Thursday, January 14, 2010

Taking a moment to vent about AT&T's terrible service

Yes, I know I'm on deadline. Yes, I know I am supposed to be in hibernation. Yes, I have to get this off my chest.

I've been with AT&T for approximately 10 years. I have spent, very conservatively speaking, at least $25,000 with them through the years on phones and service. Now with four phones on my plan, my bill averages $270 a month.

I won't get into how terrible their coverage is. You've certainly seen the Verizon ads poking fun at AT&T's coverage. "There's a map for that."

Obviously they struck a nerve because AT&T now has their own ads touting the speed of their 3G network. Newsflash AT&T: Speed is great if you just happen to be standing next to a cell tower having a sandwich, but does you little good if you have no signal at all.

AT&T's argument is like saying: "Look at us! We make the fastest sports cars on the planet, but they don't always start! But zooooooom, when they do, baby watch out!"

Back to venting. A few weeks ago I added a line to my account for a "family phone", a phone available to the kids but tightly controlled by Mom and Dad. They have access to it when they babysit, when we're gone, field trips, etc.

If only it worked.

Within two weeks the phone was dead. No problem, right? Just take it back? Sure, if you have the original box. When I went to AT&T, I was told they couldn't replace it without every stitch of the original packaging, even though I was well within the 30-day return window.

My options?

1. Purchase a replacement model for $299. (That's the price you pay when you're not activating service, which is where wireless carriers make their real profits. Phones are just a means to a contract.)

2. Roll the dice and purchase a used phone with no warranty on eBay from some guy in a "Finding Nemo" bathroom logging on from his mother's half-finished basement.

3. Pay an early termination fee of $175.

4. Throw the dead phone in the Shenandoah River and pay for the service, without actually using it, until the contract expires. Then renew my contract and get a phone at the "new customer" discount.

So I tried calling. What did AT&T say?

"No box, no replacement. No box, no canceling. No box, no soup for you."

Frustrated, I sent an admittedly "aggressive" e-mail through their web site. To their credit, a polite woman called from customer service, reiterated their policy, but made an enticing offer to keep me from leaving. AT&T would credit my account for up to $40 if I replaced the dead phone with one of their cheapo pre-paid models available at finer convenience stores everywhere.

I wonder if she'd also cover my Big Gulp.

Whew. I feel better already. Now it's back to comparison shopping at Verizon and Sprint.


  1. But what about your iPhone? Can't live without it you told me. Would marry it if you could, you once said. Ran across the store and hugged it and said "You Complete ME", remember that? Forgive and forget my friend, or it's a chump Window's Smartphone for you.

  2. Can you leave AT&T after you've not so innocently addicted innocent people (no names) to iPhones? Just wonderin'...

  3. Ha! Reading the first part of your experience was like deja-vu: we bought a "kids phone" three months ago for the girls when they babysit, have late basketball practice, etc. It died exactly 32 days later. Yes, 2 days beyond the holy, 30-day window. I was nervous about calling my service provider, because we had also thrown away all of the original packaging. But our experiences were completely dissimilar after that. You see, I have Verizon. :-) I called them up. They apologized for the inconvenience, and a brand-new replacement showed up on the doorstep 27 hours later.

    Sorry about your bad luck. If it makes you feel any better, I've had iPhone envy for as long as I can remember. Yes, the grass is always greener...

  4. After dropping my phone in the toilet, and having no desire to spend and arm and a leg, I have had wonderful luck purchasing a used phone on ebay twice now. Just a thought.

  5. I feel your pain. I left my rocky relationship with AT&T years ago when they started "accidentally" charging me triple on my phone bills every month and then "forgetting" to fix it every time I called to get the matter resolved. (I didn't get the issue solved until I threatened to report them to the FCC - then, it was resolved within hours!) Good luck to you!

  6. This comment isn't really about phones though I could say a lot about the fact that all I have available out here is dial-up for my Internet and a TracPhone that can't get service unless I hike a mile down the road.

    Anyway, just read 'The Wednesday Letters." Almost didn't when Laurel and Jack died as I thought there might be a sad ending, and I prefer happy ones (enough sad endings in reality, and I need the escape books offer). But I'm glad I stuck with it because it's one of the most beautiful stories I've ever read.

    I tried the contact link on the book's home page but only got an error message, so I'm writing this here. You'll probably hate me for it, but, what can I say? I'm an English teacher, and it's beyond my control. On the book's "book club guide" page, in the paragraph about Matthew, the last sentence reads " painfully conscience of her absence." That should be "conscious." Okay, flail me with ten soft bookmarks.

  7. This totally cracked me up, sorry. I left US Cellular in May after a lengthy relationship, and my hubby :) just left Helio (now Virgin Mobile)in November, we are both with Sprint and couldn't be happier. Great coverage, great prices, AWESOME customer service. Although I wanted an IPHONE I love my Samsung Instinct and the hubby has the HTC Hero (google phone) As for the kid thing, we decided because it wouldn't be used much just for sports practices, etc. We would go with a prepaid phone, got one with Virgin Mobile.

  8. This so totally made me laugh out loud! I can't commiserate with you and apologize for making light of your pain...forgive me :) but thanks for the smile today.

  9. I guess its different in different areas. I have never (***knock on wood***) had any problems like that on our ATT cell phones. Trust me we have 5 phones on my account and when things have come up that were not authorized by us they took the charges off and placed blocks on the kids phones so that those types of charges cant be made again. Our coverage has been great too. We did have an issue with a phone being bad once and they sent us a phone and we just used that box to send the old phone back in. My kids have locked up the chip in them and everything they didnt charge us they gave us a new one free.

    That being said we had ATT for our "cable" (satellite) and it SUCKED! We had nothing but problems when we had them for our house line half the time we couldnt even use the phone and they wanted $100/hour to come find out the problem! We switched to Time Warner for house line and cable and they came and fixed EVERYTHING for free. My phones work now and we dont have spotty internet or cable for the most part.

    Here I have friends who have had Verizon and other T-Mobile they havent been impressed for some of the very reasons you listed your unhappy. Not to mention Neither of them take off unauth'd charges at all.

    So like some said the grass is always greener...
    I have heard of people buying the go phone and doing that stuff or getting phones off of EBay with great success. My hubby is a huge fan of Iphone but I bet he could do without it, but my 6 yo who steals it the moment he gets home couldnt :D !!

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