AT&T U-verse recently went live in our neighborhood. Over the past couple of months, our household has been carpetbombed with a U-Verse offers.
Recently, we even received a envelope cleverly disguised to look like a handwrittenValentine’s Day card, or party invite.
AT&T’s practices drove us into the arms of Comcast, bringing to a close a relationship of more than 20 years.
Several months ago, while my spouse was overseas, an urgent message was left on the vmail of his business line.
“Joe” (not his real name) announced he was the ATT account rep. He said to call back right away about the account but left no details. Concerned, I called the number, Joe’s cell.
“Joe” said he was calling to confirm that we wanted to stay with AT&T.
“Uhhhhh, sure, I guess” was about the best response I could come up with.
“Joe” explained that they were finally mopping up loose ends from the AT&T/SBC merger, and he seemed like a nice person.
I explained to “Joe” that my spouse was overseas and completely unreachable but I was sure he wanted to remain with AT&T for the time being.
At some point during the conversation “Joe” asserted the matter needed to be handled “by Friday,” i.e. in the next 24 hours.
Out of the blue, “Joe” offered a new, cheaper plan.
I told “Joe” that my husband had carefully arranged his current plan, was satisfied with it, and would be upset if there were any changes.
“Joe” assured the plan would remain “exactly the same,” but it would just be cheaper - almost 25% cheaper.
“This is a first,” I joked. “I’ve never heard of a phone company voluntarily offering to reduce rates.”
But “Joe” explained AT&T was “saving billions” by eliminating “two billing platforms.”
At this point, suspicion began to set in. I asked “Joe” to email me. Which he did, promptly. It was an att.com email address.
From my notes, I read back to Joe exactly what he had said. The new plan was exactly the same as the old plan, just cheaper. I repeated the new price.
I informed “Joe” that I wasn’t an authorized user on the account. “That’s okay, you’re the wife,” he replied. And with that, “Joe” put me through to third party verification.
Yes, I know, I know. To be perfectly clean, I should have refused. I did think, passingly: My husband is happy to let me handle matters, especially urgent ones, while he’s away. But it did occur to me that AT&T’s - or should I say, some account reps - loosy-goosey encouragement spouses to alter accounts could lead to all sorts of mischief.
And it has led me to wonder if some companies use the third-party verification system as legal cover for their unsavory sales practices.
Afterward, my conversation with Joe, a nagging feeling just wouldn’t go away. Did we get “slammed?” What did I really sign up for? Would SBC AT&T pull a bait and switch, as they did the year before on our residential lines?
I called AT&T customer service. Robert took the call. I explained my misgivings. Inexplicably, Robert was curt and dismissive. I asked to speak to a supervisor. Robert refused. I told him his hostility was unnecessary.
Robert promptly had a rage attack:
“I AM NOT HOSTILE!!! I KNOW MY OWN PERSONALITY!!!”
Robert put me on hold - apparently, with no intention of ever transferring me to a supervisor. I can’t recall how long I was on hold, but it was long time. And I seem to recall speaking to this guy in the past. Robert is very skilled - at sending customers scurrying to competitors.
I hung up and called Comcast.
In about 15 minutes we had hammered out a satisfactory deal. Our phone lines were switched over and the installation proceeded smoothly ten days later.
After years as Comcast cable and Internet customers, we finally made the big leap to triple play.
Perhaps “Joe’s” offer was legit. Perhaps everything “Joe” told me was true. I’ll never know for sure.
But here’s another big reason why I’m shredding those AT&T come hithers:
Recently, while conducting a routine check of our credit files, I discovered that on the same day of “Joe’s” call, a company named SBC Commercial out of Sacramento ran an unauthorized hard credit check on my husband.
At no time did “Joe” mention a credit check and at no time did he have permission to run this check.
A hard credit check is a big deal. It hurts your FICO score and is only supposed to be conducted with the permission of the customer. No hard credit checks. It’s practically the eleventh commandment in our household.
I never evereverevereverever would have agreed to a hard check.
Furthermore, as existing customers with a perfect history stretching back years, I can’t see any legitimate reason to run this check.
Recently, I emailed “Joe” and demanded that AT&T contact all three credit agencies and reverse the hard check. To date, he has not replied.
So, until AT&T cleans up their deceptive and unfair practices, and straightens out their customer service reps - which by the way (at least for phone lines) is closed over the weekend, unlike Comcast - our family won’t be doing business with them.