Has Anyone At AT&T Ever Called AT&T Tech Support?

from the welcome-to-the-soviet-ministries dept

While the FCC and certain broadband companies like to insist that there’s real competition in the broadband market, right here in the heart of Silicon Valley, there’s little evidence that this is true. If there were real competition, they might take customer service seriously. In the past few days I’ve had two separate issues with AT&T that suggests that the company treats customer service as not just an after thought, but something to effectively be shunned. Given my long history in killing off broadband providers who give me service, perhaps it’s only fair that they do their best not to serve me, but these two experiences seemed worth shining some light on.

First, a quick history. That link above goes through all the broadband providers I went through (and killed off) in the 2001 time frame. After that, I ended up with Comcast cable modem service until 2004. In October of 2004, Comcast turned the cable modem service to my house off every day at 10am for no clear reason. Every day I would call, and the response would be: “Oh, this is scheduled maintenance. Service will be back by 4pm.” I would ask if I should expect the service to go down the next day as well, and be told that they had no idea. Apparently, the “schedule” for scheduled maintenance was a tightly held secret — but it went on, every single day, for at least the month of October. I moved in November of that year, and swore off Comcast after that experience. My only other option was AT&T. I ordered AT&T DSL and was promised it would be installed within a week. A week came and went, and I called AT&T. They told me the order had been canceled because (despite what the first person told me) DSL wasn’t actually available at my location (right in the middle of Silicon Valley). Why they didn’t call to let me know of the cancellation was not explained.

I asked why the first person had told me service was available, and the woman told me to hold one while she checked her other computer. That computer told her that DSL was available at my location, despite what the first computer said. Apparently, AT&T does not have a single map of DSL availability, preferring to load a series of different local availability maps on every computer.

A year ago I moved again, and DSL has been working more or less okay at the new location. However, last Thursday it died in the afternoon and was down until around midnight. When it came back it was super slow — maxing out around 64 kbps. I waited until Friday afternoon and decided I should call to ask what’s up. That’s when I discovered that AT&T makes it damn near impossible to find a phone number. The AT&T website has no phone numbers listed at all. When I clicked on the “contact” link, I was given a one-line form to discuss what my problem was. When I hit submit, I received a blank page. No matter how many times I tried, I always got the blank page. Eventually, and I don’t remember how, I got to an error page that listed a bunch of phone numbers. I called the one listed with “Residential: 1-877-737-2478” since this is a residential account.

Thus began a rather insane process. After waiting on hold, the call proceeded as follows:

  • Automated system demands I enter in my account number and asks me to describe my problem. It doesn’t recognize “slow internet” service, so I just say “can I speak to an operator?” It asks me more questions instead. Eventually (after a long hold) it sends me to a live human being.
  • AT&T Rep asks me for my account number (despite having punched it in already). She tells me she cannot find my account. Then she asks where I’m located (which, I would think would be obvious from the area code of the account number). She tells me she needs to put me on hold.
  • Rather than putting me on hold, she actually transfers me. I get an automated system that demands I enter in my account number and asks me to describe my problem. It doesn’t recognize “slow internet” service, so I just say “can I speak to an operator?” It asks me more questions instead. Eventually (after a long hold) it sends me to a live human being.
  • The woman asks me (again!) for my account number. Then she asks why I’ve called her. She works in sales. Tells me she needs to transfer me, but tells me in the future to call 888.321.2375 for tech support. She transfers me.
  • I get an automated system that demands I enter in my account number and asks me to describe my problem. It doesn’t recognize “slow internet” service, so I just say “can I speak to an operator?” It asks me more questions instead. Eventually (after a long hold) it sends me to a live human being.
  • The next woman asks me (again!) for my account number. She tells me she cannot find my account. Then she asks where I’m located (which, I would think would be obvious from the area code of the account number). I say California, and she says she doesn’t serve California, only a region of 9 southern states (hasn’t it been more than a year since AT&T & BellSouth merged?). She transfers me — after personally promising me the next person I speak to will be the correct person. She also tells me that, contrary to the earlier person (and the AT&T website) the real number to call is: 800.310.2355.
  • I get an automated system that demands I enter in my account number and asks me to describe my problem. It doesn’t recognize “slow internet” service, so I just say “can I speak to an operator?” It asks me more questions instead. Eventually (after a long hold) it sends me to a live human being.
  • By the way, at this point, I’ve had the “hold voice” repeatedly pitch me on upgrading my service, mentioning that if I do, I can get access to “AT&T’s award-winning customer service.” I am getting curious as to exactly what “award” this is.
  • Before the next woman can say much beyond hello, I explain the saga, and mention that she is the 4th person I’m speaking to and ask her please, if she is the right person to help me fix my slow DSL in California. She says she will try, and (again!) asks for my account number. She does some searches and then admits: she really wants to help, but she’s in billing, not tech support. She promises to transfer me (and kindly gives me a small credit on my account). She also tells me that the proper phone number to call in the future is none of the above, but 877.722.3755.
  • Unlike the last few people, she actually says on the line and answers the same exact questions in the automated system for me. This is something of a consolation, though I’ve gotten good at entering the info.
  • Finally, tech support! I give the guy my account info (again!) and he logs into my modem and he diagnoses: your connection is slow. I could have told him that. Wait, actually, I did tell him that. He doesn’t know what to do, but says that tech support will call me back later. I thought he was tech support, but whatever.
  • An hour later, I get an automated call from AT&T tech support, telling me to call them back at (yes, a different number): 888.312.2450.
  • I call back, and amazingly am put in contact with a competent tech, who doesn’t treat me like an idiot, who even gets me logged into the DSL modem myself, explains the different system readings, and notes that my modem seems to have capped itself at 64kbps. He says it could be a few different things, but the most likely is a broken phone cable from the jack to the modem. I switch the cables, and voila, it’s working again.

Total elapsed time since the first phone call, about 3 hours, but only about 1.5 hours total on the phone. It was definitely a bit of a hassle, but eventually I found someone smart and competent, and I figured that maybe I just had a bad experience with AT&T. Little did I know. By Monday evening, my Friday experience would seem fast and simple.

I have some travel coming up, and was realizing that I may not be in EVDO coverage for some of it. So I thought it might be good to make use of the AT&T WiFi that’s included as a part of my account. It’s supposed to work at McDonalds, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble and some other places as well. While I had signed up and used the WiFi service a few years ago, it’s probably been at least two years since I last tried. On Monday, I figured I’d hit up a McDonalds at lunch and test it out, to work out any “kinks” if there were any. I honestly figured it would be fine.

I got my chicken sandwich (sans mayo) and sat down to login. Yippee. I even was sitting next to an outlet, but quickly discovered that the outlet had been turned off (boo). Okay, so I get the (extremely slow) proxy server that asks me to login. I type in my login info, and it gives me a message: “We’re Sorry – Your Login Has Been Rejected.” Then it tells me to call: 888.888.7520 “for further assistance.” So here’s how that call went:

  • Dial the number from my mobile phone. It rings for a while and then says “I see you’re calling from…” and repeats back a phone number I don’t recognize, starting with a 512 area code (which is Austin, Texas). I’m in California on a California mobile phone, so I have no idea where that comes from. I say no.
  • It asks for my account number. I’m not at home, so I don’t have my bill to read off the account number. I don’t have internet access so I can’t log in to get my account number. The system tells me my only options are to say my account number or to say I’m trying to sign up for service. I say “neither” a few times, and the system gets impatient with me, and then demands I answer from a specific list of problems what my issue is. All of the issues have to do with home DSL, not WiFi hotspots — which seems odd, given that this is supposedly the WiFi hotspot support number.
  • Finally, it transfers me to a human who again asks my account info. I give it to her. She cannot find my account. She puts me on “hold” which again is actually a transfer. I again go through the dance with the automated call system — which demands I choose between giving my account number or signing up for service, followed by a list of service options that have nothing to do with WiFi hotspots.
  • After a while on hold, I get another person, who also insists my account does not exist. She transfers me to tech support (or so she says).
  • I go through the same pointless questions, and speak to another person. I explain the situation, noting that she’s the 3rd person I spoke to. She explains that she’s not in tech support, but in customer retention.
  • I have now come to the conclusion that AT&T’s “call transfer” system is actually a big roulette wheel that will dump you on any random person with a phone. I doubt most of them even work for AT&T.
  • I am transferred again. The fourth person I speak to, after going back and forth, tells me that she does not handle California customers (this sounds familiar).
  • I am transferred again. More messing with the annoying automated system, and I eventually get a guy who tells me that he cannot help me unless I can tell him my account number. He insists that when he looks up my user name, he gets a different account owner and a different address than the one I tell him. That’s comforting.
  • Rather than transferring me, he says he can only give me the phone number to call for billing, where I should see if they can actually tell me my account info over the phone. Phone number: 800.288.2020. I ask him what number I should call after that to get back to him once I have the account number. He says to just ask to be transferred to DSL tech support.
  • I call the billing number, and speak to my 6th person of the day. After a great deal of effort, she finally reveals to me what my account number is (thank you!). She then, as requested, transfers me to DSL tech support.
  • My seventh customer support person of the day, after I’ve been on hold and have entered the proper account number, asks me for my account number anyway — and then explains to me that DSL tech support has nothing to do with WiFi hotspots, but he will transfer me.
  • My eighth customer support person tells me that the WiFi access on my account was canceled twice. Once last September and once in January. Why twice when I don’t think I ever canceled it even once? He has no clue.
  • Well, can I sign up to have the service included on my account? No. That’s not his department. He needs to transfer me to customer support instead of tech support.
  • Transferred again. On hold again. Enter my info again. Now speaking to my 9th AT&T rep. After explaining the situation, I am told that it is impossible for them to add WiFi hotspots to my account over the phone. Instead, I need to (get this) sign up via the web at home.
  • I hang up, and notice another open WiFi network — so I login, and go to the website he pointed me to: FreedomLink.com to sign up. Once there, I am directed to a page where I am told: “AT&T Wi-Fi Basic service is FREE and already included if you subscribe to AT&T High Speed Internet…. No ordering required! Simply use your AT&T high-speed Internet membership ID and password at any AT&T Wi-Fi Basic hot spot.”
  • That seems to conflict with what the last few folks told me, so I pick up the phone again and call. After the same old process of entering info and being put on hold, I explain my situation to the 10th representative I am speaking to. She says she will get everything solved and puts me on hold. Every five or 10 minutes she comes back and says she’s “getting the info I need” and will be back soon.
  • I begin to notice the batteries on both my laptop and my cell phone are on their last legs.
  • After nearly half an hour on hold, the woman comes back and tells me that she has found the phone number I really need to call. It’s 877.722.3755 (the second time I’ve heard this number!) but that when I reach it, I need to ask for “Tier 2 support.” She promises that she will take care of this part for me and will get me to the right person.
  • I mention to her that my batteries are almost dead anyway, and she says “Isn’t that always how it is?” to which I respond: “No. Normally, it does not take 2.5 hours and 10 people to get me the info to log into my account.”
  • Eventually, she gets me on the line with another woman, and tells her I need Tier 2 support and then hangs up. This new representative (the 11th I’m speaking to) asks me to repeat the whole situation to see if I really need Tier 2 support. I tell her my batteries are dying, and I really need Tier 2 support, and I need it as fast as possible.
  • She puts me on hold for 25 minutes — where the hold message is pure silence, punctuated ever 10 seconds by the most annoying voice in the world commanding: “PLEASE WAIT.”
  • She finally comes back, says: “I have connected you to tier 2 support” and hangs up. Except she hasn’t connected me to Tier 2 support. She has transferred the call, so I’m in another hold queue.
  • Ten more minutes go by and someone finally picks up. As he finishes saying hello, the battery in my mobile phone dies and the call is over.
  • This is now 4:10pm. I had arrived at the restaurant at 1pm.

