Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Happy Ending!

The FedEx shipment arrived at my apartment complex yesterday, but I still had one more test to pass before I could claim victory. My complex office is notorious for changing posted hours to whatever suits their fancy, and though a sign clearly states "open M-F 9am - 5:30pm" they were closed at 4:45pm yesterday.

So after one last iPhone-less night, I was able to pick up my package this morning at 9am. (The maintenance guy had to let me in because the office was once again closed during posted open hours.) Lo and behold, inside the package was a plastic big identical to the one I received from DHL days earlier. But inside this one was a box. And inside that box was an iPhone, looking new and shiny despite its refurbished condition.

I drove into the office, loaded the 2.0 firmware onto the device, and after a bit of wrangling with provisioning profiles and certificates, got our application running on the phone. Thank God the nightmare is over. Maybe now I can, you know, actually do my job.

Thanks to all who have followed along and offered your support. Unless something spectacular happens, this will be the last post of this short-lived blog. It has served its purpose.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Happy Ending?

Yesterday I received an email from AT&T containing a FedEx tracking number for a refurbished iPhone.  The tracking information populated on FedEx's site this morning with a scheduled delivery date of June 3rd (tomorrow) by 3pm.  Maybe this time the package will actually contain an iPhone.  Or maybe they'll get one step closer and send me an empty iPhone box.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Complaints Department

It seems the customer who received a notice of cancellation was still luckier than some.  Reports are surfacing of people's orders being cancelled without any sort of notification.  They call customer service to find the order was cancelled and can take absolutely no recourse.  One diligent member of the AT&T Wireless forums was able to get an address:

Complaints Department
P.O. Box 775
Atwater, CA 95301

I would link to the post, but I'm sure the address will be removed as soon as it is seen by moderators.  Please join me in sending a letter of complaint for AT&T's incompetent, apathetic, and irresponsible handling of this situation.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Don't Censor Your Community

I've been trying to share the meager fruits of my labor with others in the same plight on various forums around the internets, and I'm disturbed (but not surprised) at the level of censorship being exercised by moderators on AT&T Wireless's forums.  First they censored the name of their own CEO, then they went on to delete an entire post about other places they could find like minded people in the same situation.  But the most egregious act of censorship was redacting the phone number for the Office of the President.  This is the note I received from one of their moderators:

We'd like to ask that you not post contact info for the Office of the President in posts or PMs until an AT&T moderator can PM you. Failure to follow moderator directions can result in loss of posting privileges.

It's plainly obvious to me that no frustrated customer with enough energy to register and post on a forum will limit their activities to just that one site.  Word is going to get out one way or another, and in the meantime the only thing you gain by censoring your base is a reputation for tyranny and/or self-delusion.  It reminds me of the time DMCA notices were being wildly thrown about in order to squelch the spread of HD-DVD's encryption key.

You want the number to the Office of the President tucked away and under your control?  Well this is my blog and I'll post it here if I damn well please.  It's not like it's not already all over the place anyway

Response from the Office of the President

I just got a call back from Stacy with the Office of the President (who apparently even handles complaints lodged at the CEO).  Here is the sequence of events as best I can put it together:
  1. AT&T receives some unknown number of refurbished iPhones.
  2. Assuming the demand will be low (God knows why), they decide to list them as in stock on their online store and leave them up for a day with no regard to how many they actually received or how many orders were placed.
  3. They proceed to assure customers that the phones are in stock and will be shipped post haste.
  4. A memo is sent to customer service reps indicating a "technical glitch" in shipping.  Reps are told iPhones are backordered and will ship in 2-3 days.  AT&T again assures its customers that they have enough phones.
  5. People begin to receive their shipments of empty plastic bags and, justifiably outraged, pressure customer service for further answers.
  6. Somebody at AT&T (who knows how far up or down the chain) makes up a ridiculous story about the refurbished units needing to be re-inspected to ensure they're in top condition before being sent out.  (That should placate the customers.  Who could be against AT&T making extra sure they're sending out good phones?)
  7. AT&T begins sending out order cancellation notices and informing customers of indefinite wait times for backordered phones.
According to Stacy, there are currently over 500 phones on backorder without a known ship date.  500.  I guess I had a little more faith in such a huge e-commerce site to better automate inventory tracking.  I was informed that according to the online store, new iPhones are in stock.  I told her that I thought it only fair that she ship a new phone to me as a substitute for the refurbished one she could not provide, and she responded that due to AT&T's agreement with Apple no iPhones can be discounted.  (Now, the technicality of whether this is or is not a "discount" could be refuted, but I do understand that Apple is very strict in their price setting policies.)

The only conclusion that I can draw from all of these interactions is that AT&T has absolutely no desire to make their customers happy.  I have been met at every turn with people who are sympathetic to my situation but completely powerless to change it.  This is not the way to maintain the integrity of your brand.  I sincerely hope that AT&T knows the only reason for its current success is Apple's superior product.

And the Cancellation Notices Begin

Over at the AT&T Wireless forums, tdorty3 reports:

This is an email I JUST received from AT&T.

Dear Mr. ,

I am following up on your request yesterday for the status of your order.

I have found that the order has been cancelled, due to the fact the refurbished iphones are on back order and we do not know when or if the phone will be back in stock.

Your account has not been charged for the phone your bank may have the funds on hold but should be releasing them within 24-48 hours.

You can go back online and purchase a new phone at any time or visit an at&t corporate store in your area. Please visit to find a store in your area.

