Phone tag with @ATTHelp

Before I continue my little rant at ATT, let me say that we did finally get our upgrade from DSL to fiber, and the technician who came out was very friendly and helpful. I have no complaints about him, though I did have a terrible experience the first time. And now I’m stuck in customer service limbo.

As you can see if you read the post linked above, we waited all day for the service tech to arrive the first time, only to have him cancel and claim that he had called us (which he hadn’t). So we got bumped to the end of the line and made to wait two weeks for the next appointment. Along the way, I’ve been in touch with ATT customer service through @ATTHelp on Twitter and through their website chat feature. At the time, when I told them about the terrible service I had received, I was promised that they would offer me a deal to compensate, once the upgrade was installed. Now, that appears to be another lie. Here’s the transcript, where Hernando promised a deal as compensation for the poor service I received.

ATTChatTranscript1

It’s now a week after our installation, and no word from Hernando. @ATTHelp did respond after a couple of days, and after I sent them the transcript above they said they would “review your compensation options.” As usual, though, then they disappeared with complete radio silence. Here’s the last I heard from them:

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 6.17.21 PM

Last night, I got a call to my cell phone, which I just tried to return. According to her message this is someone in ATT’s president’s office. Maybe we’re getting somewhere? Or will we keep playing phone tag? Delva is supposed to call me back within one business day. We’ll see what happens!

ATT Run-Around Follow-Up, Part 1

This morning, I was contacted by Hernando on ATT’s Social Media team @ATThelp. He said he wanted to help with the issues I experienced yesterday, so I connected to chat with him (it took a couple of tries before I got to the right person). I had already been looking into whether I could change our upgrade to one that didn’t involve a new installation, but ATT wasn’t showing me any options for service anymore.

Hernando did apologize for my experience yesterday, blaming it on the worldwide crisis. Though I agree, I also know that ATT can be hard enough to deal with in normal times, and I’ve had this kind of service before. He couldn’t change my install date, though he did say he would watch and let me know if an earlier date became available. And he made me a vague offer of a deal and perks, once the installation was complete. He gave no specifics of what those would be, though. Here’s a little bit from our transcript.

Hernando : I can confirm they are set for April 2nd if you agree I can hold the case so we can ensure the install
Hernando : and after thats completed we can check further options to compensate you due the long wait

I also asked him to check on whether we could get an upgrade to a higher speed without an equipment upgrade. I know those options were available to me when I initially ordered this upgrade over a week ago. According to the ATT website, I should be able to double, triple, or even quadruple my speed for the same price. Of course, that’s not better than about 80x our current speed that I’d get with fiber, which is also the same price for new customers as the lower speeds (though fiber isn’t available everywhere). I could live with a higher speed, even if it’s not fiber, if that meant they didn’t have to send someone to my house, my cost wouldn’t go up, and they could switch us over right away. But Hernando said I didn’t have those options anymore. Their website won’t show me what’s available in my area online. It tells me I have to call to place an order.

So we’re stuck in limbo, hoping that Hernando really will come through with promised deals, but mostly hoping he or someone will actually flag our installation order so that it actually happens instead of getting delayed again. That will probably depend on what the situation in our state looks like in another two weeks. Our only other options are to cancel the upgrade and live with the speeds we have (and the dropped service, which we’ve been experiencing periodically and which is usually fixable by rebooting our modem). Or we can explore switching to the cable company for internet. They could get us about 10x our current internet speed for a little less. We’d just have to port our phone and change some old Bellsouth email addresses that we don’t use much.

ATT Support Run-Around Yet Again

There’s nothing like a little ATT tech support to get your heart rate and your blood pressure up. Not the most enjoyable form of ‘exercise,’ but it still feels like a workout. Anyone who’s read this blog very long knows that this isn’t my first run-in with ATT, but it may be the worst customer service day I ever had, so it may be my last.

Everything started fairly normal. We had put in a request for an upgrade that we’d wanted to do for some time, and the tech guy was supposed to come install between 9 and 11 in the morning. Their tracking website kept pushing the time back from 10 to 10:15, then 10:30, then it went past 11 and the site said the installer would be here by 1pm. None of this was that unexpected, though by the time 1pm rolled around with no call and no indication of when they would arrive, I was concerned.

So I got on chat and tried to find out more, since the website had stopped displaying any information other than a notice that they had missed the appointment. Like I hadn’t figured that out. I was given the option to keep the appointment and wait or to change it.

