by Guest Blogger, Lena West, Chief Social Media Strategist at xynoMedia Technology
I could have easily titled this post: Cingular/AT&T vs. Best Buy in a Vie for Title of the Worst Customer Service EVER.
A few weeks ago, I introduced a recurring post theme of The Technology Tattletale - a subset of the Women & Technology Battlecry efforts. In that post, I promised you that tech companies that tried to treat women like crap and give us poor service, would be summarily and publicly trounced. I meant it.
Now, here's my story about Cingular/AT&T's latest idiocy -- and possible violation of some sort of FCC law. When will these companies get the message that shoddy customer service policies that don't empower customer service reps to truly serve the customer will no longer fly?
I don't like cell phones. In fact, they annoy me a great deal. Part of that is my own fault.
(One day I'll tell you the story about how I used to have two cell phones, suffered horrible burn-out and swung the pendulum too far in the other direction and didn't have a cell phone at all for a number of years. If you're just chomping at the bit to know why, I was interviewed by Ramon Ray for Black Enterprise Magazine about it. Barring that, it's a story for another day.)
Two winters ago, I was asked to teach an evening technology class in Peekskill - about 45 minutes from my home. There was no way I was going to travel on the dark wooded Westchester County highways to and fro without having a cell phone. I also found that potential clients who wanted to meet for lunch or dinner felt better if they had my cell phone number. So, I caved and got a pre-paid jobbie just for emergencies.
All's well that ends well; until I started getting text message spam. Text messages cost to receive. So, each time I would get spammed via text for Viagra, breast enhancements and local sex partners, I would have to pay for the message - even though it was spam!
Yesterday, I called the Cingular pre-paid customer service number and spoke with Darren. I explained my problem and requested that text messaging functionality be removed from my account.
He prefaced his 3-4 minutes of random searching for the right place in the system to turn off text messaging with the comment that, "I have to see if AT&T is allowing us to turn off text messaging because for a while we could and then they stopped us from being able to do that."
Some tapping on the keyboard and total silence later, he says, "If we remove text messaging, you have to agree that you can never add it back to the account," says Darren.
"Fine by me," I say. "I never wanted it in the first place. I only want a cell phone -- and I barely want that."
"Oh, it doesn't look like we can do it anymore. We can't remove it, m'aam."
"What!?! What do you mean?"
"AT&T doesn't let us do that anymore." (M&A's always totally *suck* for the customer.)
"So are you telling me that I'm paying for cell phone minutes and anyone can send me a text message of any length and subscribe me to any text messaging service and I have to pay even though I have not authorized that charge?"
"Well, the promo messages that you get from us don't cost you anything."
"That's *not* what I'm talking about. I'm talking about spam text messages and text messages from people I don't even know."
I tried to explain it another way: "If I went to the McDonald's drive-thru and ordered a hamburger and I didn't want to pay for extra cheese but, when I went to pick-up the hamburger at the last window, I was told that not only would I have to be happy with the cheeseburger, but would also be forced to pay for the extra cheese that I didn't even want...how fair would that be?"
"Not fair at all," Darren said. "But, that's not really how it happens. It's more like if you ordered the hamburger and someone else comes along and then adds cheese to the burger and you have to pay for it," he corrected. (Is this guy a dim bulb or what???)
"You know what, you're absolutely right. So, the scenario you just described...is *that* fair to me as a consumer?"
"Umm, no, you're right. It's not. But, if we turn off text messaging, we would have no way to get our marketing messages to you."
Ahhh, so the truth comes out!
"So, are you telling me that even though I'm telling you that I'm being unfairly penalized by your text messaging system and I'm having to pay for it - literally - that there's nothing you can do about it? All because your company wants to be able to get their text messaging through???"
Total silence from Darren.
"I'm telling you that people are pinging me with all sorts of crap and I have to pay for that pleasure?"
"AT&T doesn't let us remove this service anymore," he says pitifully.
"Well, who do I have to call at AT&T to get this resolved?"
"It's not just AT&T, we just can't remove it at all."
"You know, if you were even willing to tell me that I could call and get a credit to my account for these spam messages, I might even be willing to entertain that, but, you're not helping me at all here. This stinks. This is not the way to treat someone who has been a regular customer for years. This is really, really crappy. It's not right or fair and you better believe I'm going to blog about this."
I made Darren the promise that Cingular/AT&T would never get another dime from me and Iwould be cancelling my account with them as soon as I had used all my pre-paid minutes. I'm just not trusting enough to think if I cancelled my account right then, they would have the wherewithal to mail me a refund check. I wonder why I would think this? Hmmmm...
The following is taken directly from the new Cingular/AT&T website:
To be the most highly regarded wireless company in the world, with a driving focus around best-in-class sales and service.
Oh, really??? Since when? This certainly isn't what I experienced yesterday! 10,700 results of Googling "Cingular sucks" can't be wrong.
1) The customers always pay the price for slipshod mergers and acquisitions.
2) I'm so done with AT&T *and* Cingular, it's not even funny -- and I'm telling everyone I know why.