AT&T, How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways

April 4, 2011 4:42 pm

Some of you may remember my post from March of last year: Wait. You mean... I... I won?. Turns out I didn't win.

The story then was about calling AT&T to complain about a price increase on my Internet service. By the end of the call I had changed my service agreement to include a phone line and reduce my monthly bill by $5. It didn't make any sense as to how they could add a phone line to my service and reduce my price, but I went with it. To ensure my situation was what I expected, to quote my previous post:

So, she gives me the exact price quote. To be absolutely clear on the matter, I ask directly, "Is this an introductory offer?" - "No." "Is there an activation fee?" - "No." "Will I have the same DSL speeds I have now, 6.0 Mbps down, 768 Kbps up? - "Yes."

It seemed good. I mean, those were the exact words I used and got as answers.

Turns out that Samantha, the CSR of March 2010, straight up lied to me when she answered 2 of those questions. Guess which ones!

I apparently didn't blog it at the time, but that first bill I got with the new service had (can you guess?) a $41.45 activation fee! Way back when, I called and complained and eventually got them to reverse the charge. So that was lie number one from Samantha.

This month we got our bill and I discovered it was $15 higher than it should have been. So I call up to find out what's going on and the CSR, Michelle, tells me that my introductory offer has ended and my price has increased to the regular price. Well, wasn't I surprised since I was explicitly told this was not an introductory price. She, of course, was very sorry, but there was nothing she could do, but she would happily provide me a new introductory offer if I upgraded to a U-verse package. I told her I wasn't interested in that and wanted to know what options I had for adjusting my service.

She transferred me to sales and after 10 minutes on hold Dave picks up. I tell Dave why I'm not happy and that I'm looking for options to adjust my service and reduce the price. He tells me there's not really anything he can do. (Now, I'm signed up with the fastest DSL speed they offer, which is a crappy 6mbs down and 768kbs up, so I know that to reduce my monthly bill he could suggest I drop to a lower service tier.) He says there's not anything he can do, but lets me know about the U-Verse service AT&T is bringing to my neighborhood. He never suggests that I could reduce my bill by lowering service tiers. (I'm not really interested in doing this as the service is marginal at times for Netflix as it is, but it is a possibility.)

So I assert that I'm still very unhappy that I was lied to by the CSR in 2010 and really want to find a solution. He offers a special discount of $10 a month for the next 12 months, so my bill would only be increasing by $5 per month. He tries to sell me on how this is such a great deal. I'm not impressed considering that in Provo I had a 15mbs up/down fiber-optic connection for $39.99 a month for 2 years without a contract and without a single price increase and without any installation fee.

Now, last year before we added the phone line we had just a bare DSL line (known as a dry loop). We were paying ~$40 per month before they tried to raise our price. So I asked Dave what the current options were for a dry loop. He told me they no longer offered dry loops in my area because they were phasing out their DSL service for the new U-verse service which he'd be happy to tell me more about.

I verify with him that he's telling me that bare DSL service is no longer available for me. He says this is the case. So I ask him why AT&T is still advertising dry loop service on their website? And why, when I click on that, it says to call to set up service? He doesn't have an answer.

So then I ask what's going to happen to my current service if they phase out DSL? He says they're grandfathering in existing DSL lines and will still allow you to get DSL if you also get a phone line (for now I suppose). This is rather preposterous to me.

So I ask him, if I were to move in the next few months would I still be able to get my current DSL service at the new location? He says probably not. I'd have to sign up for U-Verse.

Clearly, all signs point to U-verse. Figuring I may as well find out what he had to say on the matter, I asked about it. He tells me that the Internet-only U-verse package to match my current speeds has a ~$140 installation fee, a ~$75 equipment fee, and monthly prices starting at $45. Yah, that sounds like a great deal AT&T, I can't imagine why I wouldn't want to switch.

This is also disregarding the fact that I find it unlikely the apartment complex is going to want AT&T running around drilling holes and running fiber-optic connections all over the place. So it's likely not going to happen here for a while even if I did want it.

So at this point I'm just cranky. They're jacking up my rate (for the third time in the less than 2 years we've lived here) and pushing their overpriced fiber-optic service. But I've apparently managed to stay on the phone long enough to unlock another customer appeasement. Now Dave is willing to give me a $40 credit on this month's bill along with the $10 per month discount (for 12 months). So over the next 12 months I'd only end up paying an extra $20 for my service instead of $180, so I guess we're getting somewhere-ish.

Of course, since the last CSR I worked with blatantly lied to me I don't have much reason to trust what he's saying anyway.

So at this point in the call I pull up Comcast's website because it is the only other Internet service provider in Livermore. Everything I've heard about them in Livermore lives up fully to their having won the award for Worst Company in America 2010. Sadly, their prices are all just as high (surprise!) so even contemplating switching would only, in effect, be cutting off my nose to spite my face.

Out of options and needing to get back to work I agree to the $40 credit and the $10/month discount. But I'm still not happy.

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