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AT&T: Providing Only Most of the Service is Apparently Good Enough for Them

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We moved into a new place over the summer, and since our old cable provider doesn’t offer service to the new neighborhood, we had to choose between a handful of others.  AT&T’s U-Verse seemed like a good package and range of features, and friends and co-workers had good things to say about them, so we gave them a shot.  Their service isn’t all contract-based anymore like DSL was, probably because it’s all IP-based over fiber optic here, not DSL.

Call #1
End of July, the service was installed.  They had to run a new cable from the street as the area had all new service — fiber optic, all that good stuff from the future.  We were told someone would be coming out soon to bury it, and to try to keep the cable up off the grass in the meantime to prevent it from being tripped on, pulled out, or mowed over.  Fair enough.

Call #2
Within the first two weeks, one of the satellite boxes (the service has one main DVR box and satellite boxes that stream from the DVR on other TVs) had begun displaying very odd behavior — it would work okay for anywhere from 10 seconds to several minutes, but eventually the picture would flicker and go away entirely.  If it was taking input via HDMI, the effect was almost instantaneous.  The box would lock up hard and need to be powered off.  I called to report the problem, and having followed the troubleshooting steps on their site prior to contacting, it was a quick call, ending with a tech being sent out the next day to replace the problem box.

New box arrived, hooked up, worked fine.  As the tech was leaving, I noticed the cable outside still hadn’t been buried.  I asked him if he knew anything about that and he said it was handled by an entirely different department, involving surveyors to scan for pipes and wiring underground so they didn’t dig right into something important, and contractors to actually dig and bury.  But he checked on it in their system for me.  A ticket had been created for the issue and someone should be in touch with us to set up an appointment to do the cable burial soon.  Sounds good.

Call #3
Another month goes by.  We contacted them again, this time via tech support chat.  They have this irritating tendency of making you type in your question before initiating a chat, then waiting in queue, getting on the line with a tech who says he or she is pulling up your account details and reviewing the problem, and then point blank asks you again what the problem is.  A simple copy/paste later, the agent said that they would check on the ticket for us, did so, and said “It’s being looked into.”  Ok, fine.  What does that mean in terms of when it might be done?  All we got was “This is technical support; we don’t have that information.”  When we asked to be transferred to someone who could answer our questions, we got mysteriously disconnected.

Call #4
Another month goes by.  I contacted AT&T again — now bear in mind that our TV service and Internet access have been very respectable so far, even downright impressive at times, which is why getting blown off on this cable burying issue is so marring in an otherwise positive user experience — this time speaking to “Catherine cs3318.”  I got much the same responses of “Oh that’s terrible, we want to resolve this.”  She actually said at one point that, to show her sincerity toward getting this resolved, she would give me the name and identifier shown previously….but this was already the header of every line she typed into the conversation.  So basically it was, “Hi, I’m Catherine, and to prove how serious my commitment to solving your problem is, my name’s Catherine.”  Right.  Catherine was very polite and supposedly talked to her supervisor and escalated the issue tremendously so that it would get resolved, but that I had to wait three days and contact them again, with no clear explanation as to why this was the case.  What?

Call #5
Three days turned into a week; work and holidays kept me from getting in touch sooner, but I figured that was even more time for them to get their act together and fix the problem.  I contacted AT&T again and got “sm040q(SANTHOSH)” this time.  Same spiel: it was a serious issue, so sorry to hear about it, escalate it to my supervisor, it’s regrettable that this ticket has been open forever, blah blah blah.  At no point could anyone tell me what was actually being done or when this might be resolved.

Well, now there’s snow on the ground, and what started out as an end of summer dig will now involve frozen tundra.  I wish I had a happy ending for you, dear readers, but this is where it stands.  It’s been almost six months and AT&T — despite otherwise slick service that allows you to watch recorded TV from any DVR in your house — can’t seem to manage the seemingly simpler task of getting a cable off my fence and into the ground where it belongs, despite a near half dozen calls on a single, solitary issue.  If this saga ever comes to an end, I’ll be happy to update the story, but in the meantime, keep this in mind if you’re considering service from them.

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About Mark Buckingham