Why is AT&T Family Plan so difficult?

Last year it took two months to get our iPhones all onto AT&T’s family plan. I visited the AT&T store half a dozen times, spent hours on the phone with them before it was all done properly. I assumed then that it was a problem with Apple and AT&T working together and first-day problems that I forgave.

But, today, our iPhones are again on individual plans (not voluntarily, either) and I was told to visit an AT&T store “soon” to get all my accounts onto a family plan. Apple employees tried over and over again to get our phones to join up into a Family Plan, but they couldn’t make it work, so they gave up and told me to go to an AT&T store. The fun starts over again.

This time I totally blame AT&T for not working with Apple and making sure that the process is much smoother for existing customers. Especially since last year Apple wasn’t even part of the problem.

So, AT&T, why is it so hard to make it easy to join all your accounts together into a family plan?

Making it worse this year is I have several accounts:

  1. My iPhone, which now is a 3G.
  2. My son’s iPhone, which is now a 3G.
  3. My wife’s iPhone which will stay an original iPhone.
  4. My Nokia N82 account.
  5. My Nokia N95 account.

So, I have five accounts using several different kinds of phones, which makes it hard to join them all together.

Anyone else having this problem?

UPDATE: AT&T, over the phone, fixed all of our accounts, so I’m happy. They don’t know why the Apple machines weren’t showing that we were all on a family plan yesterday.

Comments

  1. A word of caution – if you combine all of the accounts, AT&T may attempt to renew the contracts on all the accounts. What you are looking to do is possible as my AT&T account is setup almost the same exact way. Good luck.

  2. A word of caution – if you combine all of the accounts, AT&T may attempt to renew the contracts on all the accounts. What you are looking to do is possible as my AT&T account is setup almost the same exact way. Good luck.

  3. very strange. i had no problem getting my kids iphones connected at xmas. also, i have iphones, blackberry’s and nokias and have had no problem linking all together under our family plan.

  4. very strange. i had no problem getting my kids iphones connected at xmas. also, i have iphones, blackberry’s and nokias and have had no problem linking all together under our family plan.

  5. Otto: good point, I don’t really care. I actually like AT&T’s service otherwise and don’t see anyone getting in on the iPhone in a major way in the next year.

  6. Otto: good point, I don’t really care. I actually like AT&T’s service otherwise and don’t see anyone getting in on the iPhone in a major way in the next year.

  7. I’m right there with you. I have a work discount with att and that makes things worse since i think it goes away. BTW I went to the att store tonight to buy an iphone and I was absolutely shocked at their strategy. I waited 45 minutes in line to be quietly told they had no iphones and they’d take my money and get me one soon. I loudly relaid this and me and half the crowd left. Shocked. They kept us in line on purpose and kept things quiet That said i’m going to apple tomorrow at 9am – you talked me into it even thought i can’t justify it and that was the worse treatment I’ve had as a customer :).

  8. I’m right there with you. I have a work discount with att and that makes things worse since i think it goes away. BTW I went to the att store tonight to buy an iphone and I was absolutely shocked at their strategy. I waited 45 minutes in line to be quietly told they had no iphones and they’d take my money and get me one soon. I loudly relaid this and me and half the crowd left. Shocked. They kept us in line on purpose and kept things quiet That said i’m going to apple tomorrow at 9am – you talked me into it even thought i can’t justify it and that was the worse treatment I’ve had as a customer :).

  9. @dougbrooks – good on you. There’s no way I’d give them my money until I have a product or a tracking number in my hand. I wonder if these managers would honestly accept that if they were buying something somewhere else, like a laptop at Best Buy or something. “Sir, we’re going to charge your card the $1,500 for the laptop, and we’ll call you when it comes in….” Not a chance in hell.

    @Scoble – Sucks you’re having difficulties. I worked at an Agent location and sold AT&T for 4 years and can verify that sometimes that happens, even when you’re *not* trying to do it with iPhones. AT&T’s system has a mind of its own sometimes, and often rears its ugly head. Hopefully, you’ll get it all worked out.

    I’m with you, though, on the contract. I’ve not bought a phone from them in a while, and have no idea when my contract ends, nor do I really care. I pop my SIM into my N95-3 or whatever other phone and go on my merry way.

