Why People Hate Wireless Carriers: A Horror Story

A transcript of my most recent interaction with AT&T

Pavan Trikutam
All this technology, yet the best AT&T can offer is a physical mailing address to file complaints. Pavan Trikutam/Unsplash

You probably hate your wireless carrier. If you’re like me, it isn’t just a matter of cost or coverage; it’s everything else that comes along with the package. The sneaky charges, the chipper but unhelpful support people, the constant shuffling between departments—the list of reasons goes on and on.

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If it’s any consolation, you aren’t alone. Here’s the actual transcript of my most recent interaction with AT&T. It’s been lightly edited for length and privacy:

AT&T: Thank you for using AT&T Chat Services. Your chat will be answered by the first available agent.

Matthew C: Good afternoon! I’m happy to assist you today. Please give me a moment to review your reason for chat.

Rich: We have an open case number, CM20161015_119XXXXXX, but have been unable to get AT&T to properly focus and resolve this issue.

Matthew C: I’m sorry to hear that the case has not led to any resolution. Please give me a moment to contact a billing specialist so that we can address any and all concerns regarding the overages for you.

Matthew C has left the chat

You are being transferred, please hold…

Agent David enters chat

David: I’m sorry for any delay reaching me. I see that you have been speaking to another representative. Please allow me to review the previous conversation and I will be happy to assist you further.

David: I can understand your concern. I will be more than glad to assist you today.

Rich: OK. This is a maddening situation that needs to be escalated.

David: This is definitely not the experience we want you to have with our service. I assure you that I will use all my resources to resolve this for you today.

Rich: OK. Briefly, in 2012, my wife upgraded her iPad data plan, which was automatically charged to her American Express card. But AT&T continued to charge her for the OLD plan, no longer in use, as well as the new plan. We just discovered the error; you were illegally charging her card $14.99 a month for 4-1/2 years.

David: It is bad to hear that Rich.

David: Let me check the case to see if it has a resolution already.

Rich: The last message we had from AT&T was that they would credit us ONE MONTH out of the 4-1/2 years. Obviously unacceptable. So I need to know how and to whom I need to escalate the issue.

Rich: I added it up: Between four wireless phones, two iPads, and two landlines at home, I am paying AT&T thousands of dollars a year.

David: I will transfer this chat to the relations department, they will resolve this problem for you in a minute and will make you a great offer in order to stay with us, as a very valuable customer we do not want you to consider or looking for another service providerI assure you that the relations department will resolve this today on this chat.

Rich: I can only hope. I previously have spent more than three hours on the phone with various parts of AT&T over the last 10 days. Totally maddening.

David: I totally understand that this is frustrating. I am confident that we can resolve this issue today.

David has left the chat

You are being transferred, please hold…

Agent Ariel D enters chat

Ariel D: I want to thank you for your patience while being transferred over to me! Allow me just a few moments to read over your previous chat!!! My name is Ariel and I am here to help you out!

Ariel D: I see that you have an open case dealing with your wife’s iPad is that correct?

Rich: Yes. AT&T continued to charge her credit card for 4-1/2 years for a canceled data plan.

Ariel D: I can totally understand why this would be an extremely frustrating situation. I can assure you that I will look into this account to find out what we need to do to get this concern resolved.

Rich: Apparently, from what I can understand from people I spoke with on the phone previously, rather than upgrade or cancel the first data plan ($14.99/mo), AT&T created a second plan ($30/mo) and charged her credit card for both.

Ariel D: That is what I am seeing as well in the case notes.

Rich: So I simply want the payments for the old data plan, which AT&T had no right to continue debiting her card for, refunded. It comes to a little over $800. Which is a lot of money, but as I pointed out previously, I pay AT&T thousands of dollars A YEAR—and this was AT&T’s mistake, not ours.

Ariel D: I’m reading over the case to find out what the resolution was because it was closed on 10/17.

Rich: I certainly did not acquiesce in closing the case, and I need to know how and to whom I need to escalate this.

Ariel D: I completely understand that this has been a very very frustrating situation. I am trying to see what was done so we can go from here.

Ariel D: Thank you for your patience, I know your time is valuable.

Rich: Continuing to charge the card was both illegal and abusive. But the hell AT&T has put me through since the error was discovered compounds my anger. It is not hard to figure out what you SHOULD do. But I need to be put in touch with someone who is empowered to actually DO it.

Ariel D: I’ve been looking at the case notes here and I do see that they have authorized $14.99 be credited back to her card. I do apologize that this is not the resolution that you were looking for. I truly do wish there was more I could do for you on this account.

Rich: What I need to know is whether there is a corporate-level customer-relations number or email address I can contact. Otherwise I will continue to be stuck in this endless loop.

Ariel D: I totally understand let me see what information I have.

Ariel D: So the only thing I have is an address to the Office of the President. That is: AT&T, PO Box 10330, Fort Wayne, IN 46851-0330

Rich: Is there an email address, at least?

Ariel D: I will be notating the account here that this was the resolution of the case and I have given this address to you to handle the situation further.

Ariel D: Unfortunately this is the only option to send the information to.

Rich: Sigh. OK. I appreciate that you tried to help. But this is yet another hour of my life that I’ll never get back. And another nail in the coffin of my relationship with AT&T.

Ariel D: I understand. I wish this would have been a better experience for you. I know this is a very frustrating situation and I would feel the same way if I were you!

Rich: OK, thanks.

Ariel D: Was there anything else I could do for you today?

Rich: Nope.

Ariel D: It has been an absolute pleasure helping you with with your concerns today!!!! You have been such a joy to speak with! Thank you for being such an Awesome part of our AT&T Family!!!! Have a Fantabulous Day!!! 😀

For the record, I did not have a fantabulous day.

Got your own wireless-carrier horror story? Share it with me at richj@observer.com, and I’ll post the best ones.

Rich Jaroslovsky is an Observer technology columnist and vice president of SmartNews Inc. Reach him at richj@observer.com or @RichJaro on Twitter.

Why People Hate Wireless Carriers: A Horror Story