AT&T Wireless Saga – $600 for an old phone and lies from Customer Care

Update 3 – August 6, 2014:  After several hours oh the phone with AT&T, and several folks from “Customer Care”, we now have a Microcell and it is working.  It turns out that the hardware has recently gone through a major revision, and while the stores still have the old models, corporate is out of those, and has not really distributed the ordering information for the new models to the service reps.  I suspect that AT&T would like to exhaust the inventory of the old model before rolling out the new one, which makes sense.  Their methods for doing that is causing major issues, obviously, for their customers and service personnel.

So while this has been a pretty frustrating run-around with AT&T, they eventually did what they needed to satisfy us.

Check my blog for a review of the new model femtocell, manufactured by Cisco.

Update 2 – July 31, 2014:  It turns out, the earlier update was simply another deception by AT&T.  After 2 hours on the phone today attempting to track down the “order” submitted, it was determined that AT&T is unable to fulfill the order, they do not have MicroCell devices for shipping, and cannot order them from their fulfillment center.  They suggested that we purchase one from a store for $300, and allow them to credit our account.  After all the lies and deception from AT&T, we obviously do not trust this, and expect this is just another way for the corporation to extract an additional $300 from us.  And I refuse to pay $300 to fill in the gaps in AT&T’s coverage.  We are contemplating simply ceasing payment to AT&T, transferring our numbers to another provider, and forcing AT&T to take us to court if they attempt to collect more money.  I’m curious what a judge would have to say.

Update:  I just got a call from AT&T.  They are shipping me one of their MicroCell devices at no charge. When I get it and have it set up at home, I’ll post another update about how it works.


 

Full Story – Posted July 27, 2014

I hope this will be a word of caution to current or potential AT&T Wireless customers.  I used to be a very satisfied customer, but changes at the company have left me stuck in AT&T contract jail.

I need to supply some history for context.  I have had my AT&T Wireless account even longer that AT&T Wireless has had it, because it started out a SunCom Wireless account, then it became Cingular, and eventually AT&T acquired it.  Plans have changed and morphed during that time, as have the phones.  I have had up to five phones on the account in the past, but I only have  three now.

I actually liked AT&T’s new plans, “Mobile Share Value”, they call it, and I signed up in August of 2013, after substantial research into the plan and competing plans from other providers. The 10GB data plan covered our usage over 3 phones very nicely.

Things started to go south when we moved to a new home in April, 2014.  We were used to 5 bars of signal most of the time at our previous residence, but now we had mostly just 1.  It deteriorated from there over a couple of months so that we experienced no signal and dropped calls about 1/2 the time.  It could be because all of the trees filled out – we are in a pretty forested area, and AT&T has towers fairly close.  When we contacted Customer Care, they suggested we buy a “MicroCell” to resolve it, and offered to sell it to us for $100.  They do not ship them, so we needed to go by an AT&T store for it.

So with that potential solution in mind, my wife decided to take advantage of a free upgrade she was eligible for, to replace her iPhone with the broken screen.  The order site offered a refurbished iPhone 4S for free, just for extending our contract for 2 years.

At least, that’s what the order site said.

It turns out, that upgrade for a 2-year-old (or more) refurbished phone would cost us $600.

I blame myself for not going back and reviewing all the fine print on AT&T site, their phone store, and our plan.  It turns out, the plan terms changed.  Since we were ordering a phone on contract, it meant the per-phone charge changed from $15 / month to $40!!  No notification of this, of course, until the next bill, which went from about $140 per month to $170.  Over 2 years, that’s $600.

We discovered all this when we contacted Customer Care about the increase.  The rep proceeded to deceive us, intentionally or not.  She suggested that if we were unsatisfied, we were still within a few days of the “buyer’s remorse” period, and could return the phone.  We decided to do that, since we could actually buy a similar phone for less than $200.  But she also let us know that the MicroCell (previously offered to us for $100 purchase) would also add $10 to our monthly service fee.

It turns out, these statements were both false, and I can only opine that the CS rep lied. The original offer on the MicroCell also turned out to be effectively a deception.  When we went to the store we were told the 14 days we had to return the phone had expired.  The MicroCell did not require a $10 / month fee, but the store also refused to sell it to use for less than $200, even though they had access to the Customer Care note offering the $100 price (we declined).

So in my opinion we have been lied to at least 3 times by Customer Care.  We are stuck in this contract unless we want to buy it out for $550 (ironically LESS than what the phone would ultimately cost under the plan, but far more than market value).

And a lousy signal at home.  I refuse to submit to the bait-and-switch that doubled the price of the MicroCell, and of course I don’t trust what I’m told by AT&T any more.  Maybe the offer was a lie, maybe the reps at the store are lying, for some reason of their own.  Maybe AT&T just has a massive internal communication problem and we are the ones  left dealing with it.

So word of caution to my readers.  Read the fine print carefully.  And get everything in writing before you rely on it.