AT&T, shut up and take my money!
December 4, 2014 7:04 AM   Subscribe

My bf has been trying to get internet service in his apartment for several years. Other people in his building have AT&T, yet whenever he tries to sign up, they tell him that service is not available in his area. We are at our wit's end. Please help!

We live in Kansas City and AT&T is the only provider available in his area (not eligible for Google Fiber because the neighborhood/building is zoned as commercial, not residential).

In the past, he has called AT&T and completed the whole sign-up process and has a scheduled time set up for someone to come by and complete the installation. The scheduled day/time will come and go without anyone showing up. He calls AT&T and lets them know and the person he talks to says they have no record of any appointment being made, he's not even in their system. So he has to give them his information *again* and they "escalate it" (whatever that means), and he ends up receiving an automated voicemail telling him that service is not available in his area.

We talked to people who live in the building who have AT&T internet service and they told him that they had to set it up in person at the AT&T store. So last week, we went to the store, we talked to a real person, set up an appointment for installation on Saturday morning.

Of course the installation guy never showed up. We called our AT&T store and talked to the guy we originally met with and he said there was no need for an installation guy to come by, we were just supposed to receive a package and install it ourselves (I don't know why he didn't tell us this earlier). My bf had received a package slip from FedEx earlier that week, so we went to FedEx, but there was no package from AT&T (just some overpriced junk mail from Sprint). We called back and said "Hey we didn't get a package" and a different guy checked the system and not only saw no record of an installation appointment scheduled, there was no record of my bf in the system at all, even though we literally saw our AT&T sales rep type it in himself.

We asked to speak to a manager, the sales rep said he would "escalate" it and give us a call back....which ended up being another automated "no service available in your area" voicemail.

This has literally been going on for years. My bf gave up a while ago and is using an expensive data-capped wi-fi hot spot. I've taken up the torch and I'm determined to find a solution to this problem. What in the world is going on and how do we fix it? Who do we need to talk to? Why are they making it so hard for us to give them money?
posted by chara to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe approach it as if you wanted commercial service. OR, ask his neighbor to look at his bill for a service number and call them.
posted by 724A at 7:21 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Try and tweet this to @ATTCustomerCare. That team should automatically reach out to you.
posted by tyllwin at 7:24 AM on December 4, 2014 [11 favorites]

You need to escalate this yourself. Having been through AT&T Customer Service hell many times, I can tell you it will mean calling and calling and being on hold and calling back and yes, getting angry, while staying reasonable. In fact, since you already have a history established at the store, I would take advantage of that and put it on the plate of the store manager, and get him/her to get a manager in installation on the phone and find out where the disconnect is. I suspect it's in the zoning of the building.

You may need to indicate that you want the cheapest commercial service available, but that will likely still be pricier than regular residential service. Maybe presenting a copy of your lease agreement will be helpful in proving that you are a residential tenant and not commercial.
posted by vignettist at 7:38 AM on December 4, 2014

Hey - I used to work at one time on broadband provisioning systems. What is probably happening each time it gets 'escalated' is that the ticket is being automatically closed, probably due to some kind of error in the zip code they're using to determine service areas.

This will likely remove it from views of customer records available to front line customer service and call centre staff.

Your next step is to go back to the store and ask for an installation pack to be delivered to the store so you can pick it up there. And if anyone says 'escalate', tell them that that has automatically closed the ticket in the past, there's an error in the provisioning records for your building and you would like them to resolve it for you.

Also, get the name of one of your neighbours and ask them if they're cool with you mentioning it - they may be able to pull up that record and see if anything is different from the zip code and building address details you are providing. My hunch is that it's a digit that's actually a letter or something that's throwing off the system that determines building locations.

Also, tweet this thread at the account tyllwin provided above and let them know which store you've been dealing with.

Caveat: I'm in the UK and last worked on this kind of thing a decade ago, but from the outside this sure looks like a familiar failure loop.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:39 AM on December 4, 2014 [25 favorites]

In the interim while you try to solve this with AT&T, could he perhaps split the internet bill with his nearest neighbor who has service in exchange for the neighbor's wifi password?
posted by Jacqueline at 8:05 AM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

I once cut through the AT&T service Gordian knot by calling the corporate headquarters and telling the receptionist that I was going to cancel my service unless I got transferred to someone who could help me - they transferred me to the "Escalated service" department, where someone not only took care of the problem in only two hours, they also called me back two days later, remembered my name, and asked if everything was still okay.

If you have any other AT&T service going on that you can threaten to cancel, that will of course help, but if not, I'd give that a shot anyway and say that you're going to Tweet about how much they suck or something.

I know that the "escalation" sounds like what they've been doing before, but for me the trick really was calling the corporate office and they transferred it to the guys who could REALLY help.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:36 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think the Twitter suggestion or something like Facebook would be a good idea. It sounds silly, but I've gotten much better customer service from companies that were normally hellish to deal with by going through their social media sites. Much faster and easier than any time I've tried to go through the usual channels.
posted by Kimmalah at 9:37 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Can you have your neighbor call an AT&T tech out and have you talk to him? Like, have a neighbor claim they want to add a second network and when the tech comes out, he can say he wants a second line in your home under your name and explain the situation?

