Net Loss

The plan could not have been simpler.  I had just signed an extension to my AT&T wi-fi/Internet plan, at a really good rate (with the most advantageous bandwidth / channel compatibility / cost compromise*), so I just wanted to continue the plan at my new address.

“Switch the exact same plan from #2109 Old Town to #714 New Town,” was my description of my situation.
“No problem at all,” saith AT&T, “because the previous tenant at #714 was an AT&T customer, and we show all the necessary equipment is already in place.”
“So I need to cancel my existing account at #2109 for June 12, and schedule an installation appointment for my new service on June 13?”
“Precisely.  And you won’t need an installation appointment because the basic framework is already in place;  we’ll just send you your new equipment — it will arrive on June 12 — and all you’ll have to do is plug it in, turn it on, and your new service will begin at 2:00pm on June 13.”

How excellent, thinks I — but you may recall my words prior to the move:  “From long and bitter experience, I expect that despite all my careful planning, AT&T is somehow going to cock things up so I might be Internet-free for the next couple of days.”

Which they duly did. On June 11 I received a package from AT&T which contained only a power supply and two connecting cables.  No router, but “Aha!” thinks I, “I’ll just be able to use my existing router;  how convenient.”

So Thursday morning June 13 was spent moving the remaining furniture from #2109 to #714, which cost only a tad more than $500 because New Wife and I had already  moved almost everything across during the two prior weeks, leaving only the stuff we couldn’t physically move ourselves.  All was done long before midday, whereupon I set about plugging in the router and so on, to get wifi.  I even delayed it a couple of hours until the promised 2:00pm activation time.

Except that when I eventually found the connection box, it was in the bedroom closet (hidden behind the door), and the box bore absolutely no relation to any of the equipment AT&T said was necessary to plug anything into.

So I called AT&T Customer WiFi service, after going through the usual phone-tree “press 1 for this and press 6 for that” which I bypassed simply by screaming “OPERATOR!” whenever thus prompted.  Eventually I got though to a very nice young man named Kevin — a real Kevin from the Midwest and not some fake “Kevin” from Kolkata or Manila, which was nice.  He looked up my situation and insisted that I should have no problem just plugging everything in.  So I took photos of the existing box, and texted them to him.

For the first time, a crack started to show.

“Are you sure that’s the only box you have there?”
“Yup.  If you want, I can do a brief tour of the entire apartment, and take pics of every single power outlet or tech point.”
“No no, that won’t be necessary.  What router did we send you?”
“There wasn’t a router, any router,” and I showed him pics of not only the contents but also the package which had contained the cables.
“Oh, ummm it looks as though we’ll have to schedule an installation appointment for you.”
“For this afternoon?” I inquired casually.
“Ummm no, we have no available slots today,” but before I could begin the Bad Language, he added hastily, “but I can send you a technician tomorrow morning, between 8am and 12pm.”

Okay, I agreed to that, but warning him (remember, “This call may be monitored for training and quality control purposes” ) that if the techie didn’t show up, my next call would be to another provider, like Spectrum.

So Friday morning June 14 dawned, and precisely at 8:30am I got this call:

“Hi, this is the AT&T technician.  I’m at your apartment complex, but I can’t find your apartment.”
“No problem;  just drive around and I’ll wait outside to signal you in.”
“Okay, I’m outside Building 21” which was when I started to get a queasy feeling, because the new complex doesn’t have that many blocks.  Then he added, “Shouldn’t #2109 be in that building?”
AT&T had sent the techie to my OLD address, not to the NEW one.
So I pointed that out to him, we shared a merry laugh, and I told him just to drive the 20-odd minutes to the new place, and all would be well.
“Let me call you back to confirm…”  and the next call I got was:  “I can’t do your installation, because it’s in a different area and we can’t cross over.”

Which is when the Bad Language started to flow.

“Look,” I said eventually, “I understand that this isn’t your fault — someone at Scheduling fucked up, not you — but it is my fucking problem, that problem being that I don’t have the wifi service I’m paying for.  So tell me what comes next.”

Of course, I had to call some 800 number to get a new installation appointment, and by screaming (again) “OPERATOR!” as necessary, I got through to a Hispanic-sounding chap who was as helpful as could be, except that he was unable to simply cancel the wrong installation callout and substitute it with a new one, and could only create a new ticket with (of course) a much later installation time.

Which was when the Bad Language really started to flow.  I refused to get off the line, and told him to get me a replacement techie, and if that techie arrived anytime after midday that day, I would be calling Spectrum and to hell with AT&T, their contract and their whole fucking inefficient operation.

One hour later, the techie arrived.  She was a short, tough-looking lesbian named Christie with heavy boots, multiple tattoos and piercings, and she took charge of the whole situation.

Turns out that I was absolutely not at fault;  everything AT&T had said about the installation was wrong, she’d need to install a whole new system in the closet (including a shelf to hold the router and controller), there were also some technical issues which would take a little extra time, but she’d take care of everything and I wasn’t to worry.  I could sit down, have a cup of coffee and put the explosives away.

