Almost Incomprehensible Level of Incompetence
NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- AT&T story
My experience with AT&T raises the question, can a major corporation reach a level of incompetence where they can actually drive themselves out of business. Because if itâs possible, I think AT&T can do it.
It all started around the middle of October. At this time I had been considering going from normal phone service to digital phone service, which is a bit cheaper. I had actually ordered this from Time Warner, who made an appointment to come out and install the proper hardware. But then I got mail from AT&T with an offer for their own, cheaper digital CallVantage service, with free activation and a month of free service, so I decided to cancel with Time Warner and order CallVantage. Ordering the service took quite a while because the offer I had been mailed did not match the offer the operator showed on her computer, which did not have the free month and free activation, so she had to spend some time fixing that.
AT&T mailed me a phone adapter with instructions for how to set it up. The instructions told me to check my confirmation email for my login name, but I had never received a confirmation email, so I phoned up and was told the order had been cancelled because there was a port change request against my phone number. This was apparently because AT&T had put in the order before Time Warner had cancelled my order with them. AT&T had first told me to call Verizon, because they said Verizon was the carrier for all of New York City, but this isnât true. Actually, AT&T was my carrier, but they insisted I call Verizon, who predictably said I wasnât in their system (I think the problem is AT&T no longer accepts new customers for normal phone service and doesnât actually know it still is a carrier).
AT&T said I would have to reorder the service, so I did. Once again I had to verify I was getting the same offer, and found that now they were charging the activation fee, but when I told them that was wrong they fixed it (or said they did). I was also told I could set up my service right away, since I had the adapter. Five minutes later I realized I still didn't know my login and I called back and she said the confirmation email could take a couple of days (which I was later told by someone else was incorrect). A couple of days later I called back, said I still hadn't received a confirmation email and was told my case would be transferred to a specialist who would get back to me in 48 hours. After 48 hours passed I called again and was told my login name was just my phone number! Apparently it did not occur to any of the other phone support personnel to tell me this.
I hooked up the adapter but it didn't work, and I found I couldn't log into the website with my login name. I called tech support. After some investigation they discovered that neither my first nor second order had gone through. They said the best thing to do would be to wait a few weeks until both orders completely cleared out of the system and then try again.
As it happens, a friend of mine had also ordered CallVantage, and by this time I had learned through her that it was absolutely horrible. It frequently went out and since it worked through her cable modem she was told every time it stopped working she would have to turn off her modem and computer for 15 minutes then restart. Sound quality was poor and when I would talk to her there would be an Echo half the time. She had called tech support, and one person told her it would take a few weeks before the system âsettled down,â and that after that it would be better. Later a different tech person told her it would settle down in about 72 hours. It never actually settled down. She had a miserable time until she could switch back to a normal phone line. She said the service was clearly still in the beta testing stage and AT&T shouldnât be selling it until it actually worked. (When she got her first bill, they had charged her both the activation fee and the first month, although they had told her they wouldnât, and had actually charged her conventional rates for the first several days she had used the service, during which she had made some lengthy long distance calls, and she had to go through a series of support people to get these charges removed).
So at this point I said, never mind, cancel my order, I donât want CallVantage. It was cancelled just at the end of November, and I thought that was the end of it.
A couple of days before the end of December my phone went dead. I used my girlfriendâs cell phone to call AT&T and they said they had cancelled my service because there was a port change request for my number. I said I had not ordered a change in service and they said I should call Verizon. Once again I told them Verizon wasnât my carrier, AT&T was, once again they insisted, and the operator at Verizon actually laughed when I told her my story and confirmed that I was not in their records.
I called AT&T again. They began transferring me from one department to another. The analog phone service people said the problem came from CallVantage, that the order had never been cancelled. CallVantage said no, the order had been cancelled long ago. I was finally transferred to a specialist who would consult with various people in various departments while I stayed on hole. Finally after being on hold for 20 minutes the recording telling me to wait disappeared and after five minutes I gave up. They had asked for the cell phone number so they could call me back if we got disconnected, but they did not call me back, and I had no idea who I had last been talking to or how to contact them. I had also used up an hour of my girlfriendâs minutes for nothing.
After my girlfriend went back home I had no phone, so I contacted AT&T through a form on their website. (Normally I would have gone to a friendâs house and borrowed their phone but I had bronchitis and was not up to facing the winter weather.) After a couple of days AT&T replied to tell me their records showed I was no longer a customer of AT&T (keep in mind I had explained the enter story in my message to them). I sent a reply repeating what had happened. They emailed me back to tell me to phone the repair department, although I had explained I had no way to make phone calls. I explained that to them again. They then told me that they were the CallVantage division (I had just used the contact AT&T form on the website) and couldnât help me. I said, are you telling me there is no way to contact anyone in repair by email and they sent me a url for a different form that contacted regular analog repair service. It had taken them five days to send me to the right people.
The repair department of course emailed back to ask me to call them. I emailed and said once again that I had no phone and that since I have no way to fix my own phone, I have explained the problem in detail already and when Iâm on the phone with them they just keep me on hold that there was no reason to actually have me on the phone. They then emailed me again to say there was no way they could reinstate my number, it was gone, and gave me a number where I could call to get new AT&T service. Instead I went to Verizonâs website and signed up for phone service, which will presumably be turned on in a couple of days.
It is my greatest hope in life that I never again have to deal with AT&T.