Saturday, December 8, 2007

AT&T lied to my wife

My wife lost her AT&T cellphone. Fortunately, someone found it and returned it, but not before we called AT&T to suspend the account. We also needed to get ourselves a new sim card, and that's when the lies began. The rep told her that she couldn't just buy a sim card, that she needed a whole new phone - an AT&T phone of course - to run on their network. He was happy to sell her one for just $170 and an extension of her contract.

So, I called them back and explained the situation to a different rep. She was happy to send me a sim card for $25, which I could then call to activate with whatever phone I had. Having averted this disaster, I noticed a few discrepancies with the rep's information.

- An unlocked phone will work on AT&Ts network with any of their sim cards. You need only program the sim card, not the phone.

- Buying a new phone does not require an extension of your contract.

- You need not call AT&T to "activate" a different phone. Just take your sim card, pop it in another phone, and it will recognize the network.

- Any sim card can be programmed with the serial number provided with the card. You can buy a whole phone from Walmart with a sim card included for less ($18) than what AT&T will charge you just for the card itself ($25).

It is important to remember that when calling AT&T service reps, even those who are not in "sales" departments, are usually either clueless about how any of their services actually work, or are so sales driven that they happily dish out misleading information to land some commission. Everyone you talk to is pushing sales.

In fact, if I had not already been using different phones with our sim cards or had not already purchased prepaid GSM phones (I have a couple of extra sim cards and phones that work just dandy), we might have fallen for the first reps story - leaving us $170 poorer (plus sim card, activation, taxes, and other fees of course).

4 comments:

Mrs. Micah said...

My SIM card wasn't working, so I took it to the AT&T store and they gave me a new one right there. I don't know what it would've been like if I'd gone through everything your wife did, but since it was defective (and the phone was 3 months old) I just got a free replacement.

jim ~ mydebtblog.com said...

I'm surprised you actually had to pay for a new SIM card. When I had an issue, just go to the store and they copy your contacts to another one. If the phone was damaged or one of the older ones that uses a different type of SIM card, you're out of luck on that. Typically new phones, even mid contract, require an extension of the contract in order to get a good price on it. If you're using the service anyways, why should the contract be an issue? I think maybe your wife should keep better track of her phone too. Calling sales reps is never the same as talking to someone in the store. Glad you got it resolved.

Beyond the Consumer said...

Jim,

Well, fortunately the phone was found, so it all worked out. But yes, we would have had to buy a new sim card, and I honestly can't blame them for charging for it - they don't want people walking in asking for free sim cards all the time.

The point of my comments was that with GSM networks, you do not need a new phone to be activated on the network. You need only the sim card, which can be programmed independently. The phone, so long as it fits the sim card and is unlocked (which is just software designed to block you from using other networks anyway) will work. I think there are some gray areas of what services will work, like with their data network (because they want to force you to use whatever method of connecting is most profitable for them) - but I refuse to use the data service (including text messaging) because the markup is exorbitant. Anyway, just to connect to the network and make calls, you need only an unlocked GSM phone. I've owned several phones with my service and haven't called the company once.

The contract definitely IS an issue. With the way these contracts are designed, having the ability to dump them and move to another carrier is the only power you have left. With companies these days it would take a lot for me to give up the last inkling of freedom I have.

I can't fault my wife, since she has never lost her phone in the 6 years that I've known her. I'm lucky if I can find my own keys in the morning. :)

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