Irony in AT&T customer service

I use a lot of SMS, and so do some of my friends (particularly the expatriates). Those SMS threads get long, and my Blackberry had been crapping out with Java exceptions. I drop into an AT&T store, and they give me two options: 1) go home, call customer service, and they’ll probably replace the phone, or 2) wipe the Blackberry and start over, hoping that would solve the problem. I couldn’t really do the latter in store without backing up some data, so I opted to try it from home first.

Last night I finally got around to syncing, and started the phone wipe. At first the menu remained, while a little submenu stated “Erasing” while displaying a little hourglass. Roughly an hour later, the phone’s still spinning, and I assume it’s just the screen locked because of another Java problem. I pull the battery and replace. Now, I’ve got a white screen with a spinning hourglass, and a network light blinking red. I watch that for another hour fifteen before I move to phase two.

The Service

I call AT&T, and meet the usual business customer care. They in turn transfer me to technical support, but not until after asking me what else they could do for me today. Of course, there isn’t a hell of a lot I can do when the phone is dead, so I decline any “additional support.” Upon transfer to tech, I sit on the phone for roughly 15 20 25 30 35 minutes, while the recorded message rolls through pitch after pitch. Interestingly, those offers are dispersed with messages that sound like they should be to the customer service rep. They say things like “Notify your customer that expected wait times are long, and reset their expectation” and “Have you upsold your customer for additional services?” That isn’t verbatim, but you get the idea – the transfer obviously didn’t go smoothly.

Eventually I get a technical support rep, and they have me take out the battery (again). Nothing works there, and I’m pushed to the warranty department (but I’ll qualify that that the tech support dude was pretty kind about it all). I’m now in the queue. 10 15 20 25 minutes pass before I get a human. The matter is “quickly” resolved – the Blackberry is under warranty and they are sending me a new one. In five to seven days.

The Irony

I left the phone sitting on my desk with that little hourglass spinning. I went out to walk the dog. I returned to the same.

Interestingly, a bit later the phone reboots – it’s now wiped and everything looks fine. My guess is the combination of password and content protection (i.e. encryption) and 1,000+ contacts, a full calendar, all my Entourage notes, etc. took a lot longer than anyone expected.

Despite being quite caring on the phone, if AT&T had taken another hour to answer in the first place, the problem would have been solved!


I called AT&T back to see if they could cancel the replacement – it isn’t happening. So, the replacement device goes right back where it came from (in five to seven days) unless those Java exceptions start reappearing again. And, despite all the commentary about how bad AT&T customer service is, my experience wasn’t bad at all. Yes, I was on hold for quite a while, but I did call in the evening (so that’s expected). Second, everyone was courteous…actually extremely pleasant. I got the feeling they were actually jumping through hoops for me. Maybe it’s my phone voice.

UPDATE: The Java errors returned almost immediately. And the next morning, my phone was back in white-screen/hourglass mode – I set it for automatic turnoff each evening, and it wakes with the alarm – the thing was obviously toast.

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