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Is AT&T U-verse Serving The People Or Fleecing The Sheeple?
Ma Bell was notorous for corporate greed and customer abuse long before Lily Tomlin lampooned her on Laugh-In. And in today's ATT Screw-U-Verse, the corruption continues.
By: VVV PR
A little over two months ago, an AT&T telephone and DSL customer we'll call "PL" needed a wireless Internet solution for her new tablet computer, so she called the number on her phone bill and eventually wound up speaking to an AT&T sales rep. The rep offered PL an Internet access solution that would support her old notebook as well as her new tablet for $24.95 a month plus a one-time $100.00 modem charge, and promised PL two $100.00 gift cards if she agreed to transfer to the new plan. PL accepted. Installation was scheduled for sometime during the day on March 1X, and PL was told to expect UPS to deliver her new modem "a couple of days" before that. By March 1X-1 no modem had arrived, so PL made a followup call to AT&T. She was assured that UPS would deliver the modem that evening, and that the installation tech was still scheduled to come the next day.
Like many 99 percenters, PL has to work two jobs to pay for the greed of Wall Street and the wars and waste of Washington. She had taken unpaid time off from her day job to be home for the new Internet modem installation, but was hoping to still be able to work that night. By midday no installer had called or come by, so she made another followup call to AT&T. This time - and for the first time - she heard the word "U-verse", was told she was supposed to either open the box and install the modem herself or pay an additional $160.00, that the technician was coming by to terminate her DSL not install her U-verse, and that she didn't need to be home for that. That meant PL had sacrificed a day's pay for nothing - and that AT&T expected a person with absolutely no IT training or experience to install their own cabling, configure a wireless access modem, and activate their own U-verse service!
PL didn't have "an additional $160.00", so she opened the box and did her best to follow the complicated instructions inside and configure the modem. It didn't work. But after holding 20 minutes then spending an hour more talking to an escalation of U-verse support techs, she learned that she had done everything right but the problem was the U-verse activation software did not work with some major web browsers - including hers. The U-verse tech finally activated the service from his end, and began the process of creating an ATT email account for PL. PL told the tech she did not want an ATT email account, and there ended their exchange and - PL thought - her AT&T U-verse installation nightmare.
A few weeks passed, then PL received one of the two $100.00 gift cards AT&T had promised. Coincidentally perhaps, on that same day she received a letter from the AT&T Accounts Receivable Center which scolded and threatened her as follows:
"Did you forget to pay your bill? Our records show that your account balance is $164.95 which includes a past due amount of $164.95... If payment is not received by April 2X, 2012 your AT&T U-verse service may be temporarily disconnected. If your service is temporarily disconnected, in addition to paying all outstanding charges, a restoral fee may apply. The restoral charge is $30 per U-verse product and/or service on your account... For accounts that remain unpaid for ten (10) days after interruption, service will be permanently disconnected."
PL was shocked. She'd paid every AT&T bill she'd received, so she called the number in the letter - 800.228.2020 - to find out what was going on. It was then she learned from AT&T U-verse's Lavonne M. (employee number LM154X) that from now on she'd be receiving a U-verse bill separate from her AT&T phone bill, and that the reason she had never seen her U-verse bill was because it was being emailed to the ATT email account she never had access to. PL asked Lavonne M. to break down the $164.95 balance for her, but the only amount PL recognized was the $100.00 modem charge. PL paid that with her $100.00 gift card, and asked if she could wait to pay the remainder until she had a copy of the bill to review. Lavonne M. told her that would be fine, and assured PL that her U-verse service would not be disconnected.
Lavonne M. lied. At just after 8:00am on the morning of April 2X+1, U-verse disconnected PL. She called ATT Uverse and asked to speak to Lavonne M., and was told that "wasn't possible". She requested to speak to a supervisor, and after holding several minutes got one and shared her sad story. The supervisor coldly told PL her only option at this point was to pay the $64.95 balance plus a $30.00 reconnect fee. PL refused, and demanded to speak to a manager. She was again told that "wasn't possible", but she could leave a number and a manager would call her back. PL did. Six hours later, an AT&T U-verse manager who did not offer her name or direct extension did in fact call PL back. PL told her everything in agonizing detail, based upon which the manager restored PL's U-verse service so long as PL settled her balance by May 1X. PL agreed, with the stipulation that she would not pay the bill if she did not receive a bill to pay.
Deciding not to wait, that evening PL set out to settle her affairs with ATT Uverse. She called 800.228.2020 and couldn't get past the bots to a human, so she went online to "chat" with AT&T U-verse support here:
She connected and started chatting with a support rep named Rajma-something whose English was not, in PL's words, "American". She said she had a billing issue, and Raj replied he could assist her if she gave him the details. PL typed away. Raj asked questions indicating he did not understand, and PL typed some more. After several exchanges with lengthy delays in between, Raj declared his role was actually Tech Support so he couldn't help her. PL demanded to chat with Raj's supervisor. He came online with another "Indian-sounding"
The following morning, PL called the 877.288.7973 number "Raj" had given her to track down her second and missing $100.00 gift card. Not surprisingly, it was the wrong number. She then found and called the right number - 800.288.9983 - and connected with the AT&T Rewards Center. Employee number EV2455 checked her account, apologized for their "input error", and assured PL her second gift card would be on its way "in a few weeks".
Finally, PL called AT&T U-verse Billing Support yet again to try to find out what the composition of her unpaid balance was. When she did, she was surprised to hear the balance was now $48.00 higher than she'd previously been told, the increment being one more month's U-verse billing. She advised the billing rep that she'd been sold 6meg Internet service for $24.95 a month, and that she would not pay a penny more. The AT&T rep said that's not what their records showed, and there was nothing she could do to correct it. PL demanded to speak to a supervisor again, and was placed on hold for several minutes. When someone finally picked up, it was not a supervisor but another billing rep! PL was ready to explode, but instead again declared that she'd been sold 6meg Internet service for $24.95 a month, and that she would not pay a penny more. Unlike the last rep, this one promptly reduced PL's monthly rate to $24.95 and applied retroactive credits to correct the overbilling, which along with the "un-input" gift card PL now believes was intentional.
What do YOU think, America? Is AT&T U-verse serving the People, or fleecing the Sheeple?