“I am not doing your job for you”

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Every now and then, a case crosses my desk that makes me wonder if we’re going about this in the wrong way. Tammy Almzana’s complaint against U-verse — and me — is one of them.

Almzana had what looked like a valid grievance, but there were a few things missing. When I asked her to fill in the blanks, she … well, I’ll get to that in a second.

Let’s start with the problem. Let me just hand her the mic.

We signed up with U-verse either June or July 2015. We have only had 1 maybe 1 1/2 months of uninterrupted service. We are constantly losing our phone and Internet. We lost over a week in November during Thanksgiving.

I call and call and call. I even called the president’s office. I told them in December when I lost a $350 sale (I work from home) because I couldn’t place my orders. It is a constant battle. I have a letter from AT&T letting me out of my contract because they can’t fix it.

I told them I wasn’t paying my bill and they took it out of my account in December. Now they’ve got their money and I haven’t got any service.

What can I do to get my money back? They breached their contract and even threatened collections. Since Jan. 21, we have had no service and they are kicking us to the curb. They won’t send anyone out anymore to fix it. But they want me to pay and send their equipment back. Please advise me, sir.

AT&T is not holding up their service agreement. I keep getting interrupted service all the time. They have not provided what is in our contract, so I want my money back for a service I never got.

Sounds pretty bad. But, of course, we don’t have AT&T’s side of this story yet, so maybe it’s a little too early to form an opinion.

I sent Almzana my standard reply, politely asking for a paper trail. And there’s one very specific request:

When you send me your paper trail, please click “reply” to this message and then paste all of the relevant messages, preferably in text-only format, in the email. That will create a thread that I can then send to a company.

I have my reasons for doing it like this. A paper trail is almost always mandatory, because I need to see that a customer like Almzana has gone through all the right steps to resolve a problem. The paper trail also contains important information, like account numbers, that make it easier to find her records.

But why the specific formatting request? Well, imagine you’re me and you’re handling a dozen new cases a day, sometimes more. If a customer like Almzana randomly forwards an email to me without any context, over a period of a day, it’s going to get lost. If it doesn’t, then I’ll have to do a monumental cut-and-paste maneuver to get everything in a single email, which I can then forward to my contact at AT&T.

If Almzana just replies to the thread with her correspondence, Gmail threads it automatically. Problem solved.

Here’s what happened next. I’ll just play the tape:

Almzana: Actually, I have a lot of recordings and a video recording of how my services aren’t working and recorded phone calls.

Me: Do you have anything in writing with your account number on it, so we can help AT&T find all of the relevant information? That would help.

Almzana: The only thing I have is a letter from AT&T saying that if I leave them before my contract is up, I won’t have early termination fee. I don’t know how they can cancel the contract when I have a signed contract with them they are to provide a service and I haven’t gotten what I have paid for. I should be able to get an email from them regarding the problems I have had and my constant calling.

Me: Could you please reply to this email with the first letter? I’ll do my best to help.

Almzana: Never mind! this is a pain in the butt… “please reply here, please reply this way.” I am not doing your job for you.

She really told me, didn’t she?

I dismissed her case. But here’s the soul-searching part: Am I making it too difficult for consumers to get help? I mean, consider all the hoops they have to jump through before I get involved.

  • Filling out a form, which requires that you give this site the right to publish your story.
  • Generating a paper trail of your efforts to resolve this problem through regular customer service channels. Yes, even if most of your interactions were by phone.
  • Sending us said paper trail as a threaded email, rather than forwarding the case to us in bits and pieces when it suits you.

Are we really forcing consumers to do all the work?

After some reflection, I think the answer is “no.” Personally, I believe Almzana didn’t have a strong case and it’s quite possible she wanted to use a consumer advocate to cudgel her way into an undeserved refund. At least that’s how I interpret her hostile reaction.

But I could be wrong. Maybe I am asking too much of readers who want my help.

Then again, maybe not. Maybe that neatly-threaded paper trail is what’s separating a “problem solved” from a “case dismissed.”

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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  • MF

    Chris, it’s difficult doing your job as a consumer advocate with imperfect information. Perhaps she was just too frustrated with it all to comply with your request, but your rules benefit both you and the person in need of help. From reading her side of the story, it seems that her understanding of how things work is a bit skewed?

  • polexia_rogue

    Me: Could you please reply to this email with the first letter? I’ll do my best to help.

