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Social Media and Marketing to Women Online

Technology Tattletale: Cingular/AT&T

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 Tattle1 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.

By now, we've all read Yvonne's post about GrokDotCom's Bryan Eisenberg's mother's horrible experience with WorstBuy BestBuy.

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!

Cingularsucks 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 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 *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.


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Lena L. West

Wow, that does stink.

It makes my little problem with Cingular almost insignificant.

Thanks for sharing...



AT&T cares nothing about the customer. They bought local cable TV service here and shut down all of the customer service centers.

My wife was dying of excruciatingly painful metastatic bone cancer, and her pain management consisted of narcotic analgesics and TV. She was due home in three days post-op and the cable box went out. AT&T refused to swap boxes, as had the previous company, and gave us an appointment for three weeks. I got satellite TV. She died 6 weeks later. Thanks, heartless AT&T!

Unauthorized Cell Phone Charges?

If you were charged on your cell phone bill for ringtones or other mobile content that you never authorized or ordered, you might want to get in touch with some class action attorneys who are investigating unauthorized cell phone charges:

Report Unauthorized Cell Phone Bill Charges

Lena West


Wow, $400! How *do* these companies stay in business?

Thanks for sharing!



This is the truth. I have been w/them for years and always had some sort of billing issue. I'll call for one reason and they'll delete another service. So the next month my bill is $400 higher. Then I'll have to call back the next month to get it corrected.

Lena West


Thank you so much for this bit of information! There is a Cingular store -not a reseller - not too far from me and I'll stop by there immediately tomorrow.

I'm still cancelling my account but at least I won't be charged in the interim.

Boy, does it help to use all venues to spread the word.

I'm hoping some Cingular big-wig will read this and get a clue.

THIS is community!



I used to work there, and while the call in customer service operators were truly moronic, and it may not be policy for them to remove text messaging from someone's account, there's no way that they don't have the capabilities. I'll bet if you went to your local store (make sure it's an actual store and not a reseller) they can take text off your service.

This is a routine request, especially with prepaid service, that the people in the store have performed hundreds of times. Tell them the texts are harrassing and they will definitely do it. Speak to a manager if you have to.

Yvonne DiVita

Karin, I have to join in here. I have a Nextel phone and I routinely get marketing messages about them and their service. Mind you, I don't pay for those text messages, but they're annoying because it sounds like I'm getting a real I flip the phone open and I'm stuck reading the message before I can delete it.

I have a Nextel story that isn't complimentary...but I'll save it for another day. I so disagree that it's a buyer's market. The phone companies lock you into a contract and then charge you outrageous fees if you want to change providers.

When you're in can't be changing providers every time you turn around, just because they have bad customer service. They know that causes a hassle... that's why they don't care about customer service.


Lena West


Thanks for sharing your out-of-the-states perspective. I feel some relief that there are people getting the service they deserve. Amen to that!

SMS spam is from hell and it should only require simply unticking a box to opt out. Perpetual opt-in, whether you like it or not gives me the feeling of being a hostage - and I don't like feeling cornered.

Thanks for visiting the blog and for sticking around. We're glad you found us. With Yvonne, Mary and I posting, you'll always get great, healthy, respectful debate and the scoop on how companys *really* treat their female consumers - not what their slick marketing brochure says.

We're short on patience for B.S. and long on warmth and love - welcome to the Lipsticking family.


Lena West


I wonder the same thing! I did a Google search for "Cingular sucks" and got 10,700 results. Where's the media coverage for that?!

I think the media is so focused on Bush and his antics that they simply don't have time to air the grievances of the public.

Why someone has not made a TV show about this is beyond me. They kinda did it with the show Airline but, the opportunity is great for someone like Mark Burnett to create a show that's totally focused on people - especially women - who are not being served by mega-corps. Oh, but wait, there's advertising dollars to consider so there goes that idea.

The true challenge is there is a fundamental problem with the media power structure today. Those companies that have the money to influcence (read: purchase air time/ad space) are the very ones that absolutely suck at delivering bare bones customer service - forget about about quality service.

Thanks for commenting!


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