ATT support chat sometimes has been pretty good, but this time it turned utterly surreal. The support person I got seemed helpful. She said she had contacted the installer and he would be to my house within the hour. I asked if she could guarantee it, since I’d been given several times already and none of them had been true. She said he was guaranteed to arrive within the hour, and she gave me a phone number I could use to contact him.

When the hour had nearly passed with no word from the installer, I called the number 866-341-2662 (don’t call this unless you enjoy being tortured). I was asked for my ATT Phone User ID. Now, I had no idea what that was, so I tried a couple of numbers that I thought it might be, then hung up and tried to reach support on Twitter @ATThelp (no they don’t help, at least not today). Three or four people claimed to want to help me, but when I sent them my account number, they claimed they couldn’t find it. When I sent a screen shot to prove it was my account, they said they would check on it and then disappeared and didn’t reply, even after an hour.

No, I didnt wait that long. I tried chat again and was told I needed to call that dispatcher number again. We had reset my PIN (that I also didn’t know), and the chat agent thought that was probably the Phone User ID that number asked for. Nope. That didn’t work, so I pressed ‘star’ to get help with the ATT Phone User ID. All they told me was that it was the same as my Global User ID (what the F?) but it was all numbers. I should take my Global ID and translate it by giving each letter a number, where A = 01, B=02, etc. I did that with our account username, but that didn’t work either. So I gave up and tried chat again.

About this time, five hours after the installer was supposed to arrive at 11, I finally got a text that the installer was on his way. It showed his name, picture, and the supposed location of his truck. He would be here in half an hour. I still wanted to know what the mysterious ATT Phone User ID was, so I stayed on chat. The chat agent confirmed that my installer was on the way and eventually revealed that the ATT Phone User ID was a code that traditional phone customers might have (though I don’t know that they know it). We haven’t had traditional phone service in a number of years, since we switched to Uverse, so I couldn’t have provided this number, but I needed to have it to talk to the dispatcher. The chat agent apologized and said she would make sure it didn’t happen again (how exactly?). I left the chat hopeful that the installer would arrive, even though it was now after 5pm.

Then I got a text that the service call was cancelled and I would have to reschedule. I tried to find out why, but got nowhere, so I eventually texted Change to set up a new appointment, only to find out that the next available one was in thirteen days! Unsatisfied, I tried chatting to see if I could get something sooner by explaining that I had waited all day for the installer who cancelled when he was on his way. After much waiting and being passed between two chat agents, I was finally told that the installer claimed I hadn’t answered his call, so he had cancelled the appointment, and that is why I would have to wait.

Now, I had been by the phone all day. In fact, I had been by my cell phone and my land line, and he had never called either. The only calls from ATT that I had receied were from the customer service agent who helped me reset my pin hours before the installer said he called me. But at that point the chat agent stopped responding to my questions.

Now, I get it that everyone is overwhelmed, understaffed, and overworked since everything has either shut down or gone crazy due to COVID-19. If I had been told that they were sorry that my appointment would have to be delayed, and if that meant gettting my installation tomorrow or as soon as they could get to me, that would be a completely different story.

But I was lied to several times by ATT. By agents on the phone who gave me a bogus number to call, by chat agents who ‘guaranteed’ service within the hour, by the website that kept telling me the installer would come soon even when he didn’t come all day, and finally by the installer who claimed he’d called me when I know he didn’t. I wouldn’t mind if he said he couldn’t come after 5pm, even though I’d waited all day for someone to arrive. But to be told a lie as a reason to bump my appointment to the back of the line instead of keeping my place in line and getting my installation done the next day or soon, that is the worst customer service imaginable. Okay, things are bad right now everywhere, but at least tell the truth. Is that too much to ask? ATT, you might even gain some sympathy and keep customer loyalty.

Update, Day 3 of #AWP20

On the third day of #AWP20, things we’re much the same as before: somewhat bigger crowds in the book fair with the folks who had book fair stickers instead of badges. Since our table was in the hinterlands and some of our neighbors packed it in early, we started to wonder whether we should have moved, like some other tables did. On the other hand, we had a fair amount of foot traffic, nothing like a normal year, but the folks who stopped by were also more willing to talk. One of our alumni made it up from Houston for the day, taking advantage of the $5 admission. It was good to see Xenia.

