Brewery, Piss-up, AT&T, Organize, Couldn’t

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‘He couldn’t organize a piss-up in a brewery’. That’s one of my favorite cut-down lines I learned during my time in the UK. And one that often applies very nicely to AT&T. Over the last couple of days I’ve seen a shining example of this; though to be fair also a good example of their strong customer service.

First the inability to organize piss-ups in breweries. Through an odd series of events this month, I ended up with two iPad 3G models, and ended up giving a special deal to a good friend and work colleague, who ended up with my ‘old’ iPad 3G. I already had a new 3G model and had already setup my AT&T cellular data account on it, and when trying to cancel the plan on the old device (that was going to my friend) it always crashed at the AT&T side when attempting it.  So we agreed he would call AT&T and ask them to remove my plan from that other iPad – just remove the plan from that device, and setup his own new data plan. He did just that yesterday.

When he did so, AT&T took things a stage further. A stage never requested by either of us. They canceled my data plan, completely, and without ever asking me as the account holder.

So I called AT&T today to try to fix this and get my data plan – which I have already been paying for for two months – turned back on. At first the iPad agent at AT&T could not even find my account – it seemed to have been deep-sixed in their system – again, without ever asking or informing me as the account holder. Eventually the rep found me / my new device and confirmed that my account had been killed and I would have to re-activate my iPad – or more accurately, register it all over again like a brand new activation. No other options.

I went through the new activation, and was forced to agree to my credit card being charged again for a brand new data plan for this month – the same plan I have already paid for!

I pointed out to the rep that in time it will become a common thing for people to sell 3G iPads and remove data plans from an ‘old’ device while continuing it on a newer one – and that this system of nuking the account and starting all over again seems well south of intelligent to me. She explained that the key reason for using this process was to protect me, as the customer, by not allowing my data plan to be active on two iPads with my same email account details etc.

OK, well that might be fair enough except for one small thing. That’s not how it worked in practice. What happened was I was unable to turn my data plan off on the old iPad, because AT&T’s server kept bombing out when trying to via the View Account section of the Settings app. And I was absolutely able to setup my data plan on my new iPad using the same email account and so forth. So I was able to have the data plan active on both devices – no security / protection kicked in to to stop that.

And … when my friend called AT&T to remove the plan from the old device, I know for a fact that he never represented himself as me. Despite that, AT&T took it upon themselves to cancel my account, with no contact with me at all, not even any sort of confirmation once it had been done. I only became aware of it when 3G failed to work on my iPad.

I’d call that a complete failure in terms of security and process.

Having said all that, one place where AT&T continue to impress is at the customer service level. The agent I spoke to had no real excuses or defense for how the process had gone. She did have apologies and a helpful attitude and approach with me. She made sure that I will get a refund (5 days after a charge for a plan I already paid for, but that’s out of her control) and a free month tacked on as well.

Anyway, that’s my AT&T story for the day. Heads up if you ever need to get rid of an iPad 3G and replace it with a newer one.

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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