Customer service too good to be true: ATT and Audiovox

I’m in a mood to rant about poor customer service experiences I’ve had lately.  Since one of them is about Apple, I figured I better start by posting the other one, which is related to Microsoft technology.

Back in November, I bought an Audiovox SMT 5600 smartphone through my cell carrier, AT&T (now Cingular).  This is the first smartphone I’ve owned, and I’ve really enjoyed it.  Having access to my calendar, contacts and email with over the air synch has been a huge benefit for me.  But as it turned out, my particular phone wasn’t quite put together right.  There was some sort of shielding problem that caused a buzzing on most of my phone calls.  It got progessively worse after several months, so I figured I may as well get the thing repaired.

The 5600 comes with a year long warranty.  So I called the AT&T store from whom I purchased the phone.  They told me to call AT&T Wireless’s warranty department, and the warranty department, in turn, told me that AT&T isn’t responsible for the warranty, Audivox is.  Okay, next call goes to Audiovox warranty (800-229-1235, option 1, then 2, then 3).  The person who answers the phone is very nice, and tells me they have a deal that sounds too good to be true — for $20, they will overnight me a brand new phone, and then I can just send them back the old phone.  $20 for a brand new phone sounds like a nice deal, especially since I had already scratched my phone up a bit.  The other option would be for me to send my old phone in and wait for them to repair it and send it back.  The service agent lets me know that they usually turn around these phones in a day, so I would only be without my phone for a week, tops.

I took a couple days to ponder, and then decided to go with the $20 new phone deal.  It sounded too good to be true — and guess what, it was!  When I called back, they told me they were temporarily out of replacement phones.  Okay, could they tell me when more phones would be in?  Maybe in a couple weeks, they say.  Okay, can you reserve one for me and just send it to me once it’s in?  No, we have no way to do that.  Okay, can you call me when the new phones are in?  No, we have no way to do that.  You should just call back in a couple weeks.

This exact process repeated itself for over a month.  I’d call, they’d say they didn’t have any replacement phones, didn’t know when more would arrive, and couldn’t do anything to help me out.  It was starting to sound like this $20 replacement deal was around just to say they had a nice warranty policy, and it could never actually be used.

Eventually I broke down and mailed in my phone.  While I had been told it would take only a day to repair, they didn’t tell me that it would also take two days just to enter into the system once it arrived at the warehouse 😉  My week without a phone was starting to stretch into two weeks by the time they had finally looked at the phone and tried to diagnose it.

There is a good ending to the story — they decided the phone was defective, and sent me a new one at no charge.  So I ended up getting my new phone, but only after a long stretch of frustrating interactions with Audiovox.

Audiovox over promised and under delivered, and that counts as poor customer service in my book.

Comments (2)

  1. John Walker says:

    I give you props for even sending it to them. After your initial experience, I would have guessed that you wouldn’t get one back, especially since they don’t even manufacture the device. Glad you did, though.

  2. Jason Coyne says:

    I had a very simmilar experience, I will include my email to AT&T below!

    summary : phone crapped out, got crappy service, but eventually a new phone (but I had to pay). My phone actualy broke a second time, and I just went straight to audiovox. It will suck when starcom picks it all up, then we will be true orphans!

    — cut here —

    am a new customer to AT&T/Cingular, after being a long term (6+

    years) customer of Verizon. I have been waiting for some time for

    certain features in a phone, and AT&T came forward out with a phone

    that met those needs (namely, MS Smartphone, and bluetooth) in the

    Audiovox SMT 5600

    Actually, Cingular came out with a similar phone, the Motorola mpx220,

    however based on several reviews, I chose to go with the Audiovox.

    I purchased the phone on 10/24.

    I was very pleased. I got great customer service from the rep in the

    store (O—, in the —–, IA store) who answered my few

    remaining questions about the phone itself (he was using that same

    model as his own phone), and my questions about the available plans.

    I showed my phone off to everyone I work with, and got several people

    interested in potentially buying the same phone.

    This Sunday (10/14) my phone rang, and I pushed the answer button.

    The phone did not pick up the call, and the phone appeared to lock up.

    It would not respond to any button pushing, including trying to turn

    the phone off. The incoming call screen remained on the screen. I

    took the battery out of the phone, even with no power, the incoming

    call screen stayed up (Pretty impressive actually)

    I took my girlfriend’s phone (also an AT&T phone), and called 611, to

    get some help.

    They went through some things to try on the phone, and determined it

    was dead. They eventually told me to go back to the store, and get a

    replacement phone.

