I'm supposed to be on my third day of enjoying a new iPhone 4S. Yes, I know, in the grand scheme of things, this is not something to be upset about, the late arrival of a new cell phone. But it's not about that. It's about the service I've gotten, which has been uninspired and apologetic.
Better than abusive and counterproductive, I suppose.
The point is this: you're ordering system is broken and your phone support is unable or unwilling to do the job that needs to be done.
Let me break it down on a timeline, so we have our facts straight.
On Friday, October 7, I ordered a pair of iPhones through your website, to ensure that I would get my iPhones on release day. Seeing as how over 4 million were sold in the first weekend, it seems that I was doing the right thing. I noticed, however, that the shipping location was set to my old home address. I have recently moved, and since I get online statements, the address didn't seem important. I promptly changed the address (evidently called the primary usage location, or some such) with your online system.
I tried to confirm the change a number of times online, but the order system you have doesn't process orders very fast. Indeed, it told me to wait 24 hours before attemting to contact anyone.
So, I waited. At the appointed time on Saturday, October 8, I called your order help line, and spoke with a young lady who's name escapes me. Sharlene perhaps? Doesn't really matter. She gave me adequate service, but incorrect information, as it later turned out. I told her my issue, and asked her to confirm the shipping address for the iPhones. I was told it was to be my new home address, and I was satisfied.
Well, mostly satisfied anyway. I still had nagging doubts, because, you see, I've been a customer of yours since 2006 when I was acquired as part of the Cingular buyout. And so far, I've yet to see an instance where your help line was able to provide me with accurate information about anything.
However, I was set to travel the next day, and my week was pretty hectic, so I trusted the information I had, against my better judgement, mostly because I didn't have the time to follow up a second time. I guess that makes this whole situation my fault.
I arrived home on Thursday night, October 13, and, attempting to think ahead, I decided to swing by the old house, clean up any mail in the mail box (it's still for sale, you see), and collect any menus, so that the place looked, if not lived in, then at least maintained. In retrospect, maybe I should have cleared up the dead pigeon and the weeds that night, but I was exhausted, and, anyway, still sort of trusting that you'd actually ship to my new house, again, as your service desk had assured me some 5 days previous. But not completely trusting, because, to be sure, the only reason I bothered was because I still had a nagging doubt that you'd be shipping to the wrong address. A suspicion helped along by the fact that the UPS tracking notice said Phoenix, and not Scottsdale. But, well, Phoenix is Phoenix, and technically my new zip code is in some grey area, so maybe I was jumping at shadows.
I watched helpless on Friday, October 14, as the delivery notification on the UPS tracker flipped over to "attempted to deliver, will attempt again Monday". What? Why? The tracker didn't say I needed a signature, I figured the driver would just leave the packages, and I could just grab them, if indeed the location of the delivery was incorrect. Which it was.
OK. What to do next?
I collected my little sticky note from UPS, and brought up the tracker again. Ah! I can change the delivery address right here, if the address is incorrect. No dice, though. The website says my only option is to Return to Sender. At no cost, thankfully, but not very helpful.
I called UPS directly. Guess what? Apparently, you, AT&T, put a lock on this, so that was my only option. I can't request they pull it off the truck so I can pick it up the next day, or change the address it will be shipped to the following Monday, because AT&T says so (I'll get to why later*). Perhaps I should call the shipper and see if I can get that changed, was the only suggestion. (While this is directed mostly at AT&T, maybe UPS can learn something here, too.)
I called AT&T and spoke to Kenny. I remember his name because he was exceedingly helpful and pleasant, but ultimately, and through no fault of his own, useless. Well, except that he changed my primary usage address to the correct one (which I thought I had managed the previous Friday - guess your system isn't working there either). He conferenced me in, and we both called UPS together, to see if we could change the delivery address. He burned down his call response time for the day waiting on hold with me for UPS to answer. I know the level of sacrifice this must be, and I thank him for that. However, nope, the revised story from UPS is now that the shipping department at AT&T has to go through their system directly. Strikeout. Kenny puts me on hold to discover that his options to help me are miserable: ship the phones back and then re-order them from an AT&T store is the only way to fix this. I thanked him for his time.
