Updated: January 4, 2012 1:24AM
Dear Fixer: For five months, I’ve been having intermittent Internet service with AT&T’s U-verse. It just goes in and out whenever it feels like it.
I’ve had more than 10 technicians out for the same problem. Nobody has been able to fix it. Maybe that’s because every technician is a new guy who starts from square one, or maybe it’s because half the technicians don’t show up at all (I’ll get to that in a minute).
I called their hotline, and for some reason the automated system never understands my perfect English. One night, I literally had to call back 22 times before I could talk to a real person. That real person transferred me to another person, and then to another … until finally I ended up with a lady who couldn’t understand why I was so mad.
About three weeks ago, my intermittent Internet turned into no Internet. I called them; they said they would send a technician. Seven days later, still no technician. For seven days in a row, they didn’t show up for various reasons (they had the wrong number, they were too busy, somebody canceled my ticket…). Somebody finally showed up and got my Internet running … and three days later, it went down again. And OMG, three more days of canceling technicians.
I might note that for all these days, I had to stay home for a four-hour window of time.
A technician finally showed up and said there was no signal coming to the entire building, so they would get someone on it ASAP. Surprisingly, they did, and my Internet was fixed! Unsurprisingly, less than a week later, it was down again.
I have homework to do online, but I don’t have Internet. I’m paying for Netflix, but I don’t have Internet. And there’s nothing they can do because it’s Saturday and their systems are down for weekly maintenance. Oh, but the good news is they’ll make up for the last five months with a credit for one whole month free! Like they’re doing me some sort of favor. I get a free month of nothing! Yay! I’m not paying to not have the Internet!
I know you get a ton of e-mails. But I thought maybe if you saw this, you could at least do something about other people who are getting jerked around by AT&T.
Sarah Themel, Chicago
Dear Sarah: Great news — we’re going to honor you with our Worst Runaround of the Week Award. The prize? The same as your AT&T credit — nothing!
By the time we got in touch with you, your Internet had mysteriously come on again, but then it had gone out again. We were seriously concerned you might take a sledgehammer to AT&T’s lines.
So we got in touch with the phone company’s PR folks and asked them to get to the bottom of this. Soon after, a previously scheduled tech came out and tinkered around and pronounced your suffering over. So far, so good — and you now have the direct phone number of a person there in case anything happens in the future.
As for the customer service you experienced, we’re speechless. Maybe that last tech can go over and fix them.
We all have days or even weeks when it’s hard to keep track of what time it is, much less stay on top of bank balances or credit card accounts. But not checking your bank account for five years while money is being slowly siphoned away? That’s practically begging for a costly lesson.
Fixer reader D.K. had one communications provider but decided, five years ago, to get a better deal somewhere else. He signed up with the new company and thought he had covered all his bases with the cancellation. Apparently, that wasn’t the case, because the first company was still taking money out of his account each month — only D.K. didn’t notice. “They sent the bill to an e-mail account that was closed when I dropped their service and continued to automatically deduct funds from my checking account,” D.K. wrote to The Fixer.
Five years’ worth of service amounted to more than $3,000, all unnoticed. When D.K. complained and asked for a refund, the company said he should have alerted them sooner. They would refund only the past few months. About the only thing he could do at that point was pretend the money never existed.
The lesson for the rest of us? Don’t be a stranger with your financial accounts. Just as you regularly look at Facebook or check your e-mail, stay on top of how much money you have and where it’s going.
Getting the runaround over a consumer problem? Tell it to The Fixer at www.newssunonline.com.