My ATT Story – Reneging on a ‘Win back’

Sadly, this story is not even over yet (update: I think I’ve given up), but I want to start telling it now. It involves trying to save some money by moving my wife’s and my phones to T-Mobile, and then ultimately being ‘won back’ by ATT.  Apparently being ‘won back’ includes:

  • 7 hours, 45 minutes (and counting!) spent with ATT reps either on the phone or at a store.
  • Conversations with 11 different ATT representatives to resolve the issue.
  • Having my phone reactivated with the wrong number and as a result, deactivating my wife’s phone.
  • Being told after switching back to ATT that the agreed upon monthly bill that I was ‘won back’ on is a mistake and is not possible.
  • Having ATT store reps tell me that customer service is closed when it is really open.
  • Having T-Mobile explain the ins and outs to ATT on how to port a phone number between two carriers.

The Goal

My wife and I had a Family Talk Rollover 700 plan with ATT with two phones, under contract for another 6 months.  I planned on moving us over to T-Mobile to go from spending $150 a month to $60 a month (using the pre-paid plan with unlimited text, data, and 100 minutes of talk).

The Play by Play – Enjoy!


I unlock my phone from ATT via the unlock web portal, and move to T-Mobile.  For the next few weeks, I enjoy T-Mobile and decide that while the coverage isn’t as good as ATT, given the price, it’s good enough to move my wife’s number to as well.


9AM (45 min): Unfortunately, I can’t unlock my wife’s phone, so I call ATT.  I also notice that I now have a $145 dollar charge added to my bill.  I am told that the charge was the early termination fee for unlocking my phone; I didn’t realize of this charge and they mentioned that they didn’t know how it was possible that I unlocked my phone in the first place, because they would have mentioned it to me before I unlocked it.

Ultimately to unlock my wife’s phone, the same charge would apply – for a total of $280.  That made the economics of switching to T-Mobile more tricky.  They asked me if I’d like to return to ATT instead and see what would entice me.  I mention that I don’t have enough time to decide and that I would call back later.


9PM (1 hour):  Talked with Rebecca – RS141F – we worked through a way for me to return to ATT from T Mobile.  I got a credit of $163, and would be moving our two phones to the Mobile Share plan, which would cost us $65 a month total, for unlimited text, talk, and 2gb of shared data.

We couldn’t finish because the people who would complete the transfer had gone home for the night.  She said she would call the next day at 1:30PM to finish everything up.


1:30PM (10 min): I get no phone call from Rebecca.  So I call trying to reach her – ultimately that isn’t possible and I run out of time during the middle of the day, so I realize that I’m going to need to call ATT later that night.

9PM (1 hour): I call ATT back and need to explain everything that has happened so far to a new person (no longer talking to Rebecca).  The final piece of the puzzle was to port my phone number back from T-Mobile to ATT.  I was told to give this ATT rep all my login information for T Mobile, including my birthdate, drivers license #, last 4 digits of my SSN, employer, and T-Mobile PIN number.

With this information, ATT would make the request to T-Mobile on my behalf.  The ATT rep said that they did that, and that I should expect an email from ATT saying that the phone number had been ported from T-Mobile to ATT, and the I would have a link to activate my phone with ATT.  It was mentioned that this should happen very quickly, but in the worst case, it would take 72 hours.


6:30PM (20 min): I have waited almost 24 hours, and I haven’t received an email from ATT saying that the port has completed.  So I call T-mobile.  They tell me that in fact they have no record whatsoever of even an attempt to port my number back to ATT, and they recommend I call ATT and have them do it on the phone with T-Mobile while I am on the line.

7:30PM (45 min): I call back ATT to explain to them the process of having a phone ported.  I successfully get an ATT rep and a T-Mobile rep on the line at the same time, and we make the number successfully port.  However, to activate the phone on ATT, I am now told that I need to get a different sim card from what I had before I switched to T-Mobile.  Therefore I need to go to the store to get a new sim card.  I also ask about ensuring that my early termination fee reimbursement goes through, and they say that the store can help with that, so I decide to run to the store and hopefully finish this whole thing.

8:15PM (1 hour): I visit the ATT store (3251 20th Ave, SF) and they give me a new sim card, which successfully activates my phone.  They mention though that they can’t speak to ensuring the early termination fee reimbursement will happen, and that while it should happen, I should probably just call customer support for that.  They say that they can’t call customer support and that they are closed ( that I found later was not true).

In addition, I simply asked to verify that my bill was set up correctly – and that it was $65 a month total for my wife and I to have unlimited text, minutes, and 2gb of shared data.  They said that they could not verify that, and that while the best that they could imagine was $90 a month given the plans, only the ‘retention department’ could verify.  Obviously that was unsettling, so I wanted to call ATT support and verify.

9:30PM ( 45 minutes): I get home, and of course realize that ATT customer support *is* in fact open, so I call them to verify the billing questions.  Upon calling though, I realize that my phone now has my wife’s number!  And her phone doesn’t work at all.

The ATT rep told me that the only way to fix this was to go back to the store and get a new sim card.  In the mean time, I could take my sim card and put it in my wife’s phone so that her phone would work with her number.

As for the billing questions, he does verify that I should be automatically be credited back the early termination fee, and basically if it doesn’t happen in 2 months, to call.

However, he does not verify that I’m getting $65 a month for the Mobile Share plan.  Instead he says that he sees that I have a $10 credit each month for the next 12 months applied towards the normal $90 plan.  Of course, this is the first time I have even heard of this discount – but any way you slice it, it is not what had been promised.


10:30AM ( 2 hours ): I return to the ATT store to get my phone fixed.  This is successful; I then spend the next two hours speaking with the store sales manager and the retention department over the phone about my discount.

Now I learn that the $10 credit each month mentioned the previous day is actually no longer true – this was apparently only available on my Family Talk plan and I had been misinformed by the previous rep that this discount would happen.  So, instead of at least thinking that I would be charged $80 instead of $65, now it’s $90 instead of $65.

The rep says in no way can he offer me what ATT had promised and said that while he didn’t want to lose me as a customer, he understood if I left.

I’ve Given Up.

That I think was the extent of my willingness to fight this.  That’s 8 hours, or more than 0.001% of my life expectancy, in fighting ATT.  That’s 8 hours that I didn’t spend hanging out with my family.  I have given more than $10,000 to ATT in the form of mobile phone payments throughout my life – I would have hoped that they’d find some organization, efficacy, and frankly, empathy, to help resolve this.

After I take a few days to not think about mobile phone carriers, I’ll be returning to T-Mobile (or any carrier that doesn’t do this).