Another Customer Service Conversation (GTHAT&T edition)

Quote of the Day:     Discontent is the first necessity of progress.”     —Thomas Edison

Before TB shares a laugh with you inspired by the absurdity of a customer service call involving a ten-year customer of a certain cell phone provider we’ll call AT&T, I want to indulge in a brief rant. I’m not a class action lawyer so I don’t have a financial interest in this at all. But “the people” are under a constant barrage from the big business rulers of the Chamber of Commerce that class actions are frivolous and exist only to enrich scumbag trial lawyers, and it really pisses me off that “the people” so willingly buy into this load of bs when they are subjected, like me, to the daily abuses of Goliathian companies and complain about them and wonder why nobody does anything about them. Let me tell you here and now, when a company screws you out of five bucks or even five hundred there ain’t a damn thing you can do about it unless the class action laws developed over the last century and torn down over the last decade are available to you, along with a lawyer who has the wherewithal to take on the giants. So the next time there is a five dollar overcharge on your cell phone bill or the cable company says they didn’t receive your bank draft out of the blue or the credit card company says they are jacking up your rate because you were a day late on your phone bill, remember it the next time you get a “frivolous lawsuit” email or hear a Congressman talking about the abuses the big corporations endure at the hands of “the trial lawyers.” And ps, that credit card bill Obama got through was fine, but it won’t do much until they add in language letting the trial lawyers take the giants down to size by meeting them in a courtroom and even more until Congress rewrites the Federal Arbitration Act to prohibit the companies from taking away your constitutional right to a trial by jury which it was never intended to do in the first place but which activist conservative judges liberally interpreted the law to do. 

Ok, I feel better now.

In August, I posted a recap of a customer service conversation involving this same company and its linked here. You might want to check it out to amplify your enjoyment of what follows. Anyway, here’s what pissed me off/cracked me up today–and I was only a witness to this conversation.


Customer Service–Hello, thank you for calling AT&T.

Customer–Yes, I received a letter…

Customer Service–No one is available to take your call right now, but if you will hold we will get to you as soon as possible.

Customer–(twiddling thumbs)

Customer–(adjusting radio)

Customer–(finishing War and Peace)

Customer–(celebrating birthday)

Customer–(staring resolutely)

Customer Service–Thank you for holding, may I help you?

Customer–Yes, I received a letter that my account is overdue, but I have automatic payment on my credit card. I don’t want you to charge me a late fee.

Customer Service–Yes ma’am we tried to call you on June 5 about that. The late fee was applied June 6.

Customer–I got a call from an unknown number and no message about a forthcoming late fee. I don’t answer unknown numbers. In the past you have always sent emails or text messages about my account. How am I supposed to know there is a problem if you don’t communicate it to me?

Customer Service–(defensively) Who said anything about text messages?

Customer–I just don’t know why my own phone company would call and block their name and then fail to email or text me.

Customer Service–According to my records ma’am, we did not email or text you.

Customer–Yes, I know. Ok, forget that, why is there a problem with my draft?

Customer Service–Are the last four digits of your credit card 1-2-3-4?


Customer Service–Well, that must be the problem.

Customer–How did that number get on my account?

Customer Service–Did you put it there?

Customer--If I put it there I wouldn’t have to ask how it got there, would I? This is the company’s mistake and I’m a little concerned about it.

Customer Service–Are the last four numbers of your credit card 1-2-3-4?

Customer–No. As I said, if your records show anything different, the change was made by someone there, not by me. Look, I’ve been a customer forever and I’ve been using the auto pay for a long time with no problem. If something messed up this time, I am not responsible for a late fee.

Customer Service–Ma’am according to my records you’ve only been an AT&T customer for (slight pause while she obviously looked down at her screen and off her script) … ten years.

Customer–That’s right, a decade. And I’ve never had a problem with my credit card.

Customer Service–Are the last four digits of your credit card 1-2-3-4?

Customer–I’ll just update my account online and deal with the late fee that way. I’m not paying a late fee.

Customer Service–Thank you for calling AT&T customer service and for using AT&T. Is there any other way I can assist you?

Customer–(Blank Stare)

Customer Service–Have a GREAT day customer.

About travellinbaen

I'm a 40 year old lawyer living in Ridgeland, Mississippi. I'm several years and a couple hundred miles removed from most of my old running buddies so I started the blog to provide an outlet for many of the observations and ideas that used to be the subjects of our late night/happy hour/halftime conversations and arguments.
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45 Responses to Another Customer Service Conversation (GTHAT&T edition)

  1. jessica o says:

    I read the first half so far, and I gotta say I am confused by “activist conservative judges liberally interpreted the law to do. ”

    Somehow this doesn’t jibe… oxymoron? Maybe? 🙂

    Okay, I’ll read the second half tomorrow and solve the mystery!

