An Open Letter to AT&T Wireless Services

ISSUES: iPhone Wireless Service

In Progress?

COMPANY RATING: One star (out of five)

See 7/17/09 & 7/18/09 updates below...

As instructed, I sent this letter out today to the AT&T office in Greeley, CO. Let’s see what response I get. I’ve learned that sharing with others always elicits a more timely response, so here is the open letter for the whole Internet audience to see.


To Whom It May Concern:

I must begin by saying that it seems somewhat counter-intuitive that I was told that the only way to lodge my complaint with a technologically advanced company such as AT&T is by sending snail mail to your address.
However, it somewhat follows suit given all the issue I am having with your wireless services. Since becoming an AT&T customer (after 18 years with Verizon) nearly a year ago and purchasing three iPhones, I have had sub-par network performance. This includes voice and data.
And despite your telephone reps being cordial, kind and attentive… they just haven’t accomplished anything. I’ve been through countless hours with tech support, customer care, cancellations, billing, etc.
In short, both my location at home and at the office are “dead zones”. I regularly drive through two other such zones. In these areas, I can be assured of failed call attempts, dropped calls and people who call me going directly to voicemail. Odd, since your coverage maps show the entire Greater Miami area as having “excellent” 3G coverage. Meanwhile, most of the time I call into reps, they tell me ”there are several towers down in your area“ or ”we are building new towers to address those dead spots” or (my personal favorite) “the hurricanes from last year have affected South Florida service”. None of which sounds particularly convincing after you hear that several months in a row. You also have data saturation issue at Dolphins Stadium, which means I have never been able to surf the web or get voicemail during the entire season of going there.
As a rather technically minded person (I run a large IT team), I also have concluded that my issue is not a rouge or faulty piece of equipment. I have three phones that are experiencing the problems. They can’t all be broken, right? Despite my pointing this out, I am usually run through the standard drill of troubleshooting almost every time I call in. I always do what the techs ask me to do and have my assumption confirmed. I’ve been to Apple Stores to have the phones checked, swapped SIM cards (that makes no sense at all), and a few other steps to re-program my phone with new cell tower information. The problems persist.
I have now hit my level of tolerance. I have logged approximately 20-30 calls in a year to try to resolve these issues. Each time I am promised it will get better. Well, over the past two to three months it has noticeably gotten worse.
I am not expecting perfection. I know wireless networks can’t ever run at 100%. However, I have a case where I can easily argue AT&T has failed to perform against the contract terms. The fact that I’ve been told that I’ve exceeded all limits for AT&T to refund me for service outages proves that this is an extreme situation and not “normal”. I defy anyone looking at my case notes to tell me this is acceptable service. It is clear to me that we need to find a solution or part ways.
I am hoping that AT&T can do one of the following for me:
A) Provide iPhone hardware that works properly on the network. I have unconfirmed data from numerous sources that the chipset in the iPhone 3Gs may be to blame for many of these issues.
B) Until rectified, provide ongoing, significant discount to make up for the poor level of service. It makes no sense for me to pay the contract premiums without the services stated being provided.
C) Refund my money for the iPhone purchases and allow me to leave AT&T without an early termination fee. As I have not breeched the contract, I feel there is no reason for me to be penalized. I am essentially being forced to leave due to lack of service.

[snipped my signature and account information from the letter]

7/17/09 UPDATE:

Just as I was giving up hope that a human was ever going to read my letter, I got a call.

A representative of AT&T spoke to me at length regarding my letter and its claims. He provided me his name and direct phone number and promised that he’d be following up with me on Monday. The conversation was pleasant and upbeat. Although the rep was careful not to provide language on any admission of network issues, he did say that his next calls would be to high level engineering to see what might rectify my issues.

I’m not holding my breath, but at least it’s a step...and one in the right direction. Thanks for starting my weekend off right AT&T!

7/18/09 UPDATE:

TechCrunch also seems to be loving their AT&T....

