Stolen Package and iPhone Free Upgrade Program - Issues with Refund and Overall Case Resolution
I would like to start off this post by saying that the service representatives on this case were extremely helpful and kind. This issue stems from AT&T and not the quality of 1-on-1 service I received over the phone. We have been customers with AT&T since 2011, however this situation is the first instance of planning to switch services due to their response and resolution of this case.
The rundown: I opted into the AT&T iPhone Free Upgrade program at the end of November, 2021. I received the original package (iPhone 13 Pro) from UPS, mailed out the return package via USPS (iPhone 11), and assumed that the upgrade program was processed correctly. I never received any emails saying my package had not been received by AT&T. Several months later, I checked the monthly bill (I am not the primary account holder and do not receive the bills, the primary account holder does not check the bills) and noticed the statement charging me for the full monthly payment of the iPhone 13 Pro without any free credits applied to it. I did not see any information on my iPhone 11 being received by AT&T, nor did I receive any notice that it had not been received. At this point, it was nearly a year after the return package should have been processed and I have been charged the full amount for the iPhone 13 Pro without any credits applied from the iPhone 11 return package.
I called AT&T, and after two hours on the phone with a fairly unhelpful representative in late September, 2022, I was told that the package was not received and I had to go to USPS to resolve the issue. That is exactly what I did, and over the next month I had been going back and forth with USPS to figure out where the package was, why it wasn’t received, where it was lost in transit, etc. USPS provided me with an official case-resolved letter to say that the package had been lost in transit to their post office. USPS was supposed to pick up the package from my doorstep (the deliver-and-return service was through UPS-USPS Mail Innovations) and I am assuming the package got stolen either from my doorstep before the mailman picked it up or in transit from the mailman to the post office.
Either way, USPS had no history on the return package, and AT&T obviously never received the package, so the free upgrade program never got processed. So, I receive the official letter from USPS that the mail was lost in transit, and today I call AT&T again to finalize the situation. I was originally told that an official resolution from USPS will allow for a claim to be processed by AT&T, my previously paid installments to be refunded, and my future installments will be waived as if it’s the free upgrade program.
This is where the story gets frustrating. I finally get on the line with a service representative today who did as best as she could in the situation. I explained the details: free upgrade credits not being processed for a year, AT&T never receiving the package (nor notifying me that they did not receive the package), USPS resolution and official letter, and now the third time contacting AT&T about this issue (I went into a physical AT&T store two weeks ago while the USPS cases were still pending). Right off the bat, the service representative said they will be able to settle this all on the phone today and I will be refunded and credited as I should be for the free upgrade program as my return package iPhone was stolen. Two hours later, I am stuck with another 24 months of installments on my iPhone 13 Pro, no refunding of the previous 12 months installments, and a stolen iPhone in New Orleans (I’m based in Philadelphia) which allegedly did not get stolen “beyond a reasonable doubt”, implying that I could have sold the iPhone to someone else, waived my free upgrade program, and willingly decided to pay for the iPhone 13 Pro monthly installments. To summarize in bullet points:
- The package got lost or stolen in transit before it reached the USPS mail facility
- The iPhone was activated with a new number and a new name with a New Orleans area code
- The new phone number enrolled in the AT&T free upgrade program WITH MY SAME PHONE to trade in my old phone for a new one
- My AT&T free upgrade program was still pending / not processed under my phone number and my name, however the SAME PHONE processed the free upgrade program with a different name and different number
- I never transferred my phone to another user, completed any documents of sale of the iPhone, nor canceled my iPhone Free Upgrade Program enrollment at any point
- I am now stuck paying monthly with the iPhone 13 Pro as if the trade in never happened and I SOLD THE PHONE to this person in New Orleans, as they cannot prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” (the words the representative kept using) that I did not sell the phone
In discussion of the “beyond a reasonable doubt”, I have a few questions. Why would I have sold the iPhone while being enrolled in the Free Upgrade Program? Why would I willingly make payments on a $1,400 iPhone 13 Pro and sell an iPhone 11 with a trade-in value of $220 at the date of returning? Why would I not complete any legal documents of transferring the phone nor cancel my free upgrade program if I just sold it? Why would I go through three months of hassle and 15+ hours of discussions with AT&T and USPS as a 10+ year customer of AT&T to have lied about selling a $220 phone and consistently pay the monthly installment of the iPhone 13 Pro (which after 12 months, is already more expensive than what I would have received for the iPhone 11)?
There seems to be a serious logic flaw in the way AT&T administration handled this case. The representative tried working with the backroom and account management department for 2 hours on the phone today to get this refund processed, with no luck. They refused to see the logical flaws on their resolution. There is zero incentive for me to “sell” my iPhone while enrolled in the free upgrade program just to pay the monthly installments for the iPhone 13 Pro. The phone was clearly stolen just based on an incentive basis on my end.
Nearing the end of the tale, I finally get on the phone with the representatives’ supervisor at the end. I try to explain this incentive structure and timeline of trade-in to prove that there is no way the iPhone was anything but stolen. He could not do anything about this. I was offered the trade-in value of the iPhone 11 ($220) applied towards my statement credit which I appreciate. However, I am still nearly $1,200 in the hole due to this completely backwards reasoning from the AT&T account management department.
Finally, I asked if it would be possible to do a one-time trade in of my iPhone 13 Pro for a phone of lesser monthly value (and continue along the 36-month installment plan), as I planned to be paying $0/month, let alone $30/month. The supervisor refused to offer this as an option as I’m not enrolled in the AT&T Next program and now I am stuck 12/36 months into this installment plan paying far more than I would ideally want to. I would even trade in my current iPhone 13 Pro for an iPhone 11 if that meant waiving or reducing future installment fees, but there was absolutely zero compromise or ability for a flexible and fair resolution of this case from AT&T administration, as I feel both of those options have very little cost to AT&T and a huge benefit to the customer financially. They are so ridiculously strict in their structure for what should be a cut-and-dry stolen iPhone claim & refund case. Now, an obscene amount of time has been spent on my end, USPS, and AT&T’s representatives end just to conclude that the iPhone 11 return package was not definitely stolen, and I can’t get the monthly payments waived as the Free Upgrade Program should have been.
As a long-time customer of AT&T, this extremely distant and not customer-based appeal and claim process was extremely frustrating. The lack of transparency from AT&T for the last 12 months, and importantly in the first couple of weeks during the trade-in process when my iPhone 11 was assigned to a new name, number, and enrolled in the Free Upgrade Program seems extremely negligent. All I want is for the installments to be waived going forward and a refund of the previous installments already paid, or even more simply an option to return my current “Free Upgrade” iPhone 13 Pro for one of lesser value and cheaper installments. I hope this written description provides a bit more clarity to AT&T and can gain a bit of traction due to the extremely frustrating policy regarding stolen packages and the free upgrade program. Thank you for reading.