    Make sure though, that they backdate the contract change. Otherwise, you pay prorated charges for each line being an individual plan for however many days, and that can really add up quickly. They’ll hassle you, but at least as of last year, backdating was indeed possible.

  10. @dougbrooks – good on you. There’s no way I’d give them my money until I have a product or a tracking number in my hand. I wonder if these managers would honestly accept that if they were buying something somewhere else, like a laptop at Best Buy or something. “Sir, we’re going to charge your card the $1,500 for the laptop, and we’ll call you when it comes in….” Not a chance in hell.

    @Scoble – Sucks you’re having difficulties. I worked at an Agent location and sold AT&T for 4 years and can verify that sometimes that happens, even when you’re *not* trying to do it with iPhones. AT&T’s system has a mind of its own sometimes, and often rears its ugly head. Hopefully, you’ll get it all worked out.

    I’m with you, though, on the contract. I’ve not bought a phone from them in a while, and have no idea when my contract ends, nor do I really care. I pop my SIM into my N95-3 or whatever other phone and go on my merry way.

    Make sure though, that they backdate the contract change. Otherwise, you pay prorated charges for each line being an individual plan for however many days, and that can really add up quickly. They’ll hassle you, but at least as of last year, backdating was indeed possible.

  11. I don’t see why having different handsets has to cause problems – no doubt AT&T will find a way, but in a sensible system it would just be a five handset plan which gives you five SIMs, end of story.

    I’d actually like to see some enforced separation of the two, that you would have handset prices – possibly as a monthly fee over an 18 or 24 month contract – and plan/SIM prices independently. I’ve long hated bundling and the resulting lockin; the pain a client is going through now unpicking a domain+hosting+ADSL bundle seems to be confirming that.

  12. I don’t see why having different handsets has to cause problems – no doubt AT&T will find a way, but in a sensible system it would just be a five handset plan which gives you five SIMs, end of story.

    I’d actually like to see some enforced separation of the two, that you would have handset prices – possibly as a monthly fee over an 18 or 24 month contract – and plan/SIM prices independently. I’ve long hated bundling and the resulting lockin; the pain a client is going through now unpicking a domain+hosting+ADSL bundle seems to be confirming that.

  13. No. Because most people only have 1 cellphone. People who aren’t legally allowed to enter contracts (kids) shouldn’t even have a cellphone.

    AT&T is always a hassle whether you’re setting up a land-line, order internet, etc…..why would you expect any different?

  14. No. Because most people only have 1 cellphone. People who aren’t legally allowed to enter contracts (kids) shouldn’t even have a cellphone.

    AT&T is always a hassle whether you’re setting up a land-line, order internet, etc…..why would you expect any different?

  15. We haven’t had any issues either. Both my wife and I have 1st gen iPhones (purchased at different times – 6 months apart) and we have two other different phones on the plan. They all joined up nicely and the contracts started the day we bought the phones.

    We’ve actually been VERY happy with AT&T (Cingular when we switched to them) … but you know, everybody has different experiences with every company out there. Hope you get your Family Plan debacle sorted out!

  16. We haven’t had any issues either. Both my wife and I have 1st gen iPhones (purchased at different times – 6 months apart) and we have two other different phones on the plan. They all joined up nicely and the contracts started the day we bought the phones.

    We’ve actually been VERY happy with AT&T (Cingular when we switched to them) … but you know, everybody has different experiences with every company out there. Hope you get your Family Plan debacle sorted out!

  17. Rob:
    Same issues at Chicago Apple store. Trying to add a line and their system choked. Another customer was trying to do the same thing and had issues too.

  18. Rob:
    Same issues at Chicago Apple store. Trying to add a line and their system choked. Another customer was trying to do the same thing and had issues too.

  19. Don’t have as many lines here, but I did move my account to the family plan and port my wife’s number over from Verizon. In theory, it’s all set correctly – we’ll see when the first bill shows up. Verizon was always terrible when it came to plan changes, we shall see how AT&T is.

    Full disclosure, in effort to save time, the process went like this. At the apple store, they upgraded by account to the 3G/450/Unlimited text then added my wife as a line to that account (not the family plan.) This didn’t take too long at the store and was what AT&T recommended I do (got info from the store the night prior). Then I went to the local AT&T store and had them switch both plans to family. It seemed to go well, but we’ll know with the first bill.

