My Trouble With AT&T

AT&T and Apple logos as Death Stars

Update (June 30 @ 9 PM): much has happened since I posted this, and my issue has been resolved through many, many hours on the phone with AT&T. I am in the process of writing that up.

I’ve had Verizon since August 2004, and after several years of mediocre service (that is to say, nothing horrible or particularly exceptional happened) I decided that I wanted an iPhone, which meant switching to AT&T. Now, I have particular reservations about using AT&T as a service provider for anything due to delivering your world… to the NSA. However, the allure of the iPhone and my several iPhone-toting friends won me over.

Compounding this issue is my rapidly deteriorating phone. I have had a VX6700 (which I previously reviewed) for 2.5 years; this phone worked great until a few months ago. The battery rapidly showed signs of memory effect culminating in a grand total of three minutes of talk time, until it wouldn’t charge at all. It will no longer turn on, even when it’s plugged in, so I am currently without a working phone. I particularly loved the 6700’s full, tactile keyboard, a feature that the iPhone lacks; the keyboard is also the primary reason why I didn’t purchase an iPhone years ago. My wittiest summary of the 6700 is that “you know it runs Windows because you have to reboot it every day.”

For the past year, I had been looking forward to switching to the HTC Touch Pro 2 which features an absolutely beautiful interface, large screen, and the full keyboard that I love so much. Unfortunately (as far as I know), its availability date on Verizon is still unknown; I believe it’s only available on T-Mobile at the moment, and their coverage is too limited for my needs. One of the things that pulled me to want an iPhone was the innumerable apps; my favorite example is being able to find the name of a song that’s playing. The application support for Windows Mobile is generally lacking, to say the least.

So after much deliberation and urging from my many Apple fanboy friends (love you guys) I decided to take the plunge. I was advised to wait for the next generation of the phone (which I did) and on June 19, 2009 I placed my order on AT&T’s website to migrate my number and purchase an iPhone 3GS. I received a confirmation email for my order that stated:

We estimate your order will be shipped within 2 – 5 business days pending approval if applicable. We will notify you by email when it is approved and shipped.

Your order may be subject to AT&T eligibility and credit requirements. If we have any questions about your eligibility or your order, we will contact you via email.

I realized today (June 29, 2009) that it was the sixth business day, and I hadn’t heard anything. The order status page stated that the order was “processing” and was last updated on June 23, 2009, the second business day after my order. So I went to AT&T’s website and went to their online chat; they simply referred me to the 1-800 number despite my having told them that I didn’t have a working phone. No problem, I just borrowed my girlfriend’s phone. Still, though, it’s silly to give a phone number to someone without a phone.

The customer service representative I talked to was very nice, and apparently called several (presumably internal) numbers to find out what happened to my order. She said that my ordered had been canceled because it had been entered twice and reentered it on the 23rd. After spending forever on hold, she said she’d call me back when she found out more about what happened. A call back yielded the news that my order had been canceled due to “insufficient funds.” I find this hard to believe; the order was apparently around $320, and I have had far more than that in my account since I placed the order. I wouldn’t have purchased an iPhone if I didn’t have the money to pay for it. If my bank had canceled the purchase because it thought it was suspicious, they would have called me and asked if I’d made it, as they have before when someone tried to buy overseas plane tickets on my account, and when I ordered a flat-screen TV online. Simply, there was no attempted charge by AT&T on my bank account. I verified the number over the phone, and it was correct, so it is unlikely that they charged another account.

My customer service representative transferred me to a billing representative, who proceeded to (supposedly) charge my account again. Both representatives as well as the confirmation order quoted above stated that I should have received an email saying there was a problem with my order, but no such email ever came. After I had already agonized over switching to AT&T for a number of reasons, this experience has already left a bad taste in my mouth, and I haven’t even used their service yet. I didn’t imagine that it would be this difficult to switch carriers and get a new phone, something that must happen on a fairly regular basis.

For my trouble, I thought I might try politely requesting that an activation fee be waived or some other credit be given to me, as this has been a serious hassle, particularly given that I expected to have a new phone by now, and that this has left me in a particular lurch given that my existing phone has completely stopped working. The billing representative seemed surprised that I would even ask about this, and flat out refused to work with me on that matter. The activation fee itself was only $36 and I would settle for even a part of that credited to me for my inconvenience.

I don’t make requests like this to be petty or difficult, but even Comcast (a regular finalist in Consumerist’s “Worst Company in America”) will credit back portions of monthly bills and fees upon request (and sometimes even without a request) when they mess up. And I would certainly consider the cancellation of my order without notice a mess-up, regardless of the company involved. Considering that I am committing to pay AT&T around $2,000 over the next two years, I’d expect that they’d want to make a good impression, at least to start with.

Image from

Andrew Guyton

1 comment so far


FYI I’ve owned a Touch Pro for the past nine months and I don’t care how pretty it looks on paper, the device simply cannot hold a candle to the iPhone. The pretty inferface that HTC appears to have painstakingly put on top of it really only masks the problems with Windows Mobile. It was frequently slow, required many restarts, GPS never picked up in a reasonable time and the interface was laggy if you opened any two things at once. It could be as simple as a twitter client and text messaging.

I think you definitely made the right decision. Until Windows Mobile is rewritten from scratch, it will likely still bear the marks of its retarded predecessors.

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