Thursday, June 23, 2011

How I Got AT&T and Samsung to Show Me the Money!

att_sucks Let me start with:  Pay the extra $5.00 every month for cell phone insurance; it's cheaper than Xanax!

Well, it's been nearly a year since I have had any major disputes with my wireless carrier (AT&T); pretty amazing, considering my overall experience with them as a longtime customer. 

After months of research, in August 2010, I purchased a Samsung Galaxy S Android Captivate phone.

About two months after purchasing the phone, I noticed what folks are terming "screen burn" or "screen burn-in" on my phone display.  Remnants of my applications, battery indicator, signal strength indicator, time of day (you name it) are forever burned into the display of a phone that I paid nearly $200 for (and retails now for around $450).

I started researching the issue online and found hundreds of reports in the reputable tech forums, such as Android Forums, ADA Developer, etc.  Other folks were experiencing the same problem with the AMOLED or Super AMOLED displays on their cell phone, no matter the carrier.  (Please see references at the very end of my blog for links to the forums and articles with detailed info on this topic.)

At first I thought the screen burn was something that I was responsible for, like charging the phone too long, having the display on a lot (even at dim level), etc.  But when I got anal about unplugging the phone as soon as it was fully charged, reducing my "display time" each day, and double-checking to make sure it was on "auto dim," the problem still became worse each and every month.

A few months back I showed the phone to a rep at an ATT store and she said, "Yeah, that's not right, I'm sure our warranty department will fix it, but you have to go to a special ATT store for same-day exchange, transfer of data from one phone to another," etc.  That "special store" was at least 80 miles away and I didn't care to make a 160-mile round trip.

My friends think I'm kidding when I tell other ATT customers to always take at least one Xanax an hour before calling ATT Customer Service and literally plan to spend one, two, or even up to three hours on the phone with reps, supervisors, or even the Office of the President at ATT.

I called ATT about a month ago regarding my Captivate and was transferred to the Warranty Department and she confirmed the information what was told to me by the ATT store rep. 

I said, "Don't you still drop-ship new phones to customers who have a broken phone under warranty so they aren't stuck without a phone?" 

To my surprise (and dismay) the lady in ATT Warranty said, "We don't do that anymore, sorry."  Silly me, I took her word for it.  Ends up, I find out later, she was wrong.

In addition to the ongoing display problem, the earphone plug started crapping out on me in late May, so I figured I better get the phone exchanged because it will be out of warranty this August. 

Based on previous information given to me, I played it safe and upgraded the second line I have for a colleague and paid cash out of pocket for a new Captivate ($135, including tax).  After I placed that order (on June 7), I called 611 from my phone to make sure I am prepared before my new phone arrives to follow the proper procedures for swapping numbers to different SIM cards because when you upgrade one number and install a SIM from another number, it can create problems.

I forgot to take my own advice (regarding Xanax) before calling 611, but ended up with a very nice and competent rep, which helped.  I told her my saga, and she said, "What Warranty told you a few months ago is not correct.  We still drop-ship phones to customers and then they have 14 days to return the damaged phone to us under warranty." 

She even double-checked on her computer and confirmed that the policy had not changed.  When she connected me with a Warranty rep, she again confirmed with that rep that the policy had not changed.

While the original rep stayed on the line, the Warranty rep asked me to describe the problems with my phone.  She put me on hold, came back on the line and says, "Sorry, that's not covered.  When you go to the Market Place and download apps, things can happen to your phone" blah blah blah. 

I quickly interrupted her and said, "What does the Google Market Place have to do with whether screen burn is covered under warranty," and she gave me another song-and-dance number.

I told her I had seen hundreds of apparently reputable posts on tech and cell phone forums online (including ATT's own forum) and she said, "We don't pay attention to what people post in forums."  "Okay," I thought to myself; whatever.

I told her this was unacceptable, that ATT is basically saying I did something to cause the problem on my phone, which is not the case; that it is clearly a known issue and they (and/or Samsung) should cover the phone under warranty. 

She called Samsung while the original rep and I chatted.  During that hold time, the rep credited my ATT wireless account for $55.00 for the inconvenience of the whole thing and waived the $18.00 upgrade fee I had to shell out for a new phone because of no fault of my own.

