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Monthly Archives: April 2012
April 12, 2012Posted by on
We’ve all had our run-ins with poor customer service. AT&T tends to have a higher frequency of such horror stories. Today’s is a little different. Not so much in the way that it’s a rant – this is a rant like any other, so strap in. What sets MY bad experience apart is the punchline. What’s the punchline of all this TL;DR cool story? My credit score has now been royally EFFED.
Let me give you a little backstory first. So when I left Treyarch in September of last year, it wasn’t just my employment that ended. My company phone line ended as well. Now, I knew I didn’t want to be an AT&T customer. But the only way to keep my phone # (since it was an enterprise #) was to port it out to another AT&T account – a personal account. Given that the Sprint iPhone was coming out a short 2 weeks later, my plan was as follows:
- Sign up for AT&T.
- Return the iPhone within 30 days (within their “buyers remorse” penalty-free window).
- Cancel my contract (again, within their 30-day penalty-free window).
- Get my Sprint iPhone (unlimited data FTW!)
And my plan went flawlessly…. Sort of.
At first it seemed fine. I went back to the store, returned my iPhone, told them I had gotten a job somewhere else and needed my number ported over to Sprint, and they totally were helpful and understanding and upheld their terms of service accordingly. I left the store a happy customer (of 2 weeks). Well a month later, I receive my AT&T bill in my inbox (note: I signed up for e-statements only). The bill was clearly an error, since I had canceled my contract right?
After calling AT&T, this is what they told me. Told me I had nothing to worry about. Another month goes by, and I get yet another bill – plus late fees. This time I physically go into the same AT&T store I originally got into this mess with, and they cleared things up. Apparently, I had to pay for the 2-weeks a prorated amount for the service I had used. The customer support rep I had called originally was simply misinformed. Okay, fair enough, they waived the late fee and I paid the prorated bill, and that was that.
I triply-verified with this douchebag – “So I am free and clear, yes? I owe AT&T absolutely no more money, is this the case?” – And he said “Yes.” I even had him delete my customer records from their system, as not to be bothered by it again. He said as far as AT&T’s billing department was concerned, “You don’t exist anymore, sir. You’re all set!”
A little aggravating, but at this point I’m fairly satisfied with their service…. I’m a reasonable guy, I get it, shit happens – it was nice for them to understand it wasn’t my fault and waive those late fees.
Fast forward to today – the first day I’ve heard anything about my old AT&T account.
What exactly did I receive? I received a letter in the mail from a collections agency, stating that they bought-out my account from AT&T, and I owe them an outstanding balance of $68 (which was precisely the late fee that AT&T wanted me to pay from several months ago, after they didn’t properly cash me out when I returned my phone). Plus, I now owe the collections agency all sorts of surcharges as well.
After feeling my core body temperature raise about 7 degrees, it’s at this point I issue this tweet.
Time-Out: I know some of my readers are a bit young to understand how credit works, so I want to explain why this is such a big deal. Once you start owing money in this country, you have a permanent record known as your “credit score”. This number represents to the rest of the world how good of a borrower you are. Any time you owe somebody money, and fall behind on paying that person (beyond their normal late-fee grace periods), you run the risk of negatively affecting this score. A score too low tells potential loaners not to go near you with a 10-foot pole. Now if you owe somebody money for long enough, no matter how moot the amount (in my case $60), and it goes unpaid for so long that a COLLECTIONS AGENCY gets ahold of it – you can bet your ass your credit score will tank. For just one indiscretion - in my case, an indiscretion I had absolutely no control over.
So I’m on the phone with this lady, Marie – nice gal. I warned her that I was in the red, and if I say anything to offend her while in a blinding rage to not take it personally. She seemed to play along alright, was very understanding as all customer service reps should be, and I didn’t take her head off too badly guys. I’ve been on her side before, I know it wasn’t her fault personally – but I made it very clear why I was irate, in-general.
She confirmed for me the following:
- The account was sent to collections mistakenly.
- The late fee that the store manager was supposed to credit back to my account, never got credited back.
- The prorated 2-weeks of service I paid was accurate, meaning had their store manager not screwed up, none of this would have happened.
- I had no address on file (WTF?) so AT&T never sent me any more notices after my final visit to their store (translation: I had no way of knowing I owed them money until the letter from collections).
Okay, so here’s AT&T “fixing the problem” for me. They say they’ll contact the collections agency, inform them that the account was sent their way by mistake, and have them remove me from their system. Furthermore, she “assured” me (sound familiar?) that I now owe AT&T absolutely ZERO dollars, and ZERO cents, and that my account is in good standing and is now closed (again….).
Then she tried to rush me off the phone.
“No no no, that’s unacceptable – what about my CREDIT?” I exclaim. You can’t measure the impact that this negative drop in my credit score might have on me. Future employment, buying a house, financing a car – anything that carries with it a credit check has now been jeopardized because of these asshats! “Oh I’m sorry, you’ll have to speak to my manager sir.” – You’re damn right I will, put me through!
