They all do it. They sent me a survey to find out “why I had canceled my AT&T subscription.”
Lists of reason, 1 to 10 … and a LOT of them. Usually, I don’t bother to do these surveys, but I was seriously pissed with them, so this gave me one more chance to tell them how pissed I really am.
The sent me a new bill for $71. For leaving. I upgraded my package by resigning. Canceling.
She said it was for the month of January. I asked why it was $20 higher than my standard bill. Because I upgraded my package.
So the survey asked what (precisely) I hated the MOST about AT&T. Hard call.
I had 100 points to use for up to five selections, of which four were strongly in the running:
a — Bad customer service
b — Too expensive
c — Failure to have a plan that I need
d — Limited ability to actually get their signal.
It was a difficult choice on every level. I really wanted to give whole hundred points (each) to a & b and another 200 points to “too expensive.” Maybe 75 for “lousy connection.” It would be more, but we so rarely used the telephone, the crappy signal hardly mattered.
That was too many points. Painful. I needed many, many more points. And no matter how I did it, I would need a few extra points for barely usable service and an old phone that we couldn’t afford to upgrade. And a simple, elderly plan because we barely use the phone. We have 5 computers (maybe 6 or possibly 7 if you count a Kindle as a computer) and a landline. We virtually never go anywhere, so for what do I need cell phone except for the occasional emergency in the car or our more typically “We are completely lost. How do we find you”?
I got it down to three: bad customer service, too expensive, and lousy signal. I put 50-points on “Too expensive,” 40-points on “Bad customer service,” and 10-points on “Lousy signal strength.”
I would never use a mobile telephone for any financial purpose, so all the phone needed to do was make an occasional phone call or receive a text. In theory, I can also send texts but I don’t know how.
Personally, I think people who live on their phones are being awfully casual about security. With all the hacking and thieving via cell phones, people just keep adding more and more apps. How many of those apps are really worms? You folks who use phones for everything could be in for a rude surprise.
Meanwhile, one of the final question they asked if I would ever recommend the services of AT&T to a friend. So let me be clear about this:
I swear that I’m at that point with AT&T where I’d rather chip half an inch of ice off the car than talk to anyone at AT&T.
Yesterday, they delivered the telephone that goes with the plan. Whatever plan that turned out to be. I actually had no idea what the plan was. Each time I talked to someone, they had no idea what I was talking about. I kept getting computer-generated emails telling me I had to pay $80 or $90 next month and $50 or $60 thereafter. I signed up for their 300-minute plan that comes with a free flip phone.
Yes, they still make flip phones. They are just like the old ones. In fact, I these really might be the same flip phones we used 20 years ago. They sure look the same, although they have a calendar and a camera. I’m not expecting much of a camera and for reasons that are obscure to me, it didn’t import my Google contact, but apparently, it will accept the information if I can figure out how to enter my email address and password into the flip phone.
Right now, I can’t actually turn it on and off successfully. It’s one button that turns it on and turns it off, but you hold it longer to turn it off. If you hold it too long, it starts up again. Meanwhile, the on/off button on the side doesn’t do anything as far as I can tell. I wonder if this thing will ever work. I despair as I try to read what they humorously call “the user guide.”
I went to the site where they are supposed to tell me how to set up the phone and they never heard of it, but the setup site never heard of the phone. I was forced to (gods of olden days please protect me) call AT&T.
I couldn’t even figure out how to turn the phone on or move the cursor. She did turn the SIM on, but it didn’t have any information on it. But, it turns out, there IS a manual for the telephone. Not a good manual, but a “better than nothing” manual. I’m sure you know what I mean. Written by a software program, no humans involved.
“Why,” I asked, “Didn’t they include the manual with the phone? Is there some law against giving basic instructions to users?”
“This is the packaging for this phone, and it doesn’t include the manual,” she explained.
“Lady, I used to write manuals. You ALWAYS include the manual with the device. That’s the point of having the manual. When you get the device, you can make it work and you don’t have to spend three days on the telephone with AT&T.”
She said she was sorry, but she could give me a link to the manual online. I said “FINE. Let’s do that.”
But it wouldn’t come up so we had to clear my browser data and NOT sign me into AT&T and then figure out what phone it was because the only thing it said was AT&T. My home phones are also AT&T, but they don’t actually make them. I think they might be Unidyne ripoffs, but I’m not sure. They work and that’s all that matters.
