AT&T offered a deal on a phone — then it reneged

When AT&T offers Enaruna Aideyan a special rate for two Samsung Galaxy S8+ phones, he jumps on it. Then AT&T refuses to honor the deal. What’s going on?


AT&T recently offered a deal to me for two Samsung Galaxy S8+ phones for $399 each. They did it by chat, and I saved the transcript.

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We went to the AT&T store the same day to pay for these phones. When we arrived, we were told the deal “doesn’t exist.” A manager shamed us out of the store by inviting all the sales associates in the store to help him tell us loud and clear that AT&T no longer does two-year contracts.

I contacted AT&T through social media, and it offered us $160 off a future purchase, which I refused. I also left messages with the president’s office, but could not make contact.

Eventually, a representative contacted me to offer a revised deal of $750 for both phones to make up for the trouble. I accepted the offer. He sent us a link, which did not work. I tried to call him back, but it appears he’s gone AWOL. Can you get AT&T to honor its offer? — Enaruna Aideyan, San Jose, Calif.


AT&T should have honored its $399 offer. I mean, you had it in writing. Case closed, right?

Not really. First, offers made online don’t automatically work in the store. When AT&T looked into your case, it found that the employee you were chatting with had “mistakenly” said that you could redeem your offer in a store.

Offered a deal — or not?

There’s also a timing issue. According to AT&T’s records, it offered a deal to you on May 4, but you waited until May 17 to make the purchase. By then, the offer had expired, which is why the store couldn’t even see it. You say you came in the same day AT&T made its offer.

Here’s where AT&T fell short: Rather than shouting you out of the store, a manager should have taken a moment to verify the initial offer and explain why you couldn’t pick up your Galaxy S8+ phones that day. Shaming you out of the store is hardly the positive, “I can help you” attitude that AT&T promises its customers. The representative who offered you a $750 deal and then disappeared? Same thing.

The good news

Rather than calling AT&T, I would have recommended appealing your case in writing. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of all the AT&T customer service executives on my consumer advocacy site. A brief, polite email to one of them with your chat transcript might have been enough to help you get your phones.

I contacted AT&T on your behalf. It apologized for the misunderstanding and agreed to honor its latest offer. And this time, the link worked.

16 thoughts on “AT&T offered a deal on a phone — then it reneged

  1. The “deals” offered by the mobile carriers are not deals at all. If you sign a two year contract, you can get a subsidized phone, but the monthly fee per phone is $15 to $25 per month higher. That is true at least for Verizon and AT&T. Contract phones are locked and will not work with another carrier overseas. In the long run it is cheaper to go with the Apple upgrade program which is an interest free loan over 2 years and the phones are unlocked and have a higher resale value I do not know what program there is for Samsung phone, but the concept is the same. You will pay back the subsidy with higher monthly rates unless you pay for the phone outright or go with AT&T Next or Verizon Edge. Those plans are over 18 months, so if you plan to trade in your phone in a year, you are better off with the Apple upgrade program, in the case of an iPhone. Again, I am not aware of any Samsung programs. The carriers really want to get out of the phone subsidy business, which is what the OP was told in the store.

    1. However, he was offered the “deal” and he had it in writing. The issue is that he waited too long to take advantage of it. Perhaps he did not see that there was an expiration on the deal or he was not informed of such. We don’t know. However, with Chris and company’s intervention, AT&T agreed to the expired deal. Good work on the part of Chris and his team!

    2. “Contract phones are locked and will not work with another carrier overseas.” Not sure if that’s true. Obummer enacted a law which mandates unlocking for overseas, and my kids’ phones worked in Asia.

    3. In my experience, that is not true with AT&T. At least last time we renewed/upgraded, if you sign a 2-year contract, you get a discounted phone – it does not impact your monthly rate (same price as if you already had a phone). If you want the auto-upgrade (once per year iirc) then you do pay a lot more because the price of the phone is built into the monthly rate. However, AT&T does lock their phones for 2 years (they say they will unlock them after that but I haven’t verified it).

  2. Shouted out of the store? Ha ha. Try with ME, the biggest lungs in the Alpha Quadrant! I’d start yelling BAIT AND SWITCH, DIRTBAGS, etc etc. Let ’em call the kops; I’d leave before Barney could arrive. Scroo ’em. Go with some company which has integrity. [ Good luck finding one! ]

    1. And make sure other customers in the store know exactly what’s going on, although I’m sure they’d have no problem hearing you.

    2. Clearly, it wasn’t bait and switch. The OP lied and said she went in the same day. The truth is, she went in after the offer expired.

      There’s also a timing issue. According to AT&T’s records, it offered a deal to you on May 4, but you waited until May 17 to make the purchase. By then, the offer had expired, which is why the store couldn’t even see it. You say you came in the same day AT&T made its offer.

  3. Mobile phones are expensive, you pay for them one way or another. Too bad they aren’t more straightforward. In Canada, after Dec. 1, it is no longer allowed to sell locked phones and they must, after that time, unlock any locked ones for free. I believe the Verizon LTE phones are not locked…

  4. My own strategy for saving money is to not buy my phone from my cell provider. I buy last model, lightly used GSM phones and activate them. They cost a fraction of a new phone, and if you buy carefully, can be taken to any carrier you choose. I don’t care that they don’t have the newest features, as long as they have enough memory and run the current OS. They have no warranty, but then most phones these days don’t die until after the warranty has expired. It’s a risk, but so far it’s been a better deal than financing (or buying outright) an overpriced new phone through my carrier.

    1. My last phone was brand new, latest model Motorola, running the newest OS. A year and a half ago, it cost $250 unlocked. With a warranty. Still upgrades to the latest OS, and still working great. Hard to beat a deal like that from the carrier, or on eBay.

  5. I just checked with AT&T. They do not offer phones at reduced prices in exchange for 2 year contracts. I do not know what happened with the OP. I am glad that they were able to get the promised price. The last time I bought a new iPhone, upgrades were offered, but AT&T offered a $25 per month discount per line for people who bought the phones on Next or paid full price without a subsidy.

  6. I am very suspicious of an offer made over chat, redeemable online only immediately. Even if he went in a week later, that is reasonable. ATT should not use these coercive high pressure sales tactics before folks can read the Terms, etc.

    I have no hope that the telecom industry will ever play fair.

  7. There are app’s like ‘Tape a Call’ which will help with these liars, either over the phone, or in person. When they give you the spiel that ‘This call may be recorded for training purposes, perhaps you simply say, ‘Me too’, and then you have proof of what was said. The rules vary from state to state, but there is a certain symmetry in both parties memorializing these CSR calls to ‘help’ them remember their promises.

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