Mark Brimm recently wrote a blog entry about AT&T and its failure to deliver on purchased search engine advertising:
So here’s the scoop. Basically, this all started back in about July of 2009, when I decided I would give AT&T’s online search a try. It started out kind of innocuously. $75/mo or so for their lowest level of service. And I mean low…I got no traffic whatsoever (unless you count a few clicks while speaking to the account rep on the phone!). Then I decided maybe I was just being cheap, so I slowly inched the account power up a notch little by little until I’m being billed for $300+/mo for a listing at the very top on a page that comes up for a loose group of very targeted local keyword phrases that my account rep assures me is being showered with over 1,000 visits per month.
Eventually, this became a billing issue. I told them I wanted out. They said that I had agreed to a year contract. I said I didn’t get what was stated in the contract. They said they’d send it to collections and it would then go on my credit report. I told them I’d file with the BBB, tell the world my story, and sue them if they did. They said “that’s fine”.
Maybe the representative didn’t grasp the concept of negative publicity. It’s kind of a sad state of affairs when it is typical for the “peasant level” employees of a company to be able to dismiss three threats (BBB, negative PR, and legal) with a simple “that’s fine.” At the least, a competent phone rep would at least escalate the call at this point. (Though, at some companies it’s policy to immediately disconnect the caller upon a legal threat and only communicate via surface mail from that point on. To be fair about it, at the point where Mark felt this necessary, he wasn’t losing much by this treatment, even if that was policy at AT&T which apparently it is not.)
Either way, AT&T didn’t deliver on the contract, and a contract works both ways. Most contracts involve payment for services rendered: customer pays, company provides services and/or goods. Services or goods are not due if payment is not received, and likewise, payment is not due if the provider fails to provide service/goods. It’s the latter part that companies like AT&T forget rather conveniently.
According to the comments on the post, Mark’s not the only one with trouble with AT&T’s advertising department; others recorded their tales of woe alongside his. This doesn’t bode well for the undoubtedly busy public relations department at AT&T. It also looks bad when Mark’s account representative is difficult to contact, which I will concede may be unintentional. But under the circumstances, it’s still damned suspicious.