Why customers do not like AT&T

1) I got this screen while seeking help from AT&T this evening for a poor DSL experience.

The telephone number this screen says I can call “24 hours a day, 7 days a week for further assistance” operates close to regular business hours.

2) I cannot use AT&T’s self-help systems because its systems do not recognize my account number. I have naked DSL and the systems aren’t built for account numbers that are not legit telephone numbers. It has been this way since I got the service. Otherwise I might have been able to check if there are local outages.

3) My DSL service has been going up and down. When up, I can only see certain web sites (Google, CNN, Westlaw, Santa Clara University, Stanford, Univ. of Michigan, AT&T, my blog) I cannot see Yahoo! or other Yahoo! web sites, MSNBC, LA Times, and most other news web sites. It is not my computer because I can use Google WiFi to reach all of those web sites with no issue. Sadly, free Google WiFi is more dependable than the AT&T DSL service I pay for.

4) When I finally reached someone, via an instant message client, I was sent a link that I’m glad I couldn’t see at the time: http://helpme.att.net/article.php?item=1. I can get to att.com but not att.net.

The rep ultimately told me to move my DSL modem away from anything that might cause interference and if that does not work to call the AT&T line repair team.

“The following are a few of the possible causes of Electromagnetic Interference on a DSL line: Halogen desk lamps near the DSL modem or telephone line, especially those with dimmers Any electrical dimmer switch Electronic devices, such as stereo speakers, PC speakers, televisions, monitors, microwave ovens, etc. Routing the telephone line parallel to an AC power cord for more than a few inches Electronic insect electrocution devices (bug zappers) Low quality 900MHz cordless telephones Any other emitter of high frequency electromagnetic radiation Placement of DSL equipment directly on a carpeted surface.”

I do not think that’s my problem. Still can’t get to certain web sites.

Dislike is probably an understatement.

Update: I pulled out my work computer and connected to its network through VPN. My work computer has none of the problems I’m having with my personal computers. They are sitting side-by-side, connected to the Internet through the same router. My work computer loads pages with blazing fast speed including all of those that I cannot access at all with my home computer. I’m afraid the lines might melt with that kind of speed. My work computer is brought down to earth when I disconnect it from VPN.  🙁

Update #2: Turns out my new dsl modem is configured improperly, but AT&T’s Customer Service reps and help site were mum on the subject of configuring it. Read more about it on Configuring a Modem and Router for AT&T DSL.

Annoyed by Amazon

I ordered three books last week from Amazon and decided to pay for shipping (I wanted one of the books sooner than later). The shipping option I paid for would deliver within 3-5 days after it was shipped. The items shipped two days in two different parcels. One expected to arrive after 4 days and the other after 7 days.

Naturally, I contacted Amazon to let them know I was unhappy with paying for the 3-5 day shipping option but would receive the item on business day 7 after shipping.

“I’d like to know why a package I ordered will be delivered more than five days after it is shipped. I paid for standard shipping (3-5 business days). Even generously not counting today (4/9) and counting forward, five business days would mean it will be delivered on 4/16. From the email I just received: “Shipped via USPS (estimated arrival date: 17-April-2008).” “

Without reading the email, Amazon responded with a load of crap and poor arithmetic:

Hello from Amazon.com.

I understand that your concern is regarding the estimated delivery date of your second shipment.

I’ve looked into your order and see that it’s been shipped via USPS and should be delivered by Apr 17, 2008.

I understand that this estimated delivery date is long, however, please understand, the shipping method you have selected for this order is Standard Shipping and when you choose this shipping, the estimated delivery date for the item will be 3 to 5 business days after the order is shipped. Please note that most carriers do not deliver packages on weekends.

This estimated delivery date is calculated based on how close inventory of “BOOK TITLE” is to the delivery address, as well as how quickly we can obtain and assemble your order.

As you may know, we have several fulfillment centers across the U.S., and the items in your order may sometimes be in stock at different locations. When you place your order, we estimate your ship date based on the proximity of inventory to the delivery address you provide, as well as how quickly we can obtain and assemble items for shipment.

We do want to make sure that your order arrives safely. If your package doesn’t arrive by end of the business day on April 20, 2008 please use the link below to contact us so that we can investigate further.