  • I drive home. I pick up my home phone and call one more time. After waiting on hold and inputting my information, I speak to my 13th customer rep of the day. He insists that the information is wrong on my account, and that I have the wrong username, though it’s the same username that I had used to log into my AT&T account as I was speaking to him (now that I’m on my home WiFi, which since Friday, has been working fine).
  • He says that my username is actually different, but he refuses to tell me what my actual username is. Apparently, that’s not allowed. Instead, he has me dig out my last AT&T bill, and buried on page 4 there is a username which is different from my regular username. He insists that this username will allow me to log into the WiFi hotspots
  • I’m no longer at McDonalds so I cannot test it, but perhaps I can now log into WiFi. I will have to go back to McDonalds later this week to try.

This is AT&T customer and tech support at work. I am left wondering if anyone who works at AT&T has ever called its “award winning” customer service line to get actual support. If there were actual competition in the broadband market here in the heart of Silicon Valley, I would switch providers. But my choice now is to go back to Comcast, who might kill service every day for a month for unscheduled scheduled maintenance or deal with AT&T’s roulette wheel of customer and tech support.

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Comments on “Has Anyone At AT&T Ever Called AT&T Tech Support?”

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Unknown says:

Re: you dont know

> phone reps work during holidays && they dont get to celebrate Christmas and New Year with their family because it’s a holiday and they have to go on overtime because you people would keep on calling even during holidays! why cant you just enjoy what you have for just a day or two and stop complaining!
> you BOUGHT the modem so when it’s over the warantee period which is a year, YOU BUY A NEW ONE! YOU BREAK IT YOU REPLACE IT
> if you think phone reps are rude, that’s because YOU PEOPLE ARE RUDE!
> pay your bills on time so your service dont get interrupted, and stop blaming the rep if you service gets cutoff due to late payment,,, they;re just doing their jobs
> AND just because you live in America that doesnt give you the right to insult Asians & Indians

Matt says:


wow. ..yes, unfortunatly companies that are large and have multipul mergers and go from cingular to ATT to Cingular and then back to ATT clearly have issues.

I had similar expriences and they drive you up the wall! I guess ATT will like your column and hopefully fix thier stupid system. As a Verizon customer this column makes me happy that I can get a hold of a person who can do something.. ..

Gears of Peace says:

Holy Crap, Mike

I swear, I had almost the same identical conversation as you did with AT&T just yesterday. I am trying to add AT&T business DSL. REPEAT. TRYING TO GIVE THEM MORE BUSINESS.
I have an AT&T business phone line. I have my latest AT&T bill in hand.

I spent 1.5 hours with 3 separate AT&T employees (Not counting the cheerful “customer service” rep I got shoveled off to at one point). They just could NOT proceed beyond the “we have no record of your account”. It shows up online. It shows up on the bill. We’ve had the account for 22 years in this location with this number.

I had to hang up in disgust after getting transferred AGAIN to that customer service line. WTF is wrong with that company?

Petréa Mitchell says:

I can top that

Although I don’t have all my notes to hand, but here is the broad outline:

1. It took me several months of going around and around and placing orders and having them mysteriously cancelled to get DSL from Verizon. The only way it could eventually be allocated was for me to pay an extra $12.95 for an extra phone line and get DSL on that.

2. Verizon later offered me great terms for a switch to FiOS, which went great, except then it turned out FiOS couldn’t support one thing that I absolutely needed it to do, which the salesman had assured me it could.

3. Switching back from FiOS took a month, at the end of which I had DSL again… on the main phone line, where they’d previously assured me they couldn’t do it. Hmmm.

Steve says:

I have AT&T DSL at my work and as the network admin, have had to call them three times in six months. I would prefer not to ever call them, but all of the calls were fairly quick and crews were dispatched promptly. I live in Monterey, CA and the tech even gave me his cell phone number (Verizon hahahah). They have been very good here in the little bay.

No More ATT says:

Bye Bye ATT (A Total Trap)

You think tech support is bad, wait till you try to cancel service! They actually have “Dis-connection Specialist” to help talk you out of leaving them. Take the above column but use “Cancel Account” instead of “Slow DSL”. Same thing. It took 3 months to get the billing straight. First you get a bill for the full month after canceling, call, then they remove the phone charges, call, then they pro-rate the dsl because it is on a different billing cycle (but on the same bill???), call, get remainder removed after it is sent to collections for being late in paying what was never due!

Archana says:

O boy

I have similar frustrating experiences *every* time I call ATT customer support for any of their services. I usually set aside a minimum of two hours when I need to talk to them.

This was the main reason why I switched to Comcast for internet (and oh, the rep at ATT was very happy to wave bye-bye when I said I wanted to terminate the service) – not that Comcast rocks or anything, but their support is at least better.

Shame that there is absolutely no other choice in the Silicon Valley.

And oh, that award must be for “Unsurpassed proficiency at having the worst possible customer service in the world”

Jeff says:

You're not alone

I have sworn off AT&T after undergoing similar experiences.

It took me somewhere between 10 and 12 hours of transfers and being put on hold to BECOME a customer. The transfers seem to get exacerbated if you’re a U-verse (optical) customer. Then you have a whole different set of geographically-specific people to whom you need to speak…

I’ve just lived with most of the technical issues I’ve had since then (intermittently-crashing modem, slow speeds, etc.) – I’ll attribute it to learned helplessness. It got to a point where I was considering getting satellite internet despite living 10 miles from the heart of Dallas because no other service was available to me.

As soon as I’m out of an apartment complex which has a contract with AT&T, I plan never to touch the company again…

The most recent expression of AT&T ineptness, however, has been in my favor. After suffering through the customer “service” line one more time to get my modem replaced, I ended up somehow getting an unthrottled download speed of about 20Mb. 🙂 It’s some consolation, I suppose.

Rekrul says:

The quickest way to get a human on the phone (although not necessarily the right one);

Dial 1-800-288-2020, when the voice asks if it has the right number say “Yes” (it doesn’t seem to be used for anything other than the automated system, so it doesn’t matter if it’s correct or not). When the voice asks what the problem is, say “customer support”. It will ask you to describe your problem, say “customer support” again and it will tell you to hold while it connects you to someone who can help.

John (profile) says:

I agree with poster #13

Isn’t the point of these automated systems to either get rid of the customer or get him so confused that he forgets his issue? I mean, really, if you’re getting transferred to six different people in billing and sales (when you need tech support), you’re bound to hang up out of frustration.
Problem solved! Well, at least from AT&T’s point of view.

And, what’s the customer going to do? Complain on the Internet and write a blog about the lack-of-service. Yeah, right, like that’ll happen. 😉

Seriously, though, what’s a person to do when these companies have a monopoly service AND they know they have a monopoly. After all, if AT&T is the only company to offer broadband service in an area, why should they offer good service? Adequate-to-poor service is good enough if it’s a choice between them or nothing.

Sam says:

There are few things in this world I hate

But Clearwire and AT&T support are among the worst experiences in my 27 years of life. As an IT Consultant I only deal with them when things are not working for my clients. Business support is no better and I think your onto something with your hold=transfer-roulette theory.

I hate them I hate them I hate them I hate them I hate them.

After the 3rd person asks me for the same information or says they are not in the correct department I demand the case be escalated immediately.

I used to complain. But now, like you, I just spread the word about this. I expect I’ve taken 10-20 customers out of the AT&T pocketbook in the last two years (easy to do when you hand your client a $500 bill for dealing with their support) and will continue to do so until someone figures out where the account number I just typed in is stored.

Luckily in Washington we have options. Comcast is actually much better here.

Phone Crakka says:

My Revenge

Years ago we switched from AT&T to RCN. It wasn’t an easy switch. AT&T wasn’t playing nice so I had to call them to find out why the switch was being held up.

I went through the phone prompts, settling on what, I thought, would be the right dept.

I got a voice mailbox. It was full.

Angrily, I mashed the buttons. What I got was the prompt to enter my password to listen to my messages.


I shit you not, it worked. I started listening to messages from despondent people who were trying to get help to their problems. I heard the same people over and over and over, begging to know when their phone service would be fixed.

The messages were 8 months old.

With true fury, I got back to the menu system and decided to change the voicemail message.

I thanked people for calling AT&T and then explained that, as a large multi-billion dollar business, we didn’t care about you, the consumer. Better luck next time.

A few days later I checked my new messages and was pleased at some of the messages from people who were infuriated by the message. One person must have called back and gotten a Customer Service Rep to listen to it because I heard them both talking about it.

Suffice it to say I chickened out at that point and never called back. I know I didn’t change anything but, for a short time, I pwnd AT&T.

Viva Espana says:

Go Spain

When I moved house in Spain a few years back I hoped to keep my same number as I was only moving a half mile down the road. Unfortunately I was told that I was moving to a different billing area and would therefor need a new number. Fair enough, I’d only had it 6 months so I didn’t think it would be such a big deal.

However, when the I moved into the new house, I followed Telefonicas instructions and called up for a new phone line to be installed. I was then told this was not possible as they’d ran out of numbers to issue in that billing area! No one could tell me when a number would become availabe nor could they take my details and alert me when I could get a number. I was asked to call back every few weeks. It took 6 months to get a telephone line!

Paul says:


First, learn not to be so full of yourself, Mike.
I guess, just like you, I have this magical power of making broadband companies fold. Look what happened to comcast@home, then att@home! Sure I have comcast internet again now but it is just a matter of time, I’m sure of it, because I’m full of myself too and believe myself to be more important than I really am. The internet has a filthy habit of giving people god complexes.

Second, learn the limits of DSL transmission and why AT&T can’t simply have an “availability map”. A DSL loop can only travel a given distance from the local depot or a repeater station and that distance is measured by the phone lines, not as the bird flies. It is possible to have a situation where a house is only 500 feet from the depot but cannot get DSL service because the lines go to the house in a wayward way which may exceed the limit.

It took me about 30 seconds from going to att.com to find the page with all the phone numbers. Perhaps if you looked harder instead of expecting everything to be baby fed to you then you might have found it as well. P.S. here it is:

Then there is your obvious failure of grasping the concept that after the initial transfer, none of the people you speak with are going to have your account information pop up magically in front of them, hence why you have been asked your account number by each person you spoke with.

You honestly expect a tech support rep to have all the zip codes in America memorized so that they can, on demand, recite your location based on it?

Oh and when you’re talking to a tech support person, the last thing they really want to hear is why your life is miserable, so it would serve you better to refrain from that and stick to the facts. They want to fix your problem and get you off the phone as soon as possible so they can stop listening to your bitchy ass.

Next, please understand how tech support for large companies works. There are several tiers of representatives: those who read off of cards, those who can make simple changes to accounts, and those who can actually fix real problems. You seem to think that everyone who answers a phone at AT&T has more knowledge than anyone working at any other subwage job. For that matter you seem to hold them in a special light in your mind altogether, you do realize that they are simply employees, just like the cash register and the bag boy at Walmart.

You got an automated call telling you to call a number that puts you through to the problem solvers, you seem to be upset that it was an automated call, and not a problem solver wasting precious time to try to get a hold of you when you might not even be home or have the time to work through the issue on your side of things.

You eat at McDonalds, for me that explains quite a bit. Is that an elitist opinion? You betcha, and I hold you in low regard; the only reason I waste so much time typing this out is because I love to rant and I’m stuck at work with nothing to do worth starting for the 15 minutes I have left.

I’m not even going to touch the WiFi issue since that is a completely different beast and you don’t seem to be able to handle the most simple of concepts related to how the internet, business structure, and dare I even say it, people, work.

I suggest you spend a little more time reading up on things relevant to your problems and realizing all the different points along the line that you have failed causing your tech support experience to be troublesome.

Mark Murphy (profile) says:

Re: uhh..

First, learn not to be so full of yourself, Mike.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

Second, learn the limits of DSL transmission and why AT&T can’t simply have an “availability map”.

All your points in this paragraph are why having an “availability map” is not easy. That is not exactly the same as “can’t simply have”. Particularly considering that other providers (e.g., Speakeasy) don’t seem to have much of a problem having an “availability map”.