In this case, she had no idea who made the phone, so I pried open the back and said: “The battery is an Alcatel, so I’m betting that’s who actually made the phone.”
And sure enough, Alcatel made the phone. Got the manual. Downloaded it. Saved it in two places — desktop and on Google — and then she asked me if I need any more help. I said: “No, I’ve had enough of AT&T to last me the rest of my life. I’m going to eat dinner, watch some television and try to never think about AT&T again as long as I live.”
“Thank you for your patience in letting me assist you.”
“If you’d included the manual, you wouldn’t have had to assist me.”
“Well, thank you for being a loyal customer.”
“You’re welcome. Now I’m going to eat my dinner.” And I hung up before she could say anything more. I couldn’t cope with another thank you for being a loyal customer because being a loyal AT&T customer doesn’t feel like a great thing at the moment.
Oh, and by the way, after a lot of conversation yesterday on the phone — I’ve had three days of dealing with AT&T, not to mention half a dozen computer-generated NOT the real bill — I am paying $29.99 a month plus local taxes. The phone cost $3.78 for shipping. That’s it. I am saving about $20 a month … and I nearly lost my mind in the process.
The phone still doesn’t really work, but I can turn it on, turn it off, and enter a phone number and probably, it will call the number. Pretty sure.
I did eventually get it to accept my wi-fi, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time, right?
Affable. I was in a pretty good mood when we got home from shopping, or at least as good as I feel after shopping when I have a cold and forgot to buy eggs. That was probably why I thought it was a good time to call AT&T and get my rates dropped. I’ve been overpaying for my phone for more than a decade and I was determined to GET the lower rates this time.
First, there is NO good time to call AT&T. No one knows anything. They transfer you back and forth and half the numbers they give you don’t work. Even when you get the right person, they don’t know anything. No one takes notes so you have to explain the problem over and over and over and by the fourth time I was repeating the same story, I was just plain pissed.
What I had done — THOUGHT I had done — was to transfer from my $53/month plan to the $29.99 plan which is part of the “Senior Nation” set of benefits for we old folks.
This required that I have an un-smart phone.
I wanted an un-smart phone in the first place because I don’t use the internet on the phone. If I want the internet, for this I have multiple computers. But our telephone distributor (they are morons there, too) said they didn’t have any, couldn’t get any — so you had a choice of a smartphone or? A smartphone.
We ended up with this Galaxy Samsung Google phone which does whatever it does pretty well, far as I can tell — but they only thing I do with it is to make an occasional phone call … like when we are on the road and lost (always lost, always and forever), or if the power is out and we have to call the electric company.
I don’t use it on the internet. I don’t use it to update banking or to text. I actually don’t know how to text. That’s embarrassing, I realize, but I simply haven’t done it … so I don’t know how. Garry doesn’t know how either. But Garry is anti-technical and I’m supposed to know all this stuff. I do know a lot of stuff, but texting isn’t one of them. Shoot me, but there it is. I also cannot change the ink in my printer. I hate printers and I refuse to even try.
After making this arrangement to get on the low-cost plan and get a free flip phone (yes, they still make them), I got a bill from AT&T informing me that I’d changed my plan and would now be paying them $90 next month and $60 for each month after that — which is significantly more than I’m currently playing. For having done absolutely nothing except try to lower my bill.
No mention of the senior plan. No mention of the free phone. No mention of nothing.
I called back. No one knew what I was talking about, but they kept transferring me from one department (who knew nothing) to another department (which knew nothing). Finally, I called back and said: “I’ve had it. Either you fix this right now or I’m leaving AT&T. You people are driving me CRAZY.” I have been an AT&T customer for about 15 years and there was a time when they actually had really good customer service.
Ah, those were the days. We were so young, so optimistic.
So eventually, I got the $29.99 (+ taxes, et al) and can use the phone I’ve got OR the one they are actually sending me. I don’t think you can transfer a smartphone SIM card to a flip phone. I’ll deal with that IF I ever get another phone. My current phone is five years old, but it looks brand new, probably because effectively, it IS brand new. I don’t use it. It lives in my bag and is usually off.
So much for affable.