I hope this information helps you.

Thanks for shopping at Amazon.com.

Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question:

If yes, click here:
If not, click here:

Please note: this e-mail was sent from an address that cannot accept incoming e-mail.

To contact us about an unrelated issue, please visit the Help section of our web site.

Best regards,

Amazon.com Customer Service

I replied to the email to it again but was rudely met by a bounced message. It turns out Amazon buries a note to not bother replying to their email. WTF!? The least it could do is point out to customers at the top of the email. I could not avoid letting my frustration show.

COMMENTS: I think you missed my point. The item has shipped. My point is that the 17th is more than 5 business days from now. That is longer than the 3-5 business days which the standard shipping option states, post shipping of course. I suggest you count it again.

The order form discusses estimated shipping date and based on that an estimated delivery date. But nothing on the order form describes the delivery date (3-5 days) as only an estimate that may reach beyond five days after an item is shipped. Your shipping information linked from the order form all refers to “Delivery within 3 to 5 business days.” I chose the shipping speed of 3-5 days and am perturbed Amazon decided to cheap-out and deliver it under a lesser delivery option.

BTW: It would be a better user experience to tell users at the TOP of an email not to reply to it. It is currently buried at the bottom.


That got some attention but I was still insulted by the fact that it took this long to garner an appropriate response.

Thank you for writing back to us at Amazon.com with your concern.

I’m sorry for the inconvenience caused to you regrading the delivery of your order for the item “[BOOK TITLE]”.

From your e-mail message I understand that the estimated delivery date displayed on your order confirmation e-mail states that your order will be delivered by April 17, 2008 which is more than 5 business days since your order was shipped on April 09, 2008.

However, I have contacted our shipping department on your behalf and confirm you that the estimated delivery date displayed in your order confirmation e-mail and Your Account were incorrect. Please accept our sincere apologies for this error.

In actuality, you can expect your order to be to be delivered to you by April 16, 2008 which is 5 business days from your shipment date.

Also, please note that at the bottom of all automated messages we send, you’ll see these words, “Please note: This e-mail was sent from a notification-only address that cannot accept incoming e-mail. Please do not reply to this message.”

Thank you for suggesting that it would be a better user experience to tell users at the Top of an email not to reply to it. Customer feedback like yours is very important in helping us continue to improve the selection and service we provide.

I appreciate your thoughts and I will be sure to forward your suggestion to the concerned department.

For help in the future, please note that the most efficient way to contact our customer service department is by using the e-mail form below found in our Help pages:


Further, I’ll personally look into this issue and see that your order gets delivered by April 16, 2008. I can understand how important this order is to you and how frustrating if you do not receive it in time.

I’ve already created a Follow-Up for your order and will write back to you again on April 17, 2008 with all the details of the order.

I hope the above information is helpful for you.

Thank you for shopping at Amazon.com.

Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question:

If yes, click here:
If not, click here:

Please note: this e-mail was sent from an address that cannot accept incoming e-mail.

To contact us about an unrelated issue, please visit the Help section of our web site.

Best regards,

Amazon.com Customer Service

The package showed up on the 16th. It is arguable whether that is business day 5 or business day 6 after it was shipped. Either way, in the future I’ll avoid Amazon when I can and will definitely avoid paying for Amazon shipping. Just isn’t worth it. This is about the fifth time I’ve had negative run-ins with Amazon customer care and piss-poor customer experience. I’ve purchased from them less than a dozen times. A nearly fifty percent negative experience is a very bad track record.

Here’s one form I submitted to Amazon in 2005. It was regarding a Christmas gift I bought for my sister knowing it would be delivered around or just after the new year. More than two months later I was asked to accept a late delivery for the third time. The book finally arrived in late March 2005.

>Date: Sat Feb 19 18:49:39 GMT 2005
>Subject: Where’s My Stuff?

02/19/05 10:49:18
ORDER ID: 102-7430093-0897743<br>COMMENTS: I’m not feeling very appreciated. In fact, I’m infuriated. What is the hold-up? Why am I being asked for my approval to delay shipment again? This is the second time this month.

Has the publisher not sent you a copy? Are you upset at me for not buying more? Is it because the book is destined for Alaska? Speak to me. I’d like to know why it is being delayed.