11/6/09 UPDATE:

The lumbering giant is starting to do the right thing, albeit only after I hounded them for the better part of a year. First, they recently issued me a $500 credit for my troubles. Next, my downtown office location seems to have been retrofitted with a nearby cell tower. I can now hold a conversation nearly everywhere in the building. Yes! At home is still pretty spotty. Dolphins Stadium (I mean Landshark Stadium) is still a dead zone for any data.

1/12/10 UPDATE:

AT&T is still at FAIL stage. No contact from the executive offices after two weeks of leaving email and voice messages. Service stinks. Some days are near communication blackouts. I see AT&T admitting to various levels of non-service, but I don't see any real improvements being made. Maybe fewer commericials and more techs would do the trick?

AT&T (Billing and Wireless)

ISSUES: iPhone Wireless Service & Billing


COMPANY RATING: One star (out of five)

In the history of me dealing with companies for lies, billing and/or general stupidity, AT&T is a runaway #1. As a Florida resident, we were gobbled up into AT&T’s grasp a few years ago with the BellSouth merger. It has been downhill ever since. Oh, how I relish the days of fighting with Verizon. Sure, they made mistakes too, but not one after the other.

The big event that leads me to writing this article is our dependency on AT&T for our wireless services. As many have done over the past two years, we moved from a reliable service (Verizon) just to get our hands on the iPhone. Every day it is a love/hate relationship.

As a former Apple employee, generally well-informed consumer and by the experiences of several iPhone owners in the area, I can assure you that the AT&T 3G network and the iPhone do not work well together. Even though things have improved since the early days of the iPhone 3G, we are still paying for late alpha (not even beta) service. Five bars should mean five bars, but it doesn’t. In fact, a few software updates back, I noticed that the bars miraculously went up by two in the exact same areas I was in moments before the update. That’s right, the bars were goosed up via a software update! Total fabrication. Often, I see five bars but can’t place or received calls. Data coverage is spottier and seems to be disjointed from the signal strength bars altogether. In particular, my house and work locales are both freakish dead zones. And don’t start down the path that maybe it’s my iPhone hardware, we have three iPhones and they all do the same thing.

My open complaint is that consumers should get more for their dollar. I call each month with new complaints about service and get placated with a service credit or some vague promise about how they are very close to fixing the issue(s) I bring up. Hogwash! This is simple lip service and its time we all stand up and demand to get value for our money.

I am particularly annoyed about the issues they are having inside Dolphins Stadium. I have yet to be able to use data there for an entire year. Phone coverage is spotty. If I see five bars on my phone and the cell tower is inside the stadium and visible from my seat I should get service, right? Nope... not the case. Their excuse is that too many people are using the service at one time. I argue that it’s a football stadium with a fixed number of seats. They know EXACTLY how many customers they need to serve and on which days they need to serve them.

We also have our local and long distance, Internet, and DirecTV service through an AT&T bundle plan. Wow, how did I ever get to one company for all my services? Dumb! And now they are cramming U-verse down my throat. One wire for all services. ABSOLUTELY NOT! If you get pitched for U-verse, run away! On top of everything coming down one wire (zero redundancy and diversity), they lie to you that the service is fiber optic to the house. In most cases, this simply is not true. Again, AT&T lies.

This brings me to my last point, billing. Should I really find mistakes each and every bill? This is exactly what I’ve found since July 2008 (when we got iPhones). I dread getting the AT&T bill because it becomes at least an hour of WORK to research, correct and pay it. Up until this month, the mistakes all favored AT&T. One mistakes was so egregious that it amounted to overcharging me by more than $300.

This month brings a new story. I receive my statements on combined billing, meaning one bill for everything and with that I receive some bundle discounts. So, imagine my surprise when the bill came without the wireless charges at all! My bill is about $300 less than it should be. Being an honest guy, I tried calling them. Their offices are closed today (Sunday). So, here I sit with no way to resolve yet another AT&T billing mistake. I’ll open it up for comments. What would you do in this situation?