AT&T Wins The CogSogBlog All Time Customer Service Hall of Shame

Readers of the CogDog may know we are not that gentle towards bad service from big corporate entities. My recent experience with AT&T Universal and Phone Company (and whatever the other percentage of the universe they own) has earned them the all time Pile of Stinky Poop Award for doing just that with their service. Bear with this tragic tale…

The December statement on my AT&T Universal MasterCard showed a November 11 phone call charge to my AT&T Universal Calling Card from a pay phone in Vermont to some number I did not recognize in Wilmington Delaware. The minor problems with this was that I was in Auckland New Zealand on that date, and since no one else has access to my card, well it ought to be addressed. Now the irony of all this is that the call was billed $1.05 and by the time all the charges are slapped on top, it came to $3.19- an amount normally not even worth bothering with.

But I was concerned that some bad person out there (is that you, Mr Phentermine Spammer? It smells like… ) had access to my codes. So I called AT&T on Dec 20, and tried to explain it to the young woman on the customer service line, but she misunderstood when I expressed my concern over the account, and next thing I knew is that she had cancelled my entire MasterCard account completely to issue a new card. And apparently, at the big AT&T in the sky, there is no big UnDo button.

“Well, okay” I said, “I am done shopping and do not need the card right away.”

“All you have to do is call us when you get your new card, and when you activate it over the phone, you can file a dispute about the charge,” instructed Ms Chipper Customer Support Specialist.

Okay, fast forward to today, when I get back into town. The new card is here, and I call the 1-800 number to activate it. The dude with the slightly twisted British accent (it sounded almost like it was a synthetic generated voice??) took care of that efficiently, but when I asked about taking care of the charge, he provided another 1-800 number.

“Well, mate. You have to contact AT&T Calling Card people to address this.”

Okay, so it is off to another 800 number. This one greeted with the automated response, welcoming me to AT&T, and asking me to enter the phone number my call was in reference to. Now this had me puzzled, since I do not use AT&T for local or long distance calling at all, but I figured, what the heck, and punched in my home phone, the one hopefully associated with my AT&T MasterCard accounts.

Now I entered phone purgatory.

A woman with an Indian accent dryly noted. “All operators are busy. Your call is important. Please wait for the next available operator.”

This was repeated every 90 seconds, which equates to sheer torture for the 18 minutes I waited. I would sure like to strap and AT&T executive in a hard wooden chair and force them to listen to this water torture equivalent.

Okay, finally a human answered. I hate to say things like this, and cannot assume this was an over seas call center, but his accent was so thick I could only make partial guesses at what he was asking me.

“Walkomm to ATT. Pliss till me your fone number”, he greeted.

Didn’t I punch that in during the opening phase of this session? What the ____ is that for if I need to recite it again? Is this a test? I provided it again.

“What ees yur passwood?” Okay, for the 1000th time I get to utter my mom’s maiden name.

“Pliss confirm yur home ahhdreeess.” he mumbled.

I complied. I said it slowly, as he was softly echoing my words, as I picture his finger slowly crossing the read out on his monitor screen. Does he also see past records that indicate I am a crank? a nuisance?

“An who ess your lokal und lung distance fone currier?” he inquired.

Now this teed me off- I was just trying to clear up a measly $3.19 charge, why the bleeding cheesecake would he need to know my phone carriers? “I do not see how this is relevant, why do you need to ask”

“Mumbo jumbo mumbo jumbo policy mumbo jumbo mumbo jumbo mumbo jumbo mumbo jumbo AT&T mumbo jumbo mumbo jumbo mumbo jumbo mumbo jumbo mumbo jumbo mumbo jumbo.” is what I heard. I actually was not listening and certainly was not going to tell him (Okay, it is MCI pfffffffffttt, but he never heard it).

After all this, I tried to explain why I was wasting his time for a $3.19 issue, when he let me know that the 1-800 number I called inadvertently was transferred to his area, and that I really needed to call another 1-800 branch of Planet AT&T to get someone on AT&T Calling Card service. Now it gets even more fun.

This next number lands me into some automated customer service that asks me to state the nature of my call. I say slowly and clearly for voice identification purpose, “Dispute Charges”. It then asks me for a number of options that do not apply, leaving me the last choice, “Other”. Here is the response:

“The office that can handle this issue is now closed. You are welcome to use our online request form on our web site at Double You Double You Double You DOT A T T DOT COM SLASH service. Do you want me to repeat that address?” asked Ms. Smooth AI Voice.


“Thank you, Goodbye”.

At this point 45 minutes into the zaniness, I admit defeat. The Customer Service machine has trampled me completely. I surrender and accept my $3.19 is toast.

I log onto my online account… Oops that does not work since they canceled my old card. I have to create a new profile for the new card number. I get in there, print and mail a dispute form, and then try to explain this circus via their online email form. This has an interesting feature. It provides a text entry box about 200 pixels wide, and lets me know I can write 20 lines of text. Thinking the box is sized appropriately, I mince details, leave out my cussing, and try to describe all the above events into that freakin’ form box.

It bounces back at me and says, “Please make your message 20 lines or less.” Now how the sniffing corn cob am I supposed to know how long these 20 lines are? Are they 10 characters, 40, 72, 1028? Once again, AT&T is a huge corporate battleship with more programmers than I can even imagine, but they put up these inhumane web forms that like their phone systems, are psychologically rigged to knock you down again and again, Why the Sam Hill can I now fully write to them a detailed complaint? They are more than welcome to skim or ignore, but to cut me down at the knees at the point of entry is just the poorest of crappy design.

At this point I am bouncing feverishly off the walls of my padded cell, where the red cushions bear the AT&T logo. They win. I am subdued and medicated.

AT&T can know proudly claim their prize as the top of The CogSogBlog All Time Customer Service Hall of Shame. No one can win against them.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.