After speaking to her manager, Michel Dennis, who sounded like a fat white lady who hated her life and was on a serious tough-gal streak, tried to bully me off the phone. Her words were, on paper, very politically correct. She was apologetic, profusely sorry for my inconvenience, and assured me they would do everything they could to make things right. Though her tone of voice had this hint of “Go fuck yourself” to it that really rubbed me the wrong way. Though, it made sense very quickly.
I asked her politely: “Can you please get in touch with the credit bureaus and notify them that this was your mistake, and return my credit score back where it belongs?” Her response: “Well unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about that… Once the ding hits, it’s done and over with. Fortunately though it will rebound if you continue to have a good credit record. I’m sorry that’s the best I can say.” ….. “Excuse me?” I exclaim. “I’m sorry Mr. Olin there’s just nothing else I can do, we’ve done everything we can to help you.” – Oh boy…
At this point I begin to lose my cool. I reiterate to her the facts: I did everything right. You did everything wrong. I’ve never had a late payment on anything in my entire life. My credit score has taken a serious hit as a result of your company’s screw-up… And I’m the one that’s shit out of luck? “Yup.” (paraphrasing her response).
Astonished at the complete lack of care or common decency – her total and utter indifference to this situation – I ask: “Alright, I have total confidence that you guys have cleared this up on your end, and will get this collection agency off my back. However, how exactly does AT&T plan to compensate me for the damage done to my credit score?” This is what she told me, I swear to god: ”Well had you still been a customer with us, we could compensate you in the form of a credit to your account or free product… But unfortunately you’re not a customer with us anymore, soooo….” – Repeat that last quote, but with a cunty undertone in your voice…. “You’re god damn right I’m not a customer with AT&T anymore, are you mental???” I said that. Remember, I’m in the red right now. So I can’t be held accountable for the things I say… I warned them of this.
At any rate, I had her verify this was AT&T’s final stance on the whole thing, and I told her as politely and un-threateningly as I could that I would be writing my congressman, district attorney, and conferring with my own counsel on how to pursue this matter. She very brashly said she was sure, and hurried me off the phone.
So that’s where I’m at. I was serious – I spent a good chunk of today documenting all of this, and I sent off a nice long letter to Rep. Karen Bass (my congresswoman). I’m not entirely sure what outcome I expect… But I feel like somebody should be accountable (AT&T, more specifically). I told her about my customer service experience, and the fact that the first lady I spoke with – Marie – seemed to be following a very specific step-by-step guide as to how to open a case to recover my account from collections. Meaning, this happens to enough AT&T customers that they have internal knowledge bases that they disseminate to their Tier-1 customer support reps on how to handle this sort of incident. If it’s that widespread, something needs to be done.
I’m fortunate. I’ve had a pristine credit record my whole life, so despite this hit, I should still be able to carry on with my life the way I always have. But what about your average American who is behind on bills in this economy? Who owes student loans, and can’t afford to have interest sky rocket on them? I have to imagine this type of incident has seriously ruined some people’s lives, and that to me is absolutely unacceptable.
I don’t believe there is no way for a credit bureau to reverse a penalty to your credit score. I refuse to believe that there’s no way to undo a mistake like this. And if there truly is no way to undo something like this, then that’s got to change. Hopefully my petitions to various state departments will yield some sort of answer to these questions, if not some sort of change.
And maybe I’ll just sue AT&T over this… I mean, it is the American dream after all.
April 10, 2012Posted by on
While I know one night is nowhere near enough for a full picture or thoughtful review process of a game as massive as Firefall, I do believe there is an invaluable merit to first impressions. Here’s mine. Oh, and I’m not a professional games reviewer, so I adhere to no review standards – full disclaimer .
What I Loved:
I loved the universe you’re set in. As an RPG FPS, a level of depth and complexity to the world is paramount. Red 5 Studios hit the nail on the head in this regard. I’m also a big fan of crafting in my RPG’s, and it’s clear Red 5 is as well!! I like that the classes you play are all well defined, and in order to be an effective squad roaming the open world, it’s important to have teammates who know their roll – all solid elements that comprise a great RPG FPS.
The game is incredibly beautiful for a Free-to-Play game. In terms of visual appeal, you would think this game had a monthly subscription, or cost $60. It’s clear the team handled “Free-to-Play” properly, and didn’t read it as “skimp on quality since we’re giving it away for free.”
In short, my first night was incredibly fun! Despite the natural learning curve inherent in all new games – especially environment-driven RPG’s – I never had a dull moment in Firefall.
What I’d Love:
Bear in mind, this is an early beta build of the game I am playing. Invite only, in-fact. This means there are a ton of things the developers have restricted (made impossible to unlock or experience), as well as a ton of bugs. I won’t focus on a bug intentionally here – and it’s very well possible some of the things listed below are in the final game. They were not, however, in my first Beta experience:
- Fast recalling back to town. Since there is no apparent penalty to dying, I found myself just committing suicide rather than trekking all the way back across the world. Might as well just have a mechanism to get me back to town that doesn’t involve me kamikaze-ing to my demise.