At this point, I’m plain pissed off, even though I think (I hope, I believe) I have the issue dealt with. But who knows? I may get another bill any minute. Nothing like a long afternoon on the phone with customer service to finish off your good mood of the day.
Now I’m watching the news. The final crunch. I have such a nasty headache, too.
This is a verbatim of the tail end of an endless day of trying to get accurate information about what is included in my AT&T wireless plan and how much it costs. Garry was afraid I was going to have a stroke and die. The telephone was horrible and we returned it, another long and tedious tale.
I had gotten emails from them with a variety of wrong plans for phone numbers that were never ours, or which were disconnected years ago — for long discarded telephones. Every email had incorrect prices. I had gone beyond frustration to frothing-at-the-mouth rage.
Agent : I see, thank you for all the information, Marilyn.
Me : And in return, I get what?
Agent : I have checked all my resources here, and the email that was sent to you contains the updated information of your new plan and the device that you have purchased.
Me : I do not want one of your generated documents. I want a real document. A simple typed email will do nicely, one that details the account and purchase information. Accurately. Without any wrong numbers. All you sent was a link to the online information which has no details. I want an actual document. Do you understand?
Agent : Yes we do understand.
Me : After all you have put me through, someone can sit down, and type out the information into an email, sign it with a real name and a return address, and email it to me.
Not links. Data. Accurate data. Correct numbers. The right account, the right plan, the right phone.
Agent : As much as we would want to send a typed email to you, we don’t have the record, because as what we have here on our end, we can only see the last order that you made and that is the Nokia Lumia.
Me : I WANT THE PLAN DETAILS. THE PLAN.
THE PLAN. YOU KNOW, THE PLAN? Not the phone. The plan. P – L – A – N. I changed the plan today. Surely you can see that?
Agent : Your current plan right now on line XXX-XXX-XXXX is the Mobile Share Value Plan 300MB for $20, Mobile Share Value iPhone w/Visual Voicemail $25 a total of $45/month before taxes.
That will be your monthly recurring charges,Marilyn.
Me : That isn’t our phone number.
Agent : Oops! Sorry …
Me : And this includes texting? Because it doesn’t SAY so.
Agent : Your line is XXX-XXX-XXXX and your current plan is Mobile Share Value Plan 300MB for $20/monthly before taxes.
Me : $20?
Agent : This Mobile Share Value Plan 300MB includes unlimited text,unlimited international text from U.S to over 120 countries, unlimited talk, sharable data of 300MB, mobile hotspot feature.
Me : And the $45? If the plan is $20 … what is the other $25?
Agent : Sorry again, my mistake.
That is Mobile Share Value Plan 300MB for $20 and Access fee charge for the device for $25, a total of $45/monthly before taxes.
That is now the accurate plan details,Marilyn.
Me : Can I get a transcript of this call for MY records please?
Agent : Yes, Marilyn. You may.
Me : Thank you. I am so tired. You guys are trying to kill me.
Agent : So that you may use this as the basis for the plan change that you made today. We sincerely apologize, Marilyn.
Me : Shall I bill AT&T for 9 hours I can never get back?
Agent : Thank you for patiently understanding what we have discussed on this chat. We are really sorry, Marilyn.
Me : Yeah. I bet you are.
Agent : We really appreciate your time, Marilyn.
Me : Okay. Enough. I need to make dinner and take a few blood pressure medications before I explode.
Agent : Thank you so much for your time.
Me : Right.
Agent : Thank you and have a wonderful dinner, Marilyn.
We eventually wound up with a Samsung Galaxy Alpha because it has the best audio of any mobile phone AT&T had available. Also the loudest. I still hate cell phones, but at least we have one that works as opposed to paying for a phone, but not being able to use it (iPhones are overrated).
Do you remember when the customer was always right? I do. It wasn’t that long ago.
Customer satisfaction and service was the norm until approximately 2002, at which point everyone — more or less simultaneously — decided to save money by “automating” customer service, eliminating it entirely, or shipping it overseas to be handled by people who speak heavily accented English and don’t know anything about the products they are supposed to be supporting. That was when you and me, the customers, the ones who spend our limited, disposable income on their products or services, became unimportant.
