I’ve blogged my experiences with AT&T Wireless before, both the good and the truly bad. A while back Cingular acquired AT&T Wireless, and apparently, also acquired AT&T Wireless incompetence, as demonstrated by the following …
Two of my family members have AT&T Wireless phones on a shared family account. Or rather, they did. Back in December I migrated both of those accounts over to Cingular, which of course required new phones and new SIM cards. The migration did not go smoothly, initial programming was incorrect and it took a few calls to Cingular to get things like text messaging working. But eventually all was good, with one notable problem – the voicemail indicator would not show up on either of the new phones (LG C2000).
So I called Cingular, and was told that there was indeed another programming problem, and that it had been fixed. They also asked for the two IMEI numbers and said that those had not been programmed into the account – that makes absolutely no sense to me as you can switch GSM SIM cards between phones without ever having to notify the carrier of the equipment used. Still, I went along with it. But no, that did not fix the problem.
Another call to Cingular, a long call while I was made to try all sorts of settings and options, and put on hold repeatedly. This was followed by additional calls, until eventually I was told that I had been given the wrong SIM cards for the new phones, and that replacement SIM cards would be sent out.
A week later I installed the new SIM cards and called Cingular to have them activate them. Problem solved, right? Wrong. Still no voice mail indicator, and still more calls needed to Cingular.
Finally a breakthrough, today I spoke to yet another representative who (after putting me on hold repeatedly) came back with some research. Apparently ,there is a known problem with a batch of these phones essentially making them incompatible with Cingular SIM cards. This problem has supposedly been addressed by the manufacturer, and exchanging the phones for newer versions thus solves the problem.
But, my local Cingular store won’t exchange the phones as it is now well past 30 days since I bought them. So I was given an 800 number to the Cingular exchange department to do an exchange by mail.
The guy who answered the phone at the exchange department made me repeat the entire story in detail, even though he should have had all the records in front of him. He put me on hold (several times) and then came back and started asking me to check settings and configuration options (stuff I had done over a month ago!). I refused, and back on hold I went. Then he came back and said that I was mistaken, that the phones were fine but that I needed new SIM cards, and that my local Cingular store would have them!
Fortunately for him I lost the connection, and had to call back. The next rep I spoke to (a couple of hours ago) made me explain the whole story again. She then started asking “was the phone dropped?” and “is there any condensation in the screen?” and “has it been exposed to extreme hot or cold?” and my favorite one “check the battery connections, do any of them look bent?”, and so on. Huh? The phone works! It turns of and off, it makes and receives calls, it sends and receives text messages! Condensation? Temperature? Battery connections?
I tried to explain the futility of the questions being asked, but no go – I assume she had to work through her script, as irrelevant as it was. And then she put me back on hold, and came back to tell me that this was a known problem with the phone, and that it needed to be exchanged. Really? No way! I guess it’s a good thing that I called the exchange line, huh?
So, apparently two replacement phones are on their way. Whether or not they’ll fix the problem is anyone’s guess. I’ll post a follow-up when they arrive.
For now, Cingular definitely takes the lead in the incompetence race!

15 thoughts

  1. Best line eva-h:
    "…and that it needed to be exchanged. Really? No way! I guess it’s a good thing that I called the exchange line, huh?"

  2. WOW! And to think that I was thinking about switching to Cingular instead of Verizon because of the cost of the plan. (I have T-Mobile and I’m happy with it, but I want a new phone and you only get the good deals if you open a new account. Since I want to keep my phone number, I have to move carriers. Seems silly to me.)

  3. Brian, I hate that policy. I’m still not quite sure of the economics behind it. They subsidize the cost of the phone by getting you to sign up for a plan, but if you re-up for another 1/2 years, I don’t see why you wouldn’t get the same subsidy.
    Strange.

  4. Yea, Cingular is pretty bad. At our company, we just switched all of our cellular plans over to Verizon because it was so bad. Calls getting dropped, spotty coverage, etc…
    Anyway, we have been using Verizon for a little while now and they are far better. I heard that T-Mobile has the highest customer satisfaction though, so I might have to try them out when I get the chance.

  5. yo Ben, i worked for at&t wireless for about 4 years… yes the reps are incompent… btw the imei is used for tracking – they like to lock their phones for exclusive use on their own network. To paraphrase: yes, american cellphone sevice sucks. I was offered completely free unlimited service while working for them now I own my own business – and I really don’t miss it at all. I no longer use cell phones, and I cringe everytime I hear one or see one. i hope you enjoy your like new refurbished phones! CHEERS!

