Quiz: Quick, what's the city associated with area code 778? Not sure - read on to learn more about our AT&T Wireless horror story.
Our son Steven has an iPhone. Our daughter has an iPhone. I have an iPhone. My wife may get one someday. We are on an AT&T family plan and are long time AT&T customers. In fact I looked back, and here is what our family has spent just on cell phone services:
|2009 (so far)||$3,059.04|
These totals do not reflect the plethora of phones we purchased at their ever-changing AT&T, then Cingular, then back to AT&T stores over the years. Right now we have plenty of rollover minutes. Fear not, as part of our relocation to the Bay Area, we are now cell-phone-only people - no land line. We will use the extra minutes over the years.
Our son met the cousin of a friend. They met in Phoenix, but the cousin was visiting from out of town. They texted each other. As teenagers are wanton to do, over the course of Saturday 07/18/2009 to Thursday 07/23/2009, he sent her 233 text messages. Although he has unlimited text messages in the United States, unbeknownst to him, the cousin was from Canada. Although she was in Phoenix at the time, these communications were considered international text messages. Each cost 25 cents.
This part of the bill I got the other day caught my eye:
When we got the bill, my wife immediately went to our neighborhood AT&T store:
AT&T offers an international text messaging capability available for an extra $9.99 per month, but my wife explained that we do not need this service since this scenario is unlikely to occur again. The visiting cousin of the friend has since returned home. All of our son's regular friends reside in the United States. Our son will enter the US Marine Corps in a month. In the event that he gets stationed outside of the United States and is allowed to take his cell phone with him, then this service may be of use. We may opt for it at that time.
After 10 or so of these charge-inducing messages, we were surprised that we were not contacted. AT&T has our cell phone numbers. We too have unlimited text messaging. They could have sent me a text message via an automated process. Our bank certainly contacts us when it sees "unusual activity" on our VISA card.
While in the store, the AT&T staff helped my wife place a call to an AT&T customer representative who was unable to waive or reduce these charges. She even spoke to the representative's supervisor who was less than helpful - rude in her tone. She was surprised that given what we have spent over the years, we received no consideration at all.
The local store staff asked us to contact the store manager in the event we could not work this out with "the home office." I am happy to say that local AT&T store manager, David M. Perlman, understood our plight and issued us a $58.25 credit. Thanks David! Our story has a happy ending.
I know we all act as if Canada is part of the United States, since phone lines do not have to pass over water to get there, but it's not. :-) Beware. Texting a Canadian phone number does not require a country code, but the rates act like it does. If I want to call or text France, I have to enter 1 plus 31 (country code for France) plus the phone number. In contrast, the user interface for United States phones does not require a country code for Canada. Perhaps there should be alignment between the billing process and user interface?
Pondering how a user interface which emphasizes convenience can lead to problems is alive in the lab.
P.S. By the way, the correct answer is that 778 is associated with the Canadian Province of British Columbia.