Alert readers will recognize this as the sequel to last week’s column about the abrupt and unexpected disappearance of my main e-mail address. For those who missed it, the previous column dealt with my six hours in AT&T Customer Support Hell, and how no one from Atlanta to Mumbai could figure out how to restore this “terminated, lost forever” e-mail address. The short version of the story is that it might be restored – no guarantee – if I signed up for a dial-up Internet account (even though I already have an existing AT&T DSL account).

After racking up literally over six hours of mostly waiting on hold and being transferred around the world multiple times, I decided to try a different approach: Chat for Help with Technical Support. I was logged in and placed in a chat room with the lovely and helpful Vicky (okay, I have no idea how lovely she may have been, but you’re about to find out how helpful she was).

Vicky starts the dialogue by typing, and I’m not making this up (as it’s cut and pasted from the actual transcript of the chat), “How can I make you a very satisfied customer today, Mr. John Bartus?”

I typed in my account of the disappearance of my 15-year e-mail address, and how no one at AT&T has been able to figure out how to help. She responded, “I see. That must really be disappointing for your [sic]. I understand how you feel.” Then, she typed, with incredible understanding and the utmost sincerity, “You see Mr. Bartus, once the dial up account has been inactive for more than 30 days most of the time the email account is being terminated. Once, it is terminated you will not be able to re-create it if it’s not available in the server. The only department who can try to resolve this will be Billing Department.” (Not “the” Billing Department. Maybe somebody in Tech Support assumed the name “Billing Department.”)

Vicky then helpfully typed all the information I needed to know to reach “Billing Department” so that I can pay to activate a dial-up account for a chance that my old e-mail address might be reactivated. After I complained that I’m already paying AT&T for Internet and e-mail access, and why should I be extorted into paying more to reactivate an e-mail address that never did anything to anyone, Vicky typed, “If you feel that it’s not worth paying $22.95 to have that email account reactivated as well then Billing Department might have other considerations for your issue. I just hope you will also understand that there are specific systems that we need to follow.”

Frustrated beyond belief, I typed back, “And after I do what I have to do to reestablish my e-mail address that you cancelled, I will be filing a formal complaint with the Florida Public Service Commission.”

The next message that appeared on the screen: SYSTEM: The session has ended!


I “directed my browser” to the Florida Public Service Commission website, and filed a formal online complaint. I then researched what services the PSC actually has control over, and Internet/e-mail services aren’t among them. Damn. I did get a response that said the PSC has no jurisdiction over AT&T’s e-mail, but they would forward my complaint to them anyway.

Hearing from the Florida PSC must have set some wheels in motion at AT&T. The very next day, I heard from Betsy in their “Executive Solutions” department. She already had knowledge of my issue, and promised to help find a solution. After six hours of phone hell, and another hour and a half in Tech Support Chatland, it was the first time I had any real hope that someone at AT&T might actually solve my problem. That was last Friday.

By Monday, she called to inform me that they had solved the problem through activating an old DSL account’s main e-mail address (thus reactivating mine), grouping it with a collection of “special” e-mail accounts, sacrificing small woodland animals (I’m kidding), and preparing it for eventual “migration” to another server complex. As of now, I once again have my trusty address functioning as if nothing ever happened.

I just hope there was nothing really important in the week of e-mails I missed…

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