By Greg Mills
At a time when AT&T appears to be working overtime to batten down the hatches due to the launch of iPhone on the Verizon network, one would think they would be very nice to loyal existing post pay iPhone customers. That would be thinking wrong.
I have currently have two AT&T accounts, one each for my iPhone 3Gs and iPad, my wife has an AT&T dumb phone account and we have her younger sister on a fourth AT&T account to support her iPhone. That amount to a total of four active AT&T accounts that have never been late in four years. How grateful is AT&T? Not very appreciative it seems. Today AT&T has royally ticked me off. I have spent half an hour on their web site and two hours on the phone with nothing changed but my blood pressure.
My sister-in-law traded in her old iPhone 1 that I gave her a couple of years ago for a new iPhone 4 at her local AT&T store. She paid the $18 to activate her new phone and also paid the $200 to upgrade, but was unable to set up a family plan to put her new husband on the same account, since my wife was showing in their records as the account owner.
No problem, I told my wife, I will call our friends at AT&T and have them take you off her account. After waiting for about 15 minutes, punctuated with the occasional press 1 for English, press 3 for billing issues, Press 0 to talk to a human being, "please wait as our call centers are busy today" and then 15 minutes of irrelevant advertising and prompts to do things I didn't even care to know about...
Finally, someone came on-line and took all the information over again that I had punched into the key pad of our land line. She asked me for a number she could reach me at if my call dropped, so I gave it to her with the comment, "don't worry, I'm not on an AT&T cell phone so the call is unlikely to drop." There was a sort of embarrassed laughter. Remember my original advertising slogan "AT&T, no bars in more places"? I have a new one: "AT&T, customer service, dumb as a bag of hammers".
After explaining that we just wanted to take my wife off the account I was advised that there would be an $18 charge to remove my wife from the account if we did it at an AT&T store or by phone but it was free on-line. Never mind, my sister-in-law was able to upgrade the phone and extend the AT&T contract for another two years without my wife's knowledge or consent.
OK, thanks for not helping me; I'll go on line. Well, I build web sites and for the life of me I couldn't find the right options to change the account information or even access the account despite entering all the correct account information. Using the search system leads to all dead ends. OK, so we'll try the "click to chat" feature ... wrong, it demanded the very password that wouldn't work just to chat with someone to find out how to get the darn password working. Locked out. Circular reasoning on wheels ...
The second phone call to AT&T customer service made it crystal clear that if I was willing to pay them $18 to get my wife taken off the account that already had my sister-in-law on it, they could do it over the phone. They simply wouldn't take my wife off the account without charging us. That sounds like DirectTV. Ever try to cancel an account at DirecTV?
Since there is a 30-day return policy on new phones at AT&T, we will simply have her return the new AT&T iPhone 4, close the account and open a new account, perhaps at Verizon. Hopefully, they will wave charges for restocking the iPhone. Version is sounding better all the time. My two-year contract is up 5/17/11.
By the way, the AT&T ads about surfing the Internet while talking on the phone is nuts. In four years of using an iPhone there hasn't been a single situation where I needed to do that. Grasping for straws, AT&T?
That's Greg's Bite out of AT&T's hide for today.
(Greg Mills is currently a Faux Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. He's working on a solar energy startup using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Married, with one daughter still at home, Greg writes for intellectual web sites and Mac related issues. See Greg's web sites at http://www.gregmills.info . He can be emailed at gregmills.mac.)