I’m Pissed Off!

I am constantly amazed at how many new and creative ways companies find to rip you off! I’ve been a Cingular customer for years. First Cingular Wireless, was 60-percent owned by SBC. With the re-branding it was a little confusing, but the service was about the same. Now Cingular has merged with AT&T and things are more ridiculous than ever. I have bundled service that include my cell phones, land line and internet service. You’d think they would try to satisfy me and keep my business, but no, they are too huge and impersonal to care. I just got off the phone with them and I’m PISSED OFF!

I upgraded all four of the cell phones in my family this year. I hesitated because I didn’t want to commit to a 2 year contract but our phones were starting to die due to old age and I decided to bite on one of their free upgrade deals. Basically this is the scam, you can upgrade to certain phones for free. By free they mean you pay some cash upfront, and upon signing a 2 year contract, they promise to mail you back a rebate for the amount of money you paid. Sweet deal, free phones, NOT!

Here’s the innovative way they fond to rip off their most loyal customers. I was expecting a $325 dollar rebate check back from AT&T. I had planned on putting the cash back into my checking account because I had not intended on spending that $325, I needed it to cover bills. To my surprise I find out that the rebate comes in the form of Visa Debit cards. Except that when you use them, you have to tell the store owner that they are Credit cards, even though they say Debit card. But that’s only the beginning. I received eight cards of varying denominations, some worth $25 dollars and some worth $50 dollars.

I tried using two of them at a local restaurant. I’m a regular there and the owner is a friend of mine, so I figured if there was an issue I could work it out with the proprietor. I tell him to put $50 on the card and I’ll pay the rest.
He comes back,
“Sorry Mike your card has been declined.”

Okay, embarrassing, but not too bad.
“Try this one, George.”
I whip out another $50 dollar card. Same result, so I use cash.

I called up AT&T to complain and this is what they told me. They said that restaurants automatically put a 20% gratuity on the card, so if you charge $50, they add 20%, putting you over the value of the card, and it gets declined. I said
“I never have heard of that, I know the restaurant owner and he did not add anything, he only charged $50.”

“Oh, well, the Visa people add the 20%, and then they credit your card back the 20% in a couple of days.”
“What” I say incredulously, “So then how do you know what your balance is”.
“Oh just call and check Sir.”
“Right, I have eight low value cards, how much more inconvenient can you make it?”
Silence on her side of the phone, she’s heard it all before.

I ask her “Are there anymore ridiculous conditions that you impose on the users of these cards?” thinking that surely this was the worst of it, wrong!

She proceeded to tell me. “If you go to a store you have to tell them it’s a split purchase and pay the cash amount you owe first. Then under a separate transaction you charge the amount of the card.”
“Why can’t I use the charge card first and pay the remainder off in cash?”
“You can’t do that Sir, the card will be declined.”
“How am I supposed to know how much is on the card?”
“You already asked that Sir, just call.”

This went on for awhile and I told her how upset I was. She said that this call is being recorded and she’ll make a special note of just how upset I was. I made sure not to berate her and to direct my complaints, politely, against the company. She was still trying to maintain her professionalism and asked,

“Is there anything else I can do for you Sir?”

“Tell whoever else is listening, and please make a special note, I will never buy another phone form AT&T again!”

And then, here is the “Pièce de résistance”. She replied with the classic,

“Yes Sir, thank you for choosing AT&T and have a good day!”