I’d also like to know why there isn’t a phone number provided to customer service. Better to spend the money than let your customer stew for hours while waiting for your reply.

And tell me one good reason I shouldn’t cancel this order, refuse to order from Amazon in the future and recommend everyone I know to avoid your company.

I ordered this book for my sister on 12/15/04 minutes after I ordered an identical book for my other sister. That book was sent to my other sister more than a month ago.”

A quandry for Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless has a foolish policy in which it charges for text messages sent and received. For my plan, it charges 15 cents per message – what a rip! And it is those 15 cent charges for receiving text message that will come back to haunt Verizon for years to come.

Text messages are essentially emails ([phone number]@vtext.com). It is no secret that spam is a scourge that effects regular email and the Internet in epidemic proportions. And it is only a matter of time before spammers all set their sites on sending text messages indiscriminately to any and all phone numbers a generator can spit out. It seems they already have started in sufficient quantity that my wife received one this evening.

New Text Msg

Message from Royce@dutlru.tudelft.nl

(hey) hey, i seen your profile wondering if ya wanted to chat on msn hit me up at realhotjane1@hotmail.com

1/24 10:13p

For that message I was charged 15 cents. To wipe out the charge, I was forced to call Verizon customer service and request it reverse the charge. In the end, that one text message cost Verizon $3, or whatever it costs to handle one call. I was told it now has an option to blacklist certain email addresses and turn off text messaging but I refuse to bother using either option since it really doesn’t resolve the problem or my issue. As such, each future spam message will cost Verizon another $3+, since I will call to complain then as well. When I called, the customer service rep told me I’m not the only person complaining about receiving spam and requesting a charge be reversed. Verizon needs to stop charging customers to receive text messages before spam becomes more costly than it already has.

It was only a matter of time

It was only a matter of time before the credit crunch and mortgage foreclosure mania became fodder for spammers and joined the likes of Ci@lis, V!@gra, and Peni$ enlargements in the inbox of wary readers. I received this email this evening:

—– Original Message —-
From: John Cummuta <John_Cummuta@****.com>
To: ****@yahoo.com
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2008 3:16:55 PM
Subject: A unique way out of debt

Your Debts Could Make You Rich!

Your debts disappear (even your house is paid off) in 5-7 years, and you retire debt-free… using nothing more than the money you’re currently earning plus one of today’s best-kept secrets: Does my story sound too familiar?I should’ve seen it, because each day I dressed myself in clothes paid for by credit cards, walked on financed carpet in our mortgaged house, and drove a leased car.

But even when the company I worked for went under and I found myself scrambling to keep from losing the house, cars, furniture, and our good name, I still didn’t see it. Then, a couple of days later, when I was forced to sell my gold Corvette and my wife’s Olds Regency, it hit me: I was a prisoner of debt.

As long as I owed people money, they owned me! At that moment, I made myself a promise: “I will never be this vulnerable again!” I had to find a way out of debt. And that’s exactly what I did. But in the process, I developed a unique method that transforms debt into wealth. So much wealth, that almost anyone who uses it can be a millionaire by the time he or she retires. And best of all … you can accumulate your $1 million nest egg using nothing more than the money you’re currently earning.

And it’s easy: One year after I explained my method to Jan and Jerrel Herron (both in their 50s), their credit cards and two cars were paid off. In the second year, they paid off the mortgage. Then they showed my method to their 32-year-old twin sons. One son quickly paid off his house. The other paid his off one year later.

The same happened to Ruth DeHaven of Santee, CA: “We were over $125,000 in debt. Today, just 3 years later, we are completely debt-free, including no mortgage on our house, and my husband and I have just retir ed at at age 55.”

And Dale Prull, from San Jose, CA, says, “After only 8 months all my credit cards were paid off. Ten months later my car was paid off. The value of my home is over $400,000 and will be paid off in 3 years and 4 months. Following your plan, I’ll retire 12 years later with almost $1 million.”

Over half a million people have used my method, and now it’s your turn.

Stop being a prisoner of debt today! Discover how good it feels to wake up each morning knowing you own your car, house, and everything you have, and you don’t owe a penny to anyone. No more bills in the mailbox.

