Wednesday, August 31, 2011

AT&T: In case you forget why you hate the company (but not the customer reps)

I had another set of AT&T interactions when I added son #2 to our AT&T famlly plan ($10 a month). They reminded me why I fear and despise AT&T.

Surprisingly, they also reminded me that AT&T has exceptionally pleasant and agreeable service representatives. They are even more agreeable than the average Apple store staffer. How can such an evil company have such pleasant customer service [1]? It's a mystery. My best guess is a mixture of brain implants and illegal substances.

The first upset came about when I tried to add son #2 through the AT&T web site. I didn't want a contract or subsidized phone, and the site assumes that. I cancelled out. That is, I thought I cancelled out. I found out the next day that I'd unwittingly switched from my text messaging plan to a new plan. This turned out to have  silver lining, as the new plan is the same price and adds unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling - an unannounced upgrade to match the competition. Despite the upside, this was an occult contract change. I hate occult contract changes.

The next (minor) aggravation came when I realized I had to go in and turn off AT&T marketing for my son's phone. Yes, AT&T spam text is an opt in feature. If you don't want AT&T spam text you have to opt out -- for every phone.

The big aggravation came when I was warned that AT&T will enroll him in a data plan if I switch his SIM card to a "smartphone", even if the "smartphone" never uses data and even though he doesn't have an AT&T phone and isn't on an AT&T contract.

This is so wrong. I think AT&T tries to justify this is as a "feature" to prevent high fees for out-of-contract data use, but really it's pure evil. It makes old iPhones much less useful and drives new phone purchase and data contracts. (If you have to pay a data fee without a phone, might as well get a subsidized iPhone so part of the fee goes to Apple.)

There's a twist, however. I've written about this before: Does anyone know what AT&T's smartphone data plan rules really are?. It's not at all clear, despite what AT&T reps are told, that this automatic enrollment applies when a user doesn't have a contract. Son #1's iPhone has been on our family plan for over a year and he's never been enrolled. (Maybe the trick is his iPhone has never used AT&T data services, so it hasn't triggered their enrollment.)

Al Franken is our Senator, and he's going to be interrogating AT&T about their T-mobile acquisition. I'll remind him to ask about their obligatory data plan.

- fn -

[1] For example, today's rep convinced me to drop from 1400 min to 700 min on our family plan. This means we lose the Google Voice friendly (but meaningless otherwise) "A List" feature, but that's offset by their mobile-to-mobile/unlimited texting plan.

See also:

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