Friday, December 28, 2012

DirecTV's Penchant for Spurious Telephone Calls

I am receiving telephone calls from DirecTV on a weekly basis for a few months now.  They usually call on Friday afternoon and let it ring only three times.  Just about enough time for me to get over to the phone, but not enough time to catch it before they hang up.  I discovered that it was them by returning the call, or looking it up on-line by Googling the number.
This week I actually got the call before they hang up. Well, sort of.  A woman identified herself and the fact that she works for DirecTV, and then she hung up.
I can't figure this one out.  They do not leave any messages either.
Has anyone else experienced this phenomenon?

I filed a request with DirecTV to have me removed from their call list.

Friday afternoon call from DirecTV as usual even though I requested to be removed from the list.
This time I caught the call in time.  They are marketing an upgrade in service.  I told her to remove me from the calling list.

AT&T Account Obfuscation

I finally get to add AT&T to my "hall of shame" or should that be "shame of hell".  I have four AT&T accounts. Here in Nevada I have a DSL internet connection. Lately it has been running very slow. In fact, it is running between 200-400Kbs, with intermittant periods were it is either not working or working slower than the rate I just specified.  This is way below the advertised level of service.

My first action was to try to get the service fixed to operate at its advertised speed.  After a few phone calls and a very long wait my line was tested by the technician and he said I was running about 500Kbs which is considered satisfactory by them. So much for that idea.  That is audacious that they consider that level of service satisfactory. I can only marginally get email, certainly nothing with video and pictures take a while.

My next attempt was to increase the speed of the DSL connection. I was told two months ago when I changed to AT&T DSL (that was the only service they offered here) that I could increase the speed and pay only for the higher service rate, but no additional charge for the change of service.  Well, wouldn't you know, they now do not offer DSL here. They only offer U-Verse.  In order to convert to U-Verse I must buy yet another modem ($100 plus tax) and there is an initiation charge ($49.95) and the monthly service charge goes from $24.95 to $49.95. There was no promotional rate offered. True, this is supposed to be a higher baud rate service. You are supposed to get what you pay for. Sure.

I decided not to jump at the offer and check out the other alternatives.  I shuttered at the thought of going back to Charter Communications.  Please see my post on them here.  As it turns out I could go back to them for $29.95 a month for 12 months, but then I have to put up with a horror show.

I called back AT&T and asked them for the promotional rate.  They were now glad to provide me with a 12 month promotion at $24.95 for 6Mbs U-Verse service.  I don't want you to think that this was a slam dunk.  I had to wait on hold for 52 minutes before a representative got on the phone.  Also, as part of the switch-over I had to give them information so that they could do a credit check on me (see my post on NCTUE). I can only imagine what will happen with that.

I can't imagine that all this is going to work out quite as advertised, but, then again, only time will tell.
Tune in next week when the service is to go live.

Well, that didn't take too long to get screwed up.  I ordered the service about 40 minutes ago. I have now received an email from AT&T thanking me for electing paperless billing. I specifically told the customer service representative that I did not want paperless billing.  I also do not have the account number as the email only has the last four digit of that number.  I have called AT&T five times now. I have gotten nowhere so far.
I am now on my eighth phone call.  In fact, I am still on line with the service representative right now and have been on line with them for the last 40 minutes as they try to get the paperless billing removed.  As it turns out, they changed my mailing address to the service address. They seem to be incapable of entering my billing address into their system.  This is the same address that has been in their system for my DSL service.  This is unbelievable.
Okay, after another hour on the phone, and after having two supervisors get involved, they have concluded that they are incapable of putting in my billing address into the system and so they are leaving my billing as paperless.
Also, I have gone to the on-line location to register for on-line account service.  I am not able to register. It will not accept my account number and zip code. I have tried both the service address and the billing address zip codes. No success.
I have not tried to register for the on-line account service for my other AT&T U-Verse account on the hunch that maybe it was because the account was just opened today. Wouldn't you know, the other one which has been in existence for months has also not allowed me to register. What are they doing? Throwing useless computer code on the wall and hoping that it works and not bothering to test it.
For a company of this size to be this incapable of dealing with me is unbelievable.

