Memo to AT&T: Thanks for Reminding Me Why I Left

Unless you’re dead, you’ve surely noticed the advertising blitz underway from AT&T promoting its high-speed Internet connections.


I used to have DSL from AT&T. (Disclosure: I still pay for its dial-up service, not because I use its dial-up service, but because it allows me to retain my long-time e-mail address at a minimal cost.) I switched to a wireless broadband connection from Sprint about eight years ago, not long after we moved into our new house. First AT&T would not guarantee connectivity at the new house – because we were about 100 feet beyond the associated boundary from the closest central office. The DSL worked, but AT&T simply wanted to cover its corporate assets. But it also neglected to tell me that it was going to take three weeks to switch the DSL service from the old address to the new one. Come on, guys, it’s flipping a switch.


So, while dealing with the stress of moving and unpacking, I was also dealing with a client project involving updating a Web site through a content management system … over dial-up. It was not a happy time. (And don’t even get me started about the time I heard people talking on my DSL line – which isn’t supposed to be possible – and AT&T voice support told me to call AT&T DSL support … and vice versa, over and over, until they finally dispatched both a voice tech and a DSL tech to the house to discover they’d plugged a neighbor’s voice line into my DSL line.)


But of course, now I’m older and beginning to forget things … like how little fun it was to deal with AT&T. For reasons I don’t understand – either because now Monica is using Citrix desktop virtualization tools to dial into her office on Fridays, or because another client of mine is using Dropbox for files – my data usage over Sprint’s broadband has skyrocketed. I ratcheted up into the next payment bracket to avoid the overage charges. So I started thinking about going back to AT&T.


Frankly, I love my Sprint broadband. Even though Sprint only promises that it works in major metropolitan areas, I’ve had no problem logging on everywhere from Kona to Sedona. It let me go into client offices where getting on the network was akin to walking into Fort Knox and still be online. I can work anywhere in the house, or the yard, without having to install a wireless router.


In addition to getting more expensive, my Sprint connection has also slowed down a tad recently, whether because of network demands or what I’m not sure. My antenna allows for both 3G and 4G access, depending on what’s strongest where I am, and I defaulted to 3G because it seemed to be more reliable. With 4G, the connection drops when the computer goes to sleep, and, for reasons I don’t understand, I have to unplug and plug in my mouse to get it to work again when that happens. Gee, I love technology.


Because AT&T had supposedly expanded the boundaries of where it would guarantee DSL to an area now including our house, I started investigating my former carrier again. One morning last week, I went to its Web site to confirm that I could indeed get its highest-speed connection. I clicked through to the “check availability” option, and found myself not with any insight about availability, but simply an option to “order upgrade.” Hey, guys, I’m not upgrading until I’m sure that I can get high-speed Internet. So I logged off and decided to try and find a human being to help me.


Bad decision.


I had forgotten that AT&T had installed a voice-recognition system to route its incoming calls. I’m sure you’ve run into these. You say what you want, and it routes you to the right person. In your dreams. Apparently I got the voice-recognition system that understands only Bulgarian, because even though I spoke and then screamed “INTERNET ACCESS” at it three times, it had no idea what I was saying. I hung up, wondering why in the world a sane company would spend millions – billions? – of dollars advertising a service and then make it almost impossible for anyone to order it.


But as it happened, in that day’s mail came a solicitation from AT&T, with a phone number to call. Bear in mind that this letter acknowledged that I was a current AT&T customer, so I figured the toll-free number on it had to be correct. I called and spoke to a very nice woman named Crystal, who said, yes, I could send the DSL unit back after 30 days if I determined that it wasn’t faster than what I already had. But for reasons I still can’t fathom, when she tried to enter my order, she said that because I was a current customer, she had to transfer me to a different agent.


But she didn’t. She transferred to the voice-recognition system. I hung up … again.


Many thanks, AT&T, for reminding me why I gave up on you in the first place.


cc: Randall Stephenson, CEO, AT&T


About middleagecranky

The Middle-Age Cranky blog is written by baby boomer Howard Baldwin, who finds the world, while occasionally wondrous, increasingly aggravating.
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6 Responses to Memo to AT&T: Thanks for Reminding Me Why I Left

  1. Tom says:

    AHHHH HHHAAAHHHhhhhhhhhhh………….some day we’ll look back on this and laugh, as we commiserate (as in:”remember when it was such a pain in the ass to __________________ (fill ’em in)) I can empathize with you, as I’ve become Mr. Hyde on more than one occasion, trying to deal with these companies. I will usually wait until the house is unoccupied before I call CS because I know I don’t want anyone to witness what a simpering, whining snibbler I become when I can’t get my simple request through to these “professionals” ie: “Can somebody there please tell me what my WEC is?”, for example. I think they pho k with you just for sport, and have a pool set up with bets on how long you’ll last before your voice rises above 130 Db. And then they tell you “Iye dunt onnerstan ewe, meestre Bladwynn. Can ewe spikk sluwwwer??!!! WHahhhhh??!!
    Anyway: been there, done that, wished for a mind control weapon of ass destruction.

    Did I say: don’t get me started on this??

  2. Markus Berg says:

    Sure miss the days of the sophisticated 2400 bits-per-second modem.

  3. Douglas Greenwood says:

    And you wonder why our economy is in the doldrums. Do these executives ever try to order service from their own companies? Success in business is about ripping people off – not selling them services. Ideally they will sell you a service you cannot receive. This will maximize revenues while minimizing costs. The only problem is that it is not sustainable.

    Well written Howard!!!

    • The real problem is that we have so few alternatives (although some readers have alerted me to other DSL options).

      Interestingly, since this post was published and I forwarded it to the CEO of AT&T, I’ve gotten three calls from two different people purporting to be from “the office of the president.” Which, to my mind, not only shows how disorganized they are, but how completely they missed the point of the story: I’M NOT COMING BACK.

  4. Jean says:

    We recently had the pleasure of having internet access / cable t.v. installed in our home. I lost count at how many phones calls and appointments it took to get it all up and running. My favorite was the explanation of why we kept getting booted off the system. “You see, it’s like a circus clown on a trapeze. He swings higher and higher until the swing goes all the way over the top . . . ”
    It’s like a circus alright.

  5. Pingback: Aggregated Aggravations | Middle-Age Cranky

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