All but one of our crew made it by the table, and it was good to see that no one was suffering from anything more than the usual effects of staying out till the wee hours. I did see a post from our other student, so I know she was okay. The only worries now we’re about getting home okay. With some news of cancelled flights and with the state of emergency in New York, some had reason to be concerned, but as far as I know, no one had any actual problems getting home.

Most of us are traveling today, though some left last night. Here’s wishing everyone safe travels and hoping we all stay healthy. It seems like we may have as much risk at hone as we had here.

Update, Day 2 #AWP20

This will be a quick update, since day 2 was much like day 1. Smaller crowds, cancelled panels, a few more people in the book fair, and as far as I can tell, everyone seems healthy. In fact, I’m hearing more news of COVID-19 from other places than from here. Some of us may be going home to greater risk than we have here, which is no to discount the risks of traveling.

Some friends are telling about the measures their universities are taking when they come back, such as formal self-monitoring. Still, everyone is calm and there doesn’t appear to be any greater risk than traveling anywhere else.

In the meantime, one of our grad students, Dani Putney, was invited to read with Juke Joint at the last minute. Some of us got the news in time to go hear them read, and of course, Dani represented well, despite having no time to prepare. That’s one advantage of being able to read from your phone (something I wouldn’t attempt anymore). It’s been a good AWP so far. As I’ve told a few people, it reminds me of the old days when the conference was smaller. It’s, sad that so many people and exhibitors aren’t here, but given the situation, everyone’s doing the best they can. We miss those who decided they couldn’t come. We understand and support that decision, too.

Looking forward to Day 3!

Update from #AWP20: Day 1

The first day of AWP in San Antonio was fine, if a little sleepy. The biggest problems were smaller crowds and cancelled panels. One of my students, Hollie, told about a panel on submitting where none of the panelists showed up, but lots of people were thee wanting to talk, so they took over the panel and shared advice. It was very useful.

Another student, K.D., told us about getting interviewed on Wednesday. On San Antonio news on Wednesday. They were so happy that the conference hadn’t been canceled, they wanted to talk to those who came. They misspelled her name, but did broadcast her interview.

Everyone I talked to was very upbeat, if a little sad that the Book Fair is smaller and there aren’t as many people or panels. Everyone’s making the best of it and so far there are no signs of an increased risk of catching COVID-19. Lots of hand washing and creative alternatives to shaking hands. It may be the healthiest AWP ever.

I get why some people decided not to come. It’s unfortunate that the news broke days before the conference started and people really didn’t have time to make a calmer decision. In the split second you had to decide, and with so much uncertainty, it made sense to cancel for many. Only the future will tell what was the right decision, but for now, those of us are here are feeling all right and making the best of it.

#AWP20 in a Time of Coronavirus

More thoughts on my decision to attend AWP 2020

I thought about titling this “Love in a Time of Coronavirus” with a nod to Garcia Marquez, but then I thought better of it. On the one hand, my wife’s joke when we were disicussing whether or not to go was “Well, don’t kiss anyone!” I said I hadn’t been planning on it, with or without the current situation. Still, I thought having love in the title might sound a little weird. But I have been doing a lot of thinking (haven’t we all?) about AWP: everything from “What am I doing?” to “What’s there to worry about, really?”

Yesterday began with a phone call from one of my students who was already in San Antonio. Her message said she’d heard the news and wanted to know what I was going to do. I called her back to ask “What news, exactly?” and while we played phone tag and I talked to another student about an unrelated, equally serious situation (for her), I checked the news and didn’t see anything yet. Apparently, it was all over CNN, but I don’t watch cable and was in my office relying on the New York Times and Washington Post. She was the first to tell me that the virus was out in the community in San Antonio after someone had been released from quarantine.

I’m teaching a class that is focused on the AWP conference. It’s our largest class ever for this Short Residency with 10 students who were planning to attend. The student who called me was already in a San Antonio hotel and they weren’t even saying yet which hotel the sick person had gone to. I had to make a judgment call on the spot, so I told her unequivocally that I would support her decsion, whether she wanted to stay or to get out of Dodge.

I could do this in part because my university had already started having discussions about what to do if COVID-19 coronavirus came to our area and schools were closed. We had already said we would take classes online or do what had to be done to protect student and faculty health and keep the university open. I told my student that I didn’t konw what I would do, but that she could leave and cancel her conference plans, and I would work something out. Worst case scenario, she would be allowed to drop the class, but I wanted to find some alternate assignments. When I got of the phone with her, I called my dean, and we discussed what I’d told her. He agreed. I emailed my class, as well as every student, faculty, and alumn of our program to let them know where things stood.