  6. Something similar happened to my wife and I a few months ago. Our 2 year contract expired and so we took the opportunity to get new phones. Cingular didn’t bother to tell us that all phones that they were now distributing used a different frequency and they didn’t currently have coverage for the same area that the old phones did. The result was that the phones just didn’t work for half of our commute. It took about 3 months before they began covering that area, but we learned that some of our friends had renewed 7 months earlier and received new phones and had not had coverage for nearly a year. Anyhow the similar problem was with my wife’s new Nokia. It switched to "headphone mode" and there was no way to switch it back, even the in store support couldn’t figure it out. So they exchanged the phone for the same model. They did this 3 more times on the last time I said, "well we’re approaching 30 days and this is the 4th phone of this model that has done this, will we have any problems exchanging it again if THIS one does the same" the rep replied, "no" we’ve made a record of this and see there is some sort of manufacturing or firmware problem. Well, a few days went by and the 4th replacement phone had the same problem. We returned to the store and said, sorry but 30 days has passed and we cannot exchange it anymore. WHAT THE FUCK, I JUST ASKED YOU ABOUT THIS VERY SCENARIO 3 DAYS AGO AND YOU ACKNOWLEDGED THIS RECURRING PROBLEM WITH THIS MODEL OF THIS PHONE!! The rep went to talk to the manager in some back office, returned and said I’m sorry my manager said we cannot exchange because of the policy. After I whined some more I finally gave up, the manager never came from the back office to help us and I decided to call Cingular national support. That took over 4 hours and 4 representatives, telling the story to every one about the exchanges with the local store. EVERY representative had to hear the story and problem again, one representative conferenced another and told the story for me, then transferred me to that representative, this one said, sir let me hear the problem in your words… I said, "wait, I’ve asked each representative to type detailed notes about this experience because I’m complaining AND I want the problem resolved, this was a $100+ phone and it doesn’t work for reasons I described in detail 8 times now to those in the stores and at the support center… DO you have those notes?" She said, yes sir I do, but my job requires that YOU state the problem to me and WE must go through the steps to resolve the problem. first check the battery, …. O my fucking god, you’ve got to be kidding me!!!! So, I played that game and followed every stupid step for another 30 minutes. Finally, we got to the point in her script that we could begin an exchange. She made me repeat after her that I would agree to pay a 75 dollar processing fee if the phone was damaged upon receipt. I said what?! You know from all of previous conversations the problem with the phone. How would I have control over what happens… plus, $75 dollars is a pretty damned steep processing fee. She said, o I’m sorry that is $150 processing fee. I said, you’ve got to be kidding that is more than the phone is worth… she said, I’m so sorry sir but you must agree to pay a $250 processing fee if we find anything wrong with the phone that you might have caused… I said, ok, $250 now? Yes sir. I tell you what, I’ll agree to whatever you say to get the damn phone exchanged, but I don’t care if it is a $100000 processing fee. Record this, I will sue Cingular if they charge me $250 for resolving this problem.

  7. Don’t go wishing them down the India route. That’s where Netgear shuffled their support off to and it’s just as bad as Cingular. All they can ever do is run through a script with you, then at the end when this hasn’t solved anything, they’ll ship you a replacement.
    They’ll tout the fact that support is available 24/7 but what they don’t tell you is that it’s appallingly bad.

  8. In the UK, I’ve threatened to leave Orange before. They put me through to a retention department and put me on a £25 per month 500minutes anytime plan(better than anything on the market) and gave me a new phone.
    Would suggest that most companies do similar things. Ask them to price match/beat somebody else’s plan before you decide to move.

  9. Bad Customer Support is unfortunately creaping into every American Industry. I’m actually flabbergasted when I get someone who know’s what they’re talking about.
    Just about a month ago I was having a problem w/RR’s DNS server. They had some corrupted DNS tables, which had caused some servers to be unreachable via their domain name.
    This was an easy issue to confirm, a simple nslookup verified the problem was indeed w/the DNS servers and had nothing to do with my connection.
    However, RR Support has their script they go by and they will not sway at all from that script. So, after like 2 hours of trying to report the damn problem, I finally get someone to do an nslookup and confirm the problem.
    I know scripting can address a lot of the common problems, but it’s very frustrating and costly to keep someone on the phone reading a damn script when you could verify the problem very easily. They wasted 2 hours of my time and their money to address something that could have been verified in seconds.

  10. The worst part is that these stories are so absolutely commonplace. Who hasn’t had a story like this? American mobile coverage is generally outside of specific pockets, but when you finally find an area where your brand and handset works, the next handset upgrade or merger and you are worse off.
    If services were getting better, or prices were getting better, fine. But neither are.
    Where’s my VOIP over WiMax?

  11. I am having the same problem. I have two other LG C2000 phones in the house, which do show the Voicemail Indicator. My phone, which I had to purchase off of eBay as a replacement phone turned out to be affected by this programming glitch. It has been nothing but an annoyance. Nobody at AT&T has acknowledged this problem, execpt that it is my phone.

  12. If you press the following keys: 2945#*#, then Option 3. You can see what firmware version you have.
    If you have this, you are affected:
    **CINGULAR**
    C2000P64FL
    V10e
    1-310-170
    Oct 06 2005
    If you have this, you aren’t affected:
    **CINGULAR**
    C2000P64FL
    V10f
    1-310-170
    Dec 15 2005
    (Notice the difference in the firmware versions and dates.)

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