4 Out of 6 AT&T Employees Haven’t Heard of the Aria

AT&T logo

I took my wife to the local AT&T store to check out the new HTC Aria. She really wants to replace the iPhone 3G that has always given us trouble, but in keeping with the saying, “once bitten twice shy” a hands-on demo is required before purchasing any phone. Imagine our surprise when we searched the entire store and couldn’t find the Aria. The HTC Aria was released on June 20, and a few stores even reportedly got it a little early. We asked a clerk if they had an Aria, and he said “The what? What’s the Aria?”

It took a brief moment to soak in what he just said. I informed him that the HTC Aria is the second Android phone available on AT&T. He said, “Well it must not have been released yet.” I then informed him that the launch date was June 20. He then went on to explain that “Maybe it is only available online. They do that al ot. Especially since the first one was a flop.” The first one referred to is the Motorola Backflip, which many people agree was a lackluster effort. I couldn’t disagree with him there. Slightly frustrated at this point, I asked if I was in a corporate or franchise store. It was a corporate store. I couldn’t believe that a corporate store had not heard of something that had made such a commotion over the last week. I asked where the nearest alternative store was located and was on my way.

As we drove to the next store, my wife and I independently called AT&T. She received a 4-minute wait list notification, yet I reached the rep first. I had called them after she did, which didn’t ease the situation. Further compounding the issue, neither customer service rep had heard of the Aria. Her rep was the least helpful. He said, “Well, we’ve been really busy with the iPhone this week.” Not a good move. He then informed her that it was impossible for them to know what any given store was carrying, in response to a request that he help us find a store with the Aria in stock. He was not very helpful, and was particularly rude. After going in circles with him for a few minutes, she asked to speak to a manager. His response? “If you want to talk to a manager it will take 48 hours for one to get back to you.” Exasperated, she told him to forget it and they ended the call.

My rep was notably better. She was apologetic about the need to travel to a different store. She asked me how to spell Aria, and promptly found it online. I asked her if she could help me find a store in my area that had an Aria in stock. She not only found a store, she called them for me to confirm the phone was in stock. I needed to confirm if the store was inside my local mall like I expected based on the address she gave me, and she forgot to ask. She offered to give me their number, but upon learning that I was driving and couldn’t write it down called them again for me, and confirmed my suspicion. It was indeed the mall store. She apologized again for my inconvenience and we were about to end the call when I decided her customer service was exceptional and wanted to do something about it. I asked for her manager, telling her I wanted to commend her customer service to her supervisor. She was grateful for this, and promptly connected me with her manager. I explained the events of the evening to the supervisor and explained what a great job the lady did in helping me find a store to go to. She was thankful for the commendation and apologized for the hassle. Incidentally, she hadn’t heard of the Aria either.

I got to the mall and quickly found the AT&T store. I asked if they have the Aria. He said he thinks they do, and went into the back to check. Sure enough he came back with one in hand. However, there was no demo unit available. He apologized, saying that since the phone was so new, the demo wasn’t currently available and might not become available until next week. This was disappointing, but understandable. Another rep stepped into the conversation and agreed that it was strange that the other employees hadn’t heard of it. They were both very friendly, which was really helpful at this point. They explained that since their store was physically smaller than most stores, the demo floor was limited. We noticed some Pantech and Palm devices that had demos out though, which makes me wonder why the Aria was relegated to the back-burner. We thanked them for their time and prepared to leave. I noticed a MicroCell behind her and confirmed they had units for sale. She told me that they had been selling them for a month and a half or so. I hadn’t realized that they were available, considering stores in San Francisco had reportedly not been stocking it. I assumed that San Francisco was far more valuable to AT&T than Ventura, but evidently I was wrong. Incidentally, the unit is reportedly now available in all locations.

All in all, our search was more frustrating than anything. We couldn’t believe that employees had to be informed by a customer about a new phone they were supposedly carrying. Fortunately for AT&T, 4 of the 6 people were very friendly and service-oriented. This outweighed the two that weren’t so friendly. Otherwise the evening would have been that much more frustrating. So, we’ll wait until next week to try again, hopefully after the iPhone 4 mania has a chance to calm down a bit, however incrementally. Overall, this has been a bad week to be an AT&T customer. The iPhone caused multiple site crashes and maintenance downtime, online ordering went haywire, and of course there were all those lovely security problems. As often as I defend AT&T, and as bad an experience I have had with other providers, this week was an unacceptably bad week for AT&T. I really hope they get their act together. Hopefully everyone else shopping for the Aria had better luck than I did. If not, feel free to vent here. I’ll lend a listening ear.

Tags: , , ,

  • Kati

    You were much more diplomatic than me. How on earth do you sell something and your employees NOT know about it? I’m sorry, in my book that is inexcusable. Get a clue AT&T…get.a.clue.

  • http://jdpadgett.com Jared

    Best Buy had a similar problem today. I think it may be a little more understandable for Best Buy though, since they have a much larger inventory.

  • Pingback: HTC Aria: AT&T’s Best Kept Secret? : Padgett Tech()

  • Pingback: HTC Aria Hands On : Padgett Tech()