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Welcome to Michael's blog. Michael Andrew, (aka Michael The Maven) is a freelance producer, photography instructor, tech innovator, and when needed, disaster aid specialist. Disclaimer: Michael is a participant in Bhphoto & Amazon affiliate programs that provides an advertising commission if you purchase through links on this website.


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05.07.11         customer service  

ATT Charges Aid Worker in Japan $4500 Cell Phone Bill


Everything we did in Japan as a team….everything revolved around my 2 iPhones and access to the internet. If you haven't seen how our GPS tagging works or what we did, the team produced this video here: Meysen Tsunami Team Video - We were constantly accessing maps, news, sending emails, making calls, texting each other, images of camps and scenes for delivery, etc. We just couldn't have done what we did without using a significant amount of data use. I knew it was going to be expensive and I also felt it was worth it. I have been patiently waiting for the final bills to come in and the final damage amounted to $4,500 between both phones, this is even after the adjustments that were made in my favor.

I also did everything in my power to play fair. Before heading to Japan, I bought the largest Data Plans possible, they run $500 for 500MB. Once these were exceeded, ATT was not willing to sell me additional data plans, and I was charged something ridiculous, like $5 / MB of data for everything over that. If I could have bought bigger packages I would have. They cut off my service at least 3 different times while I was in the field (for fear I wouldn't pay) which meant I got to spend more time calling them to get it turned back on. It was absolutely ridiculous and I didn't have these problems in Haiti.

The one thing that really ticked me off more than anything was how poorly their customer service reps treated me. It seemed that most of them could only say "Sir, these are legitimate charges and you will have to pay them". They didn't seem to really understand (or care) what it was we were doing, the fact there was a major disaster in Japan, the fact there was a nuclear reactor melting down nearby, etc. ATT has the ability to see exactly where the calls and data use were, and it was completely frustrating to have to explain the situation over and over again to hear them say nothing could be done, which is just something I do not believe. Something can always be done, its just a matter if a company chooses to or not. It was like talking to robots.

For those of you who are wondering why I didn't just buy a new phone there:

#1. As an App developer, my iPhones have custom software on them that I am developing for disaster relief type work, so it wasn't really as simple as picking up a new iPhone there).

#2. I had no idea it would be this much, and once I was in the field, I couldn't really swing by an ATT store and pick one up- we were out for weeks at a time, literally camping in the disaster area. It was either this or nothing.

ATT if you are listening- Whoever came up with the idea to waive the fees for all aid workers in Haiti- it was a great idea and much appreciated. A lot of good came from that.

Whoever came up with the idea to not do it again for Japan- was absolutely lame. There is no reason to charge a volunteer aid worker that kind of money and your customer service Managers need to be a little more savvy to take this into consideration.

While it would be simple enough to post this alone with the proof of the bills, there are some things I need to state a few facts just to be fair to those involved:

1. I have always been a fan of ATT and will remain their customer (for now). Until this, they really haven't wronged me. I have converted at least 20 people I can name to switch networks and get an iPhone, all of which have been very happy with it.

2. I have already paid this bill in full- so this isn't about not paying them.

3. I am posting this because of the absolutely crappy way I was treated and the thoughtless comments made by several of their customer service reps and at least one of their "Customer Care" Managers who essentially told me these were the charges, nothing would change about that and I could do whatever I wanted about it in a very unprofessional/smug way.

Mr. D. Garcia (if that was in fact your real name)- this is where bad customer service meets 1st Amendment Rights, and since you cared so little about what we were doing in Japan and refused to have any kind of basic human response to my request…this post is for you- Enjoy!

3. The corporate office of ATT eventually waived about half of the total bill, so we were originally looking at something in $10K range. This was in thanks to a manager named Mike Sage who was kind enough to listen to me and put in a formal request to the corporate office, though he only did it for my main phone and only did it for the data use- it was better than nothing, and I am very grateful for that. I think the ATT Corporate Office is solid- just really hated all the crap their service reps put me through to get anything done.

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