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Mind Your Business: I Hate AT&T

Getting technology systems up and running at your business can be frustrating. Mark Simon shares his own personal nightmare.

Mark Simon waiting for AT&T to fix their own mistake.

I hate AT&T. This is nothing really new, but an event this summer really pissed me off.

Let me step back for a moment and set the stage for you. Our office phones have been POTS (poor old telephone system, which uses the old copper wires) since we started the businesses. We’ve never had any down time in over 20 years, even through multiple hurricanes. We use AT&T for our local connection since it’s the only option but we don’t use AT&T for long distance. We use an independent, Pioneer, which is a fraction of the cost.

We also had high-speed internet and cable with Brighthouse (Cablevision). Our cable system is 22 years old in this area of town, which is ancient in technology terms. They have upgraded our subdivision, but there are other parts of their system leading to us, which haven’t been upgraded. You’ve heard the term, ‘only as good as the worst part of your system’, is a great example of ‘worst.'

We have to have a reliable internet signal, as we send large amounts of files over the web in each of our businesses. Since we deal with art and video, we’re sending gigs of info multiple times a day.

But, our cable modem would go down 4-5 times a day. I’m lucky I have any hair left it was so hair-ripping-out frustrating.

The reason I tell you this is to explain the frustration that lead to the painful decision to switch over to (ugh) AT&T’s U-verse cable, modem and phone system (the only other option in our area). It uses newer technology and bundling phone, cable and internet would save us $150 per month. We checked in with our neighbors who already made the switch and they all said the modem was rock solid. With a deep sigh and a lot of trepidation, we decided to make the change.

We ordered the new system and set the time for AT&T to come out and install their service. The sales call was easy, lots of promises made… and then the technician showed up and it was downhill from there.

The first thing the technician said as he hooked up each of our TVs with DVRs was that 720P was a higher quality signal than 1080i, and AT&T only streamed 720P anyway. I knew we were in trouble right away and reported him to their main office for being an idiot, especially when I researched and found out that AT&T does indeed stream 1080i in our area.

The modem worked as promised and we haven’t had to reboot it in months. That works. That’s the only thing that worked.

The DVRs didn’t talk to each other and two of the five had to be replaced the first week and one of those replacements had to be replaced a week later. Expensive 3D movies were broadcast in 2D and other issues popped up. None of that mattered next to the major problem we faced.

The phones. I’ll just touch on the highlights of the hell we suffered in dealing with moving our phones to their U-verse system. It took six weeks to get their phone guys to come to our offices to install the VOiP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone lines into the already functioning U-verse set up. Not a big deal, as our phones still worked up to that point.

First the tech couldn’t hook up the phones because our numbers hadn’t been ‘ported’ over yet. Our basic system is with AT&T anyway. How difficult should this be? The left hand just has to tell the right what to do. The next tech didn’t have the materials to run the new lines. Then something else happened with other techs. It was all so ridiculous that I don’t remember everything that happened, but I do remember the phone lights on the main U-verse box didn’t register a signal. What I do remember is the day they ‘ported’ (evidently a term AT&T uses to mean ‘fucked’) our phone number to their digital system. That’s the day our main business phone lines stopped working. Nothing at all. Nada. Zip.

Promises were made that it would work out soon, but to no avail. After a few days of nothing working, we cancelled their digital VOiP service and wanted to go back to POTS. We figured this would be easy, since no one had touched our physical phone lines yet. Nothing had changed or moved.

Nope. Not easy. A call to the AT&T Hotline led to a tech telling us they needed to determine why we cancelled before they could fix anything. “No”, I told him, “you don’t. You just need to get it working back on the original system, now.”

“Two hours,” he said. He lied.

The next day we called again, and were told that no ‘stop order’ had been placed and there were no notes on our account. Victims of more lies. Another tech was sent out. That tech said we were back on POTS. Our dead phone lines said otherwise. Then I looked at the VOiP base, and NOW the digital phone lights came on. But still no signal. We were told it would take up to two weeks to get our service back. It doesn’t take two weeks to melt raw copper into electrical wires, run new lines and install new service! NOTHING AT OUR PLACE HAD BEEN CHANGED!

Every time we called AT&T, we got someone else. We tried to work with the same person, but the AT&T phone system (god I hate that system) didn’t allow us to call any individual. We spoke with supervisors, more promises made, more promises broken and still no phone service. There were days we spent over 12 hours on the phone trying to get our system working.

Mark Simon blocking the AT&T truck from leaving.

We knew the problem was a digital connection at AT&T, yet they kept sending out technicians to our place to fix things that weren’t broken. Each time, the technician would say there was nothing he could do. One technician admitted that no one at AT&T understood the VOiP technology. He also admitted that no one at AT&T used the U-verse phone system. That should tell you something. I got so frustrated that I stood in front of the AT&T repair truck and wouldn’t let him leave until he got it working. Don’t believe me? Look at the photo. He actually told his boss I wouldn’t let him leave. That’s when I got his boss’s direct phone number.

Most of us can relate to calling AT&T over and over, getting caught in a cycle of phone options and then finally being hung up on. But that happened to our technician too. Watching his frustration was somewhat entertaining.

Then we tried to move our phone service to Brighthouse, but AT&T wouldn’t release our phones to them for over a week. All this while we have no business phones.

Side note. We tried to get AT&T to put a message on our dead business lines telling people to call another number. Nope. They can’t do that. Our numbers were lost in their system. Then I tried to get the numbers forwarded to our cell phones. Nope. Can’t forward numbers that have been cancelled. Even though we didn’t cancel the numbers.

We threatened to file a complaint with the FCC if they didn’t resolve this problem. They didn’t. We did. Yes, we filed a complaint. It’s easy. You can do it too. Go to esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm.

All of a sudden AT&T was calling us about the problems. Don’t get too excited. They called, but couldn’t reach us on our main lines. The phones still didn’t work.

One supervisor took pity on us. He dug through the system and found 14 outstanding orders on our account, all contradicting each other. He had never seen this. Lucky us.

A few days later, our standard old POTS phone system finally came back on. Two weeks without a business phone and we were finally back to where we started…and then our DVRs started acting up. FU*********** AT&T!

Mark Simon, is the co-founder of SellYourTvConceptNow.com. He is training and mentoring TV creators on pitching at the major winter TV conferences. Find more info online at http://www.HitMakerTour.com.

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