Suspicious, if not Fraudulent AT&T Rebates System

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Published on: July 24, 2009

I just posted my article about my bad experience with my new Nokia phone, which I returned to my wireless provider AT&T where I got it from, in exchange for a new iPhone that is currently on back order and hopefully ready for me to pickup and use in one, latest two weeks.att-logo-orange-trans

How about “Semi-Fraud”? 

I don’t know what word to use instead of fraud. Fraud implies illegal, what does not seem to be the case here. It might be illegal in Germany or other countries than the United States, but there is no indicator that I can see, which would indicate that it would be illegal here in the States as well. It is certainly suspicious and immoral at best. Beyond that it is up to you to decide what you want to call it or make out of it.

But I also don’t have too much nice to say about AT&T. The only people who seem to hold stuff together there are the folks on the “first line of defense”, the support guys who can only help as much as AT&T itself of the third party manufacturer of equipment are capable of.

“Heim ins Reich” or Something Like That

Some of the bull that comes with dealing with AT&T is the creation of some master-minds deep within the corporate headquarters of this juggernaut. AT&T was broken up once into smaller pieces, because it became so big that even the “pro-free-market” conservatives in the government knew that something had to be done.

That was several decades ago. My mobile phone provider used to be Cingular Wireless and my DSL (that I recently replaced with Fiber Optics) provider used to be Yahoo-SBC. They are all AT&T now.

This is just a note on the side. Maybe somebody feels the need to check once more, how big that beast actually became since it was cut down into pieces many years ago.

I mentioned fibre-optics already in my previous post. I also got this service (AT&T U-Verse) only recently. I basically ditched my old DSL and my Comcast Cable for TV and backup broadband Internet access and got AT&T U-Verse. Land line and wireless phone were already AT&T, difference there is only that the land line phone uses voice-over-IP (VoIP) instead of the traditional non-digital telephone technology.

Instant Rebate with Delays

AT&T offered like for everything else they have to offer, a rebate to customers, who think about buying a product or service from them. It helps to get the displayed price down, making customers belief that they get a better deal than they might end up getting at the end of the process.

Virtually ALL rebates are those crap-ass “MAIL-IN REBATES“. This means that you FIRST pay the FULL price, even if you had to use a special URL or DISCOUNT code to get to the rebate offer in the first place. Then you get eventually the information needed to send something back to AT&T to APPLY to the REBATE. This does not happen automatically and is easy to miss. Learning from past experiences let me keep everything that I receive from AT&T until I got the rebate, including ANY packaging material and ANY piece of paper that comes with any equipment or any other mail (including stuff that looks like advertisement).

The reason for that is that it might turns out that you have to send something back to them that was attached to something that you and any normal human being would consider junk or garbage. Failing to provide this junk typically means to be unable to qualify and get the rebate. Getting a replacement of what is needed is typically impossible to get as well.

Well, I got U-Verse from AT&T about 2 months ago and I got finally the promised $100 rebate check that was advertised with a special coupon and made me respond to it.

Right Check, Right Bank, Wrong Amount

I went to my bank yesterday after my visit of the AT&T store to deposit the rebate check to my checking account. I am with Wells Fargo and their ATM’s are capable of reading checks without envelope. That even works with checks that were written by hand (the amounts).

So the ATM sucked in the rebate check and scanned it. Then it asks for the confirmation of the amount and which of my accounts to deposit it to, checking or savings. I almost hit “checking” when I noticed that the amount was not $100 as it was printed clearly on the check itself. It showed $33.54 instead. Luckily I was only trying to deposit this one check. You can batch deposit several checks at once, what is what I typically do.

In that case I would have for sure missed the incorrect amount for the check and deposited it. I would probably notice the difference later at home, when I do my home banking, but at that time, the physical rebate check is gone. I have no idea what would happen, if I had deposited it and then contact AT&T customer service about this error, requesting the outstanding difference of $66.46. I don’t know what the result of this would have been and  don’t want to find out about myself.


The incorrect amount of $33.54 was read from the check. There is the number 34-54 above the number 730 and above the box with the actual check amount of *******$100.00 printed on that check. The check reader that had no problem with reading the correct amount from a personal check that I got from a friend nor any other check I received from various entities got the AT&T rebate check wrong. Bad enough, but worse, because it thought that it was actually reading the check correctly.

If it would have said that it cannot read the check and that I have to cash it within the bank through a human banker to verify the check amount, okay, a minor inconvenience, but at least one that does not lead to errors that can be overlooked and/or difficult to correct.

law_sign_questionCoincidence? That is Very Hard to Believe

I cannot imagine that this went unnoticed by AT&T, considering the number of rebate checks they must send out every single day for every single product and service they are offering to customers nationwide. My Nokia phone came with a mail-in rebate (which I did not apply for yet) and so does my new iPhone that I still have to receive yet.

What is to Gain?

So is it indented? I am curious to know how many people cash the check without noticing the error and thus get AT&T only a fraction of the rebate they are entitled for. Furthermore, what does AT&T do when I cash it with the wrong amount and demand to get paid the amount that is missing? If they pay up the difference, how long does that take? Playing the interest game, how much money AT&T is able to safe because of

  • delaying actual payment of promised rebates as long as possible?
  • delaying partial payments even further by sending initial rebate checks that are incorrectly processed by consumer banks automated check processing systems?
  • customers who are entitled for rebates not calling in those rebates as fast as possible (often due to the lack of information) or customers who fail to claim their rebates altogether?

You Decide for Yourself

Without knowing exact figures, my gut tells me… it must be MILLIONS of Dollars every month.

I cannot help it, but if this is not being done intentionally, then I must be completely paranoid or stupid.

Yeah, I know, It’s because of the economy. It forces the most decent men to turn into vultures and immoral scum-bags Etc. yada yada yada … Blah.. Right!


Carsten aka Roy/SAC

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