  2. irvineredd says:

    I love it when that happens. You just have to grab whoever it is by the balls and don’t let go until you get your money back. Regions Bank tried to screw me over once after a teller at one of their branches told me the wrong thing which caused me to overdraw my account. The lady at the branch on the square in Oxford tried to tell me I needed to go to where I started my account in Pascagoula. I told her I didn’t have a car and what did she want, me to walk to the coast to fix the mistake made by one their employees. I had my JL side come out, and for those of you who’ve seen her get mad, you know what that’s about. I ended up being tough with her and not taking anymore of her crap and finally she relented and took away the fee. I loved that she was agruing with me about something that was clearly a mistake by one their employees and actually tried to seriously make me believe that it was somehow my mistake for believing the words of someone that works at my bank.

    It felt great to dominate that lady because she clearly thought she was just dealing with some punk kid who didn’t have a clue. It’s a shame really, that customers have to do this at banks/cell phone providers, really just about every business, just to get a fair shake on what we pay to have.

    The American Way, screw the customers!

  3. Jessie Lou says:

    What happened to “the customer is always right” ? I love those people who hate lawyers…… that is until they need one. I mean the kind that bash lawyers repeatedly and then a storm comes along and destroys everything they ever worked for and then they understand the necessity of having/knowing a good attorney. That goes under the title of never say never.

    IR – glad to know I passed something useful down to you.

  4. irvineredd says:

    On the customer is always right, any of you who have worked in retail, know full well that the customer is usually an idiot who doesn’t really understand what’s going on. I deal with that all the time. The worst one’s are those that think they know all, but in truth know absolutely nothing. Don’t get me wrong I’m nice to these people and do what I can to help them, but that doesn’t mean I’ll bend to every complaint. If you can’t understand that you need to have a receipt for a refund or what a deadline is for a full refund, then you never should have bought something in the first place. The general public, and sadly most everyone under the age of 25, is quite stupid.

    The problem is that in situations like the one TB has outlined here the customer is just being had. They never had the chance to be right or wrong in the first place. The customer is a Rube, doomed to fight a losing battle against people with all the money and time on their side. The deck is stacked against them in everyway possible. Even if the customer is right.

  5. Jessie Lou says:

    Rube – didn’t Anthony Hopkins refer to Clarice at a Rube in “The Silence of the Lambs”? Haven’t heard that term in a while.

  6. irvineredd says:

    It’s also what carnie folk used to call everyone who came to the carnival.

  7. Jess, great question, with a very long, complex and nuanced answer. Here, believe it or not, is a short answer:

    Glossary (as used in this context)–

    activist–a pejorative term often applied to liberal judges by conservative politicians and the media; also, to apply or enforce a law in an expansive manner not directly addressed by the statute that is applicable to the case; also, to overturn established case precedent; sometimes, to decide a case based on a political philosophical belief rather than on intellectually honest grounds.

    conservative judges-those identifying more in their personal lives as Republicans; some are very good judges who show their politics only in rare instances where a case could go either way. They are the direct and perfect mirror image of liberal judges who behave the same way.

    liberal interpretation–commonly and mistakenly believed to be equated with liberal judges, a liberal interpretation is a subpart of “activism” in which a statute or the Constitution is not directly on point but is expanded to take on a meaning that will decide a case based on what the judge believes was intended by the drafters or the law/Constitution or what the judge believes an appeals court would decide based on its decisions going back in history.

    In the past, activist decisions such as overturning separate but equal schools, establishing the right to see a lawyer before being questioned by police, overturning sodomy laws that kicked the government out of the bedroom, outlawing public organized prayer in schools and banning publicly funded nativity scenes, along with Roe v Wade, have been made by liberal activist judges. Most of these have been for the greater good and virtually no conservative would today want those rulings overturned. Some, obviously are still debatable.

    To oversimplify, activist liberal judges are known for giving the benefit of the doubt to the individual over the government or corporation, the minority over the majority, the weak over the poor while activist conservative judges are known for giving the benefit to the government or corporation over the individual, etc.

