Tuesday, December 13, 2011

AT&T Stinks

Every time I move, there is always a certain level of frustration in the doing of the small things.  Beyond the obvious enormous task of packing and unpacking, there is the transferring of all services.  This last move proved to be particularly frustrating, especially in the internet service department.  And that department's name is "AT&T Stinks".  Internet is kind of important in this day and age, and much of my preparation for my job as a children's minister is done on the internet.  (Plus, there's blogs and Facebook and Pinterest)  So access to it is kind of essential.  But let me tell you, at this point, I wish AT&T had a backside so that I could kick it to the curb.  I wish I didn't need the services AT&T provides.  Here is my story.

The week of my big move, I ventured into the great abyss that is the AT&T website.  It seems simple at first.  My choices are laid out before me.  Wireless.  Digital TV.  Internet.  Yes, Internet.  That's what I want.  So I click.  And let me tell you, right off the bat, I was overwhelmed.  I needed a person to talk to.  I wanted to tell a person what I needed and I needed the person to tell me how he or she would make that happen.  And so I searched for an additional ten minutes or so to find an actual phone number to call.  Like a real, ten digit number (eleven, if you include the 1) where I could talk to an actual person.  So I called.  I answered approximately six questions to get to Representative #1.  I explained to Representative #1 about how I was moving and I needed to get internet set up at my new home.  She responded that the high speed internet service I had been using was not available at my new address, but that I could be set up with DSL.  No problem.  Whatever.  I assumed that Representative #1 was in the process of handling my situation when the line went very quiet.  Representative #1 was gone.  I don't know how it happened, but she was gone.  So I waited a few minutes (my phone number was right there in my account information) to see if she would call back.  She didn't.  So I called again.  Same six questions.  And I believe that call eventually led to me yelling the word "Representative" into the phone repeatedly because the computer on the other end didn't understand me.  Eventually, though, I got a real person on the line.  Representative #2.  But Representative #2 couldn't help me.  Neither could #3.  Finally, I was transferred to Representative #4.  She understood what I needed, assured me that she would set it all up, and she set to work on making internet magic happen in my new place.  The modem would be free.  All I had to do is commit to a year contract and I would be eligible for a discounted rate.  Fine.  Whatever.  After an entire hour (yes, an hour) of talk time with AT&T, it was settled.  The modem would be in by Friday, the day after move-in.  I breathed a sigh of relief.

Then came Friday.  We received our box.  I wasn't home, and Jake texted me "We received a box with two cables in it".  Seriously?  Two cables?  I assured him that I would call AT&T.  He said that he already tried.  They were closed.  Of course they were.

So Monday (Thanksgiving week).  I called AT&T.  By this time, I knew the customer service number by heart.  The first woman was a harsh Middle Eastern woman that I could not understand for approximately 40% of the conversation.  The conversation went something like this.

Me: We didn't receive a modem.
Her: You didn't order a modem.
Me: I was told you guys were sending me a modem.
Her: Not if you don't order one.
Me: I figured if you said you were sending one, I didn't need to request one.
Her: silence
Me: So, with these two ethernet cables you sent me, can I get internet?
Her: No.
Me: So how did you expect me to be able to connect to the internet without the modem?
Her: more silence
Me: So, can I order a modem?
Her: Not today.
Me: Why not?
Her: Because your order hasn't posted in our system.  You can order one tomorrow.
Me: Seriously? I have to wait until tomorrow?
Her: Yes.

And the conversation went downhill from there.  What it comes down to is this: I don't know how internet access works, really.  I assume that the company I purchase it from does.  I was wrong.  There were a few awkward silent moments, mostly due to the fact that I didn't understand Representative #5.  She blamed me, apparently I didn't say the magic modem-ordering words, and I was suffering the consequences.

I called AT&T back twice that day.  Not ordering til Tuesday meant not receiving the modem until Thursday, which was Thanksgiving, which meant not receiving the modem until Friday, a week later than promised.  Both Representative #6 and #7 confirmed the order issue.  Tuesday.  I would have to wait until Tuesday.

Long story short: We decided to drive to an AT&T store.  We checked their return policy, and we purchased the same modem that was supposed to be sent, with full intentions of returning it when our free one came in the mail.  It sounds a little shady, but it's legal and all that.  So we went home, connected our two cables, and we were up and running.

Rest of the long story: I called AT&T to get the modem ordered.  I waited a week or so, mostly because I procrastinate, but also because I wanted to be sure that they had plenty of time to make sure our original (incorrect) order had posted.  When I asked about ordering the free modem, they dropped the bomb.  It's not free.  It's $100 (same price that we paid at the AT&T store).

Conversation went something like this.
Me: It's not free?
Her: No, ma'am.
Me: Then why would they have told me that it was free?
Her: I am not sure.
Me: Do you have recordings of that original conversation?
Her: No, ma'am.
Me: Do you have notes from that conversation?
Her: No, ma'am.
Me: So, basically, she could have promised me internet access for $2 a month and a free trip to Hawaii and there would be nothing I could do about it.
Her: silence
Me: Can I speak to a manager?
Her: We have a 48 hour call-back policy.  A manager will return your call within the next 48 hours.
Me: Fine.  I can wait.

That was exactly one week ago.  I have received no phone call.  I guess when I said "I can wait", AT&T took me seriously.  And the terrible thing about all of this?  I don't have much of a choice.  AT&T is one of two service providers in my area, and the second one has great promotional pricing... the kind of pricing that they lure you in with and then it changes to the price of a mortgage as soon as you are comfortable with their service.  So it looks like I am stuck.  Stuck with my $100 modem and internet service that goes out at least 5 times a day.  Unreliable internet service is better than none.

So for today, in the spirit of the season, AT&T is going on my Bad List, second only to Wells Fargo (you can read about that here).  They get no presents from me.  No Christmas cards or fruitcakes.  No customer referrals.  AT&T stinks.  Please remember that.  And Merry Christmas.

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