Then there is your obvious failure of grasping the concept that after the initial transfer, none of the people you speak with are going to have your account information pop up magically in front of them, hence why you have been asked your account number by each person you spoke with.

Other firms have systems that actually provide this information when the call is popped, based on it having been entered in the automated system. This technology has been around for well over a decade. The fact that AT&T apparently lacks such a system hardly seems to be Mike’s fault.

You seem to think that everyone who answers a phone at AT&T has more knowledge than anyone working at any other subwage job.

That would seem to be AT&T’s fault, not Mike’s.

you seem to be upset that it was an automated call

I got the impression he was irritated that it was the same automated system that he got dumped into time and time again.

and not a problem solver wasting precious time to try to get a hold of you when you might not even be home or have the time to work through the issue on your side of things.

Considering Mike placed the call, I strongly suspect Mike was available to speak at the time.

You eat at McDonalds, for me that explains quite a bit.

So do millions upon millions of people worldwide. I am sorry if you lack a McDonalds wherever you live. Perhaps, one day, when you’re not wasting your employer’s money (by your own admission), you’ll be able to get a job someplace where they have a McDonalds.

you don’t seem to be able to handle the most simple of concepts related to how the internet, business structure, and dare I even say it, people, work.

Pot. Kettle. Black. Redux.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: uhh..

Dude… I can tell you REALLY HAVE NO IDEA HOW FRUSTRATING STUPID CUSTOMERS are… this is where u try to investigate what Tech Support is really all about… we DO NOT have a button that says “Connect ‘X’ Customer in 5 seconds”… it does take time, and more when these guys are not willing to help just bitching around about how they have been out of internet for half an hour and HOOOW they are so stupid to get lost on the IVR.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: uhh..

First, learn not to be so full of yourself, Mike.

Why is it “full of myself” to expect reasonable service in a reasonable amount of time? In both cases, it turned out to be a rather simple issue that could be solved, but it took multiple people a ridiculous amount of time to get me the right answer (and there were plenty of wrong answers in the meantime).

Second, learn the limits of DSL transmission and why AT&T can’t simply have an “availability map”. A DSL loop can only travel a given distance from the local depot or a repeater station and that distance is measured by the phone lines, not as the bird flies. It is possible to have a situation where a house is only 500 feet from the depot but cannot get DSL service because the lines go to the house in a wayward way which may exceed the limit.

Yes, I’m quite aware of how DSL works. But you fail to explain why AT&T would have one computer say that I’m within the distance and another say I am not. I wasn’t asking for a topographical map. I was saying that when I give my address, AT&T should know my distance from the CO.

Then there is your obvious failure of grasping the concept that after the initial transfer, none of the people you speak with are going to have your account information pop up magically in front of them, hence why you have been asked your account number by each person you spoke with.

No, I recognized that. I just found it ridiculous, and was making that clear. I’m sorry that you find it perfectly acceptable customer service behavior to ask for your info and then throw it away.

You honestly expect a tech support rep to have all the zip codes in America memorized so that they can, on demand, recite your location based on it?

No, not at all. I had, however, given the phone number on my account. And when she typed it into her computer, I would think *it* (not her) would have recognized that 650 = california. Computers can look that sorta stuff up you know.

Next, please understand how tech support for large companies works. There are several tiers of representatives: those who read off of cards, those who can make simple changes to accounts, and those who can actually fix real problems. You seem to think that everyone who answers a phone at AT&T has more knowledge than anyone working at any other subwage job.

No, but I expect that if I am calling a troubleshooting line for a particular offering, that the person will have enough basic knowledge to either help me or send me to the right person. The vast majority of people I spoke to were unable to do either thing.

I’m fine if the first person I speak to isn’t the correct person. But they should be able to transfer me to the right person.

You got an automated call telling you to call a number that puts you through to the problem solvers, you seem to be upset that it was an automated call, and not a problem solver wasting precious time to try to get a hold of you when you might not even be home or have the time to work through the issue on your side of things.

Actually, I wasn’t upset by that part at all. It worked out fine. I was upset that this happened after everything else that happened.

You eat at McDonalds, for me that explains quite a bit.

Actually, I don’t. I almost never eat at McDonalds. As I said in the post, I’m doing some travelling, and this will be if I can’t get internet access elsewhere — since I know McDonalds are widely available. So it seemed only reasonable to test.

And you’ve never eaten at a McDonalds? And then you complain that I’m “full of myself.” I’m confused, first you complain that I’m full of myself, and then you admit that you’re elitist because I ate at a McDonalds which you would never deign to touch. So which is it? Is being an elitist good or bad? I’m confused…

I’m not even going to touch the WiFi issue since that is a completely different beast and you don’t seem to be able to handle the most simple of concepts related to how the internet, business structure, and dare I even say it, people, work.

Hmm. I’d be curious how you came to such a conclusion. Do you honestly think it’s okay that it took 13 people and over 3 hours to tell me that AT&T had *changed* my account info without telling me about it? And somehow that’s my fault?

That’s quite a shocking statement.

I suggest you spend a little more time reading up on things relevant to your problems and realizing all the different points along the line that you have failed causing your tech support experience to be troublesome.

What failure? Not knowing that AT&T supplied me with a bum cable? Hell, it seemed like half of AT&T was unable to figure that out.

And that AT&T had changed my login name? Again, 12 service reps were unable to figure that out. Why is it somehow my fault?

August West says:

Re: uhh..

Uhh Paul, you’re a dick.

Some of us in the industry have had similar experiences as Mike. My most recent one was trying to properly set a DSL router into pass through mode for a business line. I’ve also had remarkably similar experiences as Mike with other issues, like when AT&T blocked a mail server as a spam server when NOTHING changed on the email server and it never was sending SPAM or backscatter. That took 6 weeks to resolve. And by the way, I do know what I’m doing.

You pompous self absorbed arrogant little prick.

John (profile) says:

Re: uhh..

Oh wow, I realize there’s at least two other posts ripping apart individual points within your comment, but I’m going to look at the big picture. Basically, you’re defending a clunky, disorganized, and dysfunctional system. To you, any criticism of it makes the critic ‘full of himself’ , even though the criticism is valid.

Yea, it’s hard work making a good customer service for such a complicated service, but AT&T is a multi-billion dollar company. It might be work, but it’s not impossible, and it’s not asking too much for customers wanting the services they pay for.

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, Mike, a bit of advice. I’ve had horrible horrible stories with AT&T wireless and Verizon FIOS customer service (FIOS didn’t install my tv service correctly, and I was left without service and lied to by reps for days), but I found the consumerist blog to help out a lot. http://consumerist.com/consumer/howto/be-a-customer-service-ninja-177811.php


Finally, http://consumerist.com/351558/reach-att-executive-customer-service-rebates-retentions … tho I don’t know if the number’s are AT&T landline or wireless.

Rose M. Welch says:

Re: uhh..

Then there is your obvious failure of grasping the concept that after the initial transfer, none of the people you speak with are going to have your account information pop up magically in front of them, hence why you have been asked your account number by each person you spoke with.

Why not? Other companies do, including the tiny family business company that I work for. We sell jewelry, which is not even tech-related. I realize that you don’t have a McDonald’s, but is there somewhere that you can buy a clue?

ted says:

Re: uhh..

“Second, learn the limits of DSL transmission and why AT&T can’t simply have an “availability map”. A DSL loop can only travel a given distance from the local depot or a repeater station and that distance is measured by the phone lines, not as the bird flies. It is possible to have a situation where a house is only 500 feet from the depot but cannot get DSL service because the lines go to the house in a wayward way which may exceed the limit.”

who let paul out of his cell?

As a current employee of a smaller Telco let me explain a few things for you.

First, we get a highly detailed monthly line report for all of the markets we supply our own DSL in. these come from att and verizon and have EVERY line in that CLLI(look that up if you need to) listed with more then enough detail(line length, repeaters, digital carriers, ect…) to determine DSL availability at an address. We slam that in to our database and poof, all our employees can do DSL qualifies.

Second, your “500 feet” remark is beyond ridiculous. DSL can go over 15000 feet and there is a Reach product that can in theory go 40000 feet. (we’ve only tested 25Kft)

So why don’t YOU learn your sh*t before you post unnecessarily long unintelligible dreck…

jakalack says:

Re: uhh..

Having worked for a “National Communications Provider” (Not AT&T) let me explain why AT&T should be better at what they do when compared to similar company:

There should be one Availability map for the entire US. how hard is it to consolidate all the maps into a “Google Maps” type of application that all departments can access. I agree with Mike the Phone numbers should be under a link named “Contact Us” or listed directly on the first page. 30 seconds is too long for you to expect the customer to find it and still be happy.

We had a system that once you entered your phone number into the automated system your account info would pop up in front of us. If for some reason we couldn’t find the account we could search by: phone numbers, Addresses, last name, MAC addresses of modems, cable boxes…etc.

If you are competent enough you should know some of the major area codes in your country. It’s natural to pick some of these up after working at this kind of a position for more than 6 months. You could also always just type the area code into Google and find out what area you’re dealing with.

It’s true that tech support people don’t really want to hear about your other problems, but in general as long as your polite to the rep it doesn’t matter what you tell them, you’ll still get good service. That being said be mean or yell at someone that is only trying to help you and see what kind of service you get. The random transfer is not an uncommon result (I’m not saying mike was mean).

There are a lot of different departments to a large company like AT&T. Some maybe “subwage” jobs. For the most part tech support isn’t usually one of them. Where I worked the starting wage was $16/hr, not anywhere near “subwage” in my opinion. In our particular case, the company trained us on sales and basic customer service. So we could tell you your bill amount, make changes to your account, and sell you on other products. This would cut down on the “not my department.. let me transfer you” occurrences.

Paul has or does obviously work in a call center for a similar company if not AT&T. You can tell by his jaded attitude towards customers in general. After enough time in that type of job most people become desensitized to most issues and get defensive whenever anyone complains loudly.

In short AT&T should fix these issues, they’re not difficult just costly (but not nearly as costly as all of the customers they have lost other this kind of service)

John Wilson (profile) says:

Re: uhh..

I’m pretty sure that Mike understands how tech “support” at cable and telcos actually works.

The problem Mike illustrates here is that no matter how much you actually know about the system after a while you end up grasping and gasping to any real person who actually answers the darned phone.

Now, I work at a telco doing that last mile of “tech support”, actually the body that shows up when Tier 2 can’t fix it or figure it out.

After being stuck in tech support hell, no matter how many times, how clearly the problem has been explained to the people before I get the ticket, no matter what was said or done I can guarantee you what I’ll see is “ADSL doesn’t work”.


Then I check the data on the ticket and see the trouble was reported a week before I got it and check the progress of said ticket and sigh, get in my truck and go to coffee while calling ahead to make sure there’s still a problem.

Of course there is so I give the customer an ETA, finish my coffee and I’m off.

Now please note that the ticket was opened when Tier 1 picked up the call and followed the each step of the way.

AT&T works the same way we do with that, Verizon works the same way…everyone works the same way. The damned ticket is opened when you give the system your account number before you’re sent off to the script readers at Tier 1.

No one, not my employer or anyone else gives the customer the damned ticket number unless it’s a high end business customer who pays extra for that.

As for checking the last mile or distances involved I need to remind you that there are things stored on line called Plant Maps that do give you the critical distances, imparments and so on. Magic is isn’t.

Anyway..back to what I do. Before I finish my coffee I’m on the phone to a test centre to do a series of tests to the physical line. With luck, I’ll find something out.

More often than not a ticket like the one I’m describing will also have a related ticket on the phone line itself that reads “No Dial Tone”.

On the phone to my dispatcher to get the related ticket put on my day, which may be assigned to someone else in another department and do the talking I need to get it given to me.

Sucking up.

Half an hour wasted. I hope you can see why I went for a coffee before starting making the calls.