My method transforms your debt into wealth – growing to $1 million – using nothing more than the money you’re currently earning. Thanks to the best-kept secret of the investment industry, you’re in control of your life: free, financially independent – enjoying peace of mind, knowing your family is safe and you’re set for life!

See how it works today.

John Cummuta

P.S. Don’t make another payment on your home, car, or credit card until you hear the truth of today’s 5 biggest rip-offs – from some of America’s largest, most-trusted names. Stop making others rich, while they keep you poor – a prisoner of debt. Break free today … and transform your debt into wealth.

This is a commercial message from ********. To stop receiving commercial messages promoting John Cummuta and **********, please visit http://www.************.com/remove/ You may also email your unsubscribe request to remove@************.com or mail your request with a copy of this original email to: *********, 2710 Thomas Ave. Suite 334, Cheyenne, WY 82001.

*********.com Compliance:
You are subscribed with the email address ********@yahoo.com. We respect your privacy. In our effort to keep up with good business practices, we now offer two ways To unsubscribe from our email lists
If you do not wish to receive any more emails from
*********.com read below:
To Unsubscribe on the web Click Here! and follow the instructions. or write us to the address below with a written request.
Once we have received your submission, you will be removed automatically from our subscribers list.
If you feel that you have received this message in error You may contact us at at ********@gmail.com or at our mailling address.
mailing address for *********.com:
*********.com Customer Care
5314 16th avenue
Suite 442
Brooklyn NY 11204

Some sap who is down on their luck will respond to this email and the avalanche will begin. This scammer is preying on desperate people. I expect the FTC will continue to do its job and look the other way.

Riddle me this Batman:

If someone doesn’t pass the bar exam, is she still a lawyer?

In South Carolina, that’s answered in the affirmative. It appears a well connected politician was able to pull a few strings so his daughter could “pass” the South Carolina bar exam. Might as well scrap the test at this point. The one positive in all this: at least corruption in South Carolina isn’t hidden.
GreenvilleOnline.com -News-Harrison: ‘Daughter’s hard work’ helped change Bar exam – (11/14/2007)

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Tuesday it was his daughterâ??s hard work and not his influence that helped change the results of this summerâ??s Bar exam, allowing her and 19 other applicants to pass.Rep. Jim Harrison told The Greenville News that his intervention by calling the chairman of the Board of Law Examiners was nothing unusual.

“I did the same for her as I would do for any constituent or any father would do for his child,” Harrison said of his daughter, “and that is simply to raise the issue that thereâ??s something that needs to be looked at, and if it is looked at, let the chips fall wherever they may.”

Harrisonâ??s comments came hours before his daughter, Catherine, and 383 others were admitted to the Bar by the South Carolina Supreme Court, which two weeks ago changed the results of the July Bar exam, resulting in 20 people passing who earlier hadnâ??t.

Drunken Spammers beware …

I have a rare email address with one of the original big free email providers and I still use it on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it gets a few hundred spam emails per day and, worse, it is frequently spoofed by spammers. Needless to say, I hate spammers more than most people because of the double whammy.

It was only with great pleasure that I got a chance to talk to a spammer directly, one-on-one, to threaten legal action. For whatever reason, a spammer decided to include a toll-free number (877-208-5642) in its spam email messages. The guy picked up the phone like this: “Hello, are you interested in a business loan?” As much as I wanted to unleash several years of pent up anger, I didn’t. I told the guy on the other end that he was spoofing my email address in his spam emails and if he continued, I would take legal action. He told me he would stop.

Needless to say, my next call will be to AT&T to track down who supplies the toll-free number. I will send that company a happy letter asking them to disconnect it and telling them if they don’t and he continues to spoof my email address that I will include their deeper pockets in any lawsuit I file. 🙂 Not to mention, it will be on notice and anyone else who might read this may choose to demonstrate those deeper pockets had notice one of its customers was an evil spammer and refused to take action.

Note: I’m not advocating that you call the spammer. For all you know, by the time you read this, he’s moved on to another toll free number. That said, should you choose to call up the spammer (877-208-5642), do so from pay or other public phone. Toll-free calls have a caller ID system that shows all incoming phone numbers, regardless of whether you told the phone company to block your number or not.

I received several dozen bounced messages with that toll-free number. Here is one such message. For sanity’s sake, I removed email addresses.


