“I am not doing your job for you”

Every now and then, a case crosses my desk that makes me wonder if we’re going about this in the wrong way. Tammy Almzana’s complaint against U-verse — and me — is one of them.

Almzana had what looked like a valid grievance, but there were a few things missing. When I asked her to fill in the blanks, she … well, I’ll get to that in a second.

Let’s start with the problem. Let me just hand her the mic.

We signed up with U-verse either June or July 2015. We have only had 1 maybe 1 1/2 months of uninterrupted service. We are constantly losing our phone and Internet. We lost over a week in November during Thanksgiving.

I call and call and call. I even called the president’s office. I told them in December when I lost a $350 sale (I work from home) because I couldn’t place my orders. It is a constant battle. I have a letter from AT&T letting me out of my contract because they can’t fix it.

I told them I wasn’t paying my bill and they took it out of my account in December. Now they’ve got their money and I haven’t got any service.

What can I do to get my money back? They breached their contract and even threatened collections. Since Jan. 21, we have had no service and they are kicking us to the curb. They won’t send anyone out anymore to fix it. But they want me to pay and send their equipment back. Please advise me, sir.

AT&T is not holding up their service agreement. I keep getting interrupted service all the time. They have not provided what is in our contract, so I want my money back for a service I never got.

Sounds pretty bad. But, of course, we don’t have AT&T’s side of this story yet, so maybe it’s a little too early to form an opinion.

I sent Almzana my standard reply, politely asking for a paper trail. And there’s one very specific request:

When you send me your paper trail, please click “reply” to this message and then paste all of the relevant messages, preferably in text-only format, in the email. That will create a thread that I can then send to a company.

I have my reasons for doing it like this. A paper trail is almost always mandatory, because I need to see that a customer like Almzana has gone through all the right steps to resolve a problem. The paper trail also contains important information, like account numbers, that make it easier to find her records.

But why the specific formatting request? Well, imagine you’re me and you’re handling a dozen new cases a day, sometimes more. If a customer like Almzana randomly forwards an email to me without any context, over a period of a day, it’s going to get lost. If it doesn’t, then I’ll have to do a monumental cut-and-paste maneuver to get everything in a single email, which I can then forward to my contact at AT&T.

If Almzana just replies to the thread with her correspondence, Gmail threads it automatically. Problem solved.

Here’s what happened next. I’ll just play the tape:

Almzana: Actually, I have a lot of recordings and a video recording of how my services aren’t working and recorded phone calls.

Me: Do you have anything in writing with your account number on it, so we can help AT&T find all of the relevant information? That would help.

Almzana: The only thing I have is a letter from AT&T saying that if I leave them before my contract is up, I won’t have early termination fee. I don’t know how they can cancel the contract when I have a signed contract with them they are to provide a service and I haven’t gotten what I have paid for. I should be able to get an email from them regarding the problems I have had and my constant calling.

Me: Could you please reply to this email with the first letter? I’ll do my best to help.

Almzana: Never mind! this is a pain in the butt… “please reply here, please reply this way.” I am not doing your job for you.

She really told me, didn’t she?

I dismissed her case. But here’s the soul-searching part: Am I making it too difficult for consumers to get help? I mean, consider all the hoops they have to jump through before I get involved.

  • Filling out a form, which requires that you give this site the right to publish your story.
  • Generating a paper trail of your efforts to resolve this problem through regular customer service channels. Yes, even if most of your interactions were by phone.
  • Sending us said paper trail as a threaded email, rather than forwarding the case to us in bits and pieces when it suits you.

Are we really forcing consumers to do all the work?

After some reflection, I think the answer is “no.” Personally, I believe Almzana didn’t have a strong case and it’s quite possible she wanted to use a consumer advocate to cudgel her way into an undeserved refund. At least that’s how I interpret her hostile reaction.

But I could be wrong. Maybe I am asking too much of readers who want my help.

Then again, maybe not. Maybe that neatly-threaded paper trail is what’s separating a “problem solved” from a “case dismissed.”

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