That was the year when we all became not worth the effort of answering a question, or supplying documentation. The gold standard for customer service became … nothing. These days, after slightly more than a decade of working out the details, most organizations do not offer any service to their customers. At all.
The overall attitude is “do the least you can — nothing, if you can get away with it. All customers are liars and thieves. Treat them as such.”
Customer disservice. I think I’m permanently pissed off. Even thinking about calling a customer service department gets my blood boiling. I’m shocked if I’m treated well. Delighted, but shocked.
SO WHAT DO I HATE?
Recorded phone solicitations that interrupt your sleep, meals, conversations, and the show you’re watching. Calls that display on caller ID as familiar phone numbers, but they’ve hacked your data or bought it from someone from whom you bought something.
Fake charitable organizations, many supposedly in support of breast cancer research or some other form of advocacy. Who take your money and use it to line their own pockets.
“Surveys” that are nothing but scams to collect your private data for sale and misuse.
“Discount cards” for every shop you go to, all of which are a way to collect your personal information so they can sell it. Because you may not be worth much as a customer, but your buying habits sell for big bucks.
Voice-mail systems at doctor’s offices with so many options you can’t recall the first option halfway through the message. The recordings go on and on, until you are ready to scream. Worse, you have to listen to the entire spiel every time you call. The message starts with “Please listen to this entire message before making your selection. Our menu choices have recently changed …” Recently was 10 months ago … or a year or more. You can sing along with the recording because you’ve heard it so many times.
Many places no longer offer any option of speaking to a live person. Try to find a live human being at your electric company, cable provider, or credit card company.
Our electric company had customer service. Today, if you can find their phone number, a recorded message will tell you to visit the website. Online. Not quite what you need when the power’s off. Make sure you have their actual phone number on your device. You can’t look it up online when there’s no electricity because if there’s no electricity, there’s also no cable or WiFi.
If your whole life is online, it’s over when the power goes out.
Assuming you can worm your way through voice mail and finally push the magic number to connect you to a live agent, you hear: “Your business is important to us …” followed by Muzak and a 40-minute wait on hold. Better yet, it’s the long wait, followed by a disconnect and dial tone.
Bad (automated) service is particular noxious when it’s a local company. You know both office workers are probably playing games on Facebook while you listen to their 5-minute voice-mail message. All you wanted to do was ask on which night they are open late. By the end of the message, you no longer care.
THERE ARE STILL SOME GOOD ONES OUT THERE
Amazon and Audible. Audible is an Amazon company now, but they always had terrific customer service. The more I deal with Amazon, the less I want to deal with anyone else. They are proof getting service does not have to be a nightmare. Trauma need not part of all interactions with vendors, medical facilities, utilities, or other corporations.
AT&T is good. Not as good as Amazon, but you can eventually get a real live person who knows what they are doing. And oddly enough, Medicare and Social Security. Though you may need to wait on hold for a while, you will get a live person in the end — and they will speak your language. They will stay on line with you as long as it takes. Credit where it’s due. These underpaid public servants try hard to help you.
L.L. Bean has wonderful customer service. Land’s End is good too.
To everyone else, I offer a big raspberry and a Bah Humbug in honor of the season.
I got an email from AT&T. It was alarming. I was overdue on my bill! They were going to report me to collection agencies, send it to all those companies that decide whether or not you deserve to have a credit card or a mortgage.
I was surprised because I paid the bill. On time. Online. I know I did.
So, after resetting my password — it doesn’t matter how many times I set my password … the next time I go to AT&T’s website, I will have to do it again — I looked at my bill. Somehow, I had underpaid the bill by a penny. One cent. $00.01
In retribution for my oversight, AT&T is going to sic the collection agency on me. I deserve to pay big for this lapse in fiscal responsibility.Though I actually think it was their error, not mine, but let’s not quibble.
There are many battles to fight in life. One must pick amongst them lest one be overwhelmed. This giant corporation is going to destroy my credit for want of a penny. This is what happens when computers run the world and no people monitor what they are doing. I’m sure this was all automatically generated. I am equally certain if I’d called them, they would have cancelled the bill. AT&T has pretty good customer service. But that would take even more time and effort. I fondly believe my time, even retired, is worth more than a penny.
So I paid the bill. I wasn’t actually sure my bank would let me pay a one cent bill, but they did.