    Activist conservative judges liberally applying the law have brought us such facts of life as arbitration clauses and class action bans in cell phone and credit card agreements (and a host of other transactions we encounter daily) that shield the companies from being held accountable for their abuses. In the example I ranted about, they have liberally interpreted the Federal Arbitration Act, which was written to resolve disputes among equals, particularly businesses suing businesses, and applied it to consumer affairs. Although the Act requires basic contract principles to be used to determine if an arbitration agreement should be used, activist conservative judges have chosen to ignore time honored contracts law and allow companies to enforce contract language that they slip into your statement each month and constantly change without the consumer being able to negotiate other than to cancel the account and not get another account.

    This is not isolated. Activist conservative judges commonly stretch the law to achieve victory and domination of the corporate over the individual. I personally would like to see activist judges of all stripes off the bench, but they are a fact of life. However, since that is the case, it is a burr under my saddle that many conservatives and media fail to recognize the hypocrisy in their complaints about liberal activist judges. On the Federal system and at the state supreme court level, the fact is there are currently more activist conservatives than liberal.

    Pop quiz next Thursday.

  8. Samsmama says:

    Wow, your comment to Jess was about as long as the post. I’m not going to try to get all intellectual, as I have a sunburn that possibly affected my brain. So I’ll tell you what made me laugh the hardest:

    “Celebrating birthday”.

    I’m so easy to please.

  9. SM, I am gratified as I was chuckling to myself as I wrote it.

    Sorry about the long winded comment, but its one of those “hot button” issues for TB and a question not easily answered–I at least tried to be fair!

  10. Madd Dawg says:

    Federal Arbitration Act (1925)
    Section 2. Validity, irrevocability, and enforcement of agreements to arbitrate

    “A written provision in any maritime transaction or a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce to settle by arbitration a controversy thereafter arising out of such contract or transaction, or the refusal to perform the whole or any part thereof, or an agreement in writing to submit to arbitration an existing controversy arising out of such a contract, transaction, or refusal, shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract. ”

    Translation: If you agree when you enter into a contract that all disputes shall be settled by arbitration instead of going to Court, then if a dispute arises between you and the other party to the contract then, guess what, the dispute will be settled by arbitration instead of going to Court.

    It doesn’t seem to me that it took an activist Judge to do anything except read the plain language of the statute. This has been around since 1925–if it was so unfair or unclear, then Congress could have changed the language of the statute. Or BHO could change it now.

    Parties have the right to conduct discovery in arbitration proceedings just like in a lawsuit. Plus, the vast majority of arbitration agreements that I have seen state that the losing side must pay the attorney’s fees of the winning side (unlike in a lawsuit).

  11. Madd Dawg says:

    I actually agree with some of what you said about class action suits, and I think that the threat of valid class action suits does keep the behavior of businesses somewhat in check.

    The problem is that the process is abused by the lawyers. How many class action notices have each of us recieved stating that we were a part of some class action against some bank or some other company? I always ignore them and then receive some notice a year later that the case has been settled whereby I get a $1 coupon for the purchase of a product from the company that was sued in the class action, and the class action lawyers are getting $15 million in legal fees.

    The company just gets tired of dealing with the case and pays the lawyers to stop bothering them. That $15 million is considered to be a cost of doing business in America, and it is passed on to us common folk in the form of higher prices on products.

  12. MD, your quoting of a small part of the act proves my point. There are actually several parts of the act as well as a long legislative history that make it clear the act was never intended to be forced on consumers by business. I direct you to the word “contract.” In the most basic contract law that we learn the first week of law school, there must be a meeting of the minds. Also, contracts must be signed by all parties and negotiated in good faith and not under duress.

    A consumer arbitration clause includes none of these basic contract requirements yet has been held by activist conservative judges to be enforceable. Further there is no choice in whether to be under the arbitration clauses because every company uses them. If you decline to be under it, you are denied credit/cell phone/medical care etc and that my friend is duress.

    As for the class action abuses, there may well be some. But the evidence you cite is hollow. Those buck off coupons (usually more like 10-20 bucks) are minimal and attorney fees are high, but when the company adds up the 25 bucks it screwed you out of to create the class and multiplies it by millions, the scams become major profit generator and the only way to stop them is to file as a class. Typically, in addition to the voucher and the attorney fees, there is a consent decree or equivalent therof prohibiting future like conduct, hence saving the common folk from one more headache, lost five bucks, or most importantly one less customer service phone call in the future.

    As for the high fees paid to the lawyers who bring the suits, they have been scaled way back lately. In addition they can be completely avoided if the company at fault will simply operate in good faith instead of constantly searching for the angles to screw their customers on.

    Finally, the fees pale in comparison to the profits ginned up by the scams. Your Chamber talking point that the cost is passed on to the customer may be true, but it is pennies compared to the abuses prevented by those same attorneys.

