AT&T rant. Giving up on getting an iPhone 3G S.
I think I’m giving up on trying to get a iPhone 3G S. In fact, I’m really tempted to ditch AT&T altogether and get one of those fancy new Windows Phones coming out next month on Verizon or Sprint. Why? Well, AT&T’s sales / service people have been extraordinarily awful since my iPhone was stolen back in February.
When I went to get my phone replaced, I was informed that I would have to pay the “full price” for a new phone since I had just used my upgrade eligibility to get the iPhone 3G last summer. That wasn’t unexpected… I had gotten a discount on the BlackJack I bought when I first switched to AT&T in 2006, then paid the full price for an iPhone in 2007, then got a 3G in 2008 at the significantly discounted price. I was frustrated that there wasn’t a better option for dealing with a stolen phone, but I didn’t really expect AT&T to subsidize another phone 7 or 8 months later.
Not wanting to wait (as I’m quite dependent on my phone these days), I agreed to pay for the phone. I also looked at the HTC Fuze, but was told that the price would be basically the same, roughly $400. So I decided to buy a new iPhone 3G 8GB (smaller than my original 16GB, but it saved me $100 and I didn’t really need all that space for my usage). As I was checking out, the salesman handed me a sheet of paper and said I needed to sign. “What’s this for?” I asked, as it looked like a service agreement and I knew I wasn’t buying one of those. He said, “Oh, this is just something Apple makes us to whenever we sell a phone, you have to re-sign your existing contract. Any other phone you wouldn’t have to sign it, I don’t even know why they do it.” I thought that was weird, but shrugged and signed it anyway. But before I did I asked an important clarifying question: “This won’t affect my upgrade eligibility, right? If it does I’ll just buy a used phone or get my 1G iPhone back and use that until this summer since I assume there will be a new model.” I was incredibly explicit about this question, and he was very explicit in his response: “Nope, you’ll still be able to upgrade.” Great. So I bought the phone and went about my business.
Fast forward to June when I decided to grab a 3G S. This part I’ve written about before in detail. Well, I did as suggested and went back to the AT&T store in Bellevue. There I was told that I couldn’t get the full discount, but that I could get the “early upgrade” discount, which I think means $399 for the smaller 3G S model. Fine, that seems good enough to me. But they’re out of stock. The sales guy asks me if I want to back-order one, and I say yes. He starts the process, but hits some kind of roadblock. He says, “Sorry, I can’t order one right now and get you the discount, but if you come back when they’re in stock we can do it.” Fine, whatever. I call the place a couple weeks later and am told they’re in stock. I show up to buy the phone, someone starts ringing up my purchase, and then they hit a problem in their software, saying that I can’t get the discount until sometime next year.
She calls over a manager who explains to me that because I got a discount back in February, I can’t get another one so soon. Wait a minute, what discount? I was told I was paying full price in February, and was explicitly told by an employee of that store that my upgrade eligibility would not be affected. I explain this to the manager who insists that none of his employees would have done that, and basically accuses me of lying. I pressed the issue and he said he couldn’t do anything about it, but that he would contact his “regional supervisor” or something and request that they do some kind of override for me. He says it’s too late to reach that person today but that he’ll take my e-mail and phone number and get back to me.
I waited. I never got a call. I never got an e-mail.
I went back a few weeks later and got the same run around. This time I was told the manager wasn’t in, and was given his card. I haven’t written to him yet, I’ve been too busy, and I’m pretty disenchanted with the whole prospect.
I’ve been a pretty good AT&T customer for several years now. I pay extra for text messages that cost them nothing. I never make late payments (except when their useless AutoPay system kept screwing up, so I gave up on using that ages ago). Last year I paid a ton to to them to use my phone while I was in Europe (when I probably should have just unlocked it and bought a pay-as-you-go SIM there).
What bugs me more than not getting the discount is that they’ve made a habit of lying to me and giving me the run around instead of being straight with me. First, when the salesman told me that buying the replacement phone wouldn’t affect my upgrade eligibility. Second, when I was told I could get the discount if I came back when they were in stock. And then once again when I was told that the manager would try to help me out and get back to me.
Given the hostile treatment I’ve received I may terminate my contract early, pay whatever ETF there is, and switch to another carrier – if only in protest to the way I’ve been treated by the Bellevue AT&T store employees. So which phones and carriers look like the best options to you? Palm Pre? The new HTC Leo looks pretty sweet, but they don’t have any details on who will carry it or when. Let’s hope it’s not AT&T…