I have a applied a $50 credit to your account due to the issue with the iphone and the fact that you do not have a working phone.

Mr. , I hope that the information provided has been helpful and has resolved all of your questions. If you need further assistance, feel free to contact customer service at 1-800-331-0500 or 611 from your AT&T phone.

Please visit our web-site at for the latest updates and promotions available. We know you have a choice when it comes to wireless service. We appreciate and thank you for choosing AT&T.


A Couple of Leads

With the help of a friend who also happens to be a licensed PI, I'm continuing to pursue contact information for Ralph de la Vega. Here are a couple of leads you can follow:

Office of the President

AT&T Headquarters

It might also be useful to know that AT&T Mobility is headquartered in Atlanta, GA should you be searching public records for Mr. de la Vega. I would imagine when calling the 210 number above you would be forwarded to a 404 (Atlanta) number in order to get to his assistant. If your experience matches mine, she will tell you Ralph is out of the country for 2 weeks. Let's see if we can still get his attention while he's away. :)

Misery Loves Company

More evidence that I'm not the only one having this issue.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Office of the President is a start

A search on The Consumerist has yielded a page with contact information for the Office of the President. Provided the address on the page is still good, I encourage all of you to send MaryMichelle Timbang an email expressing your outrage at AT&T's treatment of its customers. I'll post an update if I get a response.

What I Want from YOU

Coincidentally, I'm currently reading Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody, a wonderful book about the social implications of group forming and action in the age of the Common Internet. And this blog is my Shirkian call to action. (Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it Clay?)

The CEO of AT&T Mobile is Ralph de la Vega. I know others have been affected by this cluster&^@#. Please join with me to send him the message that we do not believe anybody's customers should be treated this way. I'm currently searching for his contact information and will post it on this blog once I find it. Share this blog with others and voice your frustrations and ideas in the comments. Through the power of inexpensive group forming, we have the opportunity to accomplish something that otherwise would not be possible. We have the ability to be HEARD!

The Full Story

After 5 calls to AT&T customer service, this is the contents of the iPhone shipment I received:

Here's the full story up to this point ...

Wednesday, May 21st
I am a developer for Pegasus News. My team has been working on an application for the iPhone and was in need of hardware for testing, so when my brother mentioned that AT&T had refurbished iPhones on their site, I jumped on the deal knowing that stock at all local Apple stores was nonexistent. I place my order, everything goes through just fine, I'm a happy customer. I try to pull up my order status on AT&T's site and get an error message telling that it might take 24 hours for information to be available in their system. This seems like a common enough requirement, so I wait patiently.

Thursday, May 22nd (1st call to customer service)
24 hours have passed and still no information available online. I decide to call AT&T's customer service, and the helpful agent gets in touch with the right department for me. He has been told that the online orders department has my iPhone all packed up and ready to be sent out on that day's truck. All is well, and I expect to receive my iPhone the Tuesday after Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 27th (2nd call)
No iPhone. No online order status. (I still get the error message about waiting 24 hours.) I call up customer service again (this time directly to the online orders department) and am told my iPhone is on backorder and will not be shipping for 2-3 business days. When I inform the agent that I was told last Thursday that it would ship that day, he says there is no record of that conversation in my account. Frustrated but unable to progress any further, I thank him and hang up.

Minutes Later (3rd call)
I decide to call back to make sure that at the least this second employee had noted our conversation in my account. The woman I speak to politely informs me that there is a note in my account and that in fact my iPhone will be shipping that evening or the next morning. In response to my incredulity at this news, she tells me to check my email for a tracking number. No email, but she assures me that I'll have one by the morning. A mixture of baffled, relieved, and skeptical, I decide to call it an evening and wait for my email.

Wednesday, May 28th @ 9am (4th call)
Still no email. I know it's early, but my faith in AT&T customer service is waning at this point and I need more assurance that my iPhone will indeed be shipping today. The man I speak with tells me that in fact it has already shipped. He puts me on hold to check the shipment tracking system and returns with the news that the ship date is 5/22/08 via DHL. He provides a tracking number and I verify that the package is indeed scheduled to arrive today. It is delivered to my apartment complex office that afternoon, and I call my complex to tell them to put it inside my door as I won't be home until after they're closed.

My wife calls to tell me she found the DHL delivery, but it's not a box. It's a shipping envelope. She asks if she should open it. I tell her please do.

"It's just a bag."
"It's a what?"
"It's a bag. It's an empty plastic bag."
"Well, um, er, is there anything else in the package at all? A note or anything?"

"There's a shipping label. But this is just a bag like you'd get if you bought something in their store."



"I'll call AT&T again."

6:20pm (5th call)
I tell the customer service agent my situation and bluntly ask what the hell is going on. He replies that when he came on shift today there was a memo telling him that refurbished iPhone shipments had a technical glitch in shipping and would be delayed for a few days. I ask him to give me a date. He won't. I ask him if I can speak to his supervisor. He says the supervisor got the same memo and will tell me the same thing. I ask him to humor me. He does.

(Cue 15 minutes of flamenco style guitar music repeated in 5 minute increments)

Wendy Sheppard, a supervisor, takes my call. To the lower rep's credit, he's absolutely right. I get no further with her, and she tells me her supervisor is an administrative manager and does not take calls. End of the line.

The beginning

The purpose of this blog is to voice the public outrage of me and others at the abysmal failure of AT&T to ship our iPhones as promised. This is a stub. More information to follow ...