The original message was received at Mon, 10 Sep 2007 08:33:23 -0700
from qmail2.iswest.net []

—– The following addresses had permanent fatal errors —–
(reason: 554 5.4.6 Too many hops)

—– Transcript of session follows —–
554 5.4.6 Too many hops 28 (25 max): from <danny@…com> via localhost, to <mcd@….com>
Reporting-MTA: dns; canitscan3.iswest.net Arrival-Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2007 08:33:23 -0700 Final-Recipient: RFC822; mcd@….com Action: failed Status: 5.4.6 Diagnostic-Code: SMTP; 554 5.4.6 Too many hops Last-Attempt-Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2007 09:13:10 -0700

—–Inline Message Follows—–

No Hassle Business Loans!

If you have your own business and want:

  • IMMEDIATE cash to spend ANY way you like
  • Extra money to give the business a boost.

orried that your credit is less than perfect? Not an issue.

Just call the number below.

You’ll thank me later!

Call Free 1 [877] 2 0 8 5 6 4 2

24 hours a day, 7 days a week including Sundays and Holidays!

No Hassle Business Loans!

If you have your own business and want:

  • IMMEDIATE cash to spend ANY way you like
  • Extra money to give the business a boost.

orried that your credit is less than perfect? Not an issue.

Just call the number below.

You’ll thank me later!

Call Free 1 [877] 2 0 8 5 6 4 2

24 hours a day, 7 days a week including Sundays and Holidays!

UPDATE (9/13/07): The emails are still going out. AT&T was helpful and told me it isn’t the service provider for the number but the service provider code is ixc01, likely Excel Communications. Excel’s web site says that toll free calls from pay phones cost at least 35 cents each. It turns out ixc01 isn’t Excel’s provider code; however its staff was more helpful pointing me towards Broadwing Communications.

UPDATE (9/18/07): Broadwing is now Level3 which I contacted on the 14th. Their customer service folks seemed pretty cool. However, the spam email keeps going out and the toll-free number is still alive. I’ll need to call it again when I get a chance, likely Thursday afternoon. I understand it takes a while for things to wind through the corporatocracy but I figure a week should be plenty of time.

UPDATE (9/20/07): The number is still alive so I contacted Level3 again. I was redirected to someone in its Customer Service (I guess I wasn’t in contact with that department before). I also have been calling the toll-free number from the spam. I generally get an error telling me its voice mail is full. Today, I was able to get through and speak with two different people who both identified the company by name when answering. “Empire funding. Are you interested in a business loan?” Each person repeated the company name when asked. I also queried each person for the company’s address and was given an address on N. Central Ave. in Phoenix, AZ. One person gave me 201 as the street address and the other 205. No suite number. After a little research, I found out that 201 N. Central Ave. is the address of Chase Tower, tallest building in Arizona. JP Morgan Chase Bank has large offices there, along with the posh, private Arizona Club, Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, and a number of other well known tenants. I was not able to find an online directory of tenants in Chase Tower, but I’m skeptical that a fly-by-night spamming loan company would be able to afford a high rent building. I also filed a complaint with the FTC.

limiting postal marketing mail

A family member recently commented on the amount of junk snail mail they receive. I prepared an email with information to help reduce the amount received and decided to post that information in case anyone else finds it useful.

The best way to stop receiving marketing mail is to contact the companies you do business with and tell them to limit the amount of marketing mail they send you and to not sell your personal information. However, that is often not enough because of direct marketing is big industry in the US. There are existing lists with your personal information that is sold wholesale, credit bureaus, public records such as telephone book listings or property deeds.

Offers of credit:
From the the Experian Privacy Policy:

“You can remove your name from prescreened credit or insurance offer mailing lists from Experian, Innovis, TransUnion and Equifax by calling 888 5OPT OUT (888 567 8688).

You will be given a choice to opt out for five years or permanently. If you elect to opt out permanently, you will be mailed a Notice of Election to Opt Out Permanently, which you must sign and return to activate your permanent opt-out. Even though your request becomes effective with Experian within five days of your notifying us, it may take several months before you see a reduction in the amount of solicitations. “

I opted-out in August and have only gotten two more offers since October. Much better than the two per week I had been receiving.