  20. Don’t have as many lines here, but I did move my account to the family plan and port my wife’s number over from Verizon. In theory, it’s all set correctly – we’ll see when the first bill shows up. Verizon was always terrible when it came to plan changes, we shall see how AT&T is.

    Full disclosure, in effort to save time, the process went like this. At the apple store, they upgraded by account to the 3G/450/Unlimited text then added my wife as a line to that account (not the family plan.) This didn’t take too long at the store and was what AT&T recommended I do (got info from the store the night prior). Then I went to the local AT&T store and had them switch both plans to family. It seemed to go well, but we’ll know with the first bill.

  21. The thing I wonder is with AT&T’s continued inability to do anything remotely tech forward, will this negatively affect Apple. In other wards, with Apple’s lying with dogs end up making them stink like one as well. AT&T has had a long history of quirky billing problems. I thought that with SBC buying them that this would have got worked out, but it appears to not be the case.

    I remember years ago, when they tried to do “bundled billing” combining long distance, wireless and cable there was numerous problems. Then came the time when they offered local service over cable and/or reselling local phone carrier dial tone people wouldn’t get billed for months at time only to one month get a bill for several months service.

    Now, we’re seeing more strange issues with the iPhone. One has to wonder if they’ll ever get it worked out.

  22. The thing I wonder is with AT&T’s continued inability to do anything remotely tech forward, will this negatively affect Apple. In other wards, with Apple’s lying with dogs end up making them stink like one as well. AT&T has had a long history of quirky billing problems. I thought that with SBC buying them that this would have got worked out, but it appears to not be the case.

    I remember years ago, when they tried to do “bundled billing” combining long distance, wireless and cable there was numerous problems. Then came the time when they offered local service over cable and/or reselling local phone carrier dial tone people wouldn’t get billed for months at time only to one month get a bill for several months service.

    Now, we’re seeing more strange issues with the iPhone. One has to wonder if they’ll ever get it worked out.

  23. Robert,
    I had the same problem. Took multiple hours on the phone, but a very helpful woman manager was able to straighten things out. None of the guys at that multiple stores visited were able or willing to solve the problem.

    Sometimes it really matters who on the on the other end of the phone.

  24. Robert,
    I had the same problem. Took multiple hours on the phone, but a very helpful woman manager was able to straighten things out. None of the guys at that multiple stores visited were able or willing to solve the problem.

    Sometimes it really matters who on the on the other end of the phone.

  25. Actually, the hardest time I’ve had with AT&T Family Plan was getting the iPhone charge dropped after I returned it last year to an apple store. We have a tilt, a nokia, a sierra aircard and a SIM that moves between other handsets and no problem adding or dropping. the biggest issue is going to unlimited, which runs $199 for the first two phones –no matter that only one phone needs it.

  26. Actually, the hardest time I’ve had with AT&T Family Plan was getting the iPhone charge dropped after I returned it last year to an apple store. We have a tilt, a nokia, a sierra aircard and a SIM that moves between other handsets and no problem adding or dropping. the biggest issue is going to unlimited, which runs $199 for the first two phones –no matter that only one phone needs it.

  27. I just bought 4 iphones at an Apple store; they told me the ATT Family Plan for $199 was unlimited data/voice, add$30 for unlimited text and could hold up to 5 lines – I have 4 at the moment. I questioned them carefully, thinking this was too good to be true….oh, there was a one time $40 activation fee for each additional line.

    Ok, so I logged into my new ATT account and it looks like there are 4 plans under my account and each one is $150.00…which actually makes more sense, it is just not what we were told at all.

    In fact, I can’t find anything on the ATT web site that remotely resembles the $199 plan they ‘sold’ us.

    Am I nuts here?????

    Feel free to email me with your thoughts and thank you all.

  28. I just bought 4 iphones at an Apple store; they told me the ATT Family Plan for $199 was unlimited data/voice, add$30 for unlimited text and could hold up to 5 lines – I have 4 at the moment. I questioned them carefully, thinking this was too good to be true….oh, there was a one time $40 activation fee for each additional line.

    Ok, so I logged into my new ATT account and it looks like there are 4 plans under my account and each one is $150.00…which actually makes more sense, it is just not what we were told at all.

    In fact, I can’t find anything on the ATT web site that remotely resembles the $199 plan they ‘sold’ us.

    Am I nuts here?????

    Feel free to email me with your thoughts and thank you all.