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It Ain't Fair----It Just Ain't Fair
To view just the PPS click here.
On May 18, 1999, we purchased our Nokia cellular phone and hooked up with AT&T one rate. It was one of the happiest days of our full-timing life. For ten years I had had to try to do business by pay phones. So many times I would call a newspaper hoping to talk with an editor about doing a story on us only to get their voice mail and the greeting that ended with "leave your number and we will call you right back." There is no calling back a pay phone in the middle of nowhere or anywhere especially when I wouldn't be there. Our motorhome would be down the road never to stop at that particular pay phone again.

I knew that AT&T required that anyone requesting their one rate plan had to live in an area where the plan was available. We had been spending winters in Mesa, Arizona, (one of their areas) for three winters and planned to keep returning. We paid an annual rate for our site so no one else could have it; we had a land line telephone (for those months we were there) and paid our own electric bill for our site. I could prove that we lived there most of the time. In fact, in 1997 and 1998 we spent 8 months on that very site---the same one we have now. 

So what's the problem? On May 17 (my birthday) we were out enjoying a lovely day driving along the coast; it was my day for anything I wanted. As always I had the cell phone with me and when it rang I thought it was someone wishing me a Happy Birthday. It was a recorded message from AT&T saying that the person to whom the cell phone is registered needed to call an 800 number to answer some questions about eligibility for their one rate service. 

I figured it would be no problem and called. First she wanted to verify our address and she rattled off the Livingston, Texas, address. Right away I stopped her and said, " NO, that is a mail forwarding address only and we haven't even been there for seven years." When I gave her our Mesa address she said that they would need two pieces of identification to prove we "lived" there. Then she mentioned what would be acceptable---driver's license, tax statement, credit card, electric bill, telephone bill or a lease agreement if it was recent (no older than 45 days). 

I said that would not be a problem except we had just paid the phone and electric bill and I would have to get a copy from those utility companies. She said I had until June 14 to FAX the documents to them. She asked if these documents would be in Ron's name (he gets the bill for the cell phone) and a shock ran through me. The U.S. West bill happens to be in my name and has been for three years. It just happened that way. She told me that that would not be acceptable. I then suggested that I could send a copy of our marriage certificate. No, that wasn't acceptable either. "Why?" I asked. She said that Ron was the responsible party for the cell phone and had to be on the utility bills. I assured her that if Ron didn't pay AT&T would come after me but she denied that. By the way, our U.S. West account always listed AT&T as the long distance carrier, but that didn't matter either since it was in my name.

So now we don't have the two pieces of ID that they need. They will not accept our paid up rent on our site for the year either. It ain't fair; it just ain't fair.

I called U.S. West and asked them to change the name on our account and she laughed and asked why. When I told her, she couldn't believe it and added that if I didn't pay they would come after Ron. I was lucky; the newest bill was just going out and if all goes well I will have the bill with both of our names on it in time. If it doesn't get lost in the mail etc., etc. In addition we have just gotten a new credit card with the Mesa address (AT&T charges our current card which is in both our names, but with the Livingston address). Isn't it funny that we can get a credit card (platinum at that) at the Mesa address without proof of residence, but not a cell phone. 

But all of this got me really angry; I feel like I am fighting for my life. I thought I had better find someone at AT&T and interview them for a story and get all the facts for you guys. 

After many attempts to find a media person, I was directed to Dan Youman at 1-425-580-4752. After I introduced myself I told him how we live and about the numbers of us who live this way and what I had written about the one rate plan in the book. Then I told him I had to update our facts because of all of our friends who are losing their phones. I didn't tell him that I was one of them because I just wanted an interview.

He explained that they were losing money on the one rate plan. AT&T had figured that most who sign up for the one rate would use the phone in their area and seldom, if ever, leave the home area and roam. It is the roaming charges which are hurting AT&T because they have to pay other carriers. I understood that so far. 

He continued that they needed a requirement for one to be eligible for the plan and that would be that one would have to "live" in the AT&T area. I stopped him and asked what the definition of "live" is. He couldn't answer me. I prompted him with several more questions on the subject like---Does one have to own a home in an area to be considered? He said, "No." I asked if one can one live in an apartment or a summer cottage or a winter place and he agreed that those would be okay. When asked about one who traveled all the time but really does have a home in an AT&T area (like our Kurt who lives on a plane and is only home one day a week). Well he thought that would be okay. I asked him to please call our voice mail and leave me a message with their definition of "live." That was three days ago and I haven't heard from him. I even called him back and he said he hadn't had a chance to talk with the person he needed to get that information from. 

Call around and find someone other than AT&T; they are out there with good plans. Competition is working. But as for us we have invested in a phone and email cables which only work with AT&T's one rate (over $600 worth) and because we really do "live" in Mesa, we are fighting. I will keep you posted.

Note from Ron: If I owned stock in AT&T, I would be concerned about the quality of management.

P.S. May 30th.