Other generic marketing mail addressed to you. Think, Publisher’s Clearinghouse:

  1. Delist your name and address from the telephone book. For me, it costs about 40 cents per month (although, in reality should be free).
  2. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) is the largest of the trade organizations representing companies and organizations that send direct mail. They allow an opt-out but will force you to pay a dollar before honoring your request, citing a bogus excuse of fighting fraud. I will submit a legislative proposal to my state legislator and congresswoman at some point in the next year proposing that such charges be banned and suggesting the creation of a do not mail list, like the do not call list. Marketers only bring it upon themselves.
  3. Major data warehouses and resellers

And if you’re getting telemarketing, make sure you get on the National Do-Not Call list maintained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). According to an FTC press release on June 21, 2006, more than 125 million phone numbers were registered on the do not call list . BTW: According to that same press release, cell phones don’t need to be included because of specific Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations that already forbid telemarketing to cell phones.

Has Yahoo! Mail Jumped the Shark?

Yahoo! Mail ran a test by attaching third party advertisements to the bottom of each email message I sent using my Yahoo! Mail account during the past week. Here are three such ads:


Sponsored Link

Mortgage rates near 39yr lows. $420,000 Mortgage for $1,399/mo – Calculate new house payment

Sponsored Link

Online degrees – find the right program to advance your career.


Sponsored Link

Degrees online in as fast as 1 Yr – MBA, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Associate – Click now to apply

Previously, that ad spot was held only by internal Yahoo! products such as Yahoo! Mail, Messenger, and Music. Those are expected. This is, after all, mail from a Yahoo! Mail account. However, third party advertisements, particularly bottom-of-the-barrel advertisers like LowerMyBills and Nextag, are another story.

To be blunt, I think it stinks. I understand that Yahoo! is a business but it needs users as much as it needs advertisers. Attaching third party advertisements to the bottom of user emails will likely turn users off to Yahoo! Mail and the company in general and is a particularly risky move because there are viable competing products that don’t attach third party ads, like GMail and Hotmail.

If Yahoo! Mail likes the result of the test and decides to continue down this path, I have some demands (after all, I am now just a user):

1) More clear and conspicuous disclosure.

a) Name the advertiser and/or domain. Only one of the three advertisers I listed above are named.
b) Disclosure that this ad is inserted by Yahoo!.
c) A “more info” link that points to a help page that contains more information about what this is about.
d) The font used for the disclosures needs updating. It should be the same or similar font size, weight, and color as the ad itself. “Sponsored Link” is currently in grey (versus black) and in a smaller font than the ad. If the ad is in black, the text should be too. The current set-up makes it look like Yahoo! is hiding something.

2) Control over advertisers and advertising categories. Major advertisers (i.e. Chevy, Dell, Disney, etc) that sell regular products and services are fine. However, I don’t want bottom of the barrel advertisements hawking controversial products or services that will make my emails look spammy or get caught in spam filtering software. Examples include LowerMyBills, X10, CIC (credit reports), sites selling diplomas or telling us how to earn a degree, selling prescription drugs such as ci@lis and viagra, or sites pushing multi-level marketing (MLM).

3) No web beacons or graphical ads ever. Enough said.

4) More information about how this works. Questions that need to be answered include:

  • “How are advertisers chosen?”
  • “How are the ads and advertisers screened?”
  • “What type of ads will never appear?”
  • “How are the ads targeted?”
  • “Are my email messages scanned to determine the topic?”
  • etc.

I think these demands are reasonable. I’m not asking for a cut; having a free, dependable email service is enough for me. I just don’t want my messages to look like spam, be flagged as spam, or for the ads to offend the recipients. Even then, I won’t decide whether to accept the ads until I have more info.

I don’t think I need to remind anyone, but Yahoo! is in the trust business. Without user trust, Yahoo! is nothing. Users build a lot of equity in their online identities, including their email addresses, but that doesn’t mean they won’t abandon the company and its products if they feel they can no longer trust it. That same equity is what makes a user fight like hell if that identity is threatened.

I could say a million things more but I don’t have time. I should be studying.

Note: I edited this some and made my blog public again after finding out this program was a test that has since ended. I’m glad I don’t need to consider giving up my email account just yet.