Why service is important…& how AT&T didn’t understand it today

I will warn everyone at the onset that this is a rant.  A  long rant specifically about AT&T wireless. 
My oldest son graduated from high school this month.  As a graduation gift, his grandmother and aunt gave him $100 in AT&T gift cards to put towards the purchase of a new cell phone.
So off we went yesterday to the local AT&T corporate store.  We were greeted by a very nice young man who was helpful and patient with my rather indecisive son.  Unfortunately my son was not eligible for an upgrade on his phone for another 11 months.  He did not like either of the under $100 phones that he was eligible to purchase.  They were older models, bulky and not "cool".  The two that he did like were both well over $200 regular price.   Now to one of the main reasons that service matters – Mike, our great salesman, was trying to come up with creative ways to find my son the phone that he wanted at the best possible price.  He finally came up with a very creative solution.  I already have a Family Plan with 3 lines.  If I was to add an additional line to my plan for only $9.99 per month (and given what my cell phone bill already is, that's peanuts), then my son could purchase the new phone as if it was for the new line at less than 1/3 of the regular price.  Happy smiles all around!
Mike proceeds to process the order of a new line and the purchase of the phone.  Now the first thing that AT&T has got all wrong.  Their corporate store sales reps have to call the same customer service number that everyone else does.  There is no special direct line for them which results in them being put in the call queue and on hold.  So after 10+ minutes on hold, Mike speaks to a "customer care" rep.  He then proceeds to tell me that he can not add another line to my account because I have a charged off account with AT&T.   Now how it is possible that I have 3 working phone lines with a charged off account? How it is possible that I have only had 1 account in my own name with AT&T ever and that one for approximately a year ?  After a half hour on the phone with customer service, we (the customer care rep and I)  finally determined that when I added my sons 2 lines to my account, they 1) changed my account number without telling me; 2) only transferred some of the charges from the old account number to the new one; 3) left the old account number open with a balance on it.  So there has been a balance on an old account for several months now.  That account was eventually put into collections and charged off (hello negative point on my credit report!)  All of this without my knowledge. I eventually spent almost 2 hours on the phone talking to 2 different customer service people, a customer service supervisor, a receivables/collections manager and a customer service manager.   What was utterly ridiculous is that I was standing in the middle of an AT&T corporate store, full of customers, arguing with these individuals.  They were fully aware that I was in the store and did not seem to have any concerns whatsoever that I was pointing out that not only had they made the original mistake, they could no longer tell me what I owed them for because the bills were no longer available because of how old they were and that their actions, in addition to failing to notify or bill me, caused a negative entry on my credit report.  They failed to acknowledge that this discussion could negatively impact the sales in that store that day, as well as the reputation of the sales people in the store (who, by the way, were absolutely wonderful!) .  What I have failed to point out up to this point is that the balance that I was being harrassed about was $76.22 (less than half of my monthly bill!).  Rather than someone stepping up and saying, "we're sorry, Ms. Bell, we understand that this was a mistake made on our part and we are going to waive this charge and have the collection report reversed"  No, they were rude, stubborn and obnoxious.  They acknowledged that a mistake had been made, but continued to insist that they only was to resolve it was for me to pay the now $89.47 immediately and then it would take up to 2 weeks for them to reverse my account.
This was no longer acceptable. I had to threaten to discontinue my service, which even meant giving up my precious lifeline, my iphone.  I had to threaten to sue them for negatively impacting my credit report (damage to my reputation), harrasement  and mental anguish (mine and my son's).  And I promised a blog post on my experience!  After all of that, we finally reached a compromise.  I had repeatedly told them that if I owed the charges, I was not disputing paying them.  What I did not know was did I owe the charges or were they simply an error also.  The compromise consisted of them closing the old account, transferring only the $76.22 to my current account, removing all indications that the account had ever been in collections, including reporting to the credit bureaus, and locating and sending me copies of all of the bills that include the past due amount.  I will review those bills and if they are charges I legitimately owe, I will pay them.  If I do not think they are, I will be allowed to dispute them.  They would also immediately remove any prohibitions on my account so that we could add the line and purchase my son his phone. Now why did it take 2+ hours, several elevations of my blood pressure and  2 people walking out of the AT&T store without making their purchase to reach this point? 
Now, I do have to qualify this story with a note that this is the very first time I have had bad service from AT&T, in their stores, online and with their customer service.  Most of my experiences with them have been very good, but this is the one that will stick with me.  This is the one that I will tell people about.  This is the one that will nag at me everytime I pay that monthly bill.  This is the one that again makes me sad and concerned about our society and the apparent slow degradation of our basic humanity, sense of civility, basic manners and respect for the concerns and feelings of others.  I want someone to prove me wrong, is there a company out there that will?

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Community & the quality of our relationships

Sometimes things come to us in such a timely manner, that it restores our faith in the patterns of the universe.  After having ignored my ReadBurner & GoogleReader for several days (way too many, don't even ask how long!)  I started to wade through through the massive amount of reading I had in front of me.   As usual, when I have built it up to that lovely 1000+  (you have to love when it is so many that they will intimidate you with 1000+ and not really tell you how many there are!) I'm skimming subjects and titles.  In my haste to clear, I almost skipped over this particular post, but something drew me back.  Not only because it was Gary V, but something about the title resonated with some of my recent musings. 


Gary talks about when you know you have a Community (yes capital "C").   Now, I'm not sure that I can ever be as eloquent as Gary, but I'd like to think I share his passion.  His focus is on the social media crowd, but I think his message can be expanded to relationships in all of the varied aspects of our lives.  He reminds us all that community = Communication!  If you are having a dialogue with just one person, you have a Community.  

Gary's words reinforced some of things that have been occurring to me lately.  I'm in the process of making a Major move and Major changes in my life.  In preparing to make these changes, I have been evaluating the roles that various people play in my life. When Gary talks about needing to remember that it does not matter how many Twitter followers or blog readers, it made me remember that it does not matter how many friends I have collected, how many colleagues admire me, how many business associates I have contacts with.  It is about the quality of these relationships.  Now, I will admit that sometimes I get lost in believing that the more people I am able to surround myself with, the more people there are to make me happy, to reinforce the positives about myself, in general just to affirm my existence.    Occasionally it is nice to be reminded that I don't need anyone to affirm me.   What I need is myself and the positive power of a good Community.   And Gary has reminded me of that. He has reminded me that I not only need myself, I only need good, supportive dialogue with a single person and I have a solid Community.    

I'm one of the lucky ones, I've realized that I have a lot of people in my Community, good people, solid people, smart people, caring and inspiring people.  From the people I love, my family, my close friends, some business associates, my Twitter  peeps and the sweet people who take the time to read this, I'm blessed with this Community.   I have communications with them that range for the soulful to the silly, but in all of these, one thing is prevalent, these are people who in some aspect or another bring something to my life.  Education, entertainment, love, compassion, support and sometimes, even the occasional disagreement (which I usually need to wake myself up to something I need to pay more attention to!).   It is nice to not have to reduce my Community to a single person, it would be so hard to chose.  Instead, I chose to be grateful that I have these amazing people as a part of my life and that I get to have this amazing Ccommunication!  So BIG thanks to Gary for reminding me what my Community means to me, what it really is all about and why it is so important to nuture it. 

So I leave with you a couple of questions.  Who makes up your Community?  What are you doing to foster the communication that truly translate into a Community? And most importantly, how often do you let that Community know what they mean to you?  

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