Alert readers will already have noticed that the first letters of each of the words in this column’s title spell out the dreaded moniker of AT&T. Anyone who thought that recombining all the Baby Bells into a giant behemoth of a corporation was a good idea should voluntarily submit themselves to electroshock therapy. No, it won’t do any good, but at least I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that others are also suffering useless and unnecessary pain.

For at least 15 years (maybe longer), I’ve had the same e-mail address. It’s been my primary business and personal e-mail address for all that time, and I’ve transferred the address to a few different BellSouth accounts that were my primary business lines.

Imagine my surprise when my longtime faithful e-mail address disappeared from the ether this past Saturday morning. Just vanished without a trace. No matter how I tried logging on, it wouldn’t accept my password or acknowledge the fact that I was looking for my mail.

Anyone who doubts the existence of Hell on Earth has but to utter two seemingly simple words: Customer Support. A quick look on the Internet revealed the Customer Support number, and I called them up. The first “helpful” AT&T Customer Support rep I spoke with disconnected me after I had gone through the layers of “Marque numero ocho para español” and “Press 1 for technical support, 2 for…” and waited ten minutes for “the next available support representative.”

Undaunted, I call back. Same scenario, but this time a different outcome. The friendly rep told me that I had called the wrong line, and the number I really needed to call was 1-888-ROT-IN-HELL (not the real number). Okay… take a deep breath, and dial the new number. More layers of crap. I finally get a new “helpful” rep on the line, and in her barely disguised Indian accent, says, “Thank you for calling AT&T Customer Support. This is ‘Sarah.’ How may I exceed your expectations today?” I swear, most of the people I spoke with said a variant of “Sarah’s” introduction.

For the first time (of what turned out to be literally dozens of times), I explained my situation. I got nowhere. “Sarah” forwarded me on to a sales rep who knew nothing about technical support or why I was even forwarded there. Call tech support again, and this time I got the lovely “Carol.” She told me that my e-mail address was canceled, deleted, removed, and totally irretrievable. After I protested that someone in the AT&T Universe must know how to flip whatever switch it was that could turn on my e-mail address the way it was turned off, she then told me that I would be placed in a queue and to call back in 24 hours. Thus ended the first hour and a half of “expectation-exceeding” Customer Support.

After the requisite 24-hour wait, I called back. I explained the situation each time I was forwarded to the next representative who couldn’t help me. One of the lovely ladies in India was so certain that nothing could ever be done, and that my e-mail address was lost forever. I asked to speak with the highest supervisor she could connect me with, and she transferred me (again) to sales. After several more rounds of explanations and transfers, and after having been transferred around the world literally five times within one outgoing call, I was finally connected to a person whom I believed was a real supervisor and someone who could help me out. After more detective work revealed what had actually happened that started the virtual wheels of e-mail address cancellation in motion, the supervisor said, “I think we have a way to get your e-mail address back. I’m going to transfer you now.”

I was transferred to a person who told me that in order to keep my address, I’d have to open up a dial-up account, pay for it with a major credit card, and maybe my old e-mail address would work. The cost for “possibly” getting my old e-mail address back was going to be $22.95 per month. Bear in mind that I have a current existing AT&T DSL account.

It took most of the fibers of my being for me not to explode at that point. I calmly explained (again) to the new rep that I have an AT&T DSL account, and I just want my old e-mail address operational under the existing AT&T DSL account. There was another call to AT&T tech support, and the rep from India said that the old BellSouth team would have to determine whether or not my e-mail address would still be available.

Yet another transfer. After waiting another eight minutes for the BellSouth rep, the cumulative effect of having one outgoing call transferred around the world multiple times was just too much.
As the BellSouth rep answered the call, the line faded and went dead, two and a half hours into the call.

Please be sure to read this column next week to find out if I ever got my old e-mail address back. And one piece of advice for AT&T: if you’d really like to exceed my Customer Support expectations, then just provide some actual Customer Support.


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