Last spring, Vik was looking around online for a deal on an iPad. He finally found a decent offer on the AT&T website so he ordered away. But by the time it had arrived, he’d decided he actually wanted a newer iPad 2. So he packed the tablet back up and shipped it back to AT&T within a couple days of getting it. He was still within the return window so he figured at worst he’d be charged for a month of data or some sort of small fee.
Vik assumed it would also take some time to get the refund processed, but after about a month with no word or money back from AT&T, he grew concerned. So he called AT&T.
“First they are confused because my cellphone is with them, but eventually figure out what I’m talking about,” he tells Consumerist. “They say my service is still active, which is why I didn’t get any refund. I ask them to cancel it, and they tell me everything will be fine.”
You can probably guess it wasn’t fine.
Here’s Vik’s story in his own words:
A month later, still no refund. These guys probably think I forgot, I’m thinking. And I’m near the end of my American Express protection, so I cancel the charge with Amex. Now I’m thinking i won.
A while later, I get a phone bill from them, for three months of data plan usage. I’m so confused. I call them, and they say that they never cancelled my plan, and they never received my iPad. I ask them to please look for it, and AGAIN to close my plan, and they say sure.
Months later (a few days ago), they send me to collections. I’m blown away.
$500 + 3 months+ of data + “handling fees” + “collection fees”. Not to mention the painfully straightforward dangling of my credit report. (Obviously, I no longer have the iPad or the tracking number).
So I try to contact AT&T. Must be some misunderstanding. I paid for my iPad, so at the most, i should owe them $30-$40. I email, I call, and finally tweet — and i got contacted by @ATTCustomerCare within seconds.
They ask me to tell them a bit via Twitter, which I started to, and then asked me to send an email… To the wrong address.
I emailed a few times, they all bounced, so I Tweet back. They reply, “Sorry, we meant firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Fine, so i send another email. Another reply: “Actually, [that employee] is on vacation, please email email@example.com”
Meanwhile, I’m burning time in the precious 2 days i have to respond to my collection notice.
They don’t get any of the emails. They ask me to follow @attteamtatiana (which I do) but this seems to be an account that just tweets general billing-related updates.
I get on the phone with the collector, who is fairly cordial. He’s just doing his job. I get him to get me on the phone with AT&T, which he does. It turns out, they don’t have record of my account being cancelled. They don’t have my iPad. It is my responsibility, because “I purchased the product,” to track it down in the annals of USPS or AT&T. And even if I did find it, it’s past the return deadline, so they wouldn’t take it anyway.
I ask them: “So you’re telling me that because I trusted you enough to buy the product from you. I assumed you would send me the right return label… But since you unexpectedly sent me to collections — it’s my responsibility? Doesn’t the fact that I used your return label on its own make this at least partially AT&T’s responsibility?”
Don’t buy anything from ATT’s website
If you must buy from ATT, go to a store.
If you must return anything to them, keep your receipt, shipping labels, tracking numbers, recorded phone calls and more.
And if you want to get in touch, tweet them, just don’t expect it to go anywhere.