Q. Hi, I heard of you through a woman at my bank. I have a problem with AT&T. The company (in November) hooked up the account number to an account that I didn't want to use to pay my bill. I pay my bill through an app on my iPhone. It took talking to at least three or more customer service representatives to find out that I had to delete the app and start over the next time I pay my bill. I created a case with AT&T on Nov. 30, 2010, to get the payment problem solved. To this day, the problem has not been resolved. I've now sent in two bank statements showing where my account was put in the negative -- $86.37 -- by their system running a payment I didn't authorize (my overdraft protection tried to cover the charges). Please help!
-- Dari DennisA. I contacted Seth Bloom, who handles blogger relations for the company, all the way back on Feb. 7. It took him a week to get back to me, but when he finally did, he said he would send your issue to the company's social media care team and ask that they look into it.
Ten days later, after a bit more prodding, I finally heard that they'd tried to contact you -- twice by phone, once by email -- and this time, you hadn't gotten back to them. (Side note: Please, if you have a dispute with a company and you're given the opportunity to talk to someone directly -- without waiting on hold or dialing through the maze that most companies put up when you call customer service -- take advantage of it.)
However, as you know, they were finally able to get in touch. Bloom was unable to share the details of what transpired for privacy reasons, but you were able to share with me that the company has credited $51.50 to your account.
I asked Bloom twice for a few tips for AT&T for customers who are using apps like yours to pay their bills, but he didn't respond by press time. I have a couple suggestions for you, though:
- Pay your bill on line. Use the company's website or your bank's bill pay service from now on. AT&T's interface is fairly simple, you can change your payment method each time if you prefer, and you'll be able to make doubly sure that you're using the correct account. In a lot of cases, apps make life easier, but sometimes, you're better off doing things the old-fashioned way (hard to believe that paying a bill online could now be considered old-fashioned).
- Drop that overdraft protection. This is offered by banks as a service, but it really costs you money. Instead of allowing those charges to be declined, your bank covered them, then charged you for the pleasure – likely to the tune of $30 or $35. Call up your bank and turn off this feature. Next time, your card may be declined if you don't have the money to cover a charge, but you'll save that bank fee.
Consumer Ally problem solver Jean Chatzky is the "Today Show" financial adviser, a longtime financial journalist and best-selling author.