Welcome to hell. My own personal form of hell. It’s called AT&T.
In the coming paragraphs, I’m going to be talking about my experience with AT&T’s customer service, engineering, technical support, billing, and retention departments. This isn’t a happy tale. I will say this upfront, I never took a harsh tone, never raised my voice, never used an expletive, nor said anything (extremely) derogatory or mean at anyone over the 30+ people I ended up interfacing with over at least 20-30 hours of my time. This event will be known to me as: “THE AT&T DEBACLE”. Sure, I got pissed off a few times and displayed some emotions that a bystander may view as “anger”, but I was never abrasive or standoffish. With that in mind, here weeee goooooooooo~! Welcome to my hell. I’ve been here a long time.
Events are numbered, but do not indicate specific times. This entire story takes place over a 7 month time frame (maybe more!)! Enjoy!
Chapter 1) The Peaceful Times
Was an AT&T DSL customer for 5 years; generally pretty happy with it. No complaints. I had phone and internet with them. Other than their terrible customer service and problems moving my services to a different residence a few years ago, I was pretty “neutral” toward them.
What is about to go down is *WHY* I don’t take risks, why I don’t like change, why I take an “if it’s not broke don’t fix it approach to life”, and why if I find something I like and it works well, I won’t change. This will scar me even further.
Ch 2) The Hot New Girl in Town
I left DSL for U-Verse. The service is brand new in the area, exciting new stuff, actually heard good things and I was excited to try it. U-Verse is a package of home phone, TV, and internet. This sounds good. I would like that. This all started after a salesman came to my door (in a no-solicitation neighborhood; this should have been a warning) telling me about U-Verse. I let him tell me a story. A story I won’t soon forget.
He promised me all sorts of things like: a free DVR, a special monthly rebate because I told him I really wasn’t interested at the price he was offering it for (later to find out it was a hidden 12/mo commitment!), no installation fee, and the promise of, “If I cancel within 30 days it will be a painless transition back to DSL”. Gee golly! That sounds pretty sweet, how could this not work out?!?
Ch 3) The New Girl is Actually Kind of a Bitch
I hated U-Verse. It didn’t take long for me to realize this. No local channels for free? Piece of junk standard def channels? Eww… The internet was nothing spectacular either for the rate I was paying! Expensive, worthless ($50 for TV is fail for basic cable), can substitute with cheaper alternatives, and the entire service is a single point of failure . If it goes down, your phone, internet, and TV *all die*. This happened to me twice in a three-week period; I was down for a total of 3 days. Was down ZERO days with DSL for 5 years. Ehh…
Plus all sorts of promises were lies: No DVR ($15/mo if I wanted it), no HD channels ($10/mo if I wanted it), there *was* a $30 installation fee, my promo rate of $18 off the bill was a hidden commitment. Basically…IT’S A TRAP! I managed to get out of this commitment because the reps understood the deception that took place here. I’m skipping being yelled at by customer service for asking for a DVR for no fee (because that’s what I was told I would get…) and listening to fun conversations with the on-site install team talking to their internal customer service teams trying to figure out what went wrong with my account. When members of your own company tell customers that they are disorganized, well…you start to question your commitment with them.
It was hilarious, so much back-and-forth between AT&T itself, where chaos ensues, and I’m laughing because this is what happens to me when I have to call AT&T CS. Sorry to ruin the plot, but one of the themes going forward is: AT&T has no idea what the hell they’re doing…even internally.
Will note that I had no problem with their physical on-site install teams. They were awesome! If AT&T is Pandora’s Box, they would be the “hope”. They really are very capable. I guess that’s something?
Whatever. It wasn’t for me. No big deal. I gave it a shot, I liked my old service better.
Ch 4) I Want My Old Life Back
My old Bellsouth DSL had a promo for $25/mo for 12-months. Gee, that sounds nice, I’m canceling U-Verse anyway, let’s go back to that! I just need to have phone service with AT&T to get the rate. Sounds good to me…that’s what I had prior to switching to U-Verse anyway. Nothing could be better. This leaves me pretty optimistic. Would have stayed with U-Verse had they matched their own promo, but they wouldn’t do it. Their loss!
Should be no problem, right? All I’m doing is going back to the same thing I had not a month prior. This couldn’t possibly end badly…right?
Ch 5) Pain. Sadness. Longing for the Old Times.
Apparently switching to a different service from the same company is like trying to play the game OPERATION blind-folded while underwater. It took oh so much time and energy to get it to work (“work” is used in jest). Scheduling the cancellation of U-Verse and transition back to DSL left me down without internet for a week and a half. A week. And a half. Not quite the seamless restoration I was promised by my sleazy door-to-door salesman…
I’m not even going to go into what was needed to switch from VoIP to TELCO. Use your imagination. I call this the DARK TIME. I missed the NBA playoffs (CAVS lost…Lebron is probably gone… Edit: Yep.), was unable to maintain my top ten ranking in an online game, and was just generally not able to be part of 21st century America. Still no real explanation for why going from DSL to U-Verse was almost instantaneous, but going the other way around was like being in a SAW movie.
