Tuesday, February 19, 2008

U-Verse = U-Werse

When Something So Right Goes So Wrong

In sharing this story around the water cooler, I realized a lot of you aren't aware of what "U-Verse" is (or "U-Werse", as I've dubbed it). In other words, you still have time to prevent a lot of suffering if you heed my consumer victim experience proudly brought to you by AT&T.

So before I go any further, let me define U-Verse for you.

AT&T categorizes U-Verse as part of its "Advanced TV" solutions. Where "digitally delivered television" collides with high-speed Internet collides with some phone calling features, provided you also subscribe to AT&T's voice package(s).

I would define U-Verse as an experience so maddening it sent me running for the hills, arms in air. I was about to literally set my own house on fire just to see the damn thing burn in front of me.

Get Your S'mores, Everyone!

The marketing assault on us went on for weeks and still continues to this day (more on that later). The marketing campaign made U-Verse sound like the greatest thing since sex. Top that, sliced bread.

The U-Verse programming was a no-brainer. The technology was so far advanced, Martians feared Earth. And it was so affordable; it was even FREE for the first month AND included "professional installation."

We thought long and hard about this. We were DirecTV subscribers and leery of no-brainer deals out in the market. We visited the AT&T Experience Store at NorthPark Center to do just that. While the demo didn't perform as the sales rep expected, Joe and I made the decision to jump head-first into the lifestyle upgrade.

We were riding one big-ass wave of innovation!

Big Kahuna Turns Big Flop

So here's where it all went wrong. Shortly after the install, we learned U-Verse didn't work. Literally. In the course of about six weeks, we stumbled upon every defect we would have never wished for. Including:

1) Not one - but both - receivers didn't work and had to be replaced. Since this was a new service, I was dumbfounded how new hardware could already be defective. Clearly these receivers couldn't catch the ball... much less a signal.

2) Shows we set to record didn't record at all.

3) Some one-hour shows were recorded. When we went to view them, they were literally one second long. That's what I call editing! After missing more season finales than I care to stomach, I realized this technology wasn't reliable and certainly not worth paying for.

4) We were told that the service was "cutting edge*" and more reliable than satellite TV that is often going out in a rain shower. So, surprisingly, in less than two weeks after install, we had technicians in our house for an entire day and later learned (along with the technicians) there was a network-wide service blackout in Dallas that we found out about at 4pm. Guess AT&T didn't send an FYI to their staff about the outage. Or issue a much needed phone call from the mother ship of telecom.

In retrospect, I later learned that AT&T threw this "U-Werse" product out into the market before it was really tested. We wound-up being the human guinea pigs fumbling into each and every deficiency a product had to offer. Even the phone rep told me "you aren't the only one."

From a marketing background, I later went back and dissected the marketing claims and felt there was so much lipstick on this pig, it couldn't get much "werse." Consequently, we took so much time off work to arrange the numerous service calls, we should be able to file a loss on our taxes.

AT&T + U-Verse = One Wretched Customer Experience

After coming to the conclusion that we had to have this disservice ripped out of our house, we called AT&T and learned that we would have to disconnect the service ourselves and reconnect our DirecTV service (for a charge). In fact, AT&T would not come out to retrieve the hardware they installed; we'd have to mail it back to them after waiting several days for boxes to be sent to us.

To make matters Werse, I was being hard-sold by AT&T on keeping my U-Werse DSL Gateway. All I needed to do was pay $5.00 more a month vs. the AT&T DSL Pro I already had and accept a separate bill from my other AT&T services. Um, no way, Jose!

Really. This new AT&T was quite a different from the former AT&T that couldn't wait to install this crap to begin with! The former actually worked around our work schedules and came out on a weekend for the install. The de-install was quite the opposite.

This legitimizes my belief that companies would rather lose a customer to gain a new customer than to do what's right to keep a customer happy.

Smelly Tellie

This relationship was wreaking a stench so foul and so far it smelled like month-old sardines.

For once, we outsmarted the fox. Well, sort of. We were lucky enough to never uninstall DirecTV so after we aborted the flawed service, we managed to reconnect DirecTV back ourselves and begin living our lives through programming like the rest of America.

Please Release Me...

So there we were. Unconnected. And Unsatisfied. But we were free from the ball and chain.

So we thought.

Statements started showing up for months reflecting a credit balance. We had received a credit during the hoo-hah when AT&T tried to save the deal with a "one month free" credit but as I told one poor rep "when I can't watch the shows I've set to record, no, you cannot pay me to live with this service."

Three months after receiving invoices reminding me of the credit, I finally took the time to call-in and ask for the balance to be refunded to me. The AT&T rep told me that I was not entitled to the money "because no monies had been paid." How brilliant!

Screw the fact my left hand was writing checks for years to who (oh yeah - AT&T) for my local, LD and cell bills. The new AT&T wasn't answering that customer's needs anymore. Ironically, five months after disconnecting, I am still receiving invoices reflecting the credit despite three attempts now to "make it all go away."

The velocity by which my mailbox started being stuffed weekly with reinstated U-Verse trash-mail despite my multiple attempts to be removed from the U-Verse mailing list is greater than before. It's like Godzilla's middle finger protruding from my mailbox each time I open it.

So long, U-Werse. You're like reoccuring reflux and I'll always hate you. Try you once, shame on you.

Try you twice? Not gonna happen!

* You're reading the legal per my earlier plea, which is a good thing.

By "cutting edge" I suppose AT&T means the ability to pause only ONE DVR ever per household. This was a major set-back for us as we pause live TV in the living room at night on DVR #1 and pause live TV in the morning in the bedroom on DVR #2 while getting ready for work with DirecTV's better than cutting edge solution. So recording four TV shows at once doesn't do so well when you can only do that on ONE DVR per household. You can add as many "viewers" as your wallet can shove in your house yet ONLY ONE will be able to record and/or pause live shows. A small detail AT&T has left out of their advertising.

Read the fine print regarding how many hours you can record with the "cutting edge" hi-def. It's exponentially much less than you might expect!

Read the details, folks!


Nikki said...

I remember this story and still feel your pain. I like all your pictures in your blog, especially the Godzilla with the middle finger. It reminds me of an Atari game. :)

Patrick said...

4.5.08 - VICTIM UPDATE, USA - Kaitlin and Alex stopped by today. Turns out they knocked on the wrong door. They are U-Werse reps signing up new suckers for the Werse service around.

I told them I blogged about my 360 degree heinous experience and they said to mention them favorably.

They were quite nice and promised me the "new service" was better, but notgonnagothere.

David said...

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connan said...

U-verse is an ok TV provider but once I got DISH Network I realized U-Verse was much more expensive than I thought. Last year I saved $169 a year by switching to DISH Network and I have better equipment with more storage space. Besides DISH Network's award wining DVR's I love their equipment because they have dual tuner receivers and I don’t have to pay for the second room like I did with U-Verse. A co-worker at DISH informed me that DISH Network also offers HD free for life so I save an additional $120 a year just with HD programming every year.