Saturday, February 28, 2009

This is neither the time nor the correct forum but I HATE AT&T

I have never had as infuriating an experience as I am having with AT&T on this sunny Chicago Saturday. Hands down the worst customer service I have ever experienced in my life.

First, some background. I bought an iPhone--which I love--but of course AT&T's service doesn't hold a candle to Sprint and so I am constantly struggling to get a solid signal in the middle of A MAJOR AMERICAN CITY, the third biggest city in the US!

Regardless--that's not what this is about. I also have AT&T home phone service, and DSL. Recently, through the genius of AT&T's left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, I've been getting mailers saying that as an AT&T wireless customer, I can get DSL without a landline. (Something that was not possible not that long ago.) Great, I thought, I will cancel home phone, I never use it anyway (and somehow my move to Chicago made my Uniden cordless phone batteries last about 5 minutes anyway). So today (yes, a Saturday, but come on), I decided to try to take care of some business. I figured, shoot, it's 2009, I should be able to go on the website and knock this out in 10 minutes. No. The website is the worst designed PoS I have ever seen, I mean there are links to other links to Bell South to SBC to wherever and I ended up at "this page does not exist" at least twice. When I finally got to a "create an account" page--I had to put in info--and at first they couldn't find an account with my phone number! Finally, once they did, I had to sit and wait for them to call my home phone with a confirmation code. Finally got there, and got to a FAQ that said I had to call a phone number to cancel.


So I call up, a very nice guy answers (after a 5 minute wait) the "plans and services" number on my bill (1-800-288-2020), and after discerning what I wanted, "transferred me to the disconnection department". Great. Except for the fact that he transferred me to a department that is CLOSED on Saturdays. Way to tell me ahead of time. And of course, there's no way to transfer back. Ridiculous.

After some more screwing around on the website I decided to wait until Monday to take care of that. I had another task to take care of with AT&T.

I've also been getting separate mailers (I get about 15 pieces of AT&T mail a week) saying that "as a high-speed internet customer you can get online at more places you go every day without extra Wi-Fi fees" meaning "the nation's largest Wi-Fi network, including Starbucks." Nice, I had been thinking, this is a great added-value to my home DSL. Now how does it work--since Starbucks and the AT&T hotspots ask for a password? I asked the first guy on the phone this question today and he says to "go to and click on Wi-Fi for more info."

I invite you to go to and try to find the link for "Wi-Fi." Not happening.

So give up on that, and look at the tiny print on the mailer, where it says to go to for details. Fair enough. On there, after figuring out where to look, I see that it is as easy as "Simply use your AT&T high-speed Internet membership ID and password at any AT&T Wi-Fi Basic hot spot." Now I don't know about you, but I don't know what the hell my "high speed Internet membership ID" is. My DSL is hooked up, I hook up at home, I don't use a password or email or anything with AT&T, so what does this mean. I decide to try calling the number on my bill for "Internet Services". Got through right away, where either a junior high dropout or somebody 9000 miles away was attempting to "help" me over the phone. I had to read my telephone number 3 times to him, the third time I think he was trying to read along with me.

Me: 3-1-...
Him: 3-1...
Me: Umm...yeah, 3-1-2...
Him: 2...
Me*: 4-
Him: -4
Me: 1-
Him: 1-

So finally we get my account number, and I have chewed through another pen and 2 layers of tooth enamel

I explain what I am looking for (as a DSL customer, I received a mailer saying that I can use AT&T Wi-Fi at Starbucks and other AT&T places.) This guy on the phone had no idea what I was saying. I am 75% sure he had no idea what "Starbucks" was. All I wanted to know was "what is a AT&T high speed membership ID." After fumbling around with this guy for a while, his grand solution was to...ask the people at Starbucks, they should be the best people to solve my problem.

At this point I had no choice but to throw my iPhone through my window toward the Chicago river. It only made it halfway across Illinois Street, where it landed softly in a giant pothole. Then I started writing this diatribe, something I've never done before. After getting this far, I decided to give it one last try.

Called back, and a gentleman creatively named "Jackson" answered. I got right to the point this time, not mentioning Starbucks, or anything else, just asking what is my membership ID. At this point he refused to give me my membership ID--was asking pointed questions on "why do you want to know this?" Instead of blowing my lid, I explained I needed it to use the AT&T Wi-Fi that is included with my DSL service. He obviously had no idea what I was talking about, put me on hold, "checked with his associates", and then said he wanted 2 minutes to transfer me to the Wi-Fi department, who could help me.

I got transfered to another God-foresaken computerized menu, with options about an AT&T Mobility card, etc. After hitting zero for an operator 6 or 7 times, got put on hold, and finally a nice young woman named Amy got on the phone to talk me off the ledge. After we figured out my *** email address, she explained that I use that, and my password, and the provider "" to log in.

Sure, makes a lot of sense. But at least now I think it might work. It has now been 116 minutes since I started this journey, and only got a tiny bit of information. Still can't cancel my home service. But at least I can access hotspots at McDonald's, Barnes and Noble, and Starbucks, none of which serve Jack Daniels, which is what I need right now.

Sprint and Time Warner, I never thought I'd miss you like this.