Get it in writing, get it in writing, get it in writing!

I thought Andrea Riegel’s case against AT&T was a slam dunk. But I was wrong.

Riegel, a long-time AT&T customer, called the company recently to upgrade her TV and Internet services.

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“A representative offered me discounts that would only increase my base bill by $5 per month,” she says. Not a bad deal, she thought.

Until …

“I just received a bill that is $11 per month more,” she says. “After trying to talk with AT&T via chat twice — and being disconnected both times when they were looking at what they could do for me — and being on the phone for 45 minutes, even being sent to retention again, AT&T is stating they don’t have the offer.”

Now, AT&T is telling her that she can cancel the order and pay a $108 cancellation fee or be stuck with the $11 rate increase.

“I just got out of the hospital and need the Internet to work from home,” she explained. “I can’t be without it right now.”

Riegel says she goes through this every year — a renewal, an offer made but for some reason not honored, and a dispute. Normally, she has the offer in writing and can get AT&T to honor its word. This time, she only had a phone conversation and online chats to fall back on.

“I guess it’s pretty convenient for them to keep disconnecting the chat session so there is no record of what was promised,” she says.

(Actually, you em>can hold a company’s feet to the fire when it claims it never said something via chat. Take a screenshot of your conversation. In Windows, for example, you can click the window you want to capture and press Alt+Print Screen by holding down the Alt key and then pressing the Print Screen key.)

“I just want what they offered me — a $5 increase on my bill,” adds Riegel.

That seems reasonable.

I contacted AT&T on Riegel’s behalf. Unfortunately, the answer didn’t change. The company had no record of its initial phone exchange between her and the representative, so it could only go by what was written.

And what was written? An $11 monthly increase, thank you very much.

“I guess I have to make sure I have all the facts in writing ahead of time,” she says. “In hindsight, I will be doing all future business via emails. I never considered doing things in that manner because it is so slow and one-sided. Now I know.”

Riegel says she’ll take her business to Comcast, which might be able to offset her cancellation penalty and offer a better deal. I think that’s a good idea, although competition is limited in her area (she lives in Mishawaka, Ind.) and she’ll probably just end up jumping between Comcast and AT&T every year.

One thing seems certain: when you’re dealing with a communications company like AT&T, if it’s not in writing, it doesn’t exist.

Should AT&T have turned Riegel down?

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