I am an AT&T Wireless customer, and have been for several years. Between my various phones, data plans, International callings plans, and more, I pay them thousands of dollars a year. And today I wanted to give them even more money. AT&T is rolling out EDGE over GPRS, it should provide data throughput of up to 200K, considerably faster than what I get using straight GPRS on my cell phone. And of course I need it (ok, want it); card, plan, and all.
But I had a few simple questions: The card requires that I purchase a data plan, but I already have a data plan for my cell phone, so can those be combined? Can I share plans? And can I have a consolidated bill? Simple, huh? Apparently not …
10:05 am: After browsing information on data plans on the AT&T Wireless web site, I realize that I am going to have to call customer service, and do so. I get through, and am told that due to heavy call volume my wait time could be greater than 10 minutes. I put the call on speaker phone and keep working.
10:17 am: Twelve minutes later I get through to a rep, I explain what I want, she puts me on hold twice. After 5 minutes it becomes clear that she does not even know what a data card is. She offers to put me through to someone who can help, and puts me on hold
10:25 am: After being repeatedly told by a recorded message that I’d be helped shortly, I am hung up on. Great.
10:26 am: Let’s try again. I call customer service, and am put back on hold. Only a 5 minute expected hold time, things are looking up.
10:41 am: After a longer-than-5-minutes 5 minutes I go through the whole explanation again, and am once again put on hold.
10:58 am: Still on hold and browsing the AT&T Wireless site. I find a “live customer service” option on the AT&T Web site. I ask for a rep, if the online rep answers first I’ll hang up the phone.
10:59 am: Fast response online, I hang up the phone. Big mistake. “Michael” says “hi”. I explain to Michael online what I want, after 5 messages and no response I send a “Hello?” message. I get a response telling me what GSM is, and instructing me that as a GSM user I had to call the customer service number. I am guessing that “Michael” was a bot, and the word “GSM” triggered a standard response. I tell him so. He responds with a “Goodbye” and disconnects. Wonderful.
11:05 am: Let’s try the customer service line again. 5 minutes expected hold time.
11:09 am: I explain it all again, and tell the rep about my experiences thus far. She promises to help, and puts me on hold 3 times but keeps coming back to tell me she is there.
11:16 am: She hangs up on me.
11:17 am: She calls me back and apologizes, she hit the wrong button. She tells me “I am going to transfer you to someone in the data department who will be able to help you”. I tell her that I don’t want to sit on hold anymore, she promises no hold, someone will pick right up, and then puts me on hold.
11:31 am: Fourteen minutes later the call drops. Back to square one.
11:32 am: I call back, and am back on hold.
11:36 am: Call drops again.
11:37 am: Now I am ticked off. I call back again, and just about yell at the poor rep. She promises to help, keeps putting me on hold and coming back to tell me she is still researching it.
11:43 am: She is back, “no, it can’t be done, you need a new plan”. I ask her if she is sure, that as far as I knew a voice plan could be signed up for with an EDGE card, so if it could be done then it should be doable now. She’ll check.
11:46 am: She is back, “yes, it can be done”. I’ll transfer you to sales. Another transfer? Uh oh!
11:52 am: Sales answers, I explain what I want. “You called sales, let me transfer you”. What? I thought I wanted sales. “Sorry sir, I need to transfer you”. Back on hold I go.
11:58 am: After 6 minutes on hold, a new prompt: “If the call was transferred in error please press 1, if the customer needs to be transferred please press 2”. Huh? I press nothing, and get another obscure prompt: “Press 1 for G2, press 2 for G3, …” I press 1. Back on hold, average wait time is 10 minutes.
11:59 am: Someone answers, the first person who even knows what an EDGE card is. He tells me that want I want is indeed doable, but not on the phone, nor online, I need to go into a local AT&T store. I ask for a supervisor, none is available. I hang up.
Unbelievable. In my books AT&T Wireless has just set a new record for incompetence and stupidity.
[Updated 03/17/2004 10:58pm]
For any of you who are interested, I have a couple of updates to share:
1) First the good news. I did go to my local AT&T Store this afternoon, and spent some time with a friendly and knowledgeable young lady named Kristen who understood what I wanted, and was able to make it happen. I now have my EDGE card (essentially free, thanks to a rebate), an additional way to get online, and a single bill that is no larger than my previous bill. So, success. Although, I do find it ironic that in order to obtain Internet access technology from a phone company I could not use the Internet or my phone, and had to go visit a store.
2) And now the bad news. Like many vendors, AT&T hosts a support forum on their Web site. I posted a message earlier today in the “Customer Care” forum describing my problems. Within minutes I had eight responses from people with similar stories, one of which contained practical suggestions and another phone number to try. But this evening that entire thread has been removed. So, AT&T’s solution is to censor the forum to make the problem go away. Customer care indeed.
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