  13. And MD, ps, as a libertarian, you should be in favor of the judges that limit government power right? The liberal ones are much more likely to do just that, though depending on the constituency (i.e. tobacco companies and drug companies conservative judges will limit the government). But if one is only a libertarian on economic issues and not civil liberties that would not be the case, and that would also belie their claim to libertarianism.

  14. Madd Dawg says:

    Class Action—Again, I agree with most of what you say on that issue and agree that class actions are necessary because no one person is going to sue Microsoft over five dollars.

    Libertarian—don’t pigeonhole me!!! the philosophy is one of maximizing liberty. I am certainly an economic libertarian, but I don’t agree with some radical libertarian thoughts by some on the fringes such as totally dismantling the military, allowing adults to have “relations” with children or opening the borders to all immigrants. I would guess that there are some issues/positions out there upon which you disagree with your hero BHO.

    Arbitration—I agree that a contract between two equally-powered companies which is reviewed by counsel and contains an arbitration clause is a totally different situation than an arbitration clause in a cell phone contract between AT&T and a consumer. The later would seem to me to be a possible contract of adhesion or an against public policy situation whereby the Court would deem that clause to be unenforceable. Surely the lawyers for the consumers in the relevant litigation argued those points (and stop calling me Shirley). Perhaps they lost because of the specific federal statutory authorization and applicability (arguably) of the arbitration clause????

    Didn’t you break your ground rule #4 (“No more starting political fights on posts not pertinent to the subject matter.”) posted on the MD/RY thread by starting this discussion here? I suppose that you could argue, unconvincingly, of course, that your tirade was pertinent to the subject matter.

  15. The tirade was pertinent, I would argue.

  16. Madd Dawg says:

    I am hereby convinced

  17. quail09 says:

    this lawyerly sh*t is boring me…let’s talk sports

  18. hell, the post was supposed to be funny, but I guess the rant got in the way.

  19. jessica o says:

    TB, I OFFICIALLY LOVE YOU. If James sprouts a vagina and shacks up with some lowlife scum, I’m yours.

    Thank you for fully explaining that term to me. I am ignorant when it comes to important things like politics and government and law.

    I actually learned something worth knowing through the internet today. Neat.

    AT&T operators and I rarely get along very well. I think it’s that whole, “What else can I do to make your experience like a trip to Disney World?” load of crap that annoys the hell out of me.

  20. Harmony says:

    Wow..I am impressed with the dialogue between you and Madd Dawg, especially how it all wrapped up. Very interesting.

    I think the worst part of making a call to customer support and not getting the help needed is when they sum up the call and end it “Is there anything else I can help you with?” or “How would your rate my service today?” REALLY? You really want to ask me that? I am sure it’s part of the manual, but if you know you have been absolutely no help, to the point of contributing zero to the resolve of my dilemma then why stick witht the manual. Step out of the box, be human.

  21. Unfortunately my non-humorous interests sometimes get in the way of a fun blog, but you are kind to let that slide. MD and I go way back and do not let a little thing like his tunnel vision get in the way of a friendship we are stuck with.

    I swear, on customer service calls, they will drive you bananas. I just got a call from a family member yesterday wanting advice on how to deal with the freezer company who sold her a defective product that is out of its one year warranty, but at 2 years old is hardly ready for obsolecence. My advice was not received warmly–“you have no leverage. Just try to keep someone on the phone long enough that they give in. If it were me I’d just buy a new damn freezer.”

    On the other hand, I had a call with Apple not long ago and when the guy solved my main problem, he voluntarily kept going and suggested some other fixes on possible underlying issues. It was so good, when he asked if I was satisfied or needed further assistance I spent 10 minutes telling him how great he was. Truly, it was the most shocking customer service experience of my life.

    Jess–I have known from the start that you were a woman of discerning taste and cultural refinement. If James sprouts a vagina, I want either the book deal, movie rights or at least a before and after picture to paste on my blog.

  22. irvineredd says:

    Just read this article. I thought it timely that it would appear as this thread was going. Pretty pertinent.

    And I know it’s from the HuffPost, but don’t worry neo-cons and libertarians, it’s not a left-wing political piece. It’s just about the lengths some companies will go, in this case Google, to deal with things as opposed to simply providing decent customer service.