Arrive on site. Talk to the person who called, say Mike, and stand there making notes while I get a detailed story of what is wrong, an outburst of justified anger or simply a shrug and “about time you got here, now fix it!”

All things being equal it’s fixed before I get there if the trouble cause it outside of the customer’s home/office or I know what the problem is inside before I get through the door.

Basic troubleshooting.

Usually, I’m out of there in less than 60 minutes. Often less than 30 minutes.

Go write off the ticket while doing my level best to figure out how to avoid billing the customer for any inside issue (short of outright stupidity on their part) I might have stumbled across.

Pick up the next ticket and do it again.

My actual productive time on most of these is maybe an hour.

How we work is how we are forced to work due to processes that separate me from my customer by about a light year.

As with Mike I share the same frustration inside the provider as he did actually trying to get this moving.

Heaven help me if I have to call Tier 2.

We’re both trapped in a system which appears designed to actually prevent a fix rather than resolve it.

In spite of your arrogance it has little or nothing to do with how I work and everything I’m forced to do the do my work.

And yes, providers do have things like Postal Code cross references, I’m in Canada or zip code ones in the US.

Oh well. You sound a lot more like the designer of this kind of nightmare than someone who actually has to deal with it be it a customer or the people who actually end up fixing things.



Chris says:

I have...

I worked for a Cingular Wireless (now ATT) and have called it. Before even troubleshooting my problem they accused me of trying to get special treatment as I was calling on behalf of my Mother. Her experience can be summed up by this article. When I tried to explain that I was an employee, and know their protocol dictates different (better) treatment, they insinuated I was calling to try to get freebies for her. This experience, coupled with the defunct internal network, which causes the lack of customer service in the first place, I left after only three months of being involved with treating customers this way.

anne (profile) says:

Yeah sounds like the same script I’ve been reading from for years. I was a reasonably satisfied customer of a flat-rate AT&T dial-up internet account, which I kept open as a backup service, even after I switched to high-speed cable internet. I also kept AT&T as my primary email account.

There were certain mail settings for Outlook Express that didn’t match what was in the online help files on AT&T Worldnet’s website. The POP3 and SMTP settings were changed at some point but the info on the website was never updated.

Once a year or so, I’d find myself at a remote work site or using a borrowed or loaner computer, and I’d be in a place where I didn’t have access to the email settings that I’d printed out and filed away.

For years, all I had to do was place a two-minute call to AT&T tech support and they always knew exactly what I needed to know, and the problem was solved. The specifics had something to do with the point in time that I’d opened my original account, where I was located, etc., that meant I had to use mail server settings that were different from the standard ones that most people use.

It also helped that the techs were American and long-time employees who knew exactly what I was talking about.

The last time I called about two years ago, I got some chick in the Phillipines, who informed me that she wasn’t allowed to give out that information. ‘We don’t provide tech support for Outlook Express.’ I tried to explain ‘I don’t need tech support, bitch. (I didn’t really call her a bitch, but I would have.) I just need you to pull up my account and read me off the email server settings.’

After calling back three or four times and getting the same response, I just accessed my email directly through the web until I returned from my business trip, and then I cancelled my AT&T account. Useless fuckers.

PRMan (profile) says:

I would rather die first...

I will NEVER give AT&T another dime for life because of these exact issues.

I switched to Vonage over Time Warner Cable Modem and all has been well for years. OK, OK, there were a couple dodgy weeks when they switched Adelphia over (which I was on), but other than that, it has been pretty solid.

I switch other people to Vonage at every opportunity. Anything to take people away from AT&T…

gordo says:

There is probably an alternative

I had an amazingly similar experience with Comcast a year ago. After upgrading from a home account to “Comcast Business”, they didn’t close the first account. The first I found out about it was them disconnecting my /new/ service because the old was past due, and they couldn’t figure out there were two accounts at the same address. After (no kidding) nine months of wrangling, during which they told me “you can’t have two accounts at the same address” I got them to let me out of my contract early by canvassing the local cable franchise board and similar organizations I found out about through consumerist.

The upshot was that I found out that speakeasy.com provides DSL in Miami. I pay more for service that is slower than Comcast had been, but is is a /pleasure/ to pay my bill every month. Their customer support is supernaturally competent, and the whole system is transparent and responsive.

AT&T was a non-option after their demonstrated willingness to tap phones for the feds without a warrant. That’s scary big-brother shit.

Eric says:

RE:Shame that there is absolutely no other choice in the Silicon Valley

You’re always going to get lousy service from the really large companies because they can get away with it. I think your best bet is to find a regional ISP who pricing is only slightly higher than whoever provides thier network, and has to compete based on service.

Try DSLExtreme. In my case they use AT&T’s network, but I think they use Covad in some other parts of Silicon Valley. They provide good support both on the phone and in thier forum. I found them using http://www.dslreports.com/search to get “Reviews from people living in or near a ZIP”. SONIC.NET would be another good choice (though I haven’t used them).

Anonymous Coward says:

As for Comcast in 2004

It probably WAS scheduled maintenance every day from 10-4. At least if you lived in California. That was when Comcast got a hold of some more backbone lines and had to do all this maintenance and stuff to get them up to spec with the rest of what they have.

I know this because that month the Counter Strike servers I helped Admin were down until after 4 usually, or were very slow

It wasn’t literally every day, but it was most of the month.

After a few weeks when they stopped going down entirely, they would get throttled pretty hard while they did yet mroe work on the backbone. This lasted for maybe 3 months or so.

Amit says:

Been there done that

I want to start by asking poster #5… I bet Verizon said they don’t block ANY ports, but it turns out they block port 80. Am I right or am I right? If that is true, can we do anything about that, isn’t that illegal?

On another note, Verizon customer service is basically non-existant. They have their tech support 24×7 which is nice if you need to fix an issue with logging on or something, but when it comes to bills and customer service they are only available Monday – Friday 8 AM to 6 PM. I have to actually work, and to call them when I am at work is not good, especially if it is a big billing problem which could take time. I just started the service so I have 1 month to either go back to Comcast, which the price is rediulous or stay with FIOS, which 2 things keeping me with FIOS is the HD programming is SO MUCH more than Comcast and I am also getting 20/20 for only $48.

jonnyq says:

Mike, my suspicion is that the last step of the first support issue was handled by a different company. That was the issue with me. Apparently a different company manages the last mile of my DSL service.

My issue was that I was a dumbass and thought that setting up a DSL modem was as simple as a cable modem. I didn’t know about PPOE settings and stuff like that, and I didn’t get instructions with the modem. Since I opted not to have the tech set it up for me, I had to do this myself, which was hard to do without instructions.

I went through all those steps of being bumped around from person to person, until I finally talked to a lady that knew what she was doing. I asked her to explain the hierarchy of the business for me, and she did, but I don’t remember exactly how it worked. Like I said, I think it’s her company that manages the last mile. So, if I have any slowness issues, I should call her first, as it’s not really AT&T’s issue to handle. I have that company’s direct number now.

Even though my DSL bill says AT&T on it, the service is actually retailed by yet a third company. I don’t understand how it works totally, but I think your last good phone call there was with someone other than AT&T. Here’s hoping you have their direct number.

I also get slow service here – nothing offered higher than 1.5Mbps. If I need them to check again for me if better service is available, that last person is the one I need to call, not AT&T tech support.

iwuzpunk1nce says:

Great news for you!

So after reading your saga and finding it uncomprehendingly abhorrent to one who runs a tech support organization I decided to check and see if the best DSL company in the world still serves silicon valley, and it does! Run, do not walk, to http://www.speakeasy.net and sign up for service with them. They have, gasp, real honest to goodness techs who actually are competent, helpful and answer the phone!

I don’t work for them nor am I affiliated with them in any way. I am just a former customer who really, really misses them!

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Great news for you!

So after reading your saga and finding it uncomprehendingly abhorrent to one who runs a tech support organization I decided to check and see if the best DSL company in the world still serves silicon valley, and it does! Run, do not walk, to http://www.speakeasy.net and sign up for service with them. They have, gasp, real honest to goodness techs who actually are competent, helpful and answer the phone!

Actually, I had called Speakeasy when I first moved, and they do not serve my area. 🙁 That may have changed since then.

Also, Speakeasy has since been bought by Best Buy… so I wonder if the service remains as high as before.

Anonymous Coward says:

AT&T Wireless is no better. I went into an AT&T store last
Wednesday to renew my contract, add a phone, and get a data plan. Guess what? They wouldn’t talk to me because my contract didn’t expire until Thursday! Yes, I came in with my wallet wide open and they wouldn’t even talk to me. Come back tomorrow sir and we will help you. I asked for the manager but it turns out the 21 year-old twerp I was talking to was the manager. I came back the next day, asked for the manager-twerp then canceled my contract. Smart customer service you stupid-shits.

Anonymous Coward says:

ATT has been like this

I used to work for Bellsouth, left about 2 years before the ATT merger was even thought of.

This is normal for phone companies. From what I found. I hated working for bell, and then long before that, I just hated ATT, they used to call me 4 to 5 times a day (no joke) trying to sell me service (I had MCI at the time, and wasn’t switching). but ATT never got the clue that they should be calling at 2am to sell me service, I don’t think they could figure out why I never would be a customer.

I now work for ATT/Bells competition, and honestly, couldn’t be happier. The Cable Company offers a lot of benefits that bell couldn’t offer. Even a discount for Cingular service that I signed up for about a year before the AT&T buyout. Well, since the buy out, I really miss Cingular, ATT has done to Cingular what they did to you Mike. my Cingular service USED to be a business account ( I didn’t know that till I called for support! ), and Cingular business account always had homeland support, so no one behind the headset had trouble speaking clear and fluent English. well…. after the buy out, I think I still have the business setup, but now if I call for support, im speaking to John Ab’Dule in India. I’m not racist, but when I need help, I need to speak to somebody who can speak and understand English. I can’t sit there for hours trying to explain something in English.

So honestly, I fell for ya Mike, I been trough hell with ATT, and long ago, I swore I would never be one of their slaves, err, I mean customers.

I know a lot of people have there problems with cable, but the company I work for (I’m not naming it, but its NOT Comcast) does their best with customer service, I know, I used to work in tech support for them, now I work in NOC. Honestly, I haven’t had a problem working with them, or for them. And as a customer myself, it’s much easier to get trough with them, than it was when I was a Bell customer.

Anonymous Coward says:


Re uhhh Paul and the ad hominem attack. Sounds like he expects Mike, a paying customer, to do his own tech support and not bother the poor people he is paying to support his service:

“They want to fix your problem and get you off the phone as soon as possible so they can stop listening to your bitchy ass” –
Well, the first part doesn’t seem to be true, the second part obviously is, and as for the “bitchy ass” insult, what is this, YouTube? People seem to think just because this is the internet that normal rules of politeness don’t apply. Would you say that in person?

BTW: a great website for finding a person right away is here:

It tells you which numbers to push to reach a human asap.
Several numbers for AT&T there. Customer rating for Worldnet which I think is for internet support says 1 star (surprise)

I have Astound Broadband here in San Francisco, formerly RCN. Easy to reach customer support and got me upgraded to high speed recently without a hitch. Local office in Redwood City so they should service the South Bay I would think. No, I don’t work for them, the only other choice (I think) is that Craptastic company and AT&T (no way).

Alessar (profile) says:

I've had frustrations too, but not the one you describe

Actually, as far as getting the correct DSL tech support number it IS on their website. You have to go to your “home page” that they serve up through Yahoo. Start here:

Once you’re logged in to your faux homepage, there should be an account info link near the email section of the page. That leads to: https://edit.client.yahoo.com/membercenter
and then you can click the ‘help and support’ tab, pick any problem like ‘connection’ and it takes you to a pretty reasonable page listing common problems. Slow connection is a possibility and if you follow it, it does have links to basic tips and even a speed test; but there’s also a link to “call us” in the left sidebar and that goes here:

Which says:

If you prefer, you can speak with a technical support agent via phone. Our customer support agents are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist you.