Ch 6) The Bitch Won’t Let Me Go
Once I get AT&T DSL back, more fun begins. My account info is still tied to U-Verse (even after all that time) so we have to wait for that to clear…even though I actually have service, I can’t use it! Two more days pass. More downtime. It keeps piling up.
Ch 7) This Isn’t What I Wanted
Finally the day comes when I get my internet back! Yay….err, wait, what’s this? I wanted the EXTREME speed (EXTREME isn’t that fitting, but I digress), but instead, I was given the slowest speed, DSL-Lite. No idea why! No-one knows. Just to note as well, I was under the assumption that EXTREME 6.0 (I ended up getting 3.0) was what I could get. Eventually find out that it isn’t available in my area…not exactly thrilling. At this point, I’m still pissed, but at least I have SOMETHING!
Ch Ate) I’m Back Baby! Wait…What are you Doing?!
It takes two more days for me to get the speed I should have gotten initially; would have been a week, had I not demanded escalation. I finally feel satisfied. Three weeks later, I have internet DSL back and it’s the right speed. I am content. This is where the plot twist comes! I’m like JACK BAUER, I can’t be happy for more than one episode.
Ch 9) I Just Want to Watch My Bear
Eight days after I get my speed back to what I want…it gets DOWNGRADED back to the slowest speed! Didn’t see that one coming (did you?!) and I expected a lot of the earlier nonsense! Begin the LOL now. Inexplicably, I’m now at DSL Lite which is 75% slower. It wasn’t until I tried to watch a bear play with a stick (KUNG FU BEAR) on Youtube that I realized there was a problem; buffering, it is slow. Speedtest.net confirms.
Ch 10) Phone Tree Puzzles
After talking with 5 people and going through hoops with them making sure I’m not an idiot, “Is your modem plugged in? Is your computer on? Do you know how to wipe your own ass?”, I finally get someone to actually check the line provisioning. What do you know! I’m at DSL Lite! Fantastic! I already deduced this. Inquired as to how this would happen when I didn’t initiate it…no one has a clue! Ended up talking to 5 people about it when it was all said and done! It’s a plum mystery folks! I think it was OSAMA BIN LADEN. Or maybe we can just blame OBAMA…everyone else does.
Ch 11) I Just Want to Make an Omelette!
I’m quoted it will take 5 days until they’re able to get me back to the higher speed. LOL. Are you kidding me?? I said basically %^&* that. Do this TODAY, “But sir, it takes 5 days…”. No idiot. That would be if I wanted to “upgrade my service”. I don’t want an “upgrade”; I want a “restoration” because one of the hamsters in the hamster wheel powering your internet took a dirt nap. After bitching (at this point, this is when I was the most angry), wow, what do you know…it gets escalated and it’s working when I get back home. Amazing how that works.
Funny side note, one of the phone transfers that happened was from somebody who “referred” me for an upgrade and sent me to the referral department. The little prick tried to get money off of my situation by doing an “internal referral”. Another theme: AT&T are douchebags who don’t give a crap about your situation, but if they can personally benefit then they’re gonna go all out!
Great, good. I’ve got DSL back and it’s the right speed. After waiting weeks for this to finally be fixed, it is. Thank Jebus. Can I go on with my life now?
Ch 12) Do Not Pass Go! Do Not Collect $20!
A month later, I get my bill. I was waiting for this. I knew it was coming…it’s not right. They’re overcharging me. This would be the “surprise twist” the entire audience sees coming a mile away, but it has to happen because the plot can’t advance without it. I call. First person: they say five words. I say: “Sorry didn’t get that…hello…? Hellooo?”. Click. They hung up on me. Fun. Not the first time it’s happened by the way. Wait fifteen more minutes getting back to the same spot because AT&T is always experiencing “abnormally high call volume” at 11AM, 2PM, 5PM, 10PM. It doesn’t really matter. Someone’s always upset with AT&T.
Ch 13) Can I Strangle Someone Yet?
Eventually talk with someone in DSL Billing. I say I’m supposing to be getting a credit. I’m not. They say: “Sir you aren’t applicable for this rate”. I say: “Look at my encyclopedia of notes for this account; you should clearly see that at least five people have said I’m supposed to get this rate. They say: “Oh you’re right, the last person you said told you this, but they were wrong”. Me: “What…why?” Them: “I don’t know. I’m not able to do anything about it here; you’ll need to speak to retention”. Me: “Fine. Whatever”.
Ch 14) Signing a Deal With the Devil
Speak with retention. Learn two things: 1) I need to have an “extended” long distance plan with them to be eligible for this rate. Must have been in super-fine print because I never saw this condition. Against my better judgment I agree to this; $5 extra a month. 2) I won’t actually *see* this rebate on my account until 3 months later. More deception. It’s not a 12-month commitment. It’s a FIFTEEN MONTH COMMITMENT! I lol’d. Really loud. Let’s use the more appropriate form: LOL.
