AT&T (Ain’t They Terrible)


There is no lesson in the second kick of the mule.

Why is that fundamental truth so hard to accept?

Today, I spent 50 minutes on the wireless with AT&T, trying to find the equipment that was supposed to arrive at our house yesterday, so that we could initiate our new fiber optic internet and landline service. I just knew, last week, when I placed the order with Judy, that things were certain to go awry. Without exploring the details, I’ll stipulate that the last attempt to establish a business relationship with AT&T, more than 8 years ago, was so frustrating, so screwed up, and so difficult to untangle that I swore never again to subject myself to their vast incompetence.

Today, when I called, a gentleman named Paul answered, and after the obligatory rigmarole about my identity, we got down to business. Where was the equipment that I ordered last Wednesday, that supposed to arrive yesterday, for the service that was turned on last night? He didn’t know, but asked that I give him 2 or 3 minutes to track it down. Sure, I said, before hanging up 25 minutes later, having never heard another peep from Paul.

The second call landed me in the helping hands of Elizabeth. After a second bit of rigmarole about my identity, we got down to business. Where was the equipment that I ordered last Wednesday, that supposed to arrive yesterday, for the service that was turned on last night? She didn’t know, but asked that I give her 2 or 3 minutes to track it down. Sure, I said, but don’t treat me like Paul, or Mt. St. Helen might erupt again. Just saying.

5 minutes later, Elizabeth returned with the bad news. The order was supposed to have arrived yesterday, but since it had not, she was going to call UPS, put the delivery on hold, and re-send the equipment. Whoa, said I; let’s give UPS a chance to deliver the equipment this afternoon. Just give me the tracking number and I will not bother your department again. My last problem with you folks started like this, with multiple shipments, lost shipments, return authorizations not received, et cetera. I do not want to go there. Well, she said, I don’t have the tracking number, but let me put you on hold and I’ll get it from the shipping department.

5 minutes later, Elizabeth returned with the bad news. The order had not, in fact, shipped. She didn’t know why, but if I could hold just a little bit longer, she would take the matter up with her supervisor.

10 minutes later, Elizabeth returned with new information. A new order had been placed, and they were shipping it out via 2 day UPS, at no cost to me (?), with arrival on the 12th. Elizabeth, I asked, if it ships today, via 2 days UPS, then it will arrive on Thursday, the 11th, right? Well, she said, it won’t actually ship until tomorrow. I decided not to press the girl, who was obviously struggling with the entire process, thanked her for her help, and asked her to tell Paul to suck it…….

Before I could refill my coffee cup, I received an email from my friends at AT&T confirming my order. It looked exactly like the email I received last week, and look how reliable that was. But something caught my eye, and a closer examination of the email revealed a listing of my account number, order number, and telephone number. Only problem was that the phone number on this email doesn’t match the phone number on the first email.

I can’t wait to have to untangle this mess – two telephone numbers, two bills, different service dates, and God knows what else.

What else could possibly go wrong?

The New AT&T is Getting Old

Please give a big welcome to our newest blogger, Harriett Nuff. Hattie, as she is known to friends and enemies alike, comes from a long line of curmudgeons. At her husband’s request, we are pleased to provide an outlet for Hattie’s howls of indignation, outbursts of temper, and the expression of her complete and total frustration with the human condition. It is her husband’s fervent wish that this outlet will preclude the further destruction of expensive high-definition television sets…

The New AT&T is Getting Old

by Hattie Nuff

They call themselves the new AT&T. But what they don’t tell you is that the acronym stands for Aggravating, Terrible & Tedious. Aggravating because of the trouble it takes to get service from them. Terrible because of the quality of service you finally do get, and tedious because of the way you are treated by their ridiculously repetitive customer-service representatives—certainly not the sort of behavior that I want ‘representing’ my global firm.

We could as easily reverse the acronym to mean Totally Taking Advantage because of how this corporate megalomaniac tricks (yes, tricks) you into extra fees. Whatever it says, and whatever it says that will cost, you can be sure there will be additional fees. Often fees for services you never (ever) request. An example: one fine day a shipment arrives from TT(&)A. It is a beautiful wireless USB plugin for my laptop. Wonderful. Except that I never ordered it. And terrible because they want $49.95 for it. I call, clarify that I never ordered it, and after about 45 minutes of pleading I am sent a return-postage label. Good. Except that one month later I get a letter asking where it is or why have I not paid for it. A new series of haggling phone calls follow with overly polite, extremely inflexible ‘representatives’. I get transferred three times before things are resolved. A morning wasted for something I never ordered. I end up with a terrible technology headache. You know what that is.

I could go on, but that’s not the point—even though there are thousands if not tens of thousands of similar stories about this… this company. The real point is that they don’t get it. They don’t realize (how can they possibly not realize by now?) that this is not the way to develop a loyal following of customers and get repeat, much less referral, business. They don’t realize that they’re making the situation worse. Not just because of how they train their customer representatives, but because of their sneaky tactics. And they claim to be in the communication business. Ha!

What to do? Here comes the real problem. There is little that we little people can do. But there is a solution. And that is why I am reluctantly but now firmly stepping forward as a ‘representative’ of all those people who like telephones, want to pay their bills on time, and despise being jerked around. I am going to speak for all of us in the hope that this message crests into a wave that eventually crashes onto the shore—the big beach party—where these guys (who are they anyway?) seem to be luxuriating at our expense. Doggone it. Enough is enough. There, I said it. And you should, too.

Hattie Nuff is a professional social critic and network technology watchdog who has published numerous books about corporate dominance in our personal lives. She is currently working on a new book entitled, OMFG: Here They Come Again.