If AT&T fails and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

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By | August 1st, 2017

If a company promises a discount, but there’s no record of it, did it really happen?

AT&T apparently believes the answer is “no.” But Daniel Gouchenour begs to differ, and there’s $45 a month at stake.

You can probably tell by the post category — Is This Enough Compensation? — that we’ll put the question to a vote. And we will, in minute.

But before I do, and get dragged into the inevitable debate about oral contracts and right-to-record laws, let’s hear from Gouchenour.

“I have been with DirecTV for about 16 months,” he explained. “My bill after the first year continually went up every month. I even downgraded packages to find I was still paying double what I had the first year.”

That may sound like an exaggeration, but I can assure you, it’s not. Subscription TV services like DirecTV, owned by AT&T, love to jack up their prices. (I shoulda bought AT&T shares at $23!)

Gouchenour called AT&T to cancel and spoke with a retention specialist, who made a compelling offer.

“He said he could get me the $55 in discounts I had received the first year for the last 8 months or so of my contract along with the to offset the last $100 bill I received he would supply a $45 credit,” he says.

That persuaded him to stay.

But the next month, none of the discounts appeared on his bill. “I was lied to,” he says.

So, was he?

My advocacy team wanted to find out, so they contacted AT&T. The company reviewed its records, which show its retention specialist only agreed to waive the 24-month service agreement, giving Gouchenour a month-to-month agreement with no early cancellation fee. AT&T also said it discussed his expected monthly charges in detail and that the discounts he believed it promised were not part of that conversation.

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In other words, it has a different recollection of events.

The tiebreaker, of course, would be written evidence that AT&T promised these discounts. Does Gouchenour have such a record? No.

“Everything was done on the phone,” he says.

The advocacy team declined to push the matter, since Gouchenour couldn’t offer any evidence of the conversation. Wouldn’t it be nice if AT&T were required to offer a recording of his — indeed, em>all of its — customer interactions by phone? Recording calls for “quality assurance purposes” is so common in corporate America, but why should a company get to keep those records?

That’s a little bit like saying the written records between you and a company are copyrighted and can’t be used except by the company. It’s absurd.

But still, the question remains: If AT&T fails and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? OK, I paraphrased that one and massacred the saying a little in the process, but you get the idea. If there’s no record of AT&T ‘s discount, did it really happen?

I’ve reviewed the correspondence a few times to make sure I didn’t miss anything, and I think this might have been a misunderstanding. But I don’t think AT&T is guilt-free. It has an obligation to be clear with customers, and I don’t think its retention specialist, who should be crystal-clear and follow up with a written offer, clearly fell down on the job.

AT&T didn’t offer Gouchenour nothing, but it didn’t offer everything he hoped. Did it do enough?

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  • sirwired

    There’s a couple rules I could go for on the subject of call recordings:

    – If a company cites the content of the recording when making a decision, you should have the ability to obtain a copy of that recording, if requested within a certain amount of time.
    – If you live in a “two-party” state (meaning both parties must consent to a recording), a notification that they may be recording you also implies consent for the reverse. (With many call centers, if you tell them you are recording the call, their instructions are to terminate the call.)

    However, if a company does not use the content of a call when making a decision, I don’t support a rule mandating they must give you access to it. The call may not be stored in a fashion in which it’s possible to associate it with an individual caller. (For instance, it may truly just be used “for quality assurance purposes” and just tied to the rep that took the call, not your account record.)

  • AJPeabody

    Some people are objectively honest. Others are proved honest with evidence. Some people hear what they want to hear. And so it goes.

    When you are entering into an oral contract where only one party has the evidence, ask for an email confirmation of the terms and for the right to rescind if the email doesn’t agree with the remembered oral contract. It ought to be a law.

  • FQTVLR

    I have been with Directv for a number of years. Orders were always verified by a 3rd person and sent in writing to confirm prior to AT&T taking over. Since then customer service has entered a downward spiral from which it will be hard to recover. My favorite problem so far: I ‘ordered” a customer service plan at a rather overpriced rate. I called in about it and was told my order was recorded. No, I could not listen to the recording but they did email me the date and time I placed the order via phone. And they noted the last four digits of the phone I used to place the order. After I stopped laughing I provided proof that I was not in the country and had no access to that phone while I was traveling. It then became a data entry error and they really did not have a recording. So sorry they said…

  • Alan Gore

    Another case of not getting an offer in writing. I have always liked Verizon as a service, but when they offered me an improved contract deal last fall that included a generous exchange credit for my older iPhone, I took it without getting a written statement. It took months and going up the executive call tree all the way to the top before I was able to get my promised refund for the exchange. The excuse I kept getting was that the special offers are farmed out to some stellar system that is so many light-years from Earth that Verizon has no means of communicating with it. I eventually got my trade-in value issued from the corporate account.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    The suggestion of getting an e-mail confirmation is good; however, there are some companies that do not have e-mail accounts for their CSRs (or that is what they claim). At this point, I usually ask for permission to record the call…if they refuse, I ask for a supervisor or manager.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Given that the OP appears to be on a month-to-month plan now, he could just cancel and sign up with someone else (or drop the service if there is no competition where he lives). That would get him in front of the cancellation people again, and he could ask for any subsequent offer in writing. (I know, this sort of suggestion is probably “mansplaining” but I think it is a reasonable course of action).

