Why I Hate AT&T

AT&T is trying to drive me crazy. And they’re succeeding.

I know a lot of people have problems with AT&T’s service, or their arguably evil politics. That’s not our complaint. (Yes, it probably should be, but I have limited amounts of political spleen to vent, and what I’ve got doesn’t extend to my phone service.)

No, my problem is with their billing. Not only are the statements themselves incomprehensible–I made it through law school, I teach graduate students at a major university, I don’t think I’m unusually stupid, and I don’t begin to understand them–but their record-keeping is screwed up and their website has clearly been designed by the liquor industry in order to drive users to drink.

We’ve had an account with AT&T for years. A credit card on file with the company was routinely charged as bills came due. And then, for reasons that will forever be beyond me, it wasn’t.

We were out of town, and I picked up my phone to make a call. I got a message telling me that service was being cut off for lack of payment. We couldn’t figure out why, and we weren’t at home where we could look at our records, so we called the billing office (that call is allowed!), made a payment from our bank account, and then pretty much forgot about it.

Then today–barely ten days after we’d made the late payment–we got a text message telling us that we still owed money. Confused, my husband called. In the two or so hours he was on the phone, he was told that the credit card on file had been rejected. When he asked for the account number of that card, it was a number totally unfamiliar to us. I don’t know whose account it was or is, but it was a number and an account we don’t currently have, and have never had previously.

The “service representative” (!) was unable to explain why they showed a number utterly foreign to us, but insisted that AT&T would not take a substitute–indeed, that the company could no longer accept any credit card from such dubious customers. (We’ve been paying AT&T regularly and without incident for well over 25 years, but evidently that wasn’t enough to earn us the benefit of the doubt.)

Long-suffering husband paid–again–through bank transfer. Per instructions from “customer service” (note quotation marks),  he then went online to correct the credit card information.  There he encountered a form clearly devised by Kafka: upon filling out the profile, with name, account number, etc., and clicking “submit,” a message comes up asking that the type of credit/debit card be entered. But there is no place to enter that information. NONE.

Another call. Another “service” representative unable to explain the rather glaring omission on the online form. A lengthy effort to convey the information verbally.

I hope we’ve finally gotten our account straightened out, although god knows I wouldn’t bet on it.

Bottom line? The two of us have spent a significant part of our day talking to people who were unable to answer reasonable questions like “why do you show a credit card that isn’t ours” and “when did you start seeing rejections from this card?” and “where on your profoundly fucked-up online form can we insert the information you are asking for?”

The next time someone tells me how unresponsive “big government” is, I’m going to suggest they try dealing with big telecom. For now, I’m heading for the liquor cabinet…