This may just be a character flaw. I like easy. Instead of thinking about it and mulling it over, I took the least resistance path and just said, “OK”. If I just would have said “NO” in 2), this wouldn’t have happened. However, things like this make for good drama. Does anyone really want to see me just cancel AT&T and the story ends? I think not!
At this point I agree to this absurdity simply because I’m in shock. She tries to apply the rate now, but now she tells me she can’t because I have a “pending rebate that will not stack with this offer”. Oh! Mysterious! Unfortunately I need to wait 4 days before we know what this mystical rebate actually is because even the retention lady doesn’t have access to it (theme: AT&T is disconnected). It sounds like it’s from U-Verse…U-Verse just refuses to stop ensnaring my life even after I killed it. What a bitch.
Ch 15) A New Hope…Dashed
No one ever figures out what this mythical rebate was (are you surprised?). I get a manually adjusted credit and a guarantee that the next month will be resolved. It wasn’t. It won’t be…for FIVE MONTHS. I literally had to call every month after my bill came and had them manually adjust it. I want to lie down…
However, during this time, another promotion for AT&T DSL becomes available: $15 for 3.0Mbps downstream DSL! Hey! That’s what I have! Good lord, for $15 I may be able to put up with this nonsense. I inquire. I am rejected. “I’m sorry, this promotion is not valid for existing customers”. Baffled, I say “Wait…what?! You’re going to sabotage and anger your existing base? You won’t adjust it for me?!”. I ask to speak to retention. They won’t budge. I am even angrier now that I’m in a 1-yr commitment paying a rate that I could beat if I could just cancel. This promo also doesn’t require you to have phone service with them. Anger rising.
Ch 16) Happy Ending!
Enter month five of calling for manual adjustment. I grow weary of this. I ask when it will stop, and somehow manage to bring up the subject of the $15 rate again, perhaps out of sheer annoyance. I get sent to retention again. This one apparently isn’t a moron. I’m told, “Yeah, we can actually just cancel your existing contract and replace it with this one year $15 rate. Does that sound good?”. Whaaaaa—?? Good news?! NO WAY!
Have I made the case that no one is on the same page at this company? It is literally a crap shoot if you are able to get someone who knows what they’re doing. I say “yes”. I am joyful. I haven’t been this happy in quite some time! I’m getting decent internet for $15! All it took was restarting another year contract with a company I hate. Whatever. I value cheapness over principles. Everything is well with the world. What else could possibly go wrong?Fade to black. Everyone can go home now.
You think that’s the end of the story?! This is like Dragonball buddy. When one saga ends, another begins.
Ch 17) The Phantom Menace
Problems in DSL land. The line is damaged. DSL only stays online for maybe 10-15 minutes an hour and then craps out. But, here’s the cool part! When you make phone calls…a soul of a departed AT&T customer service rep (let’s just call it that, because I have no other explanation) dials a RANDOM phone number and connects me to it while in conversation with other people! It’s like unintended three way calling with random parties! Hey! Cool! AT&T sponsored prank calling! One time I got a bank. One time I got an Indian dude. Everyone was all very confused. I’d never seen or heard anything like it in my life.
I will admit, it was kind of interesting, but…I’m still pissed. My DSL doesn’t work, and calling people is an adventure. Fun note: this happened while on the phone with AT&T customer service. They had the same initial reaction I did, “Wow. That was weird, I’ve never heard of anything like that!”. I could not make this crap up if I tried folks…this is your AT&T. Or maybe it’s just mine. Have I been a bad boy this year? I tried to be good. 🙁
Ch 18) Happy Ending II…No, I Lied Again.
Someone is dispatched on site to take a look at my line. “Uh, sir we don’t see any problems with the line”. What do you know…it’s a miracle. All they had to do is show up and “voila”, there was never a problem at all! The problem is fixed, and nothing had to be done. AT&T is amazing like that.
Other than my general dismay at more downtime and more unbelievably weird problems with this company, I am again “at peace”, but no, it’s not done yet (man I wish it were, this has to be getting boring by now).
Ch 19) Where We Go From Here, Nobody Knows
Fast forward to the present; a few months later. I have blocked out the terrible experiences with AT&T…until today. Now we have a wide-spread connection problem. The entire southeast is experiencing severely degraded performance (http://bit.ly/dX1g9N). I’m only getting about 30% of the promised speed during peak times. I should be getting 3.0 Mbps. This has been going on for weeks. I have to imagine it’s Netflix’s doing. But, what do you know? AT&T is underprovisioning customer’s lines to save cost. Service level agreement? Bah. What’s that? Who cares! Screw you AT&T.
But wait…yes! I have created my own website! I have an outlet to complain about my terrible experience with the worst company on the planet to a wider audience. Catharsis at work. I have a ton more phone calls to look forward to! I will record this one though! I have to, it’s for the good of all mankind.
Ch 20) Choose Your Own Ending
a) AT&T gives me a million dollars.
b) AT&T goes bankrupt because they’re a terrible company.
c) AT&T continues to bone me because I’m too much of a baby to change my service.
There’s just one thing left to say….I hate AT&T! I look forward to the day when I can break ties with this terrible corporation for good.