And for the first time in this whole encounter with AT&T, she was exactly right.  Not only did she do all that stuff, she worked some magic whereby I could use my old router (same wifi address and password even), which also meant I didn’t have to send it back to AT&T.

And speaking of AT&T, they always send over a “customer service” guy towards the end of any service call, whose nominal job is to make sure everything has gone okay, but who “reviews” your account and tries to get you to change your phone provider / purchase a more comprehensive set of AT&T products.

This guy (David) took one look at what had happened (after I’d explained it all — minus the bad language, but with a great deal of clarity — and told him I had absolutely no intention of ending my 20-year+ relationship with T-Mobile).

He recommended that I downgrade my service package to one closer to my needs (see below) which would taraaa! save us $30 a month.

Which, I don’t have to tell you, means free milk and bread per month (at Bidenprices) for New Wife and myself.  It all helps.

So AT&T earned some redemption from me, at least.  But I still hate them.

*I use very little bandwidth, relatively speaking, and watch only a few channels on TV — EPL football and F1 Grand Prix, major golf tournaments and occasionally an oldie on Turner Classic Movies, plus the usual dreck on Amazon Prime, Netflix and sometimes a series on one of the other channels like Discovery+.  As I have no interest in being “current”, I’m happy to wait until the New Hot Show gets old and withered, and can be had for free on one of the above, failing which I let it go without giving a damn.

I am a man of very simple needs, technologically speaking


  1. Switched to Verizon for my wife’s phone last year so if ( when ) my phones AT&T service went sideways, we would have an option. Last week she went to the Netherlands to visit family and Verzon assured us everything was set so she could use her phone when overseas. Of course it didn’t work and when I called the help line I was told to just have her call in or bring it by so they can identify the problem.

    I’m pretty sure they didn’t really understand the reason why I couldn’t do that. Either that or there was great laughter and celebration at the Call Center after they were able to disconnect due to “Abusive language from the Caller” so the call didn’t go against their performance score.

    1. It’s the reason we chose T-Mobile all those years ago: it was originally a German company, so their coverage in Euroland was comprehensive. As was their bill when we arrived home, in those pre-wifi days. It took a long and extremely angry phone call to get the charges adjusted.

      Since then, by the way, T-M’s service has been little short of outstanding. I realize, though, that I may be tempting fate in saying that…

    2. And GOOD LUCK when you want to cancel Verizon! Those scum sucking thieves will keep reactivating the account every time you look away.
      We had to threaten legal action against them to get my wife’s old account closed for good. Two years of them quietly reopening it, billing her, and then sending us to collections when the bill bounced.
      I finally had to look for a lawyer to represent us in civil AND criminal charges against them. At which point, Verizon finally closed and LOCKED the account – and dinged her credit, refusing to remove the delinquent debtor accusation.
      It’s taken her 10 years plus to rebuild her credit from those lying assholes. I will NEVER willingly do business with them.

  2. Many moons ago when I was still in the Pacific Northwest (and before the internet) I decided to ship a box of Washington State apples to my dad and his wife in New Mexico. I found myself speaking to a cheerful black woman who was competent and helpful, until I gave her Dad’s address in Ruidoso, NM.

    “I’m sorry sir. We don’t ship internationally.”

    “Ah, I’m sorry. I’m not sending them to Mexico. I’m shipping them to Ruidoso NEW Mexico.”

    “I heard you the first time sir, and we don’t ship to foreign countries.”

    I did my best to explain her misunderstanding about New Mexico; its locale & nationality. “Not Mexico. New Mexico. In the United States.” In an exasperated tone she replied, “NEW Mexico, OLD Mexico, it doesn’t matter – we don’t ship to that country!”

    I asked for her supervisor and told him the tale. There was a pause, then “Christ on a tampon.” He quickly apologized for the outburst. I laughed and thanked him for it (“Christ on a fuckin’ tampon” has since become one of my favorite remarks, whenever it seems appropriate).

    The supe gave me 10% off my order and threw in a box of some confection or other.

    Mediocrity, thy name is US Government funded education.

    1. That outburst is duly noted, and hereby stolen. Priceless.

      And given the gender confusion these days, it’s even appropriate.

    2. When we married, my wife moved from Massachusetts to New Mexico with me.
      She had multiple people tell her to make sure her passport was up to date so that there wouldn’t be any issues at the border…

  3. So AT&T is going ot use the recordings of your phone call to “train” new employees that this is a job done correctly to AT&T standards.

    The worst that I deal with on a regular basis is the mail order drug store. These clowns are the most incompetent people I have ever had to deal with. I assume the right medicine is in the bottle when it arrives.

    1. JQ; You are more trusting than I. When I get a refill of anything, I do a Google image check. Every med has different imprints. I also count the pills in the bottle.
      Stay safe

  4. For better or worse, we have had all our como bundled with ATT since forever. I have long since adopted the same tactic when dealing with their phone tree, yelling “representative!” until I get a live body. Or sometimes I just pound the (*) key. If I get an ESL (English second language) body whose accent I can’t understand, I hang up and start over.