The Warranty rep came back on the line and said, "I just spoke to a rep at Samsung Warranty and they say screen burn isn't a known issue and they won't cover the repair or replacement, so there's nothing we can do about it at AT&T."  She sympathized with me and agreed it didn't sound like I damaged the phone in any way, but the warranty language is very clear about all of this stuff.  Yeah, I thought to myself, it's clear if you're an attorney.

I then said, "Well, what about the earphone jack being broken by no fault of my own.  Can I at least get that fixed under warranty?"

She said, "No, you can't.  If we send that phone in for repair under the warranty for the earphone jack and Samsung sees screen burn, which they don't cover, they won't fix the earphone jack."  She said they would also charge me the retail price of the phone if they repair or replace anything that is not covered by the warranty.
I was thinking to myself, but didn't tell the rep, "Is this where I hire a class action attorney?"

So we dumped the Warranty rep from the line and the original rep and I chatted.  I asked her to escalate this higher and a very nice supervisor came on the line.  He also sympathized with my plight, but said I would have to take it up with Samsung directly, there was nothing ATT could really do at this point. 

When I pressed him about me having to shell out money for an upgrade that I really shouldn't have had to do, he gladly credited my wireless account another $50.00, so that plus the other credits nearly covered my out-of-pocket expense for the new Captivate.  I thanked him and told him the original rep went above and beyond the call of duty and to please put a commendation in her file.

I then called Samsung and explained the entire situation to the first rep who answered (he clearly was an outsourced worker in some distant land) and he said, "No problem, we will fix your problems with your phone; I am issuing an RMA number and a free shipping label which will come to you via e-mail."  I told him "thanks" and that I wanted to speak with a supervisor so that hopefully the screen burn issue would be properly handled in the future by ATT Warranty AND Samsung Warranty departments; other consumers shouldn't be put through this nonsense.

He transferred me to a supervisor and that person promised they would make a note, blah blah blah.

About a week after shipping my phone to Samsung, I received it back, expertly repaired with a NEW display, touchscreen and earphone jack.  As such, the phone qualifies as “refurbished by manufacturer,” so I can fetch a decent price for it on eBay; sweet!

Since screen burn is obviously a "known issue" with phones (and even TVs) that have this type of display, I recommend that everyone who invests good money in a smart phone take out the $5.00 monthly insurance plan because then NO MATTER WHAT, even if you drop the phone in a swimming pool or toilet or throw your phone at Donald Trump, you get a replacement phone without dickering around for hours, days, or weeks with ATT and/or Samsung!

I'm not sure it was worth the aggravation, but I did get what was owed to me and then some.  ATT reimbursed most of my new phone replacement expense and Samsung restored my broken phone to original working condition free of charge. 

When a consumer has reasonable issues with a company, it is important to never take "no" for an answer.  Just be patient, keep taking it up the ladder from supervisor to supervisor; threaten to take your business elsewhere; or, if relevant, tell them you are calling the tech journalists at the major newspapers about the problem.

Last June when I had an issue with ATT changing my data plan without proper notification, as soon as Rob Pegoraro, then a tech journalist at the Washington Post, contacted the spokesperson for ATT, I heard right back from the Office of the President at ATT.  I just learned that Pegoraro, a very talented journalist, parted ways with the Post in April of this year and is now with Discovery News.

Quite frankly, I would be happier if ATT wasn't the lowest-rated wireless carrier (per Laptop magazine and J.D. Power and Associates), but if they want to keep putting money in my pocket, I will tolerate when they craptivate on me.

Anyhow, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.


1) Wikipedia article "Organic light-emitting diode":
*includes link for "Screen burn-in"; article also refers to Samsung's screen.

2) Wikipedia article, "Active-matrix OLED":

3) Android Forums recent posts regarding screen burn-in:

4) XDA-Developers forum posts from owners of both the Samsung Captivate and Focus experiencing screen burn:

5) Burn-in on Nexus One Google phone:

6) Whirlpool forums re Galaxy S, which is the class of phones that Captivate, Fascinate, etc. belong to:

No comments: