In Which ATT Infuriates the Author

I had a lot of plans for this weekend. All of them involved working. Unfortunately, said plans were derailed by the phone company, which, well…let me just show you a copy of the Very Angry Letter I sent them:

Dear ATT,

I am writing to express my extreme dissatisfaction with the level of service I have recently received from your company, as the sheer level of incompetence and disregard I encountered as an ATT customer left me with a very negative view of your company and your commitment to customer service.

I am in the process of moving, and was advised to call five days in advance to arrange for transfer of my services to ensure that the transfer would go smoothly. I duly called on Friday, 22 October to set up a work order to transfer my services on Wednesday, 27 October. I stressed the day and date multiple times and was assured the transfer could be performed in one day, with a minimum of down time.

This was particularly important to me, because I am a writer, and I rely on my Internet service to do my work, to meet with clients, and to network with people in the writing and publishing industry. Being available constantly via email is pretty much a requirement to work in the industry these days, and networking with clients over social networking services is also critically important; I cannot afford to be away from the Internet for more than a day, and usually need to plan ahead in such situations.

Working outside my home is not an option; I do not have access to shared office spaces and I cannot work in environments like coffeehouses and libraries. I must have access to the Internet at home, where all of my resources are and where it’s possible to focus and concentrate while I work. I was extremely concerned about downtime during my move, and was very pleased when the technician initially told me that I should only be without phone and Internet service for a few hours on Wednesday.

Almost as soon as my phone call was concluded, both my phone and Internet stopped working. The weather was poor, and I suspected it might be a temporary outage caused by the weather, so I went to bed. Imagine my surprise when I woke up on Saturday to see that my phone still wasn’t working. I proceeded to spend all day on Saturday on the phone, my cellphone, I might add, since my landline was nonoperational, being bounced from department to department. I was forced to pay so that a series of representatives could lie to me about what was going on and provide me with generally atrocious service.

With each call, there was a different explanation. ‘Something wrong with the line’ seemed to be the most popular one and at least three people pledged to send out a technician ‘right away’ to work on the line, although one never materialised. It wasn’t until Saturday night, after hours of working my way through your labyrinthine phone system and being shuffled to departments that were obviously closed, that I got in contact with a representative in San Diego, who was the first to openly admit that you had clearly disconnected my services five days earlier than the requested transfer, and she expressed apologies ‘for the inconvenience’ and informed me nothing could be done until Monday.

‘Inconvenience’ is a temporary and unavoidable outage caused by bad weather and the necessity of repairs to the line. I understand that these things happen, as a rural ATT customer, and that they usually happen without warning. Terminating my services in clear violation of my very plainly worded request to transfer my account is not an ‘inconvenience,’ it is an act of gross incompetence. Tell me, please, what the technician who put that order through thought I was planning to do for five days without phone and Internet? And tell me, please, why the technician in San Diego noted that the transfer was scheduled for the 27th, but my services were disconnected on the 22nd, clearly indicating that someone thought it would be perfectly acceptable to cut me off for absolutely no reason?

I would also note that when I finally got ahold of the lovely and fabulous Ivonna in ‘level two support’ this morning so she could turn my Internet back on, she noted that this is a recurring problem. When your own technical support staff are expressing frustration with the incompetence of other members of your organization, I think you have a problem.

I would conservatively estimate that my financial damages as a result of being unable to use the Internet were probably around $700, since I had a full weekend of work scheduled. This is to say nothing of the damage to my professional reputation; I had to cancel one client meeting, was unable to respond to emails from clients, and was unable to fully participate in the online community, where a day of silence, let alone almost three, can be extremely damaging for people who rely on social connections for work.

I am well aware that the likelihood of you compensating me for the work I missed because of your very obvious foul up is very slim, although I assume you have no problem charging me for services I couldn’t access for close to three days. And you, no doubt, are aware that my alternatives to ATT are equally slim; in a normal situation, incompetence on this level would lead me to switch service providers, but I can’t do that, because there is no other service provider.

Consequently, you have me between a rock and a hard place, but at the very least, a more strongly worded apology, including a personal apology from the person who thought it was a good idea to cut off my services like this, would be greatly appreciated. After all, while I can’t seek other service providers, I can advise friends all over the United States living in areas where there are more options to go with another company, one that won’t treat them so callously.

—s.e. smith