August 22nd, 2007
So, I’m currently going through the ‘joys’ of moving from Mountain View, where I’ve been living for the last two years (while at Stanford and my first year at Google) to now San Mateo. Why am I moving? Well first of all Archstone is charging me hundreds of dollars less than Avalon offered me for my renewal (oh the joys of living in Google View), but I also wanted to live closer to the city (aka San Francisco), while still being relatively close to work and while (importantly!) still being in the sunny part of the Bay Area (locals know what I’m talking about. ‘Summers’ in San Fran can be ‘fun’).
Anyhow, besides throwing away lots and lots of stuff (it’s surprising how much you collect over the years but never use!) and packing looooots of boxes, I just went through the process of transferring my utilities and other bills to my new location.
PG&E – check, simple phone call – took 5 minutes, cost me nothing. Grade: A
Comcast – oh dear. Was logged into my account and clicked on ‘Move?’, only to see a web form that asked me to input my current address (while being logged in! Shouldn’t your system be intelligent enough to get it yourself?) only to then transfer me to some web chat thingie to ‘answer final questions’. So I thought, ok. Can’t take so long. I don’t actually have any questions. Oh was I wrong. The chat took 40 minutes to complete, with me reciting every single information I entered before (from old to new address to service choices, 20digit customer account number and more). Grade: C for annoyance, but at least they got the job done and offered a Saturday ‘installation’. Why I have to pay $39 for the whole thing is beyond me, but oh well – at least I signed up for the 8Mbit internet thingie (god knows how much of that will effectively come through).
Citibank, American Express, Netflix – check. All online. Zero issues. Super quick. Grade: A+
AT&T – the SuperMaBellReloaded Telco. Oh my god… Where do I even start?
I wanted to move using their internet site, because they offer free moving (aka waive the $42,xx moving charge) and give you deals on the internet access, such as 3 months off and a free new modem (my current wireless modem is a non-working pain in the you-know-where, which I just replaced with an awesome Apple Airport Extreme 802.11n/Gigabit, so I’m just looking to get a regular modem now).
So what does Ulf do? He goes to http://www.att.com, only to find a weirdly put together page that doesn’t tell you anything. Well, that’s what Google is for right? A search for ‘AT&T Move’ reveals the ‘AT&T’s Mover’s One Source‘ website. Silly as I am, I’ve been using Safari on my Mac, which apparently is incompatible with PacBell’s, I mean SBC’s, no sorry, AT&Ts URL redirects (which still use sbc.com half the time). To cut a half-hour story long: at&t created an endless loop that went from Mover’s page to ‘do you want to move’ page to ‘click here to move page’ back to the Mover’s page.
Switching over to Firefox and still clicking on ‘Yes, damnit I do want to move’ about 500 times finally took me to a signup page on which you have to answer silly questions via radio buttons before going to the next screen. One of the silly questions? – You guessed it! ‘Do you want to move service?’. Urgggh, yes I do!
Well to cut another long story short: I inputed all the required information and logged into my current account to transfer service, just to get a little nice screenshot telling me that ‘an error 647′ occurred and that they are just incapable of processing my simple request. So I thought, okay, I’ll call them up, tell them that their website (which I already spent 2 hours on) is worthless and politely ask them to transfer my service. The nice gentleman on the phone took all my info, only then to inform me that the move costs $42, that he won’t waive it because it’s ‘only free when you sign up over the website’ and that he can’t offer me the internet discounts either. He suggested I should try again the next day and call back if that doesn’t work. Well, of course it still didn’t work the next day and I wanted to call back to see if the whole move-thing of my DSL line is even worth it.
A bit of background, re: DSL: The only reason I went with DSL in Mountain View to begin with was that Comcast had so many dropouts in their service (and lost packets) that could never be resolved, which made it just not usable. So I turned to SBC. When I did sign-up for DSL though they let me know that only 1.5Mbits/s would work, because I’m too far from their service station. I was flabbergasted. Living in a cute little German town with a population of less than 40,000 literally in the middle of absolutely-nowhere, my mom who barely uses the net, enjoys a 16Mbit ADSL2+ DSL line from Deutsche Telekom, whereas here in Silicon Valley – the birthplace of high tech and the hometown of the largest internet company in the world, all that SBC/AT&T actually offered me was…. drumroll please… 384Kbit/s! Yes I kid you not. That’s what they signed me up for! Thankfully I could chat with an engineer who did activate the 1.5Mbit for me, but still, even this is pathetic if you think about it.
So I called at&t again this morning, only to get another bad experience. All that was available at my new location is 3Mbit/s (not the fastest 6Mbit one they offer, which frankly at this point I doubt even exists). Getting this information though took 25 minutes of me repeatedly telling the customer service rep that, “No Sir, I do NOT have a phone number at my new location yet. I am trying to decide whether I should stay with you guys or not, depending on the speed of internet you offer. Can you please use my new address instead.”
Let’s just say, I was happy to cancel service, which interestingly enough was my best experience with at&t. It took only 10 minutes, the customer rep was very friendly and no one tried to sell me anything, nor did I have to deal with the retention department. I guess they don’t need customers. For the statistics: they now have one fewer AT&T Yahoo! DSL and AT&T local landline customer.