The Unbearable Ugliness of Uverse

The bad news is I’ve spent way too much time with AT&T Uverse support over the last week.  The good news is I’ve finally memorized their support phone number and my account number.

I suppose the best place to begin is last fall.  My TV died during a Browns game, so I bought a new one.  A smart TV.  It knows all about the Internet and Al Gore.   I have always overindulged on premium TV channels, eagerly subscribing to every one of them and never quite getting my money’s worth.  With my new smart TV, I decided it was finally time to cancel all those pay channels I rarely watched.  After all, I had a smart TV.  It can run Netflix, Hulu and other apps, all for much less than I was paying AT&T.  My only regret was losing HBO before the final season of True Blood, which I’ve watched since episode 1

Fast forward to May of this year.  I’m thinking about signing up for HBO in time for the True Blood season 7 premier and the phone rings.  It’s AT&T.  Do I want 3 free months of HBO?  You betcha!  True Blood dilemma solved.

The accounting for my free HBO requires changing my package from U300 ($92/month) to U450 ($124/month).  Then, they give me a $32 credit each month.  At least, they were supposed to.

When I looked at my bill last week, I saw that for the 3rd month of the promotion, HBO gave me a credit of $7.47, not $32, so I called support.  I was not happy when I called.  I felt like they were trying to pull one over on me.

The gentleman on the phone corrected the error.   How I wish the call had ended then.  The gentleman tried to upsell me.  He said how would I like 48 mps internet speed instead of the 6 mps I was subscribed to, and at the same cost I was paying currently ($46/month).  I said sure, I’m interested, even though I knew it would be some limited offer of 3 or 6 months.  I could always cancel it when they jacked up the price.

The gentleman then checked and said that he was sorry, but AT&T didn’t support 48 mps in my neighborhood, but he could give me 24 mps for $6 less than I was currently paying.  I said OK.

I checked my account the next day.  My monthly internet charges had increased from $46/month to $71/month!  Needless to say (but I’m saying it anyways, doesn’t everyone who begins a sentence with “needless to say”?), I was livid.

I called back to AT&T.  I explained the situation to the customer service agent who answered my call.  She said there was nothing in the call notes indicated that the price would go down $6/month.  I replied with thick sarcasm.  “So, the gentleman who lied to me about the price didn’t document his lie in the call notes?  Shocking!!”  I asked her to check the chat transcript (the original transaction was all done via a chat session).  She said that she didn’t have access to chat transcripts.  I asked to be transferred to a supervisor who did have access.

She transferred me and the phone immediately went to busy.  I had to hang up, call AT&T, and explain everything again to a different customer service agent.  The second agent transferred me to a supervisor.  This time, instead of a busy signal, the phone rang and rang and rang.  I hung up after seven minutes of ringing.

I called back a third time.  I explained everything again, to a third agent.  This one transferred me to a supervisor too.  She stayed on the line until the transfer went through and, miracle of miracles, the transfer worked.  I was finally talking to a supervisor.  Unfortunately, the supervisor could not access the chat transcripts either.

The supervisor transferred me to a specialist.  This guy finally gave me some satisfaction.  He revamped everything on my account.  He dropped HBO (which I had dropped and HBO had added back on).  He set me up with 18 mps (he couldn’t do 24 mps).  He waived some fees.  When all was done, he reduce my monthly bill from $205, $197, $216, $216 for the last four months to $143.  After close to two hours on the phone, I thought my AT&T troubles might finally be over.

Silly me.  Before the AT&T person hung up, I had the audacity to run an internet speed test, expecting to be wowed by the blinding speed.  I wasn’t.  My internet connection was in the 3 mps to 6 mps range.  The guy tried to help me, but it was too deep technically.  He transferred me to a woman in tier 2 technical support.  I spent the next hour with her on the phone running speed test after speed test while she tried setting the modem to different channels.

Nothing worked.  The best speed we could get was 9 mps and even that figure wasn’t reached consistently.  Frustrated, she said that I needed a new modem/router that she would overnight to me.  To avoid a $149 install charge, I had to install the new device, which I was comfortable doing.

The new device arrived Friday.  I installed it today (Monday).  The install was simple.  Unplug a few wires from the old device and plug them into the new one.  Easy peasy.  Within a couple of minutes, TV, network and phone were all up and running.  Internet was not.  The setup said it could take up to 15 minutes for everything to reset, so I hopped in the car, drove to the nearest UPS store and sent the old equipment back to AT&T.

When I returned home, I hoped to find a blazing fast Internet connection.  Instead, I had no internet connection at all.  I immediately called AT&T tech support.  The fix turned out to be relatively simple – change the default router name and SSID to the values I’d used for the old device.  The technician pushed his magik buttons and voila, I had internet again.  I thanked him and hung up the phone, thinking I wouldn’t have to talk to AT&T for a while.

You’d think I’d learn my lesson.  Curiosity got the best of me, so I ran the speed tests again, on my PC and my iPad.  My connection speeds on the PC were 2 mps.  No, that’s not a type.  You read it right.  2 mps!  On the Ipad the speed test had a wide range, as low as 1 mps and as high as 11 mps.

I was back on the phone with AT&T tech support.  I explained EVERYTHING.  AGAIN.  He ran tests.  He changed the channel on my new modem.  Nothing worked.  The best speed he could get on the PC was 6.87 mps and that only once.  Then, and only then, he mentioned that there were line quality failures from his tests.  None of the other people I’d spoken to over the last four days (I had logged about six hours of phone time with AT&T ) had ever mentioned that .

AT&T scheduled an onsite technician call for tomorrow.  The technician will arrive at my house between 12 and 4.  I only had to cancel two appointments, including the first day of the new semester at Lake Erie Ink.

Needless to say (there’s that silly saying again), I’m not a happy AT&T customer right now.  They tried to pull a fast one with me on my free HBO trial.  They out and out lied to me about internet pricing.  They took up six hours of my time and still have not solved all my problems.  I’d like to tell you I’m quitting them, but I can’t.  Part of my third call on Thursday, with the one competent person I talked to – the guy who lowered my bill to $143/month – was agreeing to a one year contract with early cancellation penalties.

Since I can’t quit without forking over $180, I’ll just do my best to make them live up to their end of the contract – reliable high speed service, and polite & accurate customer service when required.  Keep your fingers crossed.

PS – I already left Time Warner due to a lousy customer experience.  I’m running out of options!


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