I had no dialtone at home, but eventually I started getting family and friends calling me on my work cellphone), I raised holy hell with Verizon about it. They refused to acknowledge the mistake or the fact that they had ported a private number to a cell phone without verifying it was the right number to begin with. They insisted that the transfer must have been something I initiated since they would never port a number without the owner’s permission and a ream of signed paperwork. They stood their ground and refused to reverse it until I mentioned that I would be hanging up and calling my state’s Department of Public Utilities to file a complaint. Then they came around and got it fixed, but it took another day to straighten it out.

    My company was no help, they just shrugged and said, “oh well, our bad, call Verizon”.

  17. LOUWEEZY says:

    I worked for Ma Bell for over 20 yrs before they canned all of us. I was in Cust. Svc. 4 most of that time-when we actually provided true, customer service. The problem could lie in actual record keeping that will have to be fixed to get anything to work. As far as the transfer, it’s not always a punch down in the basement. There could be CO issues, inside wiring, going to a pedestal, or a pole. All depends on what’s currently in place. Call the main AT&T# & ask to speak to Executive Appeals. Their # years ago used to be 312 727-9411. good luck. If SBC hadn’t fucked over those of us that actually cared & worked, this might not happen all the time.

  18. JiminyChristmas says:

    I think the word you’re looking for is confirmation. Conformation is what they judge at dog shows.

  19. romeo_echo says:

    OMG The exact same thing happened to my Dad. They promised him a no-pain move to a different unit in the same building. Move day came and went, but the old line was still active in the old apartment. We called AT&T and all they could say was the job was showing as “completed”. Needless to say, we called Cox Cable and had a working landline later that day. What followed was a months-long three-ring AT&T circus of them calling us — repeatedly — in order to complete the job (which (a) they said they’d already completed and (b) we had now cancelled anyway), in addition to receiving several bills for the cancelled service. It tooks months and many phone calls to get them to finally stop sending bills for the cancelled service.

    I’ll never, ever, EVER use AT&T for anything again. I’m convinced they couldn’t find their own a** with both hands.

  20. Sol Collins says:

    So the Mystery Science Batman Theater 3000 building in Nashville is ATnT?

  21. Kingsley says:

    AT&T forgets how to hook up a phone? Has that day finally come?

    I’d strongly suggest they get the job done (if they remember how) and work out their internal forms, filings, confirmations and cancellations contemporaneously. The customer doesn’t need to track so much of this information.

  22. Kingsley says:

    AT&T forgets how to hook up a phone? Has that day finally come?

    I’d strongly suggest they get the job done (if they remember how) and work out their internal forms, filings, confirmations and cancellations contemporaneously. The customer doesn’t need to track so much of this information.

  23. jaredwilliams says:

    Honestly, while I do agree with the whole “don’t like the website get out” attitude 90% of the time, I agree this time with cosmic.charlie, it’s getting ridiculous. They used to offer advice, kind of like the company Consumer Reports that this website is affiliated with. Now they don’t bother. And it really shouldn’t have anything to do with sarcastic assholes on the comment threads. I deal with sarcastic assholes all day, doesn’t mean I should stop doing my job or change the whole point/dynamic of a company just because of assholes on a comment thread. Assholes are everywhere, mostly online in fact. Just say simple things to help it slide off your back, such as “this kid never gets laid anyway” or something like that.

  24. nkdeck07 says:

    We once had a guy living in an apartment my parents rented out that was getting harassed by comcast for almost 3 months for not returning his cable box when he cancelled his cable. The reason he had canceled his cable and moved is because his entire house had gotten swept away in the flooding in NH a few years ago. Comcast absolutely refused to listen and harassed him for ages.

  25. JonBoy470 says:

    When I moved to VA years ago, I called Dominion (the power company) as the first on my to-do list of getting the utilities in the house switched to my name. Turns out they had a service that allowed me to get all the utilities and whatnot done in just that one phone call. Sweet! Ten minutes later, the power was in my name, I was signed up for Comcast cable TV, a Washington Post subscription and Verizon phone and DSL.

    After a week went by with no DSL self-install kit arriving, I called Verizon directly. They had cancelled my DSL order due to my phone line failing a noise test. Re-ordered the DSL service. Wash-rinse-repeat a week later. Order canceled with no notice. After the third try, I decided “to h3ll with this” and decided to go for a cable modem. I drove to Circuit City, bought a Motorola cable modem and Comcast self-install kit, drove home, hooked it all up and threw their CD into my PC to get things going. Total elapsed time: 45 minutes, including drive time to and from the store.