AT&T was once a powerhouse of intelligence and technology. Yet at every turn, the company now known as “at&t” disappoints me further.

I have a residential phone line from AT&T so that I can get DSL from my very favorite ISP, sonic.net. This is pretty reliable, and inexpensive as well, only about $11 a month for basic phone line. I haven’t even bothered to plug a phone into the line.

Today I got an email from them notifying me that I have a balance due.

Dear Customer,

As of Saturday September 6 at 1 AM, your account had a balance due. This is a friendly reminder that a payment for telephone number ending in 1703 is due soon. If you have recently paid, please disregard this email. You can print a copy of your paper bill by selecting the link “View/Print copies of your paper bills” on the Account Manager Home Page.

If you have a past due amount, please pay that amount immediately. If your services have been or are scheduled to be disconnected for non-payment, please contact us today.

Many of our customers have told us that they enjoy AT&T eBill but have trouble remembering to pay the bill online. We realize some of you schedule your payments right before they are due using other online services. In that case, please disregard this email or stop receiving these reminder emails (Link below).

Bill Amount: $11.41

Account Balance: $11.41

Payment Due Date: September 11, 2008

To make an online payment now, log in to [http://www.att.com/accountmanager AT&T Account Manager]

The first sentence says that my account had a balance due this morning at 1 AM. However, as stated later, it is due on September 11, not today. So I’m a little confused, but okay.

So I clicked the link to the Account Manager. And I got this page:

The AT&T Account Manager

The email shows that they have enough information about me to know my account balance and part of my phone number. But now I have to tell them what type of account I have and where I am? Why wasn’t that part of the link they sent me?

So I can’t use my browser’s ability to enter my username and password information, because there’s no login form.

They could combine the login forms of the different regions, or even just providing enough information in the link they send me. But instead I get to waste my time making me provide them information about me that they already had.

So I closed that window and used my trusty 1Password Bookmarks window to load the real login form and log me in.

But the story does not end there. Oh no.

I decided to pay the $11 using my stored credit card. The one that I’ve been using to pay this bill for more than a year now. And yet, they make me enter my credit card “Security Code”.

First of all, I’ve asked them to store the number so that I won’t have to pull out the card every time I make a payment! Why don’t they store that bad boy so I don’t have to go look it up?

Requiring the security code is a method of making sure that I have the real card in my hand, and that makes sense for random purchases.

  • I’m paying a phone bill!

  • They know who I am!

  • They know where I live!

  • My name is on the credit card!

  • And I’ve used it every single month for over a year!

I’m left with the impression that AT&T doesn’t care a lick for their customer’s time. Either that, or they are so completely incompetent that they don’t even see these problems.

Next up: AT&T can’t figure out how to send MMS messages to the iPhone.