  23. Zeek says:

    I feel you TB, there really is no such thing as customer service anymore. A real courteous, helpful, concerned, efficient CSR (anywhere from an operator to a waitress/waiter) is now the exception to the rule. I beseech you to believe me when I tell you that it all goes back to what I’ve been proclaiming : People are stupid. That goes for workers and customers. When you mix dumb with dumber you pretty much end up with results that range from Blank Stare to Pathetically Comical to Postal. You can’t fix stupid. It truly amazes me that the gov’t. allows itself and corporate America to engage in unethical, immoral, and ultimately what should be illegal business practices; but try to hold John Q. Public to some impractical higher standard than itself. Why are the Oil companies allowed to just automatically gouge everyone during the summer with gas prices that are @ 40% higher than they were 2 months ago?? The price of crude has not drastically increased. The excuse they use of ” well, the public uses so much more gas during the summer with travel that we ae forced to drill more or tap into reserves does not hold water. Don’t prices usually come down once the company sees their product/ service is a winner and that lower prices will allow the masses to have buying power??? I know supply and demand, but why are these entities allowed to basically monopolize and then flagrantly abuse the customers that make them rich???

  24. Zeek says:

    Oh, BTW, the gov’t. stripping the public’s ability to hold business to fairness with ” frivolous lawsuit” policy is a bunch of bullsh!t. If business has no incentivew to do the ‘right” thing, guess what? They won’t do the right thing because it will mean a littlke less profit. What they don’t understand is the better your product and service the more your sales will increase which will result in more profits. Can I get a witness????

  25. Madd Dawg says:

    I knew that you would respond to Harmony’s comment in a fair and impartial manner, and you did not disappoint.
    One of the commentors on this blog named Sweet sprouted a vagina a few years back, so it is certainly possible.

  26. Samsmama says:

    Madd Dawg,

    I’m sorry, what now?

  27. jessica o says:


    Say it isn’t so! I was relying on the impossibility of that bio-event to make that commitment.

    I’m a little worried now.

  28. Madd Dawg says:

    S&M, see JO’s comments from the morning of June 9 to put my comment into the proper context.

    JO, Sweet seems quite content with his (her?) newly-found toy, so he/she has got that going for him/her, which is nice.

  29. Samsmama says:

    MD, I got your comment. I was more curious about this “Sweet” person and their new genitalia.

  30. Zeek says:

    Samsmama– do not be misled by MD’s futile attempt at humor. We’ve been telling him he’s NOT funny for years, but he is either deaf or hard headed.

    Sweet has had a vagina for years, he did not just grow one. That is proposterous!! I think he is not so much content with the fact that he has a vag as he has just resigned himself to the reality of it.

  31. Madd Dawg says:

    Sweet is a prostitute. By supplementing genitalia, he has more than doubled his/her client base. If only GM (Government Motors)were so resourceful in these tough economic times.

  32. Sweet says:

    MD, it’s called innovation and imagination. i think outside the “box”

  33. jessica o says:

    Sweet! So glad you are here to enlighten us. MD has all of us thinking about your “box”.

  34. Wendy says:

    So is this “Sweet” person transgendered? Does he have both genitals? Or is the fact that he has sprouted a vagina the reason his name is “Sweet” or has there always been a general lack of testosterone? Does he also think outside the “tube” as it were? Since we are talking rectangles. Enquiring minds would like to know since this is the subject we find ourselves on.

  35. Sweet says:

    Wendy, I have enough testosterone for you

  36. Wendy says:

    If you have a girlfriend does that make her a lesbian?

  37. Sweet says:

    Um, I don’t know. But I have brought one of those back to our team before.

  38. Wendy says:

    Now there’s a story… tell.

  39. Zeek says:

    Wendy- Is a “tube” a rectangle? Hmmm….

    Please don’t get Sweet started on his sexual prowess, it could get ugly.

    Uh, Sweet, did you mean evacuation and procrastination, or elation at your vagination?

  40. Madd Dawg says:

    TB’s post on a conversation with a CSR ended up being a discussion of (1) the applicability of the Federal Arbitration Act to consumer contracts; and (2) Sweet’s vagina.

  41. Writing a blog is often a humbling experience.

  42. Wendy says:

    Zeek you are correct – it funny how my brain works sometimes. I guess I was thinking length vs. circumference. Another discussion entirely.

  43. Harmony says:

    LMAO @ MD’s “elation at your vagination” Is that some sort of women’s empowerment statement? I can see the feminazi’s of America going bat shit crazy for those rights…take it to print, I see a fortune on the horizon.

  44. Jessie Lou says:

    I’m not sure how he kept that hidden from me, but that sure does explain alot about Sweet. I always knew it was something but could never put my finger on it – pun intended.

  45. Zeek says:

    And that’s……the rest of the story……….Goodday!

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