I have written an email to the CEO of AT&T (see email below). Let's see what kind of a response I get.


Dear Mr. Stephenson,

I must confess that I am at a loss to understand the corporate strategy of AT&T with regard to the incredibly complex an inefficient customer service systems you have deployed within your organization.

I have four separate accounts with AT&T. It never ceases to amaze me how difficult it is to interact with AT&T whenever I require service.  It is far more difficult than any other company that I have ever had to deal with.

Today, I upgraded to U-verse from DSL at one of my sites in Nevada. I have now invested over 5 hours of my personal time and that of your sales and customer support staff in trying to untangle the mess that has been created, layer by layer, with each additional employee that I am in contact with.

I started off the day with a DSL account. At this point I have no idea what I have.  I have attempted to find a telephone number or email address that might be appropriate to straighten out the situation.
I am befuddled by the maze.

I would be happy to work with someone, anyone in your organization who can truly navigate the systems and people to get me to be a satisfied customer.

I can be reached at XXXXXXXXXXX or at the email address above.

Please have someone help me.




As a last ditch effort I decided to watch the video for starting the MyAT&T account which I am having so much trouble with.
There is an interesting detail in the video that I note. I have followed their instructions to the letter, but it still does not work on any of my accounts.
I did notice that the account number sample in the video had hyphens after each three numbers. I also noticed that on the real page for registering that I bring up on my computer there were no hyphens. So, I tried to add hyphens. They are removed from the box automatically when you leave that field for the next field. So much for that idea.

I am now trying to do a "chat" with AT&T for support.  So far, I have been waiting about 10 minutes and I have not gotten any response yet. After a real long wait I got a customer service rep who was clearly not a native speaker of English. She must have been servicing at least 5 other accounts simultaneously and she did not have a good enough grasp of the English language to really deal with me.  I did ask her to give me a phone number to call.  I have spent way too much time on this today. I would estimate that between the calls to get the service and all my attempts to correct the information that is wrong I have 5 hours into this. Enough for today. I will try calling the number tomorrow.
This is total lunacy that a company of this size can waste so many hours of so many people's time and spend so much of their own precious human resources to keep this circus going.



Note to self: I received a call this morning from the Office of the President of AT&T. They were very courteous and understanding and corrected the problem with my address and paperless billing. No problem, I hope. Time will tell now.


I have received many telephone calls (at least 6 calls and a few text messages) from a variety of people at AT&T with regard to the installation.

Today I received an email requesting me to participate in a survey.  I decided to participate in the survey to express my concerns about the quality of the services they have provided.

Upon taking the survey I realized that the only thing they were interested in was whether I could be marketed to for phone service. Plain and simple.  They did not want to know how my experience with them was for the services I just signed up for, or how they might improve their services or products, etc.

I sent the following email to them about the survey:

I want to take this opportunity to comment on a number of items with regard to my interaction with AT&T for the acquisition of the U-verse account and the survey I just completed.

With regard to the survey, I can appreciate that you would want to know certain things about your customers with the services that you have provided or potentially might provide. However, the survey was so transparent as to its objectives that it left me aghast with the blatant disregard for your customer's broader feeling, including comments and concerns over the services you provide and the way you have provided them.
At no point in the survey did any of the questions deal with the quality of the service or the process or the procedure by which AT&T acquired the service, nor the ability of AT&T to provide those services in a timely, courteous, and efficient manner.

I have been a customer of AT&T at this location for over a year. I have been and continue to be an AT&T customer at other locations. I had heard that I did not know what I was getting into when I signed up for your service.  I did not think that there could be any company that could be worse than the previous provider of internet service than the company I utilized previously.

I have now concluded that the operation of AT&T, for the most part, is far worse than anything that I could have imagined and I am currently seeking out another provider, even if the quality of the actual line service is not as good.