Please have the following information available when you contact Technical Support:

* High Speed Internet or Billing Phone Number (can be found on the monthly phone statement under Internet Services)
* Member ID (AT&T email address)
* Modem Name and Type (see front of modem)
* Operating System (e.g. Windows 2000, Windows XP, MAC OS X)

If you need your password reset, please have a copy of your monthly statement at hand.

AT&T High Speed Internet accounts: 1-877-722-DSL-5 (1-877-722-3755)

AT&T Broadband via Satellite (provided by WildBlue) accounts: 1-866-798-4787 or help.attwb.net

(So you see, that number you really needed was right there in their help files. Hopefully that will help someone understand how to navigate their site in the future.)

Now, while I have had no problem getting to the right number immediately, my experiences getting results has been pretty poor. The tier 1 person I always get is offshored tech support with someone reading a script and really weak understanding of English. I can’t get basic info from them like confirmation of an area outage from a big storm; they just don’t have that info. And, if you hit them with any kind of unusual question that doesn’t match the script, they can’t COPE. It’s really and truly more painful than a root canal to work through that. Flushing a browser cache is NOT going to make the blinking red lights on my modem turn green.

However, even when I’ve gotten to a Tier 2 person things haven’t always been the best. I’ve had some fix problems, I had another fail to figure out my modem had simply fried and I had to pay for a service call. At least the technician immediately realized the modem was fried, had a new one with him, and totally explained the modem to me and showed me how to login to it and check settings.

Bottom line: the regular employees seem pretty good people for the most part, but the infrastructure really sucks and the offshored tech support is pretty much a waste of time.

Chase says:


your complaining about only a few missed hours? I had to to deal with them for three weeks for the home phone, DSL, and WIFI hotspots, they triple billed me on each service, disconnected all my services including 911 (which is illegal in Texas) CUT the phone line to our entire neighborhood then charged all six of our neighbors and myself to replace the line. Still they cannot find my account, yet now I’m being billed for a service I don’t even use ‘Advanced TV’ I’ve got comcast for my tv service. As for the roullete wheel of hell? I went through it daily the whole time, and odd thing is I’m listed as a Mrs… when I’m a mister… of course thats when they occassionaly find my account. I asked for one thing repeatedly the last time I called and that was for their legal department. Which surprisingly they’ll transfer you to right quick when you mention lawsuit, and illegal termination of 911 services. I got my account cancelled, and the bills refunded in full within ten minutes of talking to the legal section as well as had a tech out the next day to replace the phone lines for the entire neighborhood they ilegally cut. I use comcast now for everything, admittedly not the best choice but its better then having to call 911 when your father’s having a heart attack only to find out hey no phone!

Howard_NYC says:

CBS's next Survivor series... Survivor Tech Support...

CBS’s next Survivor series… Survivor Tech Support…

never mind whimpy worms eaten with raw human seage up to your knees… let’s see any of the contestant can make it through to tech support and fix their mobile phone, then log onto a wifi hotspot, correct their overloaded credit card billing, switch to fighting over a parking for a car they don’t own… and for the live finale…?

getting insulin refills from their HMO before slipping into a coma and dying….

…now that’s realty teevee

Agonizing Fury says:

You Jinxed me Mike!!!

Alright, that was too weird. I’ve had AT&T for a month and a half with absolutely no problems at all. About 15 minutes after reading this thread, my AT&T service dropped to sub-dial up speeds (I have the 6Mbps package and average 5.5 – 6.2 Mbps) Amazingly the automated system did understand me when I said slow internet, and got me through to the script reader, who insisted it was a problem with my computer for about an hour and a half. (despite the fact that I had tried three computers and dongled my computer to my 3G cell phone via bluetooth which worked fine). When it got to the point that “Ann” wanted me to install something on my computer from a company that has no problem violating their customer’s privacy (AT&T), I insisted on being escalated. Got an escalation specialist on the phone 20 minutes later, who contacted Network Engineering, and was back up 5 minutes later. I guess I know next time to ask directly for an escalation specialist. Difinately better results than you got, but still horrid from a customer service perspective (especially considering I already knew that the problem was with their network, as My connection to the DSLAM was fine)

Spudlauncher (user link) says:


“By the way, at this point, I’ve had the “hold voice” repeatedly pitch me on upgrading my service, mentioning that if I do, I can get access to “AT&T’s award-winning customer service.” I am getting curious as to exactly what “award” this is.”

A Darwin award would be my guess.

As if their tech support is so terrible that it disgruntled someone enough to get a gun and … well, I’m sure you get the picture.

(The honorable mention probably worked at Microsoft, told some tech-savvy person to reboot and do a bunch of other stuff (stuff he’d already tried, natch) one too many times, got winged, and lived; and Microsoft lost one more customer to Linux.)

Ted Filburn says:

AT&T: Your World, Consumed!

Welcome to the “friendly” world of corporate mergers and acquisitions. As these companies get bigger, horror stories like this will only multiply in their regularity. In some cases it is lazy employees, and others, under trained, overworked, and cynical employees who’ve become another cog in the corporate culture of America. I sincerely HATE AT&T, nor did I particularly like them when they were Bellsouth, but when you have a monopoly, and your next best choice is cable – which is Charter here – whom is, believe it or not, MUCH WORSE, you must suffer. I can tell you for my business I have a T1 with Speakeasy – if I could get their home service I WOULD, they are phenomenal – real 100% English speaking American’s, only ONE call tree on the 800 number, short hold times, and your problem WILL be fixed and they even FOLLOW UP to ensure it is fixed!

Michael Long (user link) says:


That’s because in the corporate world any support in general, and tech support in particular, is deemed by the bean-counters to be an expense. And expenses, as you know, are TO BE ELIMINATED.

They may, at their discretion, make it easy for you to pay them if you owe them money, but that’s about it.

Not to be a fanboy, but one of the major reasons Apple has made such a comeback is the Genuis Bar located in all of their stores. True, the “Genuises” aren’t perfect, but do you realize just how rare it is to actually be able to talk to someone face-to-face about a technical problem?

And get a solution?

BTR1701 (profile) says:

Re: Expense

> one of the major reasons Apple has made such
> a comeback is the Genuis Bar located in all
> of their stores.

I had a ridiculous customer service experience with one of those Genius Bars here in the DC area. I was in a mall and my iPod started having a nervous breakdown so I thought to myself, “Hey, I’ll just head over to the Apple store here and have one of their Geniuses check it out. If it’s toast (and at three years of age, I thought that likely) I figured I’ll just go ahead and upgrade it to a new one,” which I’d been considering doing for a while, anyway.

Well, I get there at about 8:40 P.M. and head up to the counter where all the Geniuses are just standing around talking to each other. Wonderful! Not even any waiting in line. Oh, but no… they tell me I have to go make an appointment on their “concierge” system before they can help me. Okay… that seems dumb if there’s no one else waiting in line but I head over to one of the computers to make the appointment only to be told by the system that it stops taking appointments 30 minutes before the store’s closing time. The store closes at 9:00; it’s 8:45.

I head back to the counter and explain that the system won’t take appointments anymore and they tell me they’re sorry, but I’ll have to come back tomorrow because they’re not allowed to serve anyone without an appointment.

I said, “You’re seriously going to turn me away while you’re standing there doing NOTHING because of some stupid computer reservation system when it will probably take you ten seconds to diagnose my problem and there’s a better than even chance you’ll be able to sell me a brand new top-of-the-line iPod in the bargain?”

And he said, “Yeah, that’s the way it is.”

So I left the store consumed in a righteous anger and when I got home, I related this ridiculous experience to Apple’s corporate customer service over the web. They profusely apologized and issued me a credit for 20% off the new iPod should I choose to purchase it.

So while Apple’s customer service at the corporate level seems more than adequate, the mindless drones who man their stores can be just as dense as all the other first-line customer service stooges.

Dan says:

Mike, I feel your pain, been there and done that. A couple years back AT&T (always tapping telephones) offered DSL in my town so I signed up. To make a long story short, after numerous calls (15 hours that I logged) a field service supervisor in the next state ordered a physical survey of the line between my home and the central station switch. The customer service rep first said that I was only 1500′ from the switch, the survey came back with 26000′ and this took 15 hours over a period of one month to find there was no way in hell to get a connection. It’s like all the employees are looking through a three foot long mailing tube with a pin hole and their field of vision is so narrow that all they care about is what they see. I now have RR and by comparison it is great. A side note, I have had AT&T sales teams knocking on my door three times this summer, I have threatened them with arrest for trespassing if they don’t stop. They are worse then the Jehovah’s Witnesses and I only live a mile from a Kingdom hall.

Twinrova says:

Do without. It's better in the long run.

It’s amazing when people find out I work “in computers”. I get phone calls often asking for advice or to tech-walk them through an issue. For the most part, I don’t mind, but I’m still trying to figure out why my advice is never taken.

Last year, a friend of ours moved to a location to which no cable service was available (yet). He called to ask for my two cents regarding AT&T and I told him bluntly: Save your money. Don’t even sign up an account or you’ll regret it when you want to change to broadband when it’s available.

Instead of doing without, he decided to sign up for AT&T’s DSL (which he got for $10/mo. and couldn’t pass up the amount). Turns out that $10/mo. ended up being $42/mo. while at the same time, no reliable DSL service.

So it was up to me to head over to his home and try and figure out why his DSL wasn’t working. Believe me, calling AT&T made me shudder long before I dialed the number (had them myself years ago). After several hours, I finally was told by someone in sales (yes, sales!) the issue was caused by the growing neighborhood and that the DSL service was being interrupted while trying to service new homes.

Yeah, right. But I took the news only to get out of the hell I was asked into. The $42/mo bill was due to being billed twice for two separate account numbers (still wondering how the second was even formed) and eventually all seemed to work in a few months.

If you’re an AT&T customer and you want to switch to broadband, you’re going to be in for a world of hurt during the “transition”. AT&T will do anything to keep you and I do mean anything.

So, readers, listen and listen well:


Any person who gripes at AT&T’s service deserves everything they get if they don’t head the warning above.

Read it again to ensure it sinks in.

Mitch says:

my experience.. remove ATT add Verizon

I have had almost a ditto experience with Verizon. I have spent over 60 (yes 60) hours on the phone with those idiots trying to get my phone/internet/direct tv/cell phones all properly working. Each time I get a different person who screws it up in a different way and no one does anything properly and all want my info even though I enter it into the automated system and have told the last 3 people I have talked to that day. I laugh at the idea that there is competition

Anonymous Coward says:

You mean you didn’t check the phone line before you called AT&T? The first thing you do if you lose internte connectivity is check your wiring. My sister kept calling Comcast to bitch about her cable modem intermittently cutting out. Turned out to be a crimped cat-5 cable under her desk. Of course she’s also the same person who reformats her hard drive every time her PC starts running slow.

ted says:

Re: Re:

“You mean you didn’t check the phone line before you called AT&T?”

As a current phone/field tech for a small POTS/DSL provider, I cant tell you how many “issues” are problems that could be easily solved by checking things in your house.

I dont however expect everyone to know what to look for. I say shame on ATT for not having common DSL troubleshooting measures as either a message or the hold music.

As a small company we can actually serve our customers when they call in. We have automated menu. “Say or press 1 for automated bill pay, Say or press 2 for Residential Support, Say or press 3 for business support”

and thats for everything, tech support, sales, plan changes, billing, whatever… we have people that know what they are doing. 🙂

Having to work with ATT and Verizon land line phone companies I am very aware of the struggle to get them to do ANYTHING. We pay them millions a year, have account managers, pay for the highest support. and yet we still get f*cked over on a daily basis. Sadly they just dont care.

NetworkElf (user link) says:

This sounds familiar...

This sounds a lot like the phone system Verizon uses – on it’s business customer line, no less… That being said, my experience with their billing and tech support has been a bit better. I usually only have to talk to 2 or 3 people.