Shortly before Christmas, Garry and I went somewhere and I forgot to bring my cell phone. I asked Garry if I might use his. I was appalled when I could barely hear anything, even with the volume full up and using the speaker. I realized if I could barely hear it, he couldn’t hear it at all. Which brought me to the inevitable conclusion that Garry needed a new cell phone.
Good wife that I am, I figured I’d get him a new phone with better sound so he would not be stuck trying to hear on a phone with such awful audio.
This was early December and Christmas was a couple of weeks off. How long could it possibly take to get a new cell phone, right?
I went online at AT&T, our long-time carrier. I checked to see if he or I was entitled to an upgrade. It turned out both of us were entitled to upgrades, but my phone is just a year old, I don’t use it very much and although I’m entitled to a new phone, I don’t need one. Garry, on the other hand …
This seemed a fairly straightforward process. I checked to see what phones were available on super special, discovered he could get an updated version of the phone he already has for $29.99, with the usual 2 year committment, but we’ve been with AT&T forever anyhow and I don’t see that any of the other carriers are better … so why not? It was the middle of the night, but I called AT&T and was going to order the new version of the Blackberry Curve … but they wanted a credit card and I was already in bed, so I said I’d call tomorrow. I was too tired to get up and deal with it right then.
When I tried to access the website the next day, I couldn’t. Eventually, I called and discovered it wasn’t me, wasn’t a bad password or my computer. AT&T’s servers were being upgraded. I should have guessed. I should have sensed the crackling of crisis in the air. Why they picked early December to do a massive server upgrade is anyone’s guess. It would not have been my first choice.
When I started to place the order, AT&T assured me that they needed to charge me $36 for the upgrade fee. “What upgrade?” I asked. “We already have all the services we need. The only service you are providing is putting the phone in a box and mailing it. You said it’s free shipping … but $36 is a shockingly high shipping charge. Since you aren’t providing any other services, that’s the only thing it could be.”
The young lady to whom I was talking said she couldn’t do anything about it, she was not responsible and everyone had to pay the fee. I said that I was not going to pay the fee and frankly, we’ve been long-term customers and this was shabby treatment indeed. I next learned that I was going to have to pay sales tax on the full list price of the phone, even though we all know that NO ONE pays full retail on anything, much less a cell phone upgrade. Thus this $29.99 had spiraled into around $100 …. which is more than our ultra tight budget could afford.
I said I wanted to talk to a supervisor. I was transferred and eventually, disconnected. Called back, went through the whole story again, was told — again — she couldn’t help me. Said she was transferring me to a department that could help me. When I got to that department, I was told it was the wrong department and I was going to have to go back and talk to the original people who had now two? three? times told me they couldn’t help me.
I would have been laughing but time was passing. I had started this on Sunday night and it was Tuesday. Christmas was creeping up on me and I had yet to actually place an order.
I don’t remember all the people I talked to, all the supervisors to whom I was transferred, all the deals I made only to find that the next person I spoke to had never heard anything about it. It has mercifully become a blur. My husband was cranky because he felt, since he hadn’t actually asked for a phone, I had no reason to expect a lot of sympathy or support. I pointed out he did need a phone and just being his wife ought to entitle me to sympathy and support.
It had indeed been my idea to get him a new phone based purely the uselessness of his old one. But that’s sentimental twaddle. I should have waited until he actually asked me for a phone, preferably begged me on bended knee. Generosity. That was my first mistake.
As the tale continued, it became the story without end. So many departments, so many disconnects. I ran down the battery on my cell phone and on the handset of my house phone, then switched to the other handset And still, no order.
Finally, it was Friday, December 21st. AT&T agreed to waive the charge, give me back a few bucks to compensate for the insane sales tax, and include free shipping. By now, I’d changed from the Blackberry Curve to the iPhone 4 which was on clearance for $0.99 and they swore up and down the east coast I’d have the telephone in my hands on Christmas Eve. Shortly after this amazing promise, I got another call from someone who said whoever promised me Christmas Eve delivery should not have made such a rash promise because who knew if I’d really get the phone? It could be weeks away. Maybe never.
We had been planning to be away from the day after Christmas through the following weekend. If they delivered the phone during that period, it would sit outside in the ice, snow and slush until we got home. But not to worry, she said. If that happened, I could “just send it back.”
