"AT&T sucks." At least that's my latest opinion of them. Strangely enough it all started at my local Dodge dealership where I had taken my truck because it was cutting out and surging like someone was periodically pumping the gas peddle.
"Your truck has a bad APP," the diesel repair technician announced.
"What's an APP?" I asked.
"It stands for Accelerator Position Potentiometer," he explained. It seems that, at least on some newer vehicles, the accelerator no longer connects to a carburetor or other mechanical device. Instead it connects to a computer sensor which senses how far the accelerator is depressed and controls the fuel flow through an electronic middleman. I've always thought that most middlemen caused more trouble then they solved. Now I had some hard evidence.
"Cummins has this part listed as restricted," he told me. "I have to call them and explain the situation before they will ship us the part. It will take four or five days."
"What if my APP breaks completely?" I asked naively.
"The accelerator won't work and your truck will only idle," he replied.
I made an appointment for the following Tuesday and asked him for the phone number of a good towing company that I could call in case my APP gave up the ghost. I had to drive about 1200 miles before my new APP arrived.
Immediately I went to my truck and retrieved my cell phone to program in the towing company's phone number. My cell phone was dead. I had just used it two days earlier and it was fully charged then and had been turned off ever since. I tried charging the battery, but no response. Damn! I'd just purchased the phone three months earlier and switched my service to AT&T. My previous cell phone had worked flawlessly for five years. I had even run over it twice with my truck, but that didn't phase it - other than to crack the lens. It was a Motorola analog phone. My new phone was a digital Mitsubishi T200 with lots of new features. Evidently none of its new features included quality.
I drove to another town to find an AT&T cellular phone store, where I explained my problem. "We don't carry the Mitsubishi phones because they are not very good and people don't like them," the women at the store explained. "We don't even carry batteries for them."
"I liked mine until it stopped working," I replied. "The AT&T representative who sold it to me said it was a wonderful phone."
The woman called a number for customer service at AT&T wireless services where she gave them my phone number and a lot of other numbers from the back of my phone. AT&T would ship me a replacement phone, but that particular phone was on backorder and it would take at least seven working days. I began to wonder why an unpopular phone was on backorder.
I can't go seven days without a phone," I announced, thinking about my truck problems. "Can I upgrade to another 'better' phone and get credit towards it from my current phone?"
She called another number at AT&T for upgrades. "He doesn't use his phone enough for us to give him any credit towards an upgraded phone," the person at AT&T responded. "He has the $19.95 a month plan."
"I'd use my phone more if it worked," I replied hopefully. It didn't help. Obviously AT&T considered me to be a loser as a customer. I now considered them to be a loser company.
"What phone is popular?" I asked, which is a lot like asking a used car salesman what car he recommends.
"The Nokia is our most popular phone. Do you want lots of features?" she asked.
"I want to be able to make calls."
"With the Nokia phones you can have just about any color shell you want, from bright yellow to florescent green." The last thing I wanted was to walk around looking like I had a canary in my pocket, so I purchased the cheapest, standard grey Nokia they had. With tax it was $100. I could have gotten a $50 rebate if I had opened a new account with AT&T, but since I already had an account, I wasn't eligible. I was tempted to close my old account and then open a new one, but was informed that I still had a minimum period requirement left on my existing account, and that if I closed it now I had to pay $200+ for the broken phone I already had.
I left the store with my new phone, feeling somewhat relieved that I had a link to the tow truck company, but not at all satisfied with what had transpired. The store would call me when my replacement Mitsubishi phone arrived and I could come and pick it up. But I could not use it without opening another account and getting another phone number. I don't know why I can't have two phones with the same number. I do at home. I'm not sure what to do with the second phone, when it arrives. But if I go to AT&T, I'm sure I can find somewhere to stick it.
If you would like a new Mitsubishi T200 phone, I can sell you one cheap. Call me - but don't use AT&T.
My replacement Mitsubishi phone arrived a week later and I drove three hours round trip to pick it up. "Where's the battery?" I asked.
"You don't get a replacement battery. They are not covered under the warranty," the saleman replied.
"But that is what broke on the other phone," I said. I was now convinced that AT&T was totally screwed up, and I was glad that I didn't own any stock in the company.
"You can purchase a battery next door at Radio Shack," he said.
"Why didn't you tell me that a week ago?" I asked.
I took my new replacement phone and my three-month old phone and went to Radio Shack to get a new battery. I don't know why I purchased a new battery since my new Nokia I purchased was the only phone that I needed. The old battery worked fine in the replacement phone, and the new battery worked in the old phone, so I now I had three working phones, but only one that I could use with AT&T. One of the Mitsubishi phones is now in my motorcyle for emergencies since I can call 911 on it. The other I gave to my bartender friend with the promise that he would not sign up with AT&T wireless services.
I hope the Japanese purchase AT&T soon. I think it is the only hope the company has.