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My AT&T Horror Story Is Different Than Yours…
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.