  • Rebecca

    For sake of argument, it wouldn’t matter one iota what was on the phone call. I don’t deny it’s relevant from a customer service perspective, and I’m not claiming a representative should offer things they can’t deliver. But a verbal representation doesn’t mean much when he’s under a 2 year written contract.

  • Bill___A

    I don’t know why one would expect a sign up discount to last indefinitely. When I see cable/phone company “deals” they say it is so much for so many months and then it goes up to such and such – so when one signs up, one should expect to pay the normal price after the discount period. This is what happens to me, I know about it in advance, and if I don’t agree, I don’t sign up.

    How certain people expect to be able to call “retention” and keep their sign up discount, when they were likely told the arrangement is beyond me I don’t know what was said at the AT&T end of it but at the same time, making the deal month to month was a good way to let the customer off the hook.

  • joycexyz

    They’ve obviously been taking lessons from Comcast.

  • The Original Joe S

    Hogwash! They track the calls. Record your own call. When they say “This call may be monitored for quality assurance.” YOU REPEAT THAT in a non-rising, non-interrogatory tone. They’ll invariably say “That’s right.” YOU SAY “That’s right, OK, Let’s talk now.” You’ve notified them. Ha ha.
    I ALWAYS try to record conversations with dirtbags. Direct TV, in my experience, has not been truthful to me. I dumped them. I ran over to the cable company and got a box, and hooked it up to the existing cables from before. Got a call from some smartypants joker who NOW wanted to give me the deal that was promised, but was denied when I called an hour before and was told NO. New box was booting up as he called.
    WILL YOU COME BACK?

    NO! NEW BOX IS BOOTING UP NOW AS WE SPEAK.

    WHAT CAN I DO TO GET YOU TO RETURN TO US?

    YOU CAN STAND ON YOUR HEAD, SPIT WOODEN NICKLES AND WHISTLE DIXIE, AND I STILL AIN’T COMING BACK, BECAUSE YOU PEOPLE HAVE LIED TO ME AT EVERY ENCOUNTER. AMF! FOREVER!

  • The Original Joe S

    Don’t do business with them.

  • The Original Joe S

    Certified mail: Hey dirtbags! I recorded the conversation [ I live in a 1-party state ]. Here’s a copy. You have 2 days to fix the problem, or I’ll deduct the credit from the monthly bill payment. If you try to cancel my service, I’ll serve you with the small claims court papers [ draft attached ] which subpoenas all your business records going back to Ramses II, and requests specific performance. Welcome to our courthouse, to which you are subject no matter where you are because you do business in our Commonwealth. Default, and I’ll attach your stuff and sell it on the court house steps. Over to you, dirtbags…….

  • The Original Joe S

    Yeah, cancellation people after they told you to attempt upon yourself a feat of seemingly impossible acrobatic dexterity. That’s why I have an answering machine.
    AAA –
    “Can you give me a better deal”
    ” $5″
    “That’s it? OK, cancel. I get towing from my insurance company, and assistance from the companies which built my cars. You don’t give me anything really useful. Not even an international driver license – have to pay for it.”
    “Someone will call you.”
    “NOPE, you missed your chance. I’m not gonna listen to some prevaricator later when you could have fixed it now. Adios…..”
    Epilog: Got a call on the dirtbag-blocking machine. Guess how fast I called ’em back? Maybe Ill give ’em a call and jerk ’em around. I can sip a nice coffee and play with them…….

  • The Original Joe S

    then you drop them, or threaten to, and they often will deal

  • sirwired

    It’s simply a fact that not all call-center systems match recordings to transactions or accounts. If the recordings are not systematically kept long-term, tying them to anything except which rep took the call is complicated, expensive, and not useful.

    And it’s also simply a fact that many call center reps are instructed to terminate the call if you state you are recording it. (Which is why I support a law to not require you to notify the other end you are recording if they state they are recording you.)

  • Laura616

    We recently managed to completely extricate ourselves from AT&T when our devices came off contract. It felt very liberating.

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