However, then endless menus and that stupid voice system make me want to beat my cordless phone into pieces with a sledgehammer. Whoever came up with that idea deserves a slow, painful death on public television. Now, there’s a Fox reality show I’d actually watch.

Jeff Rivett (profile) says:


Sadly, these experiences are becoming the norm. In recent months, I’ve been through similar ordeals with a variety of support outfits, including two separate phone providers and a magazine (regarding my subscription). Your comment on the lack of real competition makes me think of the so-called competition between ATI and Nvidia in the display hardware arena: I know that every time I buy an ATI board, I end up swearing I’ll never get another one, then buying an Nvidia card next time, then swearing off NVidia, etc. ad nauseum. Based on the support forums I’ve seen, I’m not the only person going through this. If both companies are equally incompetent, is it really competition?

Pudro says:

Press Zero

Hey Mike, ever tried pressing zero on your phone to skip straight to a live human? Some systems are set up differently and this press is ignored, but AT&T took it one step further – they basically tell you to F&*@ OFF if you try this. Something sort of like, “yeah, we know you want to talk to a human, but we won’t let you unless you answer the automated questions”.

I think it would be less insulting if they just ignored the button press.

Chris says:

SBC Direct Forum

If you ever have issues with SBC DSL, always always always try the Direct forum first.


The people in it are actual employees with SBC/ASI that actually touch the tech first hand, fixing profiles, redbacks, dsl line checks, etc. They have ALWAYS come through for me (lost static IP blocks, reverse DNS issues, redback quailty issues, etc) where phone support has answers like “Reboot your modem. Reboot your computer”.

They make things happen when support is incapable of understanding the question, let alone fixing the problem.

Mike says:

Re: SBC Direct Forum

Absolutely agree with the recommendation for dslreports for getting direct access to AT&T support personnel. I’ve been an AT&T DSL subscriber for almost 7 years now and have had need for support a few times. One time, I followed the craziness of the phone support. That took me almost 8 hours to resolve a simple dead modem. Thereafter, I’ve used only the Dslreports forums for help and had even my more extreme support issues resolved in hours.

Companies don’t WANT you to use phone service options….so they make it painful for you to do so.

David (user link) says:

Re: Re: SBC Direct Forum

Yea, I can work on DSL as well as get contacts for other parts as well. If you are having problems getting it done, just a post or an e-mail to me, and that’s about all I need. I have forwarded on some stuff for cellular, t1 problems, and other issues as well. If I need account numbers and such be sure to include those as well as a contact number or e-mail for you. That should be just about all I need. I think I have a good team behind me, least that’s what they tell me when I ask! 🙂

I can take on just about anything you throw at me. Just be sure it doesn’t flatten me! 😀

Aka “david” at dslreports.com

r. decline (profile) says:

the other side

ack, that was pretty bad…but i’ve worked the other (though not with at&t) end and it is terrible. everyone hates you doesn’t matter if they are customers or company higher ups, the companies underpay you, they cut breaks, they monitor everything, they don’t give you the tools you need to actually do anything. (at one company we were even forbidden to share information with each other, everything had to go through a lead tech…nevermind the fact that the lead didn’t have or had ever seen half the stuff we were “supporting”) and the phone never stops ringing, never stops…its been years since i’ve done support and i still cringe when the phone rings and feel pressure to end the call in seven to nine minutes.
so the few times i do have to call a support line i get really torn but i really try not to take it out on the techs there. and really the only “power” you do have is to run angry customers yelling at you around in circles, so on top of an already convoluted system its no wonder people get transferred around so much. seriously, imagine answering the phone 97 times a day and each call being someone mad at you while your boss breaths down your neck to get off the phone.

Cervantes says:

two weeks to set up service (never got set up) 2 weeks to disconnect

I had a similar nightmare, it took me over a week to wait to receive my self install DSL but it never worked. Every call (at least 5) was a multi hour debacle which concluded with a “our tech will address it check back tomorrow” but it never worked.

After 10 days of trying to get it set up I canceled the service (again a multi-hour situation). Called Comcast and had service by the end of the day.

A month later I had got a DSL bill, took me another call with multiple transfers to resolve.

The following month, another bill. Sigh, same thing with the call, talk to multiple people…”I cancelled & returned the equipment…got the UPS # saying it was delivered…no, it was never activated so I never able to use it…yes i already have service from someone else…etc…”

Another month, collection letter for unpaid services & equipment. AARRGHHH.

Barry (user link) says:

Online Billing

I spent 2 hours talking to something like 10 different people at ATT to figure out how to sign up for Online Billing on my DSL account. Some of my frustrations were:

-I was told by multiple people that I couldn’t sign up for online billing because I have what is called a “Dry Loop”, which means I only get DSL (no phone service). Not True

-I was inputting the last 7 digits of my Account Number incorrectly. The person on the phone told me not to use the last number. Oh so when you say use the last 7 digits, you actually mean the last 8 digits, but disregard the last digit. Makes Sense.

-I was bounced around from department to department across the country like a bad case of inter-office herpes.

-I was bounced to a number that is no longer in service. By a telephone company.

-Once I FINALLY got signed up, my account showed that I owed $95 dollars that I had paid a week prior. This payment showed up under previous payments, but my account still said I owed the money.

-When I signed up for DSL, the D-Bag who took my order promised me a $50 gift card to reimburse me for my modem. I never received it, and had to complain before I finally just got a $50 credit on my account. This actually was relatively painless except for the fact that I had to do it at all, and the operator said that the sales person was not allowed to do that. I assume crediting me $50 was easier than taking any action to find out who promised me something that they shouldn’t. Or perhaps it’s all part of their model because a lot of people just would have let it go. Which is shady to the max.

Sometimes companies get too big and merge-y for their own good, and they really need to call their own customer service and try to solve a real-life problem.

Jason (user link) says:

Re: Online Billing

I have had similar issues with my “dry loop” from AT&T. I have had to get on the phone with them multiple times and every time it is the same song and dance. They can’t find my account. Repeatedly I am asked (by the same person usually) for the phone number associated with my account, and repeatedly I explain that there is no “phone number” associated since it is a dry loop. The conversation usually devolves into them claiming that I don’t have DSL, or that I actually have DSL from another provider and that I am just confused.

The most frustrating thing about the whole mess is when you need help they can’t find your account and you may as well not even exist. But when it come time to collect the money, well, wow! Their computers have no issues whatsoever finding my account. And I would bet that if I didn’t pay their computers would have no issues figuring that out either.

Nasch says:

What is up with broadband anyway

I see this and other horror stories from places like Silicon Valley, Dallas, Chicago, New York. I’m in South Dakota, which maybe you would expect to have noisy dialup, satellite, and maybe one broadband provider to go along with the cattle and bison. No, there are at least four broadband providers here. Four! (there are cattle and bison) Two or three of them are local/regional rather than megacorps, and mine has had great customer service the one or two times I’ve had a problem. No transferring to tier 2 either, the first guy I talked to logged in to the cable modem, and stayed on the phone until I was satisfied everything was fixed.

What I can’t understand is why some markets are so much better than others. Are there state laws in SD promoting competition that’s lacking in other places? I haven’t looked into it.

I don’t mean to rub anyone’s nose in it. I wish everybody had a nice competitive market with many providers. Eventually maybe that will be the case.

Spike says:

At least you weren’t trying to get a refund. AT&T came out and installed “high speed internet service” at my new home. After a week of on and off service, they acknowledged that I could only receive 384K service. I immediately signed up with Comcast for everything, have had no problems with them and the speed is ridiculously high.

However, it took seven months of calling after they acknowledged my cancellation in refund to actually get the refund. Along the way, they claimed I wasn’t eligible for a refund, that I hadn’t returned the equipment, and even that I still had service and that they had mistakenly not billed me for it. Every time I called, they switched me to a Spanish support line. Every time I called, I had to start from scratch. At six months, they sent me half of what they owed me. Five more calls and I gave up. Oddly, the other half showed a few weeks later.

Woadan says:

I started out as a contractor for Bell Atlantic.net (now Verizon.net) in 1996. I worked Tech Support, and we had operations at a BA center with 20 people, and another 20 at my company’s center.

In 1997 I became a BA employee, and by 1999 we had 3 vendors in 6 centers providing varying levels of support in 2 states (VA and TX). All told, between contractors and employees, we probably had 250 employees across all shifts all day. (Verizon now closes for the night, so if you need tech Support, you can just damned well wait until the morning!)

By the time of the merger with GTE, the numbers of techs had increased, but one of the vendors was gone.

I cared more about taking care of the customer, but as the number of customers increased (remember that BA launched its Internet offering in 1996, and we slowly added local dial-up areas as the system was expanded), there was more and more pressure to take the call, get a fix, and get off to take the next call.

By the time I left in 2003 the issue was pretty problematic. The contractors had metrics that pretty much assured you’d get the lowest level of service because they had to have a 95% first-call resolution. (First call for the tech, not the customer.) Yet when we studied the calls individual customers would make, it often showed that the same customer called about the same problems several times in a month.

When the fix to any problem is to reboot the modem, of course it is a first-time call resolution. not because good root analysis was made and an appropraite fix applied, but because the problem goes away, for now, with that reboot. And the thing is, people will become used to that and just reboot themselves, and, Voila!, problem resolved. At least until the next time you have to reboot.

I recently had FiOS installed, and the experience was pretty good, and the service so far has been flawless. (And cheaper than Comcast.) But the installer was supposed to be at my house between 8AM and 4PM. Initially he called and said he’d be there at 2:30. Then 3:30. Then 4:30. He actually arrived at 6, and was finished at 9.

Errant Garnish (profile) says:

What's the point?

It is very difficult to post a critique about a post that I can relate to so vividly that I feel that I could have written it myself.

But … what’s the point?

I mean no disrespect, but haven’t you just described the exact same experience that approximately hundreds of thousands of other customers have had? Hundreds every day? If this had been an Andy Rooney segment (which it felt like at times), I would have tuned out by the second or third “Page Down.”

I’m not saying that tragically bad service is acceptable, but it is certainly not exceptional. Why not use this forum to confront AT&T about their ridiculous claim of award-winning customer service instead of just dishing about it? Let’s put McDonalds’ on the hot seat for non-working electrical outlets while we’re at it.

For a blog that regularly skewers the mainstream media for lacking relevance, it should be noted that the average writer at a third-tier newspaper reporting this story would have at least called AT&T public relations for a comment… Or have confronted the bonehead legislator who gave AT&T its monopoly…

Is your solution really just to go back to Comcast? What good will that do? Instead of complaining, let’s expose who is accountable for these broken customer relationships and telecom markets and try to make the situation better for others.

I’m just sayin’…


another mike says:

can't relate

I don’t have any tech support horror stories to share. Since it’s how I put myself through college, I can’t bring myself to be mean to them. Saccharine coated, diabetic coma inducingly nice. I think it’s the polar opposition to what they’re used to that throws them off. They never have to transfer me, I’m off the phone in 15 minutes with the problem solved.
Yeah f’ing right, are you shiatting me?! I could regale you with tales of tech hell that would turn your hair white. Hours on hold, day after day, and the problem still isn’t fixed! My cable went out one day in the middle of the week, internet and TV, the whole thing was offline. And when I tried to call them to report the outage, the line was busy. For three f’ing days the line was busy at all times of the day and night! I finally got a hold of someone and they had no clue half their network was out. Morons.

Karin says:

For some odd reason I can honestly say I’ve had no problems with their service. Usually when I call I get someone who knows what they’re talking about but the last time I called some b**** just hung up on me.

I have them for my DSL, cell phone, and home phone and have the “bundle deal” on one bill. I thank GOD I didn’t put my Dish Network on there too. Just ONE payment got lost in the mail and they called me to tell me they were shutting off AALL of my services. DON’T MAKE THE MISTAKE OF BUNDLING ANYTHING with that company. They WILL give you a great discount upfront then you’ll notice something “odd” about your bill and it will take you around 3 days to figure out where they BACK DOORED an increase in price (and BTW, I DO mean BACK DOORED… yah… don’t mean to be crude but just bend over when you retrieve the bill from the mail box).