    Almzana: Never mind! this is a pain in the butt… “please reply here, please reply this way.” I am not doing your job for you.

    __________
    I work in retail and if I asked for a receipt or the card used to pay for the item (that i need to DO my job) and the customer said ” I am not doing your job for you.”

    I would assume she is a LIAR, trying to pull a fast one.

  • AAGK

    I am speechless. Now at least we understand why all the communication companies cut her off. She is impossible to help. I can only imagine her call to the companies.

  • JewelEyed

    If this is your job, how much is she paying you for it, Chris? Anyone who is that rude when someone offers you free help needs to go kick rocks.

  • Don Spilky

    This. ‘Nuff said.

  • Chris_In_NC

    “Almzana: Never mind! this is a pain in the butt… “please reply here, please reply this way.” I am not doing your job for you.”

    Are you kidding me? If this is the attitude that is displayed while asking for FREE help from a consumer advocate, I can only imagine the interaction with CSR agents are like. If I am asking for assistance from a consumer advocate, my expectation is that the consumer advocate would require me to produce a “paper trail” of communication to show that I have attempted to solve the problem. Sheesh!

  • Chris_In_NC

    “I work in retail and if I asked for a receipt or the card used to pay for the item (that i need to DO my job) and the customer said ” I am not doing your job for you.””

    +100000

    Not 100% sure I agree with her being a LIAR. It strikes me as more of being entitled.

  • sirwired

    You aren’t a lawyer, an accountant, or a private investigator. If she wants something for free, she’s gonna have to do some of the legwork.

    On the actual case… Telling a company “I’m not gonna pay my bill” is very different from “I am cancelling service”. It sounds like she awarded herself a one-month credit instead of cancelling, was surprised when they didn’t agree to this, and is further surprised when they took the money they never said they wouldn’t take.

    If this is “her side”, which we can assume is most-favorable to her, I can only imagine what AT&T’s side of the story has in it!

  • My second thought about this was that if it were me asking for help, I’d do whatever it took to get you the info you needed. After all, you are doing this for free, so whatever was needed to help you get my money back would be done ASAP. And I’d be very grateful.

    My first thought about this case would never have passed the moderators. Let’s just say that if the OP isn’t willing to put out the effort, then you shouldn’t feel the need to worry about it.

  • Alan Gore

    The most effective consumer complaints are cases in which your recordkeeping is better than the company’s. Records you don’t have are presumed to not support your case.

  • John Baker

    My first thought after reading her response… “Hmmm and I wonder why she’s possibly having a issue with someone.”

    Asking someone to send you proof that they have taken reasonable steps to advocate from them self and so you can see the steps they have already taken isn’t burdensome.

  • Zod

    Some people are their own worst enemy and it is clear that this woman is high maintenance and rather clueless at that. The first red flag is that she was trying to use a residential internet service go run her business. I get that she was trying to save money, but there’s a reason why providers have a “business” class Internet service. She is also clearly never in the wrong…I’d hate to be one of her customers when somethhing unexpected happens!
    Finally, she is proof that bad things happen to some people for a reason. My suggestion is to just wash your hands of her. If she thinks that it’s not her place to provide you with necessary information, then leave. Some people don’t deserve to be helped.

  • JenniferFinger

    An accountant or a private investigator won’t take on the case for free. For that matter, neither would a lawyer – they get paid from the interest on trust accounts for taking on pro bono work.

  • sirwired

    I was not implying that a professional would do the case for free either.

  • JenniferFinger

    No, of course not. Any professional would require her to be in compliance with the rules and conventions of that profession – including providing all the paperwork to the professional in order to handle the case.

  • sirwired

    Retail Return Fraud is more common than you’d think. Any store manager for large chain stores with generous return policies can tell you about serial returners that also seem to never have their receipts, and endeavor to frequently return large amounts of easily-concealed merchandise for store credit.

    While you certainly can’t be certain a mean customer is trying to scam you, it’s not necessarily a bad guess based on the attitude of the customer.

  • Benjamin Barnett

    If you were charging, sure – but it’s her problem and you’re helping. Not too much to ask to get it in a standard format. She sure must not want her money back!