I have been told I didn't get service because of the apartment number I entered. My zip code is associated with two towns that creates confusion and sometimes places won't accept one of the towns as being associated with the zip code. Maybe you can ask a neighbor how his address is listed and try to get service for the same address as the neighbor. When they send the stuff, install it in your apartment and then later change the billing address to your actual address instead of the neighbor's. Do everything in your name -- just use the neighbor's address to get the installation kit, and then change the billing address where they will send your bills. (Sign up for paperless anyway too.)
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:40 AM on December 4, 2014

If you have a commercial building that you're using for a could be a serious problem for the provisioning system to set up.

Do you currently have a land line? If not...the unit may not exist in the system, and you're going to have to convince someone to create the unit in the system for you.

There's a lot more here than meets the eye. If you have any phone jacks in the place, plug a regular phone into one. Hopefully you'll get a dial tone. Dial 200-222-2222 (you may or may not need a 1 in front of it.) You should get a recording telling you what telephone number is assigned to your unit (it's called Quick Service.) Use THAT number as a reference for finding your address in the system. AT&T may have a completely different unit number, or street address for the property.

It is also possible that there are only so many phone lines into the property. There may not be any copper to your unit, which means no land line, no data, no nothing. When the provisioning system tries to find the cable and pairs...they don't exist. All the available phone lines in the building are being used, and they don't want to re-wire your building to add any more.

You can do cable for internet. Or is that not available either?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:12 PM on December 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ruthless Bunny is referring to an ANAC or Automatic Number Announcement Circuit. With fiber and non copper lines, some no longer work. I have VZ FiOS and cannot use the 958 (or 959) I could when I had copper. The number that works still for everyone is an MCI toll free number 1-800-437-7950. Here is a wiki page that goes into detail. (An ANAC works great for a pay phone -- remember those things? Can use it and then give out the number or make prank calls to a payphone --just something I heard about when I was much younger.)

I think Ruthless is on a potential solving track.
posted by 724A at 1:03 PM on December 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

To supplement Happy Dave's advice, ATT was telling us that we could not get internet from them, which was clearly untrue because *everyone* around here has ATT. It turns out our address was not recognized as legitimate by ATT if anyone used the address "3rd st" instead of "3d st", which makes no effing sense whatsoever. That just happens to be what their dataset believes our street is named. Don't underestimate the ability of some tiny stupid thing to cause upheaval with any sort of step that requires automation.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:31 PM on December 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I went through something similar with Verizon.

I had a dedicated copper ADSL line run directly to my place from the nearest telco switch, 70 yards down the hill. Verizon was the telco, but the install was managed through Speakeasy* and Covad. Once Speakeasy got bought by Megapath years later, I wanted to switch to Verizon's business DSL service. It didn't matter that Verizon provided service to my neighbors; it didn't matter that Verizon had physically run the copper themselves from their own switch to my place — no amount of jiggerypokery would convince Verizon's system that there was a line there. I couldn't even get them to send a tech out to come look at the physical layer without charging me for it. It drove me mad. Verizon's particularly inspired suggestion was that I go hang out at the switch and wait for a tech to show up, then talk to the guy and see if he'd come help me.

After that, I wound up going with Time Warner's business service instead.

*Ye gods, I miss Speakeasy so much.
posted by culfinglin at 3:14 PM on December 4, 2014

sent you a memail.
posted by Mad_Carew at 4:23 PM on December 4, 2014

Happy dave has the right ideas, but i have an additional tidbit to add. I've dealt with this kind of stuff a lot both at various homes and at multiple locations at work, here's what you do.

Call them up and say you want service, say you've had problems getting service in the past with tickets being closed, and say you want to speak to a supervisor.

Explain to them that even if you're a bit outside the service area(just accept the premise) that you want to get service, and are willing to sign anything they want you to that waives their right to guarantee proper service since you're theoretically outside it.

They might not even do it anymore, but i've had to do this for places that were say, across the street from where the cutoff was(or actually inside it, like this place, but they refused to acknowledge that).

I never had to sign anything, and the service just got connected and i was able to contact support fine(this was all on the qwest/speakeasy/megapath/centurylink behemoth system though). The whole "waive the automatic cutoff" thing was just some button someone pushed in the system to start the process, and everything was normal after that.

I do know someone who DID have to sign though, and they were... out in the woods. It worked surprisingly fine, just slow.

Really though, the main horse to ride here that you don't care if it's outside of it, you don't care if you might get degraded performance, and you just want it hooked up. I would absolutely get your neighbors account numbers if they're willing, too.

I miss the bad old days when they'd connect up anyone and then when it didnt' work go "weird why'd we give you service? you're outside the service area" or "why did we try and provision this account at 4000000mbps when it can barely do 3?". Seems like they've gotten wary.
posted by emptythought at 6:23 PM on December 4, 2014

SUCCESS! Happy Dave was right; it was an issue with the zipcode. Mad_Carew was able to work some sort of wizardry and get us in touch with the powers-that-be in the regional escalation office and we got it all worked out, right before Christmas!
posted by chara at 10:04 AM on January 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Awesome! Thanks for the update and glad to have been of assistance - I wasn't sure my decade old, different country knowledge would apply at all. Mad props to Mad_Carew for having the insider contacts.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:19 AM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

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