You don’t even WANT to experience their cellular service when there’s an issue. There’s “old” AT&T; “new” AT&T; Cingular and NONE OF THEM KNOW WHO ON EARTH THEY ARE.


AT&T: Thank you for calling “The New AT&T” how can I help you?

ME: I need to speak with someone about my AT&T cell phone account.

A&TT: Who do you want to speak to?

ME: I don’t know WHO. Just a customer service representative.

AT&T: What company are you trying to call.

ME: Who are you?


ME: OK. Then I need some information regarding my cellular service.

AT&T: Which provider are you with?


AT&T: Which AT&T?

ME: The one I’m calling. I called the number on my bill.

AT&T: What is your account number?

ME: *************

AT&T: I’m sorry. We don’t have that number as an account with us.

ME: You are AT&T aren’t you?

AT&T: Yes. Who are you trying to reach?


AT&T: How can I help you?

ME: I’m trying to inquire about my cellular account.

AT&T: What’s the number?

ME: ***********

AT&T: We don’t have that number listed as our account.

ME: PLEASE pass me to someone else.


The conversation went ONANDONANDONANDONANDON like that prior to the final click.

Need I even say more?

andy B. says:

Re: Re:

Many Years ago I had home phone service with Pacific Bell and long distance wiht AT&T. Pacific Bell became SBC Global and I set up a DSL account and cheaper long distance with them and dumped AT&T. A few months after I dumped AT&T… SBC Merges with them. ONce that happened the previoulsy superiour SBC customer service bcame the nightmeares described above.

I never understood why SBC decided to keep the name of AT&T when it is the icon of American corporate greed and complete inderfence to the customers it serves. They said it has “Global Recognitiion”… yes it’s true , but for all the worng reasons.

So while I pondered that, my cingular wireless merged with AT&T and took that name!

Wasn’t this company forced to break up for being a monoploy oh so many years ago… why are they being allowed to do this again?

John Z Wetmore (user link) says:

Fun with Comcast

I had Comcast Internet for a few months last year. After a couple of months they decided to blacklist my domain, so all my email was getting bounced back to the sender. It took me a couple of days to figure out what was going on, and then a bit of fussing at Comcast to get my domain off the blacklist.

A month later they blacklisted my domain a second time. This time I realized why I wasn’t getting my email right away. I tried Comcast’s online support, but had a tech who could not understand that Comcast had created the problem, and cut me off. So I entered their automated phone system hell. I’ve forgotten how many times I was transferred (including to a guy in New Jersey who could do nothing about a problem in Maryland). I finally got someone who understood that Comcast had created the problem, but by that point I had already decided to leave Comcast.

I wasn’t about to wait for Comcast to blacklist my domain a third time. I used webmail for a couple of days while I switched to DSL. DSL is slower, but if I need to upload a video I just do it overnight. And my email has gotten through without problems for over a year now.

I still have Comcast for tv, but I cut back to their minimum basic tier. I’m not in the mood to give them any more money than I have to. (And, yes, I did get charged by Comcast for a service visit that never happened, but I ran out of energy to pursue a refund after the first couple of complaints about it.)

John (user link) says:

Customer care

Here’s some inside info.
I once did customer support for a couple of cellphone companies.
The ‘phone grunt’ have statistics to meet. A typical call should last about 3 or 4 minutes, it varies with company.
The best way that the CSR (Customer Service Representative) can serve themselves, is by keeping the call short by any means, with no regard to the future.
If ever passed on to a ‘supervisor’, be aware that in some call centres they have a whole section of CSR’s who are authorised to throw more money and offers at the customer than the regular phone grunts in the hope that the customer will go away, and are assigned to the ‘supervisors’ area.
The worst CSR’s for this moronic behavior are the old hands. They have a less caring level then newer people, because experience has taught them that it makes no difference to them if the customer is happy or not, but it does make a difference if their supervisor chews them out for having a high AHT (Average Handle Time.)
So, here is a hint.
Start out by asking if the CSR has been working for very long at the job. Then ask if they are prepared to assist you, or would that make their handle time too large as you have called before and been treated badly, and you want the issue fixed with this single call. (call centres have something called ‘one-call-resolution’ that the CSR’s are supposed to achieve but for practical purposes ignore.
Above all, remember that this is a business you are calling, and they will lie, cheat or steal in order to create profit, as their loyalty is to shareholders, not to you. That is why we have US driven global economic decline, consumers have at last lost faith in the liars who sell things like mortgages to them. Above all, don’t try emailing any customer service department. You will typically get a response asking you to phone.
BTW, the Primus company is just as bad – http://bloggerjohn.bravejournal.com/entry/25417
I think that they are all thrashing around like chickens without heads. It will be interesting to see if the attitudes change as the economy fails.

Tyler says:

I feel your pain

I used to work for at&t, or rather one of their outsourced call centers of doom….. we were the #1 call center because of exactly the scenarios you are describing, random transfers that end calls “mysteriously” wrong transfers, yeah it was pretty much common practice to send an issue that was not ours to india or billing lol.

and i can tell you that the 877 722 3755 is the only number that will get you to a semi-competent robot that takes your information and funnels you into the River of Styx hold line.

so yeah, AT&T sucks out the wang

Dave says:

That’s amazing. I had the same run around trying to activate my new DSL with AT&T as well. First their website says I can’t get service. When I call they say I can but they don’t know if they can get me pro or basic, they’ll have to see when they’re out there. They come to “activate” the DSL. Apparently it was only the phone line. I do the run around this time, though much worse, as they connect me to tech support and to multiple billing folks to try to figure out why I don’t have DSL when my billing account is provisioned for DSL. Finally I got someone who knew what they were doing then I had to wait 2.5 weeks before they’d activate the DSL. No DSL Pro, only basic. It was too slow for me so I had to do the run around with them again to credit the amount of time it took them to activate dsl (the 2.5 weeks) and also cancel my account.

I feel you. AT&T customer service is horrible and I hope people read this and opt to go elsewhere.

Richard Butts (profile) says:

Wow, you said it right.

I cannot tell you how amazing it is to read your story. I struggled mightily with AT&T Uverse Tech support and my story sounded very much like yours. The only difference was that mine went on for WEEKS. They finally gave me some credit on my account for the inconvenience of the HOURS spend on the phone. I would have much rather have had anything even remotely resembling customer service from AT&T than a credit.

IJ says:

AT&T DSL transport, but not AT&T Internet service

I briefly had AT&T’s DSL service, but ended up losing the service after a while when I got behind on bills. Once money was a bit better, I reestablished DSL service, though while AT&T provides the DSL/ATM transport services, this time, AT&T was NOT about to provide DSL service. I’m so glad I did because I get the kind of service I actually want. There are a few reasons I went this route:

  • I have had an account with them since 1995 and was employed there from 1996-2002, so I know the people there.
  • I can get static IPs using BRIDGING, not AT&T’s silly “sticky static”.  Not to mention, I absolutely despise PPPoE.

After my last move, when I moved my phone line to where I live now, the AT&T agent I was talking to was suggesting I go with AT&T’s service.  I told her that I had no intention to because I have tech support personnel practically at my beck and call.  The agent then went to assure me that AT&T had 24-hour tech support, which my present provider does not have, but I countered with the notion that since I used to work for that company and thus know the people there, especially in the admin department, where I used to work.  So I know my requests will be fulfilled by someone who understands what I’d like to do (especially since I actually worked under him).

One point which I wish I had thought of sooner and countered with was that not only do I  know this person, by extension, he is on this side of the Pacific Ocean.  As I like to say, for every job that gets outsourced overseas, an American goes hungry.  The one in question here will not.  😉

Lost in Dallas says:


Appreciate your extensive post.

I am in the midst of the similar issues. We moved within the same city – Dallas – to a downtown address basically across the street from ATT headquarters…. Trying to transfer our phone and DSL. Have found this amazingly impossible.

I have two ‘yellow’ sheets full of 800 and 877 numbers; have gone thru at least 20 phone conversations as you describe; and have had all the experiences you list EXCEPT for finding the competent soul.

Still don’t have service.

Lost in Dallas says:


Appreciate your extensive post.

I am in the midst of the similar issues. We moved within the same city – Dallas – to a downtown address basically across the street from ATT headquarters…. Trying to transfer our phone and DSL. Have found this amazingly impossible.

I have two ‘yellow’ sheets full of 800 and 877 numbers; have gone thru at least 20 phone conversations as you describe; and have had all the experiences you list EXCEPT for finding the competent soul.

Still don’t have service.

BAWA says:

AT&T Sucks!!!!!!!

I too have worked with AT&T , and trust me all you customers I completly understand what you people go through . Me as an ex-employee can say AT&T SUCKS!!!! It is the damn owner of this company who makes new rules and he thinks it will help the customers, but sadly he does not know it makes their lives miserable….. It is he who is responsible for his losseses.

AT&T Hell says:

Phew I am being punished for using AT&T by AT&T

I cannot believe it. For some reason I thought mine was an isolated case. But the bad expereience with AT&T seems to be a commom theme.
I have a had my order cancelled by AT&T for misterious reasons I simply find that out when my internet stops working. It has happened three times now and every time you call them kiss your time good bye. You get routed from department to department. This is how my conversations go…
Me: Hi tec-support I cannot connect to the internet.
ATT: I am sorry sir we can definitely help.
Can i have your account number and a call back number we can call you back at in case we get disconnected (Note: ATT has never NEVER called me back).
Me: Sure.
ATT: Hummm sir this seems to be lines issue , let me transfer you to them. (Time spent 30 min).
Me: I have no choice sure.
ATT: This is lines department can I have account number and a number we can call you bcak at in case we get disconnected.
Me. Sure.
ATT: humm sirry sir this is a provisioning issue et me transfer your call. (Tine spent 1 hr).

The whole shibang repets again and then I am sent to provisioning –> orders. Finally
ATT: Humm I am not sure why you were disconnected but the only way to help is if you place the order again you should have internet in 7 days.
Me. I have no choice (for some odd reason ATT is the only service provider at my building). Time spent 1hr 45 min.

And the whole thing repeats gain in 9 days…2 days after the new order is activated.


li says:

I’ve had it with AT&T. If we have another internet service provider in the area, I would haved swiched long time ago.

Once I tried to install internet service for my business and was promised a free router to be send to me in a week. well, after a week, i didn’t receive anything. So I called them back and they said they’ll send me another one. this time i got my router(a ups guy delivered it, I also signed for the delivery). when i received my first month’s bill I was charged for the router(looks like it was divided into 4 installments). I called them back and found out that I was actually being charged for the router that i’d never received. I explained to them and they said to ignore the charge. well, I thought everything was ok now. after a month a bill was sent to me again with two monthes’ payment. I called them again and had to explained everything all over again. anyway, the problem is still unsolved till today. I don’t even remember how many time I have called. I even received a letter from a dedt collector.

Tim Bryant says:

AT&T Tech Support

O yeah. AT7T so called “Award winning” customer support win the “Dog Chasing Its Tail” Award. Here’s a few recent experience’s with their brand:

1. They send a high speed Internet kit then tell me they don’t have the service in my area. Then they send me another kit anyway. Then, again, confess to not offering the service. Then they send me a bill for the Internet service.

2. I call to check on scheduled startup of new phone service at a house we just built. They tell me that “according to their records” we already have a dial tone. I tell them that “according to my yard” we don’t have a line from the pole to the house? They insist we have a dial tone anyway. When I insist we don’t I get transferred to another person — and so on and so on — until I eventually end up at the beginning of the queue again.

3. We give up on trying to convince them that we don’t have a dial tone and ask them to come out to repair the “existing” line (that doesn’t exist). Their guy comes out and says “The problem with your phone is that there’s no line from the pole to the house!” Gotcha, AT&T!