I could not cope with the idea of returning the phone. This was bad. Doing it twice would be unbearable. I had been on the telephone with AT&T for more hours in one week than I had been on the phone with everyone else I know during the entire previous year. Granted I’m not on the phone much, but this had eaten at least 25 hours of telephone time … and there seemed to be no end in sight. Ever.
Somewhere during this period, our plans for visiting friends post-Christmas were cancelled because my friend was ill. Despite assurances there was no wayI’d get the phone by Christmas Eve followed by equally passionate assurances I definitely wouldget the phone by Christmas Eve, I simply had no idea when or if I was getting a phone. Would you like to take a guess?
I got the phone Christmas Eve. There it was, a little white box in a bigger brown box. Delivered by FedEx. No bubble pack. Just the phone banging around inside the shipping box. So I waited until the day after Christmas and called about the lack of padding in the box because I didn’t want to wind up with a dead iPhone 4 being told it was somehow my fault. I was assured by someone somewhere that this wouldn’t happen, so I went ahead opened the box and tried setting up the phone.
Nothing worked. What is more, due to the endless legal battles between Google and Apple, Garry’s gmail contact list could not be synchronized with the iPhone.
The first tech support individual, from AT&T, told me that Garry would have to enter all the information by hand. I said “up your nose with a rubber hose” or words to that effect. Garry’s address book has at least 300 entries and I think I’m being conservative. I pointed out that the iPhone is supposed to sync with Outlook and by now, a few disconnects later, I was on the phone with Apple tech support and my cell phone was recharging, the battery having run down to zero again and I was on the second of the two “house phone” handsets, having run through the first phone’s battery. We finally doped out, between him and me, that we had to delete the “cloud” function and NOT synchronize the two email addresses linked to Outlook because it created a conflict and would immediately spew error messages.
When I finally got the iPhone to synchronize with Outlook’s address book, it started demanding a password for voicemail. My head began making a funny buzzing sound that kept getting louder. Were those voices talking to me? Possibly … if only the buzzing would stop and let me think …
Neither Garry nor I has ever needed a password for our voice mail. Not his, not mine, not ever. We didn’t have any passwords to give them. When the Apple tech guy said I’d have to call AT&T to get it sorted out, I went into full meltdown. I could not face another long wait, multiple disconnects … and trying to interface with who knew how many morons before maybe … by New Year’s … I could get through to someone who would know what the problem was and fix it.
Finally, the fellow at Apple who actually seemed to have at least a pretty good knowledge of the product managed to get the address book issue dealt with … said he himself would call AT&T and put us in a conference call and we’d sort the whole thing out. He said he’d call me back and I begged … I think groveling might better describe it … that he really call me back and not leave me hanging.
This was the day after Christmas, the busiest day of the year for tech support what with everyone getting a telephone, tablet, computer, or some other electronic widget under the tree. Likely this didn’t help. But he called back with a man who was obviously not an entry-level tech support guy. He was a Big Gun. You just knew it. He fixed it. He said it was a software artifact from older phones and he was going to delete it from the system and it would never trouble me again.
Then he gave me a $40 credit giving me a small profit on the transaction unless you count my time as being worth money in which case I’m far behind. Far, very far behind.
Garry has a new cell phone. He said “thank you,” and I said “you’re welcome,” but personally, I think I’ve earned a medal at the very least.
So for all the people who told me to “Get a Mac” to solve my problems, I will agree the iPhone is a fine, well-made phone. Was it easy to set up? No. Did it have fewer glitches than my other phones? No. If anything, it had more issues. I got it for a great price and it has, as I had hoped, very loud speakers so Garry can hear it. Hopefully, he’ll get used to the virtual keyboard.
I hate it even more than I hated the tiny raised keys on the Blackberry. I never voluntarily write anything on a cell phone and why Garry does is beyond me.
This whole trial by fire has made me aware of how pathetic my older Blackberry Torch (first generation) is and how I need a new phone. When I’ve recovered from this experience, I will think about replacing it. Why do cell phones need replacing so often? They are so expensive, shouldn’t they last more than a year? Just saying.
Meanwhile, I need to rest and recover my perspective. I have to wait until the story gets funnier. At least until I find my misplaced sense of humor. Then I’ll buy another cell phone.
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