    The plus that keeps us on board is that the field techs have been stellar (as are the troops in the trenches in most organizations). One guy showed up a few years back and remarked that the line going into our house was quite old. He went to work, including going up in our attic, and dropped a new line inside the wall to the outlet.

    More recently, they put fiber optic cable in our neighborhood. Many promos arrived both snail mail and email “encouraging” us to switch over. We finally bit on the one offering a VISA gift card. In the middle of this, we got an un-related email informing us of a tech being scheduled to perform the fiber connection. Do tell. When he arrived, I declined his service. I showed him the gift card offer and explained that I wanted to do that by the numbers to be bloody well sure we got it. He chuckled and said “Yup, that’s what I’d do”.

  5. Where I live it’s either AT&T or Comcast. Nobody likes either one of them, so you get fucked up customer service either way, except as RHT477 notes above, the service techs are very good. So I just pay my bill and pray nothing goes wrong.

  6. I lost half my TV channels during a routine switch upgrade. I got the Delhi call center where the guy on the phone told me he would re-initialize my switch. I told him to stop but I was too late. He couldn’t understand why the password to get back in didn’t work. I am a Satcomm engineer and I know switches and routers. I explained that when he re-initialed a switch it took it back to initial factory setting with the default password and it now needed to be configured. The line went dead. I call back and request a supervisor. I explained what happened and he tells me there were no records of me calling in. He can’t log in to my box because there are multiple box’s with the same default IP address. I told him that I could change the IP and password back to what it was supposed to be so he could log in and re-configure the box. He refused stating I wasn’t supposed to have the password. It was written on the bottom of the box. He set me up for a technician to come out three days later. The next morning the AT&T tech gave me a call. He had read the call notes and asked if I could log in and change the IP and password. Once I did that he had the switch re-configured in 20 minutes remotely. He told me to call him and leave a message if I ever had any more problems. I did a year later when the UVerse TX box died. He dropped a replacement by that afternoon.

  7. Technology(sigh). AT&T dial-up could not get my billing straight for 13 months. Verizon dial-up could, so I went with them. Fast forward a few years, Comcast offers us broadband at a competitive rate. We say OK.
    I get home from work to a non working broadband. Eh, switch briefly back to dialup and yell at Comcast at my leisure. Nope. The tech removed the post-it notes that told him not to delete my modem scripts, before deleting my modem scripts.
    He couldn’t touch AOL, however. I pulled that up and downloaded a compatible modem script for a free, if slow, dialup account I had as backup.
    I called Comcast back and, among other things, told them I have both a dialup account and a rooftop antenna, so I didn’t need their service. Also, I wasn’t paying for the time their service was unavailable. They listen when you tell them that.
    Stay safe

  8. All phone trees are set to route angry customers to an operator, sometimes automatically escalating it. So next time skip “operator” and shout “fuck you fuck you fuck you!” Into the phone a few times to get an operator. Feels good, too.

    1. Not all.
      I have used the “colorful language technique,” and while it still does usually work, there are now some companies that will auto-disconnect the call instead of bypassing the phone tree. Had one do that to me; I think it took 5 or 6 calls to actually figure out the magic pass phrase to get a real person.

  9. Customer service used to be fairly decent at large companies but has devolved into shouting “representative” into the phone enough times to get the customer pissed off when they finally get to an incomprehensible human.

    Whoever invented the automated phone menu deserves to rot in hell between hitler and stalin.

  10. Oh, the stories I could tell. Let me start by saying that I started my career as a cable tech, and spent most of my career as a network engineer. So, let’s say my interaction with the carriers has been entertaining.

    One of the best was when I was getting good download, but no upload from FIOS. To say it was an ordeal would be an understatement. It ended when I did the same thing you did – tell them that Friday I would have the upload I wanted, whether or not it was them that provided it.

    About two calls into it, they decided to replace the NID (The box on the side of the house). Dude shows up, and first works out of his cake hole were “What seems to be the problem?”

    The problem is you don’t know why you are here, is what I said, pretty dryly.

    Dude replaced the part. Told me the issue was at the central office (I knew that but was going through the motions for them to get there). He had a buddy there, and they’d fix me up in no time. Fine.

    Got back to my desk, and now I have nothing. Pick up the phone to call (a FIOS service), Nothing. Houston, we have a liftoff. Having been in the fiber business a few years, the problem with Fiber is that there are fewer monkeys that understand it. Be warned. You’ll go through a few of the lesser apes and gibbons before getting a great ape that knows his shit.

    When I moved, Spectrum happily told me that since the house was wired all I need do is plug in my stuff. Didn’t work. I had to find where the one outlet was that worked, and then had to hook it up to the outlet where I wanted it. It didn’t suck. But had I not been experienced, it would have meant a monkey visit.

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