AT&T’s bad customer service

Well, I had pretty much made my mind up to buy a damn iPhone despite my misgivings. I went to my local AT&T store about a week ago and asked the friendly customer service rep about upgrading, pricing, et cetera. His response was: as long as I would re-sign for another two years with AT&T, I could get the discounted pricing; it didn’t matter when my current contract expired.

Yesterday, worried that there would be some hitch when I tried to renew a contract with an out-of-state number, I went into the store again and spoke to a different rep. He told me that because I wasn’t yet eligible for an upgrade, the store couldn’t sell me a phone at the discounted price even if I re-signed my contract. He suggested that I call AT&T’s 800 number and ask a rep there to change my account to allow for an upgrade. That way, I could upgrade in the store with no problem.

Last night, I called AT&T’s 800 number (1-800-331-0500 — which you can find in a brief 4 clicks from AT&T’s home page). The woman who answered informed me that I was not eligible for an upgrade and that I wouldn’t be able to get the iPhone for the discounted price. Then she scolded me about my past due balance and emphasized that I wouldn’t be able to upgrade anyway unless I paid my balance. I told her I was aware of the balance but I didn’t like the tone she took as though the call had changed from me asking what I thought was a simple question to a debt collection call.

I told her that it was my understanding from what I was told in the store originally that as long as I renewed my contract for 2 years, I would receive the discount. She put me on hold to ask a supervisor.

When she returned, she told me that I should just show up at the store on Friday and see if they could give me the discount. She didn’t know if I could. I was confused as to what to say. Surely she didn’t think I’d stand in line just to see if I could buy a phone at discount? I told her that it was my hope that I’d get some official word from her. She said she didn’t know and encouraged me again to go to my local store and see what would happen.

THEN — this is where it went from a merely dissatisfying trip down customer service lane to a full-blown annoyance — she asked me (as they do when they sign off) if I would say she had answered my questions satisfactorily. I repeated the question to her to make sure that’s what she said because I was ready with a hearty “hell no.” She confirmed and I said “Absolutely not. I called to get a definitive answer and you couldn’t give me one.”

And then it got classic, she argued with me as if the fact that she couldn’t give me an answer shouldn’t affect whether I was satisfied or not. I couldn’t believe it.

If it’s the policy of AT&T that customers who aren’t eligible for upgrades can’t get the discount, then so be it. But they could get all of their employees on the same page. Furthermore, as I explained to the woman last night, I don’t understand why AT&T wouldn’t encourage existing customers to extend their service plans rather than pay more for the hardware. None of this makes any sense to me.

UPDATE: I’ll note two things. One, the guys at the AT&T store seemed great. I just got conflicting information. But neither had the attitude that the 800 number lady did. And two, the woman on the phone was right. Current AT&T customers who are not eligible for an upgrade cannot purchase the phone for $199. To be eligible, one must have less than 6 months left on his contract. That is, seemingly, customers who purchased the iPhone last year and wish to get the new one, must buy one at full price.

Unfortunately, this is not my first run-in with AT&T’s moronic customer service. The outcome of that story is that AT&T ended up bricking the GoPhone I had bought because of some technicality that prevents a customer from buying a GoPhone to run on an existing plan.