I feel I need to warn people about my experience with AT&T's
horrendous customer service and warn them about my friend's horrible
experience with the CallVantage service. This is in New York City, I
don't know if it works better in other states, since I see some people
here seem to not be having problems, but my experience has been
abominable and AT&T raises the question, can a major corporation reach
a level of incompetence where they can actually drive themselves out
of business. Because if it's possible, I think AT&T can do it.
It all started around the middle of October. At this time I had been
considering going from normal phone service to digital phone service,
which is a bit cheaper. I had actually ordered this from Time Warner,
who made an appointment to come out and install the proper hardware.
But then I got mail from AT&T with an offer for their own, cheaper
digital CallVantage service, with free activation and a month of free
service, so I decided to cancel with Time Warner and order CallVantage.
Ordering the service took quite a while because the offer I had been
mailed did not match the offer the operator showed on her computer,
which did not have the free month and free activation, so she had to
spend some time fixing that.
AT&T mailed me a phone adapter with instructions for how to set it up.
The instructions told me to check my confirmation email for my login
name, but I had never received a confirmation email, so I phoned up
and was told the order had been cancelled because there was a port
change request against my phone number. This was apparently because
AT&T had put in the order before Time Warner had cancelled my order
with them. AT&T had first told me to call Verizon, because they said
Verizon was the carrier for all of New York City, but this isn't true.
Actually, AT&T was my carrier, but they insisted I call Verizon, who
predictably said I wasn't in their system (I think the problem is AT&T
no longer accepts new customers for normal phone service and doesn't
actually know it still is a carrier).
AT&T said I would have to reorder the service, so I did. Once again I
had to verify I was getting the same offer, and found that now they
were charging the activation fee, but when I told them that was wrong
they fixed it (or said they did). I was also told I could set up my
service right away, since I had the adapter. Five minutes later I
realized I still didn't know my login and I called back and she said
the confirmation email could take a couple of days (which I was later
told by someone else was incorrect). A couple of days later I called
back, said I still hadn't received a confirmation email and was told
my case would be transferred to a specialist who would get back to me
in 48 hours. After 48 hours passed I called again and was told my
login name was just my phone number! Apparently it did not occur to
any of the other phone support personnel to tell me this.
I hooked up the adapter but it didn't work, and I found I couldn't log
into the website with my login name. I called tech support. After
some investigation they discovered that neither my first nor second
order had gone through. They said the best thing to do would be to
wait a few weeks until both orders completely cleared out of the
system and then try again.
As it happens, a friend of mine had also ordered CallVantage, and by
this time I had learned through her that it was absolutely horrible.
It frequently went out and since it worked through her cable modem she
was told every time it stopped working she would have to turn off her
modem and computer for 15 minutes then restart. Sound quality was
poor and when I would talk to her there would be an echo half the
time. She had called tech support, and one person told her it would
take a few weeks before the system "settled down," and that after that
it would be better. Later a different tech person told her it would
settle down in about 72 hours. It never actually settled down. She
had a miserable time until she could switch back to a normal phone
line. She said the service was clearly still in the beta testing
stage and AT&T shouldn't be selling it until it actually worked.
(When she got her first bill, they had charged her both the activation
fee and the first month, although they had told her they wouldn't, and
had actually charged her conventional rates for the first several days
she had used the service, during which she had made some lengthy long
distance calls, and she had to go through a series of support people
to get these charges removed).
So at this point I said, never mind, cancel my order, I don't want
CallVantage. It was cancelled just at the end of November, and I
thought that was the end of it.
A couple of days before the end of December my phone went dead. I
used my girlfriend's cell phone to call AT&T and they said they had
cancelled my service because there was a port change request for my
number. I said I had not ordered a change in service and they said I
should call Verizon. Once again I told them Verizon wasn't my
carrier, AT&T was, once again they insisted, and the operator at
Verizon actually laughed when I told her my story and confirmed that I
was not in their records.
I called AT&T again. They began transferring me from one department
to another. The analog phone service people said the problem came
from CallVantage, that the order had never been cancelled.
CallVantage said no, the order had been cancelled long ago. I was
finally transferred to a specialist who would consult with various
people in various departments while I stayed on hole. Finally after
being on hold for 20 minutes the recording telling me to wait
disappeared and after five minutes I gave up. They had asked for the
cell phone number so they could call me back if we got disconnected,
but they did not call me back, and I had no idea who I had last been
talking to or how to contact them. I had also used up an hour of my
girlfriend's minutes for nothing.
After my girlfriend went back home I had no phone, so I contacted AT&T
through a form on their website. (Normally I would have gone to a
friend's house and borrowed their phone but I had bronchitis and was
not up to facing the winter weather.) After a couple of days AT&T
replied to tell me their records showed I was no longer a customer of
AT&T (keep in mind I had explained the enter story in my message to
them). I sent a reply repeating what had happened. They emailed me
back to tell me to phone the repair department, although I had
explained I had no way to make phone calls. I explained that to them
again. They then told me that they were the CallVantage division (I
had just used the contact AT&T form on the website) and couldn't help
me. I said, are you telling me there is no way to contact anyone in
repair by email and they sent me a url for a different form that
contacted regular analog repair service. It had taken them five days
to send me to the right people.
The repair department of course emailed back to ask me to call them.
I emailed and said once again that I had no phone and that since I
have no way to fix my own phone, I have explained the problem in
detail already and when I'm on the phone with them they just keep me
on hold that there was no reason to actually have me on the phone.
They then emailed me again to say there was no way they could
reinstate my number, it was gone, and gave me a number where I could
call to get new AT&T service. Instead I went to Verizon's website and
signed up for phone service, which will presumably be turned on in a
couple of days.
It is my greatest hope in life that I never again have to deal with