    I drove back to the AT&T store in the mall, and talked to a

    salesperson. While talking to that person, —came in, recognized

    me, remembered which phone I bought, and came over to ask if I was

    having a problem (So far, —-has been very helpful!)

    They said they did not have any more of those phones in stock, and

    would likely not get any more of them in ever, as due to the merger,

    that phone was being discontinued. This worried me, but then Omar

    called the —- —- office, and they had a phone in stock.

    —- said he would go to the —- —-store, and get the phone for

    me. He told me that he would likely not be able to get the phone for

    me until Tuesday. In the interim, he gave me a loaner phone (a

    significantly inferior model, but as a temporary measure, acceptable)

    and told me to come back Tuesday.

    I came back on Tuesday. —- was not there, but I talked to another

    salesperson. (I believe this guy was named —- , but I am not 100%

    sure) He told me —- had not brought in the phone, and since I did

    not have the box (which by the way, nobody ever told me that getting

    warranty was dependant on me having the box), I was pretty much SOL. I

    protested, and he called the —- —-office again, —- had not

    picked up the phone, and now the —- —- office was out of stock,

    and they would not be getting any more in.

    He told me to call Warranty Replacement. I asked for the number, and

    to use the in store phone. I then waited on hold for 50 minutes. 50

    minutes on hold is in itself quite infuriating. This brought the time

    to 9:10, and the store was closed. Jeremy told me I had to leave.

    I went home, and called the customer service number again.

    The first person I talked to tole me I had to go back to the store and

    have them replace it. I asked to speak to a supervisor. I then got

    —– who was very sympathetic, and said she would try to

    resolve the issue. She again tried some various technical things,

    which did not work, and then said we would need to do Warranty


    She put me on hold, and called Warranty Replacement for me. When she

    came back, she told me that Warranty was no longer handling this model

    of phone, but I could get any other phone I wanted from the store.

    I SWITCHED TO AT&T FOR THIS PHONE. And the store does not carry any

    equivalent phone (The Motorola, is apparently only carried in Best

    Buy, and is in the process of a recall)

    —- then said we could try some more advanced technical attempts to

    fix the problem. She then put me on hold for 30 minutes (In her

    defense, she did come back every few minutes and tell me it would be a

    few more minutes)

    In the end, I got disconnected from her. I think she may have gone

    the extra mile, and tried to call me back, because the loaner phone

    rang with a number, but when I tried to answer it, there was nobody on

    the other end. I called back the number, and it was cingular. I

    waited on the line again, got a first tier rep, asked to be

    transferred to —- several times (he stonewalled me on that, and

    tried to solve the problem himself) then got transferred to a

    supervisor again.

    I explained everything (AGAIN!) to the supervisor. —– said I needed

    to go back to the store!

    I stopped that entire line of dialogue in its’ tracks. She looked some

    stuff up and said, she could find no record of this phone being

    available, or of ever being available in the past!

    She told me warranty could give me a new phone, but that model and

    feature compatibility was not guaranteed.

    This is unacceptable, I bought the phone (and your service, and paid

    termination fees at Verizon, for these specific features).

    She then told me that I should call Audiovox myself, to see if they

    would replace it for me (under unspecified terms I might add). I did

    not buy my phone from Audiovox. I bought my phone from you.

    I am your core market. I buy high end phones, and lots of accessories.

    I use my cell phone as my only form of telephone. I upgrade almost

    every year to get more powerful phones (Which means I buy at full

    price!). I have a large network of friends and family, all with high

    disposable income (3 of which are already on AT&T, and several which

    are thinking of switching on my recommendation). My recommendation is

    rapidly changing.

    I fully realize that you are in a merger, which creates some

    confusion, but the level of service I got was unacceptable.

    I also fully realize that as part of a product lifecycle, different

    models go out of support. This is a phone that first became available

    less than two months ago, and that I purchased less than 30 days ago.

    There should be 0 issues getting support for this phone.

    Thus far my experience with AT&T/Cingular has been horrible, with

    occasional glimpses of light from Omar and Miriam. They should be

    rewarded for trying their best in a tough situation. But your

    processes and policies need serious rework.

    I want one of the following :

    Fix my phone.

    Give me a new Audiovox 5600 (amazon still has them on sale, buy one from them!).

    Give me an equivalent phone (MS smartphone 2003se,bluetooth, camera)

    Cancel my service, refund the price I paid for the phone, refund me

    for the features that I am paying for, but not able to use (unlimited

    data) and reimburse me for my early termination fees so I can go back

    to Verizon.

    Above all, let me talk to one person, who will take ownership of my

    issue, and not keep trying to pass me off in circles.