When Apple Customer Service Got It Wrong – And AT&T Got It Right – WTF


A new IPhone is released.  A boy has an upgrade on his contract.  It is a match made in heaven – until it isn’t.

Before I start let me give you some back story.  I am an Apple loyalist – my Apple Household resume :

  • 1 First Gen Mac Mini from 2005 (currently still running and mimicking as an Apple Time Machine on our home network).   It is a decade old and still humming along.
  • 2x iPhone 3GS
  • 1x iPhone 4
  • 2x iPhone 4s
  • 2x iPhone 5s
  • 2x iPhone 6s (the story you are about to read)
  • 2x Apple TV (plus 2 more as a gift)
  • 3x iPads (Plus 2 More as a gift)
  • 4-5 iPods of various types
  • 3x MacBook Pros

If you are an Android loyalist – I am deeply entrenched and happy with my platform choice.  I don’t need conversion therapy I used to be a Windows loyalist, but obviously I have since been converted.  I still heavily use Windows as part of my employment, it just isn’t my personal preference.   All the equipment above still works (with the exception of 1 broken iPod mini).  This is the real reason I stick with Apple, I could burn through a Windows laptop in under a year unless I was buying in the same price range as a Macbook Pro anyways.  For my equipment durability there isn’t much of an Apple tax, I’m paying for quality over simple hardware specs.

I thought this preamble to the story would be fair.   Otherwise most the responses would likely be “screw apple”, “you paid too much”, or “you are an idiot”.  Of course, that last one will still likely be the case.   I’m not an Apple apologist.  I am just aware what works for me.  Now, we can move into the story.

I was excited when the iPhone 6s was announced last month.   It wasn’t any particular spec about the phone I was excited for. My old phone was having issues with volume on phone calls.   The last few months I pretty much had to move to speaker phone for my calls.   I tried different methods to fix it, but nothing worked.   It was working well enough that I was going to wait until my contract was up (October 4th) and just buy the latest version.   My life is filled with so many conference calls, a well working phone is extremely important.  The other features were just gravy.

I had a business trip on October 6th and would be driving past an Apple Store on the way to the office.  I thought this would be the best time to stroll in upgrade my phone and go about my day.   I knew which one I wanted, the 6s in Space Grey and a 128GB of space.   This in theory should cost me 399 with a two-year contract renewal.  It wasn’t quite that easy though.

I was worried about a couple things though.  The first was that most cell phone companies have removed the upgrade phone discount.  You now had to finance it through the company at an additional cost.  In the past this cost was included in your bill in a way you could not see.   This is why cell phone plans have gotten “cheaper” recently.  Since companies are separating the phone cost from the bill this reduces the amount of the bill by about $20-30.00.   You then purchase into one of the 0% financing plans for the hardware.   This normally makes the overall bills you pay each month higher than previously.  You do have the advantage of yearly upgrades.   Apple announced this year that you can finance the phone through them at 0% (with additional charge over the phone price since it includes Apple Care).   AT&T and Verizon are the only companies left doing the old upgrade method.

I arrived at the Apple Store at 11AM.  One of the greeters had me about 15 minutes before someone could come over and help me.  When they came over I gave my specs and said I wanted to use my upgrade.   This is where things went wrong.   It seems that Apple has stopped accepting the upgrades in the store.   He then wanted me to switch plans.   I’m grandfathered into unlimited data and I wasn’t going to lose that.   I also would either have to buy the phone out right (849.00) or use one of the financing plans.   He then tried to use the spiel that carriers hide the upgrade cost of the phone into the monthly fee.   He said I was a sucker for using the old method and I should change (so he could sell me the phone).   I stated that with my upgrade I could get the phone for 399.00 and my monthly fee wouldn’t change.   For both the house iPhones we get unlimited everything for 75.00 – with the monthly phone fee (if I did financing) it would be higher than it currently is.  The salesman said he understood because of the unlimited data and let me on my way.   At no point did he concede that even without unlimited data my monthly cost would be cheaper.

I went over the AT&T store.   They were helping a couple other people.  Once again the salespeople were trying to sell them on a separate phone financing and separate service plan.  I rolled my eyes and listened, because I knew I had an upgrade.   The sales people made their sale, but said the phone was on backorder.   I left without going further.

I went to another mall that was on the way to office.  I stopped by the AT&T store at this one.   I simply asked if they had phones in stock, they didn’t.   Best Buy mobile was across the way, so I headed over to there.   I had to wait again until a salesperson was free, but in the interim they had the phone in stock and set it aside.   They originally told they could do the upgrade.   When they started entering the information, they said I could not use the reduced cost.   The reason was that I had unlimited data.   Because of this I had to buy the phone outright and then AT&T takes a portion off of my bill (reverse financing).   I said no thank you and moved along.   This may have been a good option, but since I never heard of this actually reducing someone’s monthly bill – I passed.

Making it into the office after lunch I went to the AT&T website and ordered my phone.   I noticed that the total I got was 150.00 more than the upgrade.  I was still saving 300.00 so I went and ordered the phone from the website.  Once it arrived we realized I ordered it on my wife’s account.  Since she wasn’t due for an upgrade, this is where the additional cost was from.   Now that most carriers are getting rid of subsidized phones, we decided to order her a new one also.   This one I managed to get with the right upgrade for 399.00.   In the end we managed to get two new phones for 100.00 more than the single phone would have cost me at the Apple Store or Best Buy Mobile.

The real kicker to this story is while I have the corporate discount on my plan – for being a loyal customer AT&T reduced the data plans by 25% on each line.   This makes my monthly unlimited everything plan 68.00.  At the end while Apple tried to tell me how much money I would be throwing away, I saved on both phone lines for the monthly cost and a total of 700.00 off the phones.  If you have an AT&T upgrade and want a new iPhone, make sure you order it directly through AT&T the first time.   This will save you the hassle and run around that I had to deal with.