AT&T! Stop wasting my time!

AT&T now owes me for six hours of my life ...

It seems to me that one of AT&T's strategic goals is to waste our time.

For now, let's focus on me and let me explain just how much of my time AT&T has wasted over the last few weeks ...

The AT&T "Death Star" logo

Our cell phones are under my beloved's name and I reently needed to change the caller IDs for each line. This, one would think, would not be that difficult ... but one would be wrong. Very wrong.

While the primary phone could be seen under the Login ID the other phones apparently didn't exist. After hanging on the phone for an hour with various ill-informed customer service people I figured it out. AT&T kept referring to something called an "Access ID" which, it turns out, is different from a User ID in some unfathomable and illogical way. Once I got an Access ID I could see the other phones and could change their Caller IDs.

Elapsed time? This took about 70 minutes.

Could someone at AT&T please explain why the company uses such a complicated system? I'll bet AT&T spends a ridiculous amount of money on customer support sorting this kind of nonsense and I'm betting they don't really know they do. Why would I bet on it? Because the majority of their CSRs don't know anything beyond the absolute basics and in my case they didn't know bugger-all about Access IDs. 

And whenever I have asked an AT&T CSR "Will you tell your management about this?" most of them admit that they never get to provide management with such insight. They are apparently as much a way of servicing customer queries as they are a buffer between management and the real world.

But wait! There's more ...

A few days later I called to find out about getting my iPhone speaker fixed under the insurance plan (it had, annoyingly and, of course, out of warranty, died for no obvious reason so I couldn't hear my phone ringing). It turned out after a call to AT&T then to Asurion (the insurance company) then to AT&T then Asurion then AT&T that it would cost $199. 

Why so many back and forth calls? Because Asurion wanted to know the "account password." I tried every password I could find but nothing was correct. It turns out that when you establish an AT&T wireless account (something I hadn't done for several years) you set up a PIN.

Of course, AT&T customer service and Asurion don't call it that ... oh no, they call it "account password", "your password", and any of a handful of other aliases that are completely useless if you don't happen to remember that you first had a PIN. Finally I got hold of a CSR who had a clue and we figured out that the PIN was required and what it was. Then he pointed out that the repair would cost as much as upgrading so we thought "why not?"

"OK" he said, "you'll be getting an email for each new phone and you need to follow the links in them to accept the terms and conditions otherwise your order will cancel in 72 hours and you'll have to start all over again."

No problem, the messages arrived and I followed the links. Finally, after hopping from the landing page then to another page I wound up on a really badly designed page that instructed me to check the "I accept ..." box to accept the T&Cs. I checked the box but the Submit button stayed disabled and greyed out.

I looked through the endless legalese in the scrolling frame on the page in case there was another check box I hadn't noticed as well as to make sure I got to the end of the document in case that was what enabled the Submit button. Nothing. 

I next unchecked the check box and a message suddenly appeared beside the document title saying "You have accepted the terms and conditions" ... but the Submit stayed disabled. I re-checked the box and the message disappeared but the Submit button didn't change. I was tempted to put my fist through the screen.

Finally I called customer service and spoke to someone in Mumbai who was without a clue and when I asked for a supervisor he sent me back to the inbound queue whence I wound up with another CSR also sans clue. I called back again and got someone who suggested I needed Web support who suggested "Can you try another browser?"

For heavens sake! I was using Chrome on OS X but OK ... and lo and behold, checking the check box worked under Safari.

Let's see, a simple form with a check box under Chrome, the third most popular browser on the 'Net and you, AT&T, can't, don't, or won't support it?   

Elapsed time to sort out insurance, upgrade instead, and accept the T&Cs? 200 minutes.

A week later the new phones arrived. We switched over and ... and all was not right because my beloved's new iPhone 5S needed to have its voicemail set up. To cut a tedious story short, it turned out that calling your voicemail from your iPhone didn't, and may still not, send you into management mode as it should but rather didn't connect you to your voicemail at all. 

After much messing around I got a tech who told me that this was a new problem that had only come to light yesterday afternoon (hard to believe), affected only the iPhone 5S, and thenm with a wave of his ATT&T CSR's wand, he fixed the problem.

Elapsed time? 90 minutes.

If AT&T did, in fact, know about this problem why not put a note in the support section where I, and many other people, would first turn. W\Or better yet, why not just go through all of the iPhone 5S accounts and fix their voicemail automatically? Or why not send all iPhone 5S account holders a text or an email message? 

AT&T, you owe me roughly six hours of my life.

If there was any benefit to it I'd switch carriers but, unfortunately, in my experience it doesn't matter which carrier you use, they're all pretty much the same: Careless, expedient, disorganized, customer de-focussed, sloppy, and money-grubbing. That's what a lack of real competition does to companies. AT&T's slogan is now "think possible": It should really be "think profits."

AT&T is not too big to fail. It's become too big to succeed.

Your thoughts below or drop a note to gearhead@gibbs.com then follow me on TwitterApp.net, and Facebook.

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