When Companies Shift The Burden To Their Customers

att-u-verse-logo-600x400Having a blog allows me to kvetch, even about small things… like what happened this morning.

My experience was shared by many. Consider this a class action kvetch. I represent the thousands, possibly millions, affected by today’s nationwide outage on AT&T U-verse.

My local TV stations remained. Everything else disappeared. I didn’t know that at the time.

The tuner was set to 1202, CNN. Black. I tuned up a few. I tuned down a few. Nothing. The channel number and program synopsis was still there. No program.

Downstairs, Helaine was watching GMA on 1007, KABC. She was problem free.

Both our cable boxes were acting the same way, but because I didn’t tune a few hundred channels down I didn’t know it! Just enough knowledge to be dangerous.

I rebooted the cable box. The box must be the problem, right?

I did this three times. No change.

There was nothing on AT&T’s site, nor on their social media accounts. Later, I realize this was because they were maintaining ‘radio silence.’ They were getting tons of complaints and not responding.

All signs I could grasp pointed to a problem in my house. But I was being gnawed at. My logical computer mind was bothered by the way the signal died. It didn’t fit. The problem didn’t correlate with the box’s internal hardware.

I rebooted the hub. AT&T sends channels to my individual cable boxes via IP. It’s just data. I have one TV with a WiFi box and three connected via Ethernet. And, of course, there are computers and phones and printers and tablets and who-knows-what connected too!

Rebooting the hub meant stopping Internet and TV throughout the house. Didn’t help.

I tried calling the AT&T phone line. Fast busy. A fast busy indicates the circuit, rather than an individual line, is busy. Probably call volume.

That was actually reassuring! Maybe I wasn’t alone?

I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. Cable has gone down before. I started doing deeper searches.

No news organization had picked up on it. I did a Twitter search for people tweeting to Uverse. Bingo. My story, a thousand times.

I tipped off @LanceUlanoff at Mashable

When reached for comment, an AT&T spokesperson explained the outage, “Due to a power-related issue triggered by a third-party at our video hub, U-verse customers may be experiencing a loss of national channels. Technicians are working to resolve the issue and we expect to have service fully restored by early afternoon. We apologize for this inconvenience.”

By keeping off social media and failing to post something on the company’s website, AT&T hoped to keep this quiet. They mostly did.

However, they shifted a real burden to their customers. My troubleshooting time might not be individually valuable, but multiply it by all the people who did just what I did and we’re talking big numbers.

I understand there will be glitches. I still consider the service reliable. The bone I pick has to do with 21st Century communications.

AT&T valued their own concerns over mine.

If you’re wondering why customers sometimes dislike companies, here you go.

12 thoughts on “When Companies Shift The Burden To Their Customers”

  1. Sounds to me that you would want to keep your customers informed of a problem. That’s just…backwards…hope things got resolved.

  2. Thanks Geoff. I was not watching TV when this occurred, but I appreciate your effort. Just switched back to Uverse from Comcast when the bill went over $250.

  3. AT&T does not care for their customers or their employees. I worked for a baby bell (SNET) that was bought by SWB (South West Bell) that bought the name AT&T. My last 12 or 13 yrs were for SWB/AT&T. They don’t care. Period. You don’t have service? They do- what’s the deal? I spent 33 yrs at SNET/SWB/AT&T. SNET was family- the others, not. If they don’t acknowledge the problem, it doesn’t exist, right? And they don’t acknowledge it. They won’t- EVER!

  4. And yes, AT&T is trying to “rid” itself of CT- doesn’t want it, wants nothing to do with it. UVerse, landlines (sold to Frontier recently), Internet- they don’t want a presence in CT.

  5. Geoff, not sure what channels went out since I do have Uverse here, but last month I got sick of paying so much for cable we never watch that I went down to just 20 channels…and we don’t miss them at all. And I don’t miss the huge bill either. As far as losing the signal, I lost my signal every single day and night for the past 2 years of signing up with them. Had them change everything in the house, boxes, wiring..everything more than should be…called every week to complain of the problem. Finally, found the problem was out on the lines…figures.

    1. Carol, a lot of people are switching over to just basic cable. A lot of things you can watch on the internet. Also if you hook up with Netflix, Hulu, you can watch a lot of the same programs. I pay $8.07 a month for Netflix. That is a lot cheaper then paying a cable bill.

  6. Didn’t realize that we had a problem. I had no difficulty getting both 11AM and Noon news on local NBC & CBS channels (both out of Hartford). Went to radio after that. No problem getting on line,either–at around 1:30PM.
    Am getting loads of ads from Comcast re: ATT is giving up servicing CT–I too saw that Frontier bought them out. I also am getting sick of monthly bills fast approaching $200/month–this doesn’t count my cell phone bill–also don’t need all the channels. But right now I have a bigger concern since I have an older computer and Windows XP–which, as of today, will no longer be “supported” by Windows—their advice—Get a new computer—I don’t even know how to back up–let alone download everything I have on this machine—What’s an older person to do??

    1. Barb,

      If you buy a new computer at the likes of Best Buy or Staples, for a small fee they will transfer all of your files from the old to the new. Another option would be to call “Nerds To Go” who will come to your home to do the transfer.

      I wouldn’t be in any rush to replace your XP machine. If you are just doing basic email and web surffing, that computer should give you several more years of good service. As Carol said, Windows 8 is a whole new ball game and you can expect a steep learning curve. I’d look for a Windows 7 machine if you can find one.

  7. Barb, I would be happy to help you out. I also have an XP computer. I have backed up everything on my computer that I felt I wanted to keep on an external hard disk drive and flash drives. There are other ways to do it too. If there is any way I could obtain your email address, I could probably explain to you how it is done. Also if you purchase a new computer, it will be like learning how to run a computer again. Everything has changed. I like Windows 7, but not Windows 8 or 8.1. Do you mainly want to keep pictures, music & other things? If you want to buy a new computer, go into a place like Best Buys and they can show you the new computers. I’m going to keep my XP until it stops running.

  8. For those who are interested in getting Windows 7, you can find them refurbished online at places like Staples. Cost me about $300 for mine.

    Re Frontier, so it is true. Should be an adventure when it comes to paying the AT&T bill next month.

  9. Carole,
    As you can see I am like Geoff—up at all hours. My sister and her friend had me all tensed up about XP because the site stated that security would be a problem—from the news over the past 24 hours—and before—Security on internet transactions is always iffy, anyhow.
    I too, will keep this computer til it dies, then start to look at others. But I do need to learn 1) How to back up what I have on it now, and 2) how to download to CD’s etc. So, here is my e-mail–and we will talk from there.
    Thanks for the offer and Thanks also to Tom and G.B for their suggestions.

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