AT&TOn November 25 I posted the story of my odyssey–and it has been an epic journey–in trying to get straight answers and customer service from AT&T: AT&T Customer Service: The Horror!  At the end of that article, I noted that I would do my best to contact people at the top of the corporation to see if they cared at all about customer service. So I wrote letters to three people:

att-executive-randall-stephensonRandall L. Stephenson, the CEO

att-executive-lori-leeLori Lee, Senior Executive Vice President–Home Solutions

att-executive-william-blaseWilliam A. Blasé Jr., Senior Executive Vice President–Human Resources

No, I’m not “outing” these folks or publishing their home addresses.  These are their official photos from AT&T’s executive bio website.  I chose those three out of a list of ten as they seemed the executives most likely to have something to do with the kinds of problems I was having, and perhaps, if they cared, to do something about it. To briefly summarize (take the link above for the entire surreal tale), I ended up having to “de-bundle” the four services I buy from AT&T–landline phone, low speed DSL Internet (billed as “hi-speed), satellite TV and wireless telephone–in order to buy new iPhones and pay for them at once rather than on the installment plan. I was solemnly promised that once the phones arrived, I could pay for them and I would be immediately re-bundled, a status which AT&T originally begged me to accept.

Paying off the phones became a root canal procedure without anesthetic, and over many conversations with many AT&T representatives, no one could tell me with any certainty if I was bundled or de-bundled, and promises were made to contact me with that information on a date certain, but of course, the person making the promise did not call me, and the last person with whom I spoke thought I might be partially bundled in that I would begin–at some point in the future–to get two separate bills, one with three of my services bundled together and one with the fourth.

But that’s not all or enough. For months now, my supposed “high speed” DSL internet service has been anything but. I’m paying for 6 MBPS and am lucky to get 2. Using speedtest.net http://www.speedtest.net I’ve been regularly measuring my Internet speed, and the most recent test came in a 1.43 MBPS. It does, on rare occasions, pop up a bit higher–I’ve actually seen figures a bit over 5 MBPS–but it also disappears entirely. What that means is many websites don’t load at all, and others load at the kind of speed those of us that used early dial-up Internet services recall with justified dread and loathing.

I spoke with an outside technician, David, who came to look into the problem last week, and he remains very frustrated. He has turned the problem over to the “pergain” (phonetic spelling) guys, who are apparently people that maintain the indoor (one hopes) electronic equipment that produces DSL service, but has heard nothing about their work, as he normally would not. He, however, promised to call his boss and see what they could do within the company. He assured me that the trouble is not in the wiring of my home, or the wiring to my home, which he entirely replaced last week. Other AT&T guys actually came to my home and neatly buried the new cable he ran, so I know that some AT&T employees are truly capable of doing their jobs properly and efficiently. He also assured me that I am only one of many AT&T customers in my area experiencing the very same trouble.

The problem is, that if I call that AT&T wireless assistance number, I get only a low level representative whose only apparent option, after doing the tests they have at their command, is to send out a technician who can only tell me what David has already told me. I know; I’ve done this multiple times in the last month.

I have every reason to believe David will do all he can, but I doubt it will be enough. He, like me, is a guy that works for a living and makes a living by getting things done. However, he, like me, is limited in what he can accomplish under the mandates of his “superiors.” But in the spirit of fairness, let me reveal what AT&T has done to address my letters to their executives, letters I put into the mail over the weekend of 11-29/30-14.

On Wednesday, 12-03, a young man named “Doug” or “Duck,” or Duh,” or something sounding like that, called and left a message on my answering machine. His message was barely audible, and not entirely intelligible by any means, which, considering it was coming over AT&T lines should not, I suppose, be surprising–my answering machine was working just fine. He said, if I understood him correctly, that he was calling from the President’s office and that they don’t bundle things anymore, thank me very much and goodbye. Of course, any call from AT&T personnel is blocked, displaying only as “unknown” on caller ID, and not allowing a call back number, so there was no way I could call Doug/Duck/Duh.

On Friday, during my 5th period class, a young lady whose name I couldn’t make out, called my cell phone and told me she was calling from the office of the President. I explained–exquisitely politely–that I was a teacher in the middle of a class and asked if she might please call back forty minutes later when I would have my conference period and could speak with her unimpeded. She said that she would and we parted entirely amicably.

Gentle readers, I dared to allow myself, for a short time, hope. I actually believed–foolish though that belief was–that because she said so, she would call me back and perhaps I would be in touch with someone who had sufficient power and interest to actually get my questions answered and my technical issues fixed. Of course, she did not call me back, which seems to be official AT&T protocol, and because she is from AT&T, she displays as “unknown” on caller ID, and I could not call her back. This, sadly, is what I have come to expect from AT&T.

And so, once again, I will send a letter–there appears to be no other way in this age of low speed internet–to contact the CEO of AT&T so that another young man or woman can call me at the worst possible time and leave a message or promise to call back when I can actually speak with them and then ignore me.

So what, you ask, do I want? What unreasonable demands am I making?

I’d like some idea why no one to whom I spoke had any idea of their own company policies. Why did I get conflicting information call after call? Why did I have to lose all those hours–and it has been hours–of my life just to discover that AT&T is no longer bundling my billings?

I’d also like to know when these new semi-bundled billings–and what, precisely, they are–will go into effect and if they still have my debit information so they can simply debit my account every month as they have been doing for many years. After all, it was AT&T that talked me into doing business with them that way in the first place, lo, these many years ago. They no longer do bundling? Fine. But why can’t I speak with someone that can sort out, quickly efficiently, and once and for all, what should be simply fixed issues so AT&T gets its money on time, which is what I have always intended and always done until I was so foolish as to buy new phones for more than $1300?

I’d like to know that AT&T is actually aware of not only my DSL problems, but the DSL problems of my neighbors in the surrounding area, and that they are aware of them in such a way that they are actually fixing the problem.

I’d like to know when that problem will be fixed, and in the meantime, I’d like a phone number of an actual human being in a position to know what’s being done, and when it will be fixed, so I can know, at some point, that I am getting that service for which I am paying

Finally, I’d like to know to whom I should speak in order to get appropriate credit for the Internet service I have been paying for but not getting for many months.

As I mentioned in the last article, all of the folks that tried to help me, with perhaps a single exception, were friendly and sincere.  It’s not their fault.  But good grief, if my experience with trying to accomplish simple tasks–in large part trying to give AT&T substantial money–is common, how do they stay in business?

I’m not asking for an insincere apology from AT&T’s insincere apology department, which, if my experience is any indicator, must be one of AT&T’s largest divisions. I’m just hoping for a bit of human decency and actual competence. Is that too much to ask? Up until this point, it seems to be.  I’ve been an AT&T customer for more than a decade.  I’d like to continue–Lord help me–to be.

So, “unknown” AT&T personnel, I’d appreciate a call.  I’d appreciate speaking with a real human being with the ability and willingness to do what is necessary to definitively answer my relatively simple questions and to see that my technical problem is sorted out.  Please call me at my cell phone number–surely you know it (you’ve called it once already) between 1:40 and 2:22 PM or between 4:00 and 5:00 PM daily (CST). I’ll be waiting and hoping to have my faith in the humanity of those working at AT&T restored, at least a little. After all, it’s nearly Christmas.