The ONLY Way to Solve your Trade-In Issues
TLDR: Do not call AT&T Customer Service or the Returns Department, they will not be able to help you. File an FCC complaint and you will be contacted by someone.
Let me begin by saying that I have been an AT&T cellular customer since they purchased Cingular and have AT&T gigabit fiber in my home.
In November 2020, I saw a promotion for “Get a New iPhone 12 Mini for Free” and decided to look at the terms.
After reading the terms and conditions of the promotion (below), I decided to move forward with the Trade-In and upgrade.
I checked the estimated value of my trade-in using the AT&T online tool, and it estimated a $215 value for my iPhone X 256 GB.
Even if my phone was devalued by 50% from the estimate, I would still be eligible for the $700 in bill credits due to the phone’s trade in value being greater than $95. My phone was in fine condition with no cracks or major damage.
I performed a factory reset of the iPhone to make sure all data was deleted, this is mostly for my security but it is also one of the steps the return information indicates that you should do.
I shipped the old phone back to the “Trade-In” department and it was delivered to the address on the AT&T supplied label on December 2, 2020 – well within the 30 day timeframe allowed by the promotion.
I waited a few days and checked the status of my trade-in using the online link and was astonished to see this:
They were reducing the value of my phone by 82% for “Activation Lock not deactivated”. I would not be receiving my “Free iPhone 12 Mini” as the promotion outlined.
I immediately called the Trade-In department to see what was going-on. The individual I spoke to said, “There must have been a mix-up during the intake process. I’ll begin an investigation with our Tier 2 support group and they will contact you via email in 3-5 business days”. I was relieved as I thought this was going to be a fiasco. The agent set my mind at ease.
After 10 business days, I had still not seen a change to the trade-in value and decided to call the “Trade-In” department to see what I could learn. After waiting on hold for over 30 minutes, I spoke to an agent that was very terse, bordering on rude. She said she did not have access to the Tier 2 support records and could not tell me what the status of my “Investigation” was. She said “It could take weeks for them to email you. You just need to wait for the email”. I asked if I could have the email address for the Tier 2 department and I would reach out to them directly. She said she does not have the email address and I must wait for them to contact me. I was frustrated by the conversation, but realized I was at a dead end.
The next day I decided to see how I could prove if my phone activation lock had been deactivated when I performed a reset of my iPhone X. I reached out to Apple and spoke to their support team. They were very helpful and were able to determine that my iPhone lock, know as “Find My iPhone” has indeed been deactivated and the phone was “unlocked”. I asked for them to send me documentation and ended-up having to go through their legal department to obtain a transcript of the support call. See below:
At this point, I have invested over 12 hours in this ordeal, but I was ready and had the proof available for when the Tier 2 “Investigator” from the Trade-In Department did email me.
By Christmas, no email had arrived. New Year, no email had arrived. First week of January, no email had arrived.
I call back to the Trade-In department and they tell me that they will “Escalate my case to Tier 2 support”. I tell them this has already been done multiple times before, but I never receive any communication. The representative says, “All I can do is initiate an escalation”. I can tell there is a difference in the way this representative speaks in contrast to the Customer Service representatives I have spoken with at AT&T, he was more informal. I ask if he is an AT&T employee and he say, “No, I am with a company by the name of Hyla”. This is when the pieces start falling into place for me.
I call AT&T Customer Service (CS) and begin a feedback loop of frustration the likes of which I have never experienced before. AT&T CS refers me to the Trade-In department and I tell them that is a dead end. They say there is nothing they can do at CS. I ask for a manager and speak with someone that promises that they will look into this.
I have spoke to more than 15 CS representatives and 6+ managers over the course of 6 days. Each call lasts between 2 and 4 hours. I am usually disconnected at least once, sometimes 2-3 times during any given “session” and must start anew with a new representative.
I now have over 30 hours into my ordeal, but I am not willing to walk away from the $700 in bill credits I am qualified for. I have all the documentation I need.
I finally go into a retail AT&T store and spend 2 hours on the phone with a CS representative in the “Loyalty and Retention Department”. After 2 disconnects, the retail employee says, “There’s nothing we can do for you here. You should just call the Loyalty department from your own home.”
I go home and call back. I am disconnected again after more than an hour on the phone with another manager and decide that is enough for one day.
That evening, I search for “AT&T Trade-In issues” and “AT&T trade-in scam” and find this forum.
After reading several posts, I find one that says to contact the BBB and/or the FCC. I know that the BBB is generally a toothless threat, but decide to do it anyway.
Within two business days, I receive a call and email from the “Office of the President” (OOP) at AT&T. The individual says she reviewed my complaint and will honor the $700 in bill credits. I ask if I need to send the proof that my iPhone was not “locked” and she says, “No, I believe you.”
At this point, all the pieces fall into place. I realize that AT&T has contracted with a third party vendor, Hyla, to accept the trade-in phones. My guess is that the contract terms between Hyla and AT&T stipulate that Hyla is financially incentivized to de-value phones sent to them. The reason calls to the “Trade-In Department” go nowhere is that Hyla does not care. AT&T is the Hyla customer, not AT&T customers. We are nothing but noise to them.
I have asked the representative from the “Office of the President” send me an email outlining the terms that we have discussed as a resolution to our issue. She says she cannot do that as it would violate privacy rights. Huh?
As of today, 2/3/2021, I am keeping my BBB complaint open until I have written documentation from the Office of the President outlining the terms we have agreed-to.
This is a shame and a terrible way to treat people. AT&T knows what is happening and is not changing their procedures or informing their Customer Service representatives, not even the managers, of how to rectify the problems.
Shame on you AT&T, this is no way to treat your customers.
The solution: Do not call AT&T Customer Service or the Returns Department, they will not be able to help you. File an FCC complaint and you will be contacted by someone.