- Faster leveling (which perhaps would require a higher level cap). It’s such a long road between any given levels – even Level 2 and Level 3 – that it felt like I wasn’t really getting much of any reward. We mined for a good 40 minutes without leveling up at some points (felt like an eternity). Especially since my next ability unlock wasn’t until Level 4, this was excruciating. After playing for about 7 hours, for example, I was only Level 5.
- More glider launchpads. Gliders are what allow you to move the fastest through the world, and are a ton of fun. I’d like to see them in more places, or even as an item or ability!
- Scaling difficulties around your Thumper. Your Thumper is a device that mines resources from the planet. These resources are how you craft new items, abilities, and upgrades. You call in a Thumper when you discover a rich mining vein in the ground, and then the noise the Thumper generates pulls waves and waves of creatures to the surface for you to fend off until the mining process is complete (generally takes 5 minutes for each Thumper you call down). The only problem is, these waves were a piece of cake (and as a result, started feeling tedious after a few hours of gameplay) once my whole team was Level 5 or higher. Granted, we only had a Light Thumper – a Heavy Thumper I suspect would mine a lot more resources, but also draw in fiercer enemies. Nonetheless, if we call in, say, 5 Thumpers in a row in the same general vicinity, it would be nice if the game knew we were on a streak, and ratcheted up the difficulty of subsequent waves accordingly. And perhaps the XP reward could also increase accordingly. Instead, we always knew what types of enemies were coming every time, and it got a little on the repetitive side.
- Nametags on the mineral readouts when you are using your Hammer! The way you discover rich mineral veins in the ground is by smacking it with a giant mallet in your inventory. A readout placard will appear on your squad’s screens indicating the % of each resource in that area. The only problem is, with 4 or 5 squad members all checking different spots for plentiful veins, and the way the placards are delayed in appearing (and can queue up so a few will appear in a row, like the notifications on Xbox LIVE), it becomes difficult to tell whose hit yielded the highest readout. If each placard just had the name of who hit the spot, it would make this process much more streamlined and less frustrating.
If I Had To Pick Just One…
If I could change only one thing about the game, it would be the scaling difficulty around your Thumper. Since it would seem most of your time will be spent using this device to mine resources, and also to attract hordes of enemies to harvest XP for leveling up, it is imperative this experience is the most fun experience in the game. Right now, there’s some room for improvement.
I can’t describe how much fun it was to see our Thumper get down to 20% health, and still have a lot more mining capacity. That real-time worry of: “Should we recall it now, and miss out on all these minerals???” – because if the enemies destroy it, you lose ALL the minerals it had mined (not to mention your Thumper!) This fear really makes you put your skills to the test. You feel this heightened level of excitement, which just makes you feel like more of a badass when you successfully fend off that last horde while your Thumper fills to apcity, ending at 8% health.
The only problem is, this happened to us maybe 3 times the entire evening. The rest of the engagements we fended off with our Thumper never reaching below 50% health. Meaning, the rest of the engagements (probably close to 100), were relatively forgetful. Of course you don’t want every encounter to be super intense, or it would de-value the excitement level and make the game too frustrating – but that’s why I think scaling these Thumper encounters is crucial.
This way, if we call in 3 or 4 Thumpers in a row, and feel we’re getting a little outmatched at that point, we will be more inclined to return to town, purchase new upgrades, etc. Or, at least we will relocate to a new mineral vein, and thus be exploring new parts of the world in the process.
The Single Most Fun Moment:
This was my fondest memory of the evening. I absolutely LOVED The Chosen invasions. Now I’m not steeped in the lore of Firefall yet, so to me, The Chosen are this class of very powerful enemy NPC’s that wreak havoc on various cities in the world of Firefall. They stage invasions on towns, as well as your mining sites. Anytime they are near, your squad is issued a side-quest to push them back. At first these were just like normal, slightly more challenging random encounters. But at the tail end of last night, one battle stood apart from the rest…
We discovered a Chosen ship flying 50 meters above the ground right on the beachfront of our home town, dropping more and more Juggernaut Chosen and Grenadiers to flank their standard unit. This shielded ship offered an entirely new challenge. I said over Skype to my squadmates: “Whoa, I’ve never seen this before…” and they paused and went “Uhhh… Me either!” So we had to quickly react, simultaneously investigating it and assaulting it Battle L.A. style – without fully understanding what it was!
The ship was shielded, offering a level of uncertainty. We had no idea how to penetrate the ship’s shield. So our only choice was to gradually push their front line back until we could get closer to explore it. Even now, we are not positive how we defeated it – which is cool I think! After 20 or so minutes of fighting, we finally disabled the shields – again, not fully understanding *how* is sort of cool in my mind. With the shields down, it allowed us to eventually destroy the ship, completing our mission, bringing with it a huge gamer-high and feeling of great accomplishment.
Despite how quickly as I was able to describe it here, it was so much fun playing out in person! From discovering this brand new *thing*, to having to react on-the-fly to their presence and immediately organize and stage a successful assault was the most amount of fun I have had in a video game in a long time. To top it off, I had a full squad of teammates playing their roles perfectly – the Medic was healing us, the Mechanic was repairing the Turrets and Healing stations – and we were all fighting as a single unit.
I’ll be playing the game again tonight . And tomorrow night. And probably over the weekend as well!