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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

We went back to the mall today.

Much as I would have liked to pretend it ceased to exist, we couldn’t avoid going back to fill out the paperwork for our phone trade-ins that the salesperson forgot to have us do yesterday.

We walk into the AT&T store, we do the pleasantries, she takes our phones and writes down all the information, she prints up all the paperwork, we chitchat and do more niceties.

She slides a piece of paper over for us to sign to confirm the trade-ins. Ralph signs it. I pick up the pen and touch it to paper and she says…

Oh, by the way, the promotion on the trade-in ended this morning. So your monthly cost is going to be [more than double what she originally told us].

I pause. I look at Ralph. He looks at me. We look at her. A lot of looking happens as we try to process what exactly had happened.

We sputter out a few words.

So… wait… we were here yesterday. We agreed to trade in our phones yesterday. We signed the paperwork and ordered the phones and paid the deposit yesterday. But… and… so… then…

Because YOU forgot to give us this piece of paper to sign we have to pay double the amount for the phones?


Absolutely yep. Sorry. Nothing she can do. It’s AT&T, she didn’t even know the promotion was going to end, they don’t tell her when it ends, they just tell her that it’s ended.

Right. But we did this yesterday DURING the promotion. And YOU forgot the paperwork so how is that our problem?

Yep. It just is. Shrug.

Can we talk to a manager please?

Oh, she is the manager.

We splutter a few more words until she tells us to call AT&T and see if they will honor the promotion. We leave the store with fewer niceties.

This is not where the story ends, it is merely where it begins. Because first you have to call the trade-in department and get past the robot voice that wants to give you every irrelevant detail about your account and present you with wholly irrelevant options to proceed.

No, I don’t have a billing question. No, I don’t want to track my trade in. No, I don’t have a claim. No, I don’t want to add a line.

They might as well have asked if I wanted my horoscope read to me or if I wanted to buy a set of diamond encrusted shoelaces. It would have been about as useful.

The only way to get through to a person is to repeat it 632 times and keep pounding 0 0 0 0 0 until the robot voice concedes that it would be better if you talked to a person.

Praise Zeus.

Then you have to speak to someone with a minimal grasp on English and you have to explain that the store manager forgot your trade in paperwork and the promotion ended so now you’re paying more than you were supposed to, which sounds idiotic, BECAUSE IT IS. Saying it out loud doesn’t make you feel any better about how stupid it sounds.

Being right doesn’t make you feel any better about how stupid it sounds.

Before they can grasp what you’re saying, they have to repeat back ten different things they THINK you said, none of which have anything to do with what you actually said.

You want a fish?

Oh, you already have a fish, you’re asking about the fork.

Ah, yes, now I understand, you need a toothpick in the canary mine.

And this is just Guy Number 1. Once you sufficiently explain the situation and what you want to Guy Number 1, he has to then route you to the appropriate department and Guy Number 2.

At which point you will have to start all over because there’s a chance that Guy Number 1 has relayed ANY of the details, including either your name or phone number, which they will ask you to repeat at least six more times.

After Guy Number 2 finally understands what you’re asking, he then tells you that the promotion ended in September, so even if you bought the phones yesterday it would not have applied.

We insisted. The manager said it expired THIS MORNING. She invited us to CALL YOU.

At which point Guy Number 2 realizes he is helpless to do anything about it and sends you to the appropriate department and Guy Number 3.

Who is… wait for it… from the exact same department you were just transferred OUT of.

Lucky for us, Guy Number 3 spoke English. And he managed to grasp what we were saying after only once asking us if what we really wanted was to polish a tin hook.

Guy Number 3 informed us that there was, in fact, never any such promotion, but a different promotion, that had not expired. The promotion, however, was only relevant if you own a specific phone and trade that phone in. It did not and had never applied to our phones.

So what does that mean? It means nobody is giving us any promotions and we are going to pay twice what we thought we were going to pay and I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that the manager outright lied to us and waited until the second we signed the paperwork to “oh by the way” us.

The word for this – and for everything that happened prior and subsequently – is infuriating.

We were both so well and truly incensed that we decided to cancel our order. But that was not without two more phone calls, including one to someone who was so preposterously incompetent, coupled with such a static-ridden connection, that Ralph actually hung up on her.

Here’s a question: why is it that when you call a TELECOM company, whose purpose it is to provide you with telecommunication services, is the connection always terrible? Can they not figure out how to, I don’t know, make communication with their own customer service department work?

When we were able to finally cancel the order I asked for a confirmation number.

There wasn’t one.

So how do I know this is cancelled?

Well, it will say it in your account in a week or two.

So let me see if I understand this. I paid a deposit on phones that I don’t want anymore, and I have to take yet ANOTHER person’s word for it that this will all work out in the end, with no proof or confirmation of any kind, and sit here for “a week or two” until such time as I may or may not get my money back?

You know, like last year at almost exactly this time when they screwed up our order and charged us for the wrong phones and then when we cancelled the order they billed us $800 and shut off our service because we didn’t pay it. Like that?

The person who allegedly cancelled the order said the deposit isn’t charged anyway until the phones ship, and since they didn’t ship, we wouldn’t be charged.

Guess what? I checked. We were charged.

So who knows what will happen or how many more phone calls this will take. I already lost most of a day on this and used way too many words talking about it.

What I do know is that we will be going to Verizon and switching all of our services. Not because Verizon is better. They are two sides of the same incompetent coin. Both monstrous companies that care not a whit about any of their customers because… why? It makes no difference. We need phones. We need internet. It’s not like you can just go get them at the nice lady’s store down the block.

Right now there is someone with Verizon who is having the exact same issue and they are switching to AT&T. It’s the 21st century game you play, because one company will enrage you and the other will sooth the wounds with a better deal. And you will hate them both and they will both be equally incompetent and infuriating, but it’s better to be infuriated and pay less for the privilege.

On the plus side, we did what you have to do after a morning like ours and went out for a three-bourbon lunch. Didn’t get me any closer to my life goals or even getting my client work done today, but it was a lot more enjoyable. What’s going to be even more enjoyable is writing the Google review they asked us to write. I may just link them right here. Infuriatingly, it won’t matter half an iota to anyone.

Photo: from today’s recovery.