I got a reply from Mr. Don Youmanns with the official defination of "live" as it pertains to their requirements for the One Rate plan. This is what he said.

"Basically, you need to have a permanent, fixed residence in an AT&T coverage area to qualify for AT&T Digital One Rate.  A Post Office Box does not qualify.  We verify people's residences with utility bills, lease agreements, etc.  We don't require a specific amount of time for a person to spend at their residence, however, or to use the service in their home area.  Hope this helps."

The article in the last Escapees magazine stated that one would need to use the phone in their home area for 6 months. THIS IS NOT TRUE. I gave Dan an example by mentioning Ron's son Kurt who has the AT&T one rate plan on his cell phone and is only home one day a week (he travels constantly in his work). Dan said that would be okay if he met the LIVE IN THE AREA requirements.

So if you want to get an AT&T one rate, get a credit card with an address in the area you want and DO NOT give them the mail forwarding address (especially Livingston). We have already applied for a new credit card with the Mesa address and will have them use that card and address for billing from now on. You will also need one other form of proof. Take your pick. 

PPS from June 11

We had sent them a copy of the electric bill and they accepted that, but the phone bill was the problem since it was in my name. On May 17 we had US West change the name on the bill to include both of us, but the bill didn't go out until May 19 and didn't arrive at the Mesa address until May 24. In the meantime, I had tried to have US West fax us a copy of the bill, but it was against their policy. I signed up to check our account through US West's web site and printed out the current bill which had both of our names on it. We faxed that to AT&T and they wouldn't accept that because it came from the computer. They needed the actual bill which was somewhere in transit to our mail forwarding service in Livingston. I kept calling SKPs to see if the bill had arrived yet and finally on Monday June 5, the bill was there. Rather than have them overnight it to us, we asked them to fax the entire bill to AT&T and I gave them the information for the fax cover sheet.

The bill was faxed on Monday June 5 and on Wednesday (they make you wait 24 hours while someone evaluates the document and gives a thumbs up or down) I called to see if we were okay. I called three times; each time I was told that it hadn't been evaluated yet. Finally late in the evening I was told that It had been turned down. Imagine my shock. They said that the phone bill did not include our address so it wasn't acceptable. I told them to check the bill I had sent earlier which was in my name and they would see it was the same account. No deal. They shred the documents as soon as they are evaluated. If any of you are a US West customer, look at your bill. The address is on a side perforated tab and I thought that perhaps SKPs (when faxing the bill) had that flap turned under or something. So I called SKPs early Thursday morning and asked them to fax the bill again. And I made sure that they knew that the address had to show. With this I felt very confident and set out to wait 48 more hours. 

When I called on Saturday, June 10 I really felt it was just a formality. I just needed to know that all was well. Yes, they had received the newest fax and it still wasn't acceptable because the address didn't show. And the young man added that since we have faxed the phone bill several times, we wouldn't be able to use that as documentation any longer; we would have to use some other proof. I was livid. I told him that the address was in fact showing on the bill and that they were playing games. I asked to speak with a supervisor. He said, that they would tell me the same thing and he refused to put me through to anyone else. We talked more and got nowhere. I demanded again that I speak to a supervisor and he finally relented. 

Marie came on the line and she was not understanding my situation. I tried to explain that I knew the address was on the bill and apparently they didn't want us as customers.  She insinuated that perhaps I had tried to manipulate the phone bill and they could tell. I tried again, this time speaking very softly and slowly. I described the phone bill and said that the address isn't up at the top where the name is. Finally she eased up a bit and said that I could call back Monday and that the people who review the documents could maybe check to see if that document had been shredded yet and she agreed that I could send it again, but somehow I knew that wouldn't help. Monday would be only 48 hours from my deadline. I felt trapped---like I was in a nightmare I couldn't get out of; no one believed me.

I talked more in a very calm manner (I don't know how I did that) and suddenly she asked if she could put me on hold. I waited and waited, wondering what punishment was coming next. When she returned she said that she found the fax of the phone bill and said that she saw an address of 1452 S Ellsworth in Mesa. I cheered. Yes, that is our address. I said that the address probably showed the first time.  She didn't agree or apologize or anything, but kept on going in an accusing manner. "Well this is only one proof; we need two." I explained that long ago the electric bill had been accepted. She put me on hold again and when she returned, she sounded like the cat that ate the canary. "Yes, you meet the requirements and I will up date the information in your account."  That was it.

I did ask if we will have to go through this same hassle annually and she thought not, but wasn't sure. I used to like AT & T and always used their long distance service. I don't like them anymore, but I am going to continue to use this one rate and use it a lot. 

July 19, 2000 

An assistant to the CEO of AT&T called me today to apologize for the terrible treatment I received in regards to our legality in being able to have a one rate phone. I had written a letter to the CEO and was very pleased to hear from someone upstairs in that company. I told them I would certainly accept the apology if they would learn from the three big mistakes they made with us.

The good news is that they just bought the Houston area which should eliminate any further problems with the one rate plan and those of us who get our mail in Livingston.

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