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Yes, AT&T Continues To Suck

I’m very, VERY angry with AT&T right now. Not surprised? Me neither. After the MMS and tethering delay, and ridiculous upgrade rates after the iPhone 3GS launch it seems like AT&T is on everyone’s list. Friday I had quite an experience with AT&T customer service when I called them regarding an extra $54 worth of charges on my account. Here’s some background information…


Last week Caitlin and I visited our local AT&T store. We both had separate iPhone lines and wanted to get my corporate discount on both. To do this, an AT&T manager transfered the ownership of her account to my name and we were able to add the discount. The manager never alluded to any charges that would be added as a result of these changes. Fast forward a week. I noticed there was a $36 “Sponsorship Fee” and a $18 “Transfer of Service” fee added to my bill. I had a feeling these had something to do with our recent account activity so I promptly called AT&T to dispute the charges.

The first representative I spoke to wasn’t very helpful at all. After arguing with her for a little, I asked to speak with her manager. She put me on hold for awhile before telling me that her manager was busy, but they could waive the $18 transfer of service fee since I was never initially informed of it. This was good news, but I still wasn’t planning to pay the $36 sponsorship fee. She informed me that this was a new policy that was added less than a month ago. The fee is charged when you add a Foundation Account Number (or FAN for short) to the account. These numbers are used for corporate discounts. Under this new policy, anyone who adds a FAN number to an account that has been active for more than 30 days will get hit with this new fee. Since our account has been active for a year, we were charged the $36 to add the discount.

I don’t understand why there is any charge when adding a discount onto the account. That just seems completely backwards to me! I eventually got to speak with the manager, Bryan Nigh, who was an “Escalation Specialist”. (Seems like the worst job EVER..but that’s a topic for another day.) He informed me that “nobody can remove this fee.” At this point I was very frustrated and decided I would call back later.

Friday night I called AT&T again and spoke with another lady who kept telling me that the account was not under my name… So, I concluded she was wildly incompetent, and hung up. I called back and got a smarter CS rep who informed me that they could not waive either charge because my account was flagged as “hot” (I think?). Maybe this is what happens when you yell at an Escalation Specialist? Anyway, I asked to speak with her manager and she came back with a similar response: they could waive the $18 fee but it was “impossible” to waive the $36 sponsorship fee. Alas, I gave up. It seems like this fee is pretty hard to get removed (at least while the policy is still new, I assume).

There might be some light at the end of the tunnel if AT&T fails to extend their exclusive iPhone contract by the end of this year. Hopefully Apple has been watching closely and realizes that AT&T is a major blemish on the iPhone’s reputation. They would be crazy not to allow Verizon to get the iPhone in 2010. I’ll definitely be first in line.


Comment from Alexis
Time July 19, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Ooh my favorite thing to do. I’ve never argued with AT&T but thanks for the warning… That’s definitely ridiculous.

Comment from Kyle Barnoff
Time July 19, 2009 at 11:06 pm

I don’t think that customer service with Verizon will be any more impressive to you. The best thing that could happen for customer service in cellular service would be a ban of required contracts. If cellular companies could not hold you in a contract, they would not be able to take advantage of you with ‘surprise fees’. Aka, write to your senator! Lol.

Comment from Jason
Time July 19, 2009 at 11:14 pm

Yeah, I would agree that they will be similar when it comes to silly fees and stuff like that. But, it would seem like AT&T is truly hated by most of it’s subscribers. If you look at this “Customer Service Report” from 2009 you will see that Verizon is ranked considerably higher than AT&T.

Comment from Ross Grady
Time July 20, 2009 at 8:29 am

Were you talking to regular AT&T, or the special reps that handle corporate accounts? Also, is there still a person at our mutual employer who “owns” the relationship with AT&T? Seems like they might be surprised & annoyed to learn that AT&T is charging us to get the discount.

Comment from Jason Wagner
Time July 20, 2009 at 9:47 am

I was talking with the AT&T Customer service people (dial 611). They informed me that my company should have “informed me of the new charge”. Apparently a few companies are paying the fee on behalf of their employees, but most are not. It still seems like AT&T’s responsibility if you ask me….

Comment from John M
Time August 9, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Try filing a complaint online with the FCC to recover your money.

Comment from Flappy
Time August 30, 2009 at 4:16 pm

I just successfully had the $36 fee waived from my account after arguing (yes, arguing, as in heated exchange, very unprofessional of the CSR at ATT) over this fee. The bottom line is that the in-store CSR told me we were missing out on a Corp discount so he added it to our account, but never told me about the $36 fee. The operator at AT&T also told me it was impossible to waive the fee but found other creative ways to basically recoup the $36 (by removing old txt overage charges).

Let me make one thing clear: AT&T phone CSRs are masters at finding and removing fees. There must be a reason for that: they do it all day every day. EVERY AT&T customer owes it to themselves to simply call 611 from their cell and ask for their account and billing to be reviewed. If you don’t call you won’t save anything. If you think you do not have any mystery fees to be concerned about you are probably wrong, AT&T finds many ways to charge you including all new methods all the time, and every one of these need to be fought. It’s a sad world we live in, truly.

Comment from Jason Wagner
Time August 31, 2009 at 12:26 pm

So it sounds like they are taking a pretty firm stance on the removal of the actual sponsorship fee. At least they are consistent. Sadly, I didn’t have any other charges or anything that they could remove to recover the $36 charge. Glad to hear you had a better experience.

Comment from Tim J.
Time September 13, 2009 at 9:13 pm

Great site…keep up the good work.

Comment from Michel
Time September 20, 2009 at 4:20 pm

I just had same situation for Sponsership Fee. It is huge surprized and makes me supper ungery! I called ATT, and ATT Customer Serivice explaned, but it was unclear at the moment, because I did not know there is charged for Employee Discount. So I serched about the chrages on the Web Site, the found out that about the Fee. Now I undarstand the fee, but it is charged Wireless bill too. I am planing to change the Wireless to other connection. So I am concerended whether ATT charge me the same fee with new line or not. I may need to call ATT or talk to locat ATT shop that make extra time and energy for this matter.

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