About a month ago, my boyfriend's cell phone started acting up. We had been discussing whether we should get on a family plan together since we live together and are talking marriage and babies and all that lovey crap. So he went into TMobile to see if he was still on contract and lo and behold he was not.
Cue us ordering him a $20 refurbished iPhone 3GS from AT&T and trying to port his number as a second line on my plan. We get an email back the next day saying that the order failed due to porting problems, please call customer service.
My boyfriend is a species native to the lands of western Washington state in the big ol' city thereabouts. I moved here just over a year ago, but I am native to the lands of gangs and thugs and awesome farming, back there in the Mitten state. Which of course is where my phone number is, given that I opened my account 8 years ago.
Apparently in the land of the global economy and national service providers, AT&T has these things called "Markets." According to the rep with whom I spoke, these markets are based loosely on state and area code groups--sort of. In any event, if The Boy and I want to be on a family plan together, one of us has to change our number--me to a Washington number or him to a Michigan number, even if they are different area codes! Since he's never even seen my homestate it is obviously silly to have him change his number, and he has literally over a thousand people in his phone--many of whom he speaks with regularly.
I have a 10 year old former step-daughter who knows my cell number by heart, and whom I can't seem to get ahold of right now. She does occasionally call me, so it's important that I have the number she knows, especially since her bio-mom and current "step" mother keep taking away her address book. And that's the number the legal folks in her custody case calls me on when they need information on her childhood. And I have business cards from 6 years of business floating around, and it's bad for business to change numbers.
So yeah, number changes are not really viable options. Two different phone calls to AT&T, and it's determined that no, in fact, there is no way to get our two numbers on the same plan together. "The System" won't allow it. Crap.
We start looking into other options. I'm willing to pay for a VOIP service if I need to, but not too much--two smartphone plans are taxing to my budget, even if mine helps keep me employed. I'd go to Google but GoogleVoice doesn't port numbers [UPDATE: since the fiasco ended, I found out last night that Google now does in fact port numbers for a $20 fee. Better than $10/month!). Call # 3: But apparently they can't just change my number on the same contract, they have to cancel my contract for a fee to change my number, and they can't just do a seamless changeover when the porting happens from the VOIP. Double crap.
I call in to AT&T (#4 in about two weeks for those keeping count) to find out how much the cancellation fee is, because The Boy's phone is acting ALL WEIRD and we need to solve this now. Because it's an account cancellation question, I get sent to their Customer Retention dept. The rep tells me that SHE SHOULD NOT BE OFFERING THIS--which she stressed many times, and for which I expressed my heartfelt gratitude--but since I use my phone for business, maybe their business sales dept can help me, because they do have business plans with NATIONAL MARKET ACCOUNTS, which allow people to have two numbers in two different markets on the same account and family plan, because technically they aren't even different markets anymore.
Yes, "The System" is already in place to do what I want--they just choose not to allow it for their non-business customers.
I get transferred to business sales. And they transfer me to a different section of business sales. Who tells me that I need the main dept, because I'm calling on the weekend, so call back during regular East-Coast business hours.
Call #5: After getting all the information from me, they tell me that actually in order to give me a business account I need a tax ID number. Not having any idea how much that might cost me--in effort or money--because I have a very small sole proprietorship wherein I am my only employee, I say I'll have to look into that.
We amend the original plan. Now we will open a new account and we will BOTH get new phones (cuz mine is crapping out and I was thinking of replacing it soon anyway), and when that all goes through I will port the old number and cancel the old plan. Costs more, but I get what I want. I'll take it. But hey, because of my new second business (PartyLite, national direct selling company), I could get a discount on my service! So I click that link for more info, and a few days later we place the order. It cannot be placed because there is an issue with the porting, the number is not eligible. Even though it was like 20 days ago. WTF.
So I call the number they give me to call. Call #6! We're up to 3 weeks now! The woman who answers the phone says she is business sales, and I pause. I tell her a brief synopsis of the story, saying "I just need you to cancel the other porting request so I can make this plan happen, but I thought I didn't qualify for a business account and now I'm talking to you?" OH! Are you affiliated with PartyLite? Yes, because you get a business affiliation discount, you are automatically part of the business sales dept. And what you want to do is no problem, let me just get that set up for you.
Done. Porting request has been cancelled, account is set up properly with my regular phone number, all we have to do is place the order online (because refurbished phones are only available online) and no problem. I swear I clarified 3 times that I wasn't going to lose my number and this would all work. She was almost annoyed, but I did explain that this was call #6 and everyone had told me it was not possible. But it is! And they do it all the time!
We place the order online. It goes through! Our phones come in! They're pretty and shiny and they match so we need some cases but YAY! They activate! We have our regular numbers! We get the family plan set up and we're literally only paying $10 more a month than I was for my own line, now that we're not wasting minutes talking to each other.
tl;dr: AT&T has bad training practices and stupid systems, takes 6 calls and almost a month to get my family plan sorted out, and all I needed to do was say, "I'm with PartyLite!" at just the right moment.