In your infinite wisdom of seeking the most revenue for the least cost I am sure you have greatly offended hundreds of thousands, if not millions of customers with the shoddy customer care that you provide.

It is companies like AT&T that are ruining the glory of the American experience and will eventually make us a second rate country.  Wake up!

1/23/13 call duration 68 minutes
I have today received a bill from AT&T for my old DSL service which I do not have anymore.
I called AT&T.  They have acknowledged that the bill is wrong and they are giving me a credit.  Also, they have realized that my billing for my U-Verse account was still with the wrong address and have been attempting to correct it. They are having difficulty doing that. I now realize that I did not receive my AT&T bill as the President's Office had promised. I have not received my "Gift Card" to offset the modem purchase either.  In order to not tie my time up anymore they will call me back when they figure out how to bill be at my correct address.

Another letter to the CEO of AT&T:

Dear Mr. Stephenson,

Attached please find my correspondence to you of 12/28/12 with regard to an issue with which I am having repeated difficulty in rectifying with AT&T customer support staff. I was so happy to get a call on 1/2/13 from someone from your office who fully understood the problem and said that it would be dealt with.

Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. Not only was the problem not dealt with, it was made worse.  

I cannot continue to deal with this level of service. Please get the matter straightened out.



I received a telephone call from the Office of the President at AT&T with regard to my latest email.
They acknowledge that everything I said in my email is correct and that the computer system that they employ cannot accept my address.  The Office of the President will print out a copy of my bill and mail it to my correct address and this office will continue to do so into the future until such point as they are able to change their system so that it may accept my correct  address.  It is astounding in this age of technology that a company the size of AT&T is in this state of affairs. Shame on you AT&T.


Mr. Stephenson,
Attached please find my correspondene to you of 1/23/13 with regard to a continuing problem I am having with you and your organization. Each time I have communicated, you staff certainly seem nice and sincere, but, to date, I have seen no action whatsoever.  It is now over one month since my original email and I am afraid I am going to have to look elsewhere for a communications supplier if nothing happens shortly.


I received a telephone call from Deborah of the escalation team. This is the same person I spoke with last time. Yes, they did put in to have the current bill sent to my correct address. This will take 7 to 10 days. I don't know if this means for me to receive it or for them to send it out.  They have confirmed that they have altered the information on 1/24/13 in the computer and I should get my February bill on time at the correct billing address.  Deborah will call me back on February 19, to verify that everything is received.  She can be reached at 888 958 3030 access code 748 x6117. I might add that when I dialed the number the first time I was somewhat taken back when the message clearly indicated that if you wanted to continue in Spanish press 1, English press 2.  I guess English is now the second choice for language.  I pressed 1 to see how it went (I speak Spanish). It took me a menu where I did not have the choice to put in the extension that I was told to dial. Interesting.
Coincidentally, after the email to AT&T CEO Stephenson this morning and the response from Deborah from the escalation team, I have this afternoon received "the bill" from AT&T for the first month of service. I called AT&T about the amount of the bill and, interestingly, they show my mailing address incorrectly in the system.  I have now recalled Deborah, who has reassured me that the address is correct.  I note here that on putting in her extension when I dialed I got exactly the same error as my call from this morning.  I am positive I put in the correct extension.
Amazing as it may seem, the error in the AT&T bill was never corrected, and as expected the bills stopped being delivered to the address by the Post Office. And, not surprisingly, there was $1.57 due that was not paid and they closed the account.  I have, today, opened a new account and they are unable to put the correct address into the account. Let's see what happens this time. I will call Deborah. Her phone number has been changes. So, it is back two steps. I will work on this later.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Nordstrom's Oversteps Bounds on Use of E receipt Information

Last night I finally went out to do some Christmas Shopping.  I ended up at Nordrom's.  I was so pleasantly surprised with the wonderful sales clerk that assisted me in the purchase of eveningwear for my wife. I was also very pleased with the fact that the alterations, if necessary, would be performed by them at no additional charge.

