Last July , I tried to switch our Internet Service Provider (ISP) from Comcast to AT&T. This is one of those once-every-two-years things Americans have to do because of the stupidity of ISP pricing plans. New customers get steep discounts, existing customers get gouged, so you have to always be somebody's new customer. This is also why I've had cellphone service from a bevy of carriers. Switching to AT&T as our ISP was going to save us money, so I gave them a call. They checked to see if my address was wired for their service, and their records showed that it was. So I agreed to be their customer, they took $40 from my bank account, and they told me I could cancel anytime in the next two weeks.
Our router came in the mail and we discovered that our house had ONCE been wired for AT&T Internet, but the landlord had severed every telecom line running from outside the house to inside the house. So AT&T could provide Internet service to a panel on the side of my house, but not to the interior.
Why would a landlord do this? Because it makes remodeling easier, and if the future tenants want telecom service, they will pay for the property upgrades required to restore service. But I am not about to make a $90 improvement to someone else's house without a $90 rent credit, which we would definitely not receive. So I cancelled with AT&T.
AT&T was our ISP for five days, in that time provided exactly ZERO Internet to us. I cancelled within the two-week window. This was in early August.
At the end of September, I received a bill from AT&T, showing I would receive a refund of $34.66. Evidently five days of doing nothing costs $5.34. I thought, "This is unfair, but the resources used to win back my $5.34 would cost more than $5.34, so the cheapest move is to let AT&T steal my money."
Since the bill came to me at the end of September, I figured their billing periods closed at the end of the month. So I was unpleasantly surprised to get all the way through October without receiving anything from AT&T. Since they took the funds straight from my bank account, they could have just returned them that way, but no. And, for context, remember that I stopped receiving paychecks in August, so not getting an expected $34.66 was a hardship.
I called AT&T in early November. I had to talk to three different people, repeating the entire story each time. All of them could see that my account was closed, that it showed I would receive $34.66 back, and nothing helpful about when that would happen. After another transfer to some type of supervisor, I asked why I paid $5.34 for nothing. The man told me he would adjust the credit to $40. I would receive a letter within three to five business days summarizing this, and then I would receive a check within seven to 10 business days.
I called AT&T in early December. Why no letter? Why no check? Where was my refund? The woman told me that I had to wait for the billing cycle to close.
I called AT&T yesterday (9 January 2020). I asked about my refund. The woman said they issued a check to me just a few days ago (the first time I've ever received an actual "the check's in the mail"), for $34.66. I said, "It was supposed to be for $40." She said she would start the process for me to receive a second check for $5.34. "It will be issued within 45 business days." Since cellular telephony sounds like an original recording of Thomas Edison (but, hey, 5G is coming! CandyCrush is gonna be so freakin' fast!), she was hard to understand. I asked, "Did you say 'four to five' or 'forty-five'?" She confirmed that she had said 45. From when? From yesterday.
Why so long? "All refunds take 45 days to process." Why did the man in November tell me it would be a week? And why were we more than 45 days out from August, when my initial refund was supposed to be issued? She didn't know.
I asked, "AT&T took my money for a service they never provided, and have refused to return it for six months, now. At what point can we say that AT&T has stolen my money?" She didn't have an answer. I said, "We're dealing with long enough of a period of time now that I have concerns about inflation and foregone interest. When I finally get my $40 back from you, it will have less purchasing power than when you took the $40 six months ago. I will have been forced to give AT&T a zero-interest loan." She read her script for expressing empathy and reiterated that, sometime in early March, I should receive a check for $5.34 that AT&T stole from me the previous July. I told her, "Can you please note or pass along that I will never be an AT&T customer as a result of this experience? Six months ago, I wanted to be your customer, but now I will make sure that that never, ever happens." She said she'd pass that along. I didn't ask if she would wait 45 business days to get the ball rolling on that message.