Remember, all I want to do is change a shipping address on some packages here, so that I can get my phones without having to burn a day sitting at an empty house hoping for the UPS truck to come by. At this point, I don't even care if it's Monday, or if I have to go to a UPS location for pickup, so long as I can have some control over the delivery.
That avenue having failed, I thought about the next best thing: go to an AT&T store, get some other new phones, and ship these back. I called the local store. They cannot help me, because my AT&T account already has my new phones on it, I have to wait for the phones to be returned.
I called customer service back, and explained to Joseph (I think, I stopped bothering with the names of powerless front line call center workers when it became clear that no matter what they try, they can't help) that I was trying to work out a novel solution to a problem that was entirely the fault of AT&T (recall that I had tried to confirm a new shipping address almost a week before this issue). He said, go down to the store, ask for the manager, and see if the manager can work with you, because what you're trying to do seems perfectly logical, and is really just what we're asking you to do, only on a shorter timeline. So, I tried that, and was rebuffed. Kindly, but firmly, rebuffed, in the face of AT&T policies. Wait for the phones to return to sender, then reorder them. Of course, the point of my ordering early was so that I could have them on day 1, and not wait as the shipping times go up and up and up, but, hey, whatever. You don't care. I get it.
I went home, called UPS again to see if there was anything I could do. Sign up for MyChoice, was the answer. Will that help? That is to say, if I sign up for that, and then I say, ship it here instead, can I do that? No, UPS will still defer to the sender. Well, I signed up, and at least I'm getting a shipping window, so instead of burning a day at an empty house, I'll only have to burn most of an afternoon. But UPS also empowers their drivers to not leave packages where they think they won't be safe. Which is really working against me here, particularly if the window is wrong, and the driver gets there before me. And yet, when I try to make the argument that the safe place is my current residence, no dice. So, I left the sticky note back on the house, with an imploration to the driver to leave the phones anyway, because I'm watching the tracker like a hawk and will be there within 15 minutes of the packages posting as delivered. And I plan on going down there for the window of time that MyChoice gave me. But I still don't have much hope, do I?
Let me tell you this, AT&T. If I don't have my iPhones in my hand by the end of the day today, I will be returning them to sender. And cancelling my account. And getting a Sprint or Verizon iPhone, even though the CDMA network is technologically inferior. And all because you've made your frontline guys completely powerless and tied the hands of your shipper.
* One thing I've learned from all of this is that AT&T's policies are there to protect one entity: AT&T. There is no other reason for the enraging snafu you've left me in, no matter what you may claim to the contrary. I was fairly certain that was the case beforehand, of course, because putting the onus on me to collect my phones from an inconvenient place at an inconvenient time certainly isn't there to help me. It's there to prevent fraud that would ultimately come back to AT&T losing money. Oh, sure, I could be a scam artist trying to collect an extra two phones for nothing, claiming I had phones on the way that went to the wrong place. Absolutely, someone could hack into my e-mail account and change the delivery address on the phones through the UPS website, or it could just have easily been another scam. All these things are possibilities. But the limits and policies you have in place now are so inflexible, and your employees so powerless to assist, that I, a long time customer, am being made to suffer. I dislike your corporate ethos intensely. But I guess not that much more than I dislike any other company** any more, because you all do it. And when you look out of your towers and see citizens demanding your heads because of the way you've done business, remember that this is why: your policies protect no one but your bottom line, and your legitimate customers are treated like dirt. Whatever loyalty I had left is pretty much gone now. If you're going to try to rebuild it, better get cracking.
** With the exception of Apple, mostly because on every occasion, I have gotten nothing except stellar service, often with novel solutions to issues. Which is why I'm so hungry for an iPhone, but no longer care what network it's on.