I was even more surprised and pleased with the opportunity I was offered to get an E receipt instead of a paper receipt.  This was just like at the Apple Store. Wouldn't it be wonderful, I thought, if all retailers offered this option and we eliminated all those small pieces of paper that are always getting lost.

Wouldn't you know, when I got home last night I found the E receipt from Nordstrom's right there in my in-box.  How nice they are.

Well, so much for the nice part.  Today, less than 24 hours after my purchase, I have now received another email from Nordstrom's offering special promotions.  This is not what I need in my in-box.
I promptly looked for a way to opt out of their promotional emails.

They want to know why I am opting out. Here is what I responded:

I purchased an item yesterday for the first time at Nordstrom.  I was so pleased that I was oferred the option of getting an email receipt instead of a paper receipt and I gladly gave them by email address. Had I known that you would have used that email address for this purpose I would have not given you my email address.  Where is full disclosure? How about allowing me to opt-in instead. I do not think I will be going back again. You almost had me as a loyal customer. Think about people's feelings before you join the herd of marketing ignoramuses.

I wonder if this will actually cause them to opt me out of their promotions.

Express Scripts Deja Vu

I have decided to start a new post on Express Scripts.  My previous posts on this subject are all contained in my post on Health Care, which you should click on if you want the full detailed history.

In summary, what has transpired to date is that we used to be covered by Empire Blue Cross, which, in turn used an in-house pharmacy called NEXT Rx for mail-order fulfillment.  Empire was owned by Wellpoint.  In their infinite wisdom, Wellpoint decided to sell NEXT Rx to Express Scripts and enter into a ten year pharmaceutical mail order fulfillment agreement with Express Scripts.  What then transpired can best be described as chaos.  My previous blog post gives the blow by blow description of that interaction.  Finally, in an act of desperation, I wrote a letter to Angela Braly, the then CEO of Wellpoint.  As a consequence of that one letter I was assigned the aid of a person in her office to assist me with the mail order fulfillment needs that we had.  This, in effect, meant that the CEO's office at Wellpoint was micro managing the mail order fulfillment of my mail order prescriptions for almost every refill.  This was necessary due to the incompetence, or negligence of Express Scripts.

In the end I gave up on Empire Blue Cross, primarily due to the dangers associated with the prescription fulfillment of Express Scripts and also the tremendous difficulty and time constraints to actually completing this routine task on a regular and repeating basis. The only gratitude I got was an admission by the assistant to the CEO of Wellpoint that all of my claims of incompetence or outright greed on the part of Express Scripts were true.

Shortly thereafter, Angela Braly was relieved of her duties at Wellpoint. Some people think that it was due to her gross incompetence.

I changed to United HealthCare for our medical insurance coverage, and almost simultaneously, United decided to use Express Scripts as their prescription fulfillment agent. So, I am now back in exactly the same position I was before I switched.  Actually worse, because I do not have a concierge to manage my relationship with Express Scripts like I did when I was with Wellpoint.

Stay tuned for new and exciting incidents in health care mismanagement from Express Scripts.

Friday, December 21, 2012

DirecTV Power Email

I just received the email below from DirecTV. The subject line on the email is "Evil Goes Global".
I think that, in light of the Newtown, CT massacre, the taste and timing that DirecTV has shown here is atrocious. If you feel the same way, please send an email to DirecTV expressing your feelings and please let me know.  You can express your feelings directly to them at this url location.

I will seriously consider taking my business away from them.
Please note that I have altered the email image so that the image will fit on this blog. I have also removed all the small print and ordering information.

I am posting their response to my email to them below their original email. I think it is clear from their response that if they receive enough negative feedback that they might actually do something about this. Now is the time to accomplish a change in the policies of a company that makes important decisions on the type and quality of entertainment we, the consumers, get exposed to. Make your voice heard.

Date: December 21, 2012

Resident Evil: Retribution movie poster

December 21, 2012

Thank you for writing to provide feedback about the email that you received.

