Think twice before returning iP4 to AT&T!
First off, I’ve learned my lesson: don’t buy from AT&T; buy from Apple. However, I couldn’t get on Apple’s website to preorder on 6/15, so I went in to the AT&T store and “got lucky” (chagrin).
Per AT&T’s 30 day return policy, I returned my iP4 yesterday in order to get a replacement. I was having the antenna issue, and it was routinely causing my data connection to stop. Since a significant number of people are not having this issue, I decided to return my phone and buy a replacement in the hope that I would get a unit that doesn’t drop reception. If the replacement turned out to have the same issue, I had determined that I would just “hold differently”, case it, and live with it since I otherwise love the iphone 4, but I thought that I’d try another before my 30 days was up. I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and I’ve always had good reception on my 3G and 3GS. My wife’s iP4 does not have the antenna issue.
Last week I called three AT&T stores in my area to check their return policy, and I spoke to the manager at each store who said that I could return and that they would reset my account so that I could get the early upgrade price on a replacement at the Apple store if that is what I wanted to do. They also said that my unlimited data plan would remain in effect.
At the AT&T store yesterday, the rep verified that he would, and did, reset my contract so that I could buy the replacement, which was waiting for me at the Apple store on reserve, at the same early upgrade price of $499. He also verified that my unlimited data plan was in place. I then went to the Apple store and was told that I could only buy at the full price of $699. The Apple rep was very helpful: he called AT&T customer service who said that their information showed that I was not eligible for an upgrade. I went back to the AT&T store and spoke with the rep who had helped me: he said that his system showed that my contract was reset and that I should have no trouble getting the phone at the same $499 price. He called AT&T customer service and identified himself as an employee. The CSR told him that the upgrade was available for only one phone and that if the phone was returned, even if defective, the upgrade price would not be available for a replacement. The CSR also told the store rep that my grandfathered unlimited data plan only applied to my original purchase, and it would not be eligible on the replacement. My store rep called his manager who had left for the evening: the manager said that he would have to “submit a ticket” to try to get this changed. The store rep gave me a “dear in the headlights” look and said that there was nothing else that he could do.
Since I can’t wait three weeks to get another iPhone, I went back to the Apple store and bought the phone that was on reserve for $699 with the 2gb data plan. I now await action from AT&T which I doubt will go in my favor. I left a voicemail for the store manager this morning, and he hasn’t returned my call: this is one of the same store managers who assured me over the phone last week of how they would handle the return saying that to do otherwise “would be kind of a bad thing to do to our customers”.
In the grand scheme of life, I realize that this is a small frustration. However, it’s egregious for a company to tell a customer, in no uncertain terms, that a return will be handled in a particular way, execute the return and verify that they did what they said that they would do, and then find out that they can’t do it, and they can’t change what they’ve done. This means, in essence, that I can rely on nothing that they tell me, and I can’t rely on them to fix a misrepresentation. I’m sure that somewhere in the fine print of their policies that it says that AT&T can basically say one thing and do another, or someone else in the system can void or overrule another employee or manager’s action, but, as mentioned above, “that would be kind of a bad thing to do to our customers”.
I only relate my story as a warning to others and to vent. I did everything that I thought was reasonable to determine whether or not I could effectively return my iphone without a penalty. If the store had informed me otherwise, I simply would have kept the original iphone and either gotten a Genius Bar replacement or lived the original. I was completely up front with AT&T as to my intention, and I’ve been polite in my dealings with them.
I’ve had a 3G, a 3GS for my wife and I, an iP4 for my wife and I, a 3G data plan on my iPad; Uverse Voice, Internet, and TV. All of my bills have been timely paid, and I’ve never returned anything except a couple of phone cases.
At this point, I wonder that if I don’t see my refund on my credit card statement, will AT&T say, “oh, we’ll certainly take back the phone, but we don’t refund your money. I’m sorry that you were given wrong information”. Somehow, that doesn’t seem quite as farfetched anymore. This reminds me of the Monty Python sketch where a priest is at his insurance agent’s office to file a claim, and the agent says, “if you read the fine print, you’d find that our policy specifically states that any claim made by you will not be paid”.
If worse comes to worse, I’ll just get the $15 data plan, jailbreak my iPad which has unlimited data, and use MyWi to tether the iPhone to the iPad.
So, if you want to return your iPhone to AT&T for a replacement, be aware that they may not honor what they tell you: they can turn on a dime.