Throughout the day, there was a lot of consultation with students, other faculty, and colleagues at other schools while we all waited for news from AWP. In the end, though rumors were flying that they would cancel and many thought they probably should, the word came out that the conference was going ahead after talking to San Antonio’s mayor and other officials. I let my students and colleagues know that as well, but told them they were still free to change their plans. Half the students dropped out. Half decided to come on to the conference, and I decided to go to support them, to support AWP, and because for me, I think the risks are fairly small.

Risk: I go to AWP every year and rarely do I come home sick. I shake thousands of hands (might be avoiding that this time) and talk to thousands of people. I wash my hands regularly, but not obsessively (might be more obsessive this time), and avoid people who seem sick when I can. Every year there are colds and the flu. People get sick. I get it, and I don’t mean to sound cavalier about COVID-19. But I do think it’s out in the public in the US, and it’s unlikely to be contained. I don’t know that travelling to San Antonio will be any riskier than staying home. The person who was released from quarantine and found to have a ‘marginally positive’ test result isn’t showing symptoms and had limited contact in the public. Could the virus spread? Of course. Will it spread to AWP in the time that I’m there? I hope not. It’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Why choose not to go? I get why my students and colleagues have made the decision they’ve made. One was traveling with his wife and two kids to the conference. They’re planning another vacation wherever the rental car and the week off from work will take them. If I were them, I’d go to a national park or travel Route 66 (they were already in Oklahoma) or visit relatives. I wouldn’t expose my young kids to this. Another colleague is a single mom to a pre-school age kid. I wouldn’t leave home if there was a chance I couldn’t come back right away. Some of my students have their own health challenges and may not want to risk it. Others simply don’t want to take the risk even though they’re young and healthy. They may be making the right choice, and I support every one of them.

So why go? Some of my students and colleagues have been looking forward to this all year. We’ve made investments in hotels, flights, registration. Yes, we could get some of it back, but we might not get refunds for everything. AWP has offered to refund or apply registration fees to next year — who knows what next year will bring? — but the registration cost is a drop in the bucket compared to the other costs people have. If it had been cancelled, I might have been relieved. Since it wasn’t, I’m going and making the best of it.

Am I right? I hope so, but that will only be right for me. For those who decided to change their plans, their decision will always be the right one. For those of us who go, as long as we’re able to go and come home as planned, it will be right for us, though AWP will not be the same AWP that we expected, it will still be a rewarding experience.

What about my class? The five students and I who are going to the conference will treat it as planned. They will attend panels, visit the book fair, go to offsite events, and write about the experience. I’ll ask them to share their writings with their fellow students. Those who aren’t coming to the conference will write about their experience. AWP is planning to live stream some panels, so we’ll try to get them access to those. I’ll have them research some of the publishers, authors, or literary groups they wanted to check out at the conference, and write about those. If there are satelite AWP events (I’ve seen some discussion of this on Twitter, but don’t know if it will happen) they could go to those or go to another literary event closer to home and write about that. I’ll probably extend my deadlines and extend our discussion. In the end, I think it will be a good thing for the class. At least, we’ll be making the best of a very chaotic and difficult situation.

I don’t envy the directors, staff, and board of AWP having to make a decision like this just two days before everyone is supposed to arrive for a major conference. To cancel would have been a disaster. To forge ahead will be seen as foolhardy by some, as brave by others, and as either wise or incredibly risky, depending on what happens this weekend. No matter what you decide, you’ll piss of about half the people. Giving everyone the option to cancel and trying to find a way to keep the conference on track for those who decide to come, is probably the best decision, assuming they got the necessary reassurance from public officials that it is safe for thousands of people to descend on their city. It may seem a little post-apocalpytic, yet those of us who make there will likely have a great time.

If you’re on the fence about what to do, I’m not trying to convince you one way or another. I imagine most people had to decide whether to cancel at some point yesterday, if it wasn’t already too late for your reservations. If you’re coming, look for Mississippi University for Women or Ponder Review in the Book Fair. Our table may change, but we’ll be there along with Poetry South. I’ll also be doing a book signing at Texas Review Press / Sam Houston State University’s booth on Thursday. They’re still planning to be there, too. If you’re staying home or going somewhere else, then make the most of your time and maybe follow us from afar.