DIRECTV is committed in providing a variety of programming to our millions of customers and we certainly did not mean to offend you or imply negativity with the advertisement. We appreciate you taking the time to write share to us your insights. I have forwarded your email to the DIRECTV Management for review. Your feedback provides us with essential information when reviewing our procedures for development as we want to remain America's #1 satellite provider.

Thank you for the opportunity to assist you.


Marie Ann R. 
DIRECTV Customer Service

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Proposal to Get Credit Reporting Agencies to Provide Timely and Accurate Information

I have noted on this blog instances where Credit Reporting Agencies are sloppy and inept and seem to be incapable of providing the minimum of quality control necessary to protect the consumers they report on.  They have also been shy on the level of customer support that is required to do the job right. I have watched as the Credit Reporting Agencies try to grind the consumer to a halt through endless revisions of erroneous corrections to their credit reports.

Obviously, as a business model, it pays for a Credit Reporting Agency to not invest in customer service because it will take away from their bottom line.  However, if they invest too little, the cost of compliance through fines and litigation will rise.  So, they must strike a balance that works for them.  Clearly, the level that they have arrived at to achieve this balance is tilted against the consumer too much.

Exactly what can we do as consumers to tilt the playing field more in our direction -- a more responsive Credit Reporting Agency?  Obviously, if consumers were more diligent in reporting or acting on violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act the cost to the Agencies would go up.  Unfortunately, many of the penalties to these agencies don't accrue until some point after they have been notified that something is wrong and then through either the laborious actions of the various government agencies or the courts.  This is not always the case.  For example, the release of credit information to those who are not authorized to receive it, once established could result in fines, or judicial damages.

First principle, you cannot know what is going on with your Consumer Credit File unless you look at it.
The Credit Reporting Agencies are required to provide to you on an annual basis a copy of your credit report for free.  All you have to do is request it.  In most instances you can do this either on line or via the telephone.  You do not necessarily have to write them a letter.  In fact, it is more costly for them if you call.

Second, you must notify the Credit Reporting Agency of any discrepancies in your file, no matter how minor the error is.  I have challenged my reports when a credit balance is off by as little as $1.  This requires the Agency to contact the company that reported the information to verify that the information is correct, or they have to remove the information. Even if the entry is correct, if it is stale (over 7 years old, except for bankruptcy) they must remove the information if you request it.  This, in aggregate, is a very costly process for the Credit Reporting Agencies, especially if you call in your request and use up precious customer service representative time. Of course, you will want a copy of the corrected report to verify that it has been corrected properly.

If the Credit Reporting Agencies are inundated with disputes on the contents of credit files, then they will be forced to expend more money on consumer support activities, or risk the liability of heavy fines and other damages through litigation.

Please comment on this proposal below with any other ideas to help keep Credit Reporting Agencies in check without going through the lengthy complaint to the FTC or litigation methods.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Walmart on-line vs. in-store. What Chutzpah !

I have tried to limit my comments in this blog to issues that involve me.  With this post I am departing from that tradition.

I happened upon a new site for me -- The Consumerist. Apparently it is an appendage to Consumer Reports.

Here is the link to the original article.

Summary, a fellow searches on-line for a router. Finds that the lowest price he can get is on-line at Walmart with deliver in-store.  He has other items he wants to buy, so he swings by the local store and notes that the item is more expensive in the store. He goes to checkout and tells the clerk that he wants them to match a lower price.  He shows them the price on the mobile device at  They will not honor their own website price, only competitors.  OKAY, he can work with that. Whips out his mobile device and orders it on-line for delivery to the store. He gets confirmation that the order was placed, but that the delivery to the store will not be until the following week.  He cancels the order on-line, goes to the cashier with the in-store item and departs.  He receives a notice that his order has arrived at the store and he goes to the store. He goes to the store, buys the new item at the cheaper price and then immediately returns it on the sales slip that he had from the one he purchased last week at the higher price.

Walmart wins the Audacious award of the week!