The best work to describe AT&T is “CrusterFluck!” Sell your stock asap. Just a matter of time before we all go to competitors.

ian says:

Re: AT&T Tech Support

what competitors? our only competitor is time warner cable and they’re just as bad!! it is a monopoly and they know it.

they cut of my signal several times and hour..modem was replaced 2 months ago (2wire) and they insist it’s not them. BULL!!!!!! last person i talked to had english as a second language.


Anonymous Coward says:

ATT Wifi Support 888-888-7520
Credit and Collections 1-800-426-0144
TelCo (Residential) California/Nevada 800-310-2355
TelCo (Residential) Conneticut 800-274-1368
TelCo (Residential) Illinios 888-611-4466
TelCo (Residential) Indiana 800-868-9696
TelCo (Residential) Michigan 800-515-7272
TelCo (Residential) Ohio 800-572-4545
TelCo (Residential) Wisconsin 800-611-2344
TelCo (Residential) Southwest Region 800-246-8464
TelCo (Business) South West Region 800-286-8313
TelCo (Business) Midwest Region 800-727-2273
TelCo (Business) Connecticut 800-274-1368

Cingular ATT Wireless Sales (Residential) 888-333-6651
Cingular ATT Wireless Sales (Business) 866-429-7222
Cingular ATT Wireless Technical Support 800-331-0500
Dry Loop Sales (FAST) 800-264-0002
Yahoo Music Support 800-318-0631
AT&T Satelite (WildBlue) 866-798-4787
AT&T World Net (Dial-up) 800-400-1447
DISH Network 866-722-7500
AT&T WiFi (freedom link) 888-888-7520

Uverse tech support 800-983-2811

reality bites says:

at&t in general

This pathetic customer service/tech support goes to show you what happens when a great company gets raped by a monster like At&t. Before the buy out, I never had an issue getting stuff done. If i had something ordered, sometimes it would even get done the same day. And now, to even get a reply online I have to wait up to 3 days. Way to go Bellsouth, I am sure you’re kicking and screaming now that they got you reaching for your knees.

Rage Demonolith (user link) says:

AT&T Tech Support Nightmare

Hahahaha that IS really funny, you see I work for AT&T Tech support for DSL ANDDD Home Networking…. I really have NO CLUE WHY CANT YOU GET THE PROPER PHONE NUMBER OR PERSON…. you see when you got the modem u got a manual… and it has the 3755 number on it… at the menu with the annoying voive its always gonna give a wrong phone number, thats why we ask for it again… Just say yes that is my number and say tech support at the prompt, I have called my coworkers and it took me 3 minutes to get to a Live agent that works with me on the night shift… as for the other departments…. I know they transfer a lot with nonsense explanaitions so that I have to agree… but the tech support… (at least us) do have quality so we try to do our best…. Next time try not to get the phillipines or India… That always works.

Best regards

Anonymous Coward says:

AT&T Tech Support Nightmare

I have been a customer for over a year now with AT&T business dsl. I have never experienced such “AT&T TECH SUPPORT NIGHTMARE” that you guys are complaining about. I have talked to offshore technical support agents who had gladly assisted me in fixing my internet problems. I do understand most of the points here specially of Mike’s. The IVR based on my own experience really is a lot of CRAP. I was transferred a lot of times when I am reporting an issue with my DSL and it surprised me that someone from the Philippines offered to go the extra mile and help me speak directly to an agent without the hassle of going thru with the prompts again!! If they didn’t at least help me in properly reaching the right dept that I should speak with regarding my connection I would have thrown out my AT&T modem and swear not to subscribe to their service anymore!

Beth says:

AT&T Tech Support Nightmare

i had experienced that just awhile ago when i accidentally reached Indian support! cant understand what the agent was saying, which i spent half an hour just understanding what he was telling me to my disappointment i hung up and dialed the same number then i got someone from the philipines who supports business dsl. told her that i have residential line. she was informing me that they have this support number for residential customers and provided me the number then transferred me over to someone from residential if i do remember at7t yahoo and was assisted till i gain back my service.

all i can is Kudos to at7t!

Chris W says:

RE: AT&T Customer and tech support

I sound like alot of you are in CA, well I’m in TX and I can honestly say that of all the “Utility” providers I’ve ever had to deal with AT&T has been the worst in every regard. For the numb nut who works in Tech support at AT&T, find something better to do than write a book to a complaining customer, you sounded like, and are most likely a idiot. Anyway, I have had AT&T for 4 years and in 2 months it’s fairwell……. The CEO must be absolutely blind and in fantasy land…. As a group, AT&T has the most undertrained service professionals in the world. The endless loop, had I been the guy that began this post I would have lost my top! WHat are computers for? I have sold network services and during that time I experienced first hand how stupid organizations are. Don’t make excuses, fix the problem and shut up and get back to helping the next person out. Half the time I call in for support I have more knowledge about the topic I’m calling about than the person I’m talking to???? Does AT&T drug test?? Anyway, DROP THE CLAIM TO HaVING THE NETWORK WITH THE LEAST AMOUNT OF DROPPED CALLS!!! DON’t WORRY PEOPLE, I USED TO WORK WITH CEO’S FOR A LARGE WELL KNOWN MARKET RESEARCH FIRM AND THEIR TIME WILL COME. AND WHEN IT DOES THAT DUMBASS TECHIE WHO DOESN’T EAT MC DONALDS WILL BE WISHING HE STILL HAD A JOB SO HE COULD EAT AT MC DONALDS. WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND……………………



I know, that is i work for them and they are ridiculous if only people really knew that we did not care at all.. or at least treat them like we don’t care it because there are just too many chefs in the kitchen.. and the audience for DSL is someone that live in the slums with no fibber support that wants slow internet on their phone lines, But we do eventually give them that, and tell them to deal with it because they pay 15 bux a month..



I know, that is i work for them and they are ridiculous if only people really knew that we did not care at all.. or at least treat them like we don’t care it because there are just too many chefs in the kitchen.. and the audience for DSL is someone that live in the slums with no fibber support that wants slow internet on their phone lines, But we do eventually give them that, and tell them to deal with it because they pay 15 bux a month..

Albert Watkins says:


I am now an old man. I have done business around the world and have never experienced anything like the complete inability of this giant corporation to provide service, in a timely fashion to a paying customer. You don’t want the details. Take my word for it. It wasn’t pretty trying to get help from these people. Does our government know what these folks are up to? I wonder.

carson hats AT&T says:

AT&T experience sucks hands down!

I work for a company that has me set up phone lines and DSL service and by god i was having thoughts of suicide. the first 10 times were as described above. at least 2.5 hour call. only for 2 phone lines 1 fax and DSL line, and 2 voice mails too. 4 different things all together
not hard. all in my opinion. Ive had to do this about 45+ times and
sometimes they screw the order up by not having the phone lines activated that happens about 10% – 15% of the time. and as well by screwing up the order by only having 1 phone line or having 3 phone lines no DSL or fax line. totally tubes our advertising and patients scheduled for the up coming days of opening a store and not to forget it takes 3 days for DSL internet to be turned on if not activated.we rely on internet morons and cant run business with out it!! its a effin joke!! so Ive actually got a business rep with AT&T and even then im thats an even bigger joke. like wtf he only serves for the Midwest. so for states out of his region he has to email the other reps and by god it takes at least 1.5 weeks to get as above 2 phone lines 1 fax + DSL to even get processed. i said eff that. so my alt solution is working so far and saving me money somewhat. so every time now i call up Screaming and yelling cursing up a storm and say i want your manager. that takes about 20-40 min depending on how lousy the manager is. keep in mind you first want to be in the right department or what you need. s such as AT&T phone,AT&T DSL,AT&T tech, AT&T repair, AT&T billing. are the main 5 categories as far as what Ive noticed.
so once then finally the manager comes on and you talk in a nice tone and state you have been on hold for literally an hour 17min some weird number like you just looked at it off the phone, and also say Ive been transfers 3 times to different departments (and sound pissed when you say that) so that is how they know your serious.low and behold they will honestly kiss your booty to fix anything and now your have 3 departments practically with this manager he konws everyone and has servants do what he wants. so your needs and wants aren’t compromised .also when talking to the manager try not to be too happy! even though you might be. you need to sound a little aggregated / disappointed sounding it makes him work faster… and possibly cheapen your bill or have techs show up same day things like that. so once you follow my advice things like that happen. when you don’t do my advice above. expect long calls less promo’s and the repair tech to show up to 2 days even on location you are at. and that is seriously the best solution Ive come up with so far and works for me!! which is absolutely out of character for me. but if thats how AT&T has there policy’s then thats how things have to be done on my end. it’s at least a 27min -1hr call for this royalty service which is still a joke.

p.s. and for Comcast none of this apply’s.

god i wish life was the matrix! i would love where you can go into the phone and come out the other side just so i can ring there neck. seriously do the math 10 first calls times 2.5 hrs = a day and 35+ remaining times on a 40min average that is my life wasted keeping those lousy customer service reps employed. AT&T you need more managers! so less bs.

the moral of the story is it doesn’t pay to go with AT&T. and for Comcast i have had virtual no problems except in California in LA, and Sacramento where all service providers suck in my opinion. and Verizon is the absolute worst ever don’t get me started!!!

Obama says:

This guy sure does complain a lot. Since you have enough money to move every few years just move and stop crying about how their customer service is bad and go with someone else. Although you seem the type to just find any other little problem you can and cry about that as well. Oh well, enjoy the sweet salty taste of your own tears.

urfather says:

Customers are sometimes ID10ts

First of all, the guy that wrote the story is a stupid idiot, the reason you were transferred around was because YOU don’t know the account number, is that the agents fault? you are putting money into something you don’t have a complete control of. THAT was your first mistake, the automated system sent you to sales because they can give you that number (but of course, to you its the company’s fault)
im so tired of there motherfucking people. First get all your info straightened out, then call … YOU FUCKING IDIOT

Bo says:

ATT help

Try to get help from AT&T on AT&T’s internet security (McAfee) is next to impossible.

I went to ATT internet security site for down loading McAfee – I got an error msg saying ATT is sorry that the service is not working.

Next, trying to find out which phone number to call is EXTREMELY difficult using att.com. It goes around and around and I must have spent 20 minutes going through different loops and went nowhere. I Finally used Google to find an ATT help number. It puts me on hold and now it has been 20 minutes. I have no idea how much longer I need to hold for this. It is incredible.

r sttrong says:

sorry customer repirservice- None exist -no way of getting repair survices

For months I call a number (a number I have called for years -my Doctor’s -office. I get a voice stating “SUNDAY SUNDAY” and I am disconnected.-Call a no fee call to a 972 number and get Sunday Sunday, And disconnected – The sorry serine of AT7T has done nothing.’ I called – or received a call from a ATA authority and he said he was taking this issue on and would get solved and would be back to me-Hell as usual that too never happens.

Your service s stink- at no time do I ever get a computer generated voice that does nothing.
Long distance assistance for phone numbers- It’s non functional – nothing works.

Your a sorry – sorry operation.
I have been paying into your sorry ass company for over 60 years.

Nothing works.
no wonder why all you have is a computer voice system. Hell no one works for the customer base’ R STRONG.

Danielles says:

AT&T Advanced Tech Support

The problem is that there is no such thing as AT&T Advanced Technical Support.

You’re better off Googling tutorials to resolve issues.Because Tech Support is vendored to a separate company.That lacks resources to update software or train properly. And goes through employees faster that fermented figs cycle through a goose.

You’re really not calling experts at all. Just terrified call center lackies who will pretend to fix your issue. They actually rarely have any idea what you’re talking about … so they Google answers.

Because there are too many wordy AT&T program “tools” to try to sort through in one call.And that’s if their system doesn’t freeze or crash while the client is calling.

That’s the truth. There are no experts. Just great BS artists at Tech Support for AT&T. On occasion, they may accidentally solve your issue.

But not often …

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