Maria Haar had a solid case.
She alleges an AT&T store representative in Rochester, New York, misrepresented a buy-one-get-one-free offer, enticing her entire family to switch carriers. Later, the cellular provider changed the deal, effectively raising her monthly bill.
Haar wanted AT&T to honor the offer — and I wanted to help.
Just one problem: Haar had no written evidence that AT&T had offered her what she believes it did.
Let’s rewind a little. The offer her representative referred to would have probably looked a little like this one. In fact, the representative could have been forgiven for thinking the offer was for new and existing customers, because numerous AT&T offers on its site say exactly that.
But that was wrong.
The representative asked us how many lines we had and we told her four. She then explained that we were eligible for a Buy One, Get One Free offer on the iPhone 6S Plus.
Since we have four phone lines, we opted for this deal and understood, based on the calculations that the representative did, that our monthly bill would be around $215 per month, which also included 3 GB of data, 1 more GB than we currently have.
“Today, I was contacted by the representative and was told that we are not eligible for this offer because it applied only to new lines,” she says. “We never would’ve bought four phones otherwise as this amounts to about $30 per phone per month for 30 months.”
Haar considers this a bait-and-switch. AT&T, meanwhile, is holding firm to its revised offer. Haar can either take it or leave it. If she returns the phones, AT&T generously offered to waive its restocking fee.
“At this point, this makes no sense as we’ve already switched everything over,” she says. “I want the two phones we were promised for free, and now being told we have to pay for.”
Small correction: The phones are not “free” — they are included in the price of your purchase. If AT&T were giving away free phones, we’d be having a different discussion. (And we’d be filing it under the #TANSTAAFL keyword.)
I asked Haar to send me her paper trail.
“Everything was done in person at the store,” she told me.
In other words, there’s nothing in writing.
Haar spoke with a district manager who offered her a $100 credit “for their error,” she says.
“This is not acceptable so we are returning the phones without penalty and taking our business elsewhere,” she says. “Just a warning to other consumers that if AT&T promises a deal then make sure the salesperson understands the terms correctly because in our case she did not.”
OK, thanks for the warning. But beyond that, is there anything we can learn from this? Absolutely.
When someone offers you a deal like this, get the terms in writing, review them and understand them before you agree to it. In this case, Haar relied on the word of a representative who apparently misunderstood the offer.
If Haar had a paper trail, our advocacy team might have been able to take this to AT&T for a more favorable resolution.
Talk is cheap, my friends. Unless you’re dealing with AT&T.