  • Grant Ritchie

    Hi Jeff,
    We moderate here, and in the forums, but our new cases arrive in something called the “raw feed.” They’re “triaged” by Chris and Lead Advocate Jessica Monsell, and I can tell you, those guys hate to turn anybody away. The “down” side of that generous attitude is that, from time to time, a customer suffering from an overload of entitlement expects Chris or Jess to do “everything” with “nothing,” and becomes pissy when that doesn’t happen.

  • Nathan Witt

    Not only are your requirements necessary to understand what has happened to date in an objective way when assessing a case, they also allow you to maintain your credibility with both corporations and your readers. If you start calling up AT&T and demanding fair treatment for this lady, only to discover that she deliberately misrepresented the situation and that AT&T had behaved fairly, they’re a lot less likely to take you seriously the next time you call. I know that advocating for consumers requires a delicate balance between righting wrongs and not letting people use you for their own personal vendettas, so by all means, ask for documentation. You’re doing a great job.

  • Bill___A

    Well it is probably between the two poll questions. But what is the success rate with these requests for a paper trail? Are they 90% completed without errors? 40%? That information would probably give more of an indication as to what the correct answer is.

    Some standardized instructions might help for those who don’t know how to do it.

    As to this particular case:

    ” I told them in December when I lost a $350 sale (I work from home) because I couldn’t place my orders. ” – so you don’t go out to a coffee shop, mall or store where there is free wi fi to place your orders if and when your internet is down? I have internet at home where I work from too, and I can assure you if it goes down, that is not going to stop me from doing my work!

  • judyserienagy

    Reading her communications to you and her subsequent reaction when you asked her for information and gave her instructions on submitting it, I can surely see why she’s having trouble with AT&T. Her life must be a total mess if this is the way she tackles problems. She oughta get together with the lady on the forums who was imprisoned by Royal Caribbean on a suicide watch, maybe they would understand each other.

  • KarlaKatz

    Good grief, I don’t think I’d want OP as my customer, that’s for sure. I’ve only had a few times when a paper trail was required, and doing the cut-and-paste myself was a breeze. And, making sure the oldest correspondence was FIRST, with all succeeding correspondence following, ensures a comprehensive timeline. One would think that assisting an advocate in this little way, is the least one can do. Only one word for this OP: “ingrate”

  • Peter

    Of all the entitled people out there, “I’m not going to do your job for you.” Wow.

    I for one am grateful for the work that Chris and everyone at the site do to help people. Without compensation. Thank you!

    And don’t let the occasional clueless poster get you down.

    Fatuus non carborundum (look it up).

  • joycexyz

    She won’t give any proof of her problem and her attempts to solve it? Sounds kind of fishy. People must realize that your (Chris’) credibility depends on having enough information to argue the case.

  • BMG4ME

    I agree with Bill. Also, while it’s painful to be told “it’s your job”, we have set ourselves up as advocates and whether or not we get paid for it, which we don’t, it is now our job because we’ve made it so!

  • Kristin Dzugan

    I haven’t submitted a case myself, so I don’t know, but when I read that it has to be in the form of a “threaded” paper I’m not sure I know what that means. Perhaps some readers aren’t as savvy about these things, and it’s just one more frustration. I would feel exasperated if I didn’t understand what I was being asked to do. But perhaps Chris makes it all very clear?

  • TobySparky

    And she says she’s in *sales*. Can you imagine being one of HER customers?!?!

  • 42NYC

    Chris, you do great work (though i admit i dont always agree with your position) and have helped a lot of people who needed it. You could ask them to only email you in Pig-Latin and it would be easonable-ray. You’re helping them, you set the rules.

    Further, you need to stay organized and you need complete information before you can proceed.

    Finally, i think its good that the process is a ‘little difficult.’ Weed out those who really dont care or have a fake/overly embellished story and focus on those in need.

    Keep up the good work.

  • 42NYC

    a friends mother in law is banned from Bed Bath & Beyond for taking advantage of their generous return policy. She doesnt steal, but has certainly bought items, used them for a few months and then returned them. Finally the store had enough and no longer wants her business.

  • 42NYC

    dont know if she’s necessarily lying but i do think Chris’ requirements do serve to weed out the liars.

  • 42NYC

    yup. working from Starbucks as I type since my internet is down today. Amazing.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Ha!
    Me, too. :-) And I’ll deny I said it, but they have surprisingly good coffee. I’m done with AT&T and Comcast. Just ordered a NetZero mobile hotspot to use with my devices, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.