I purchased an iPhone 6 Plus to try it out, not sure whether I would be able to use it as my day-to-day phone. AT&T, from whom I purchased the phone, has a 14 day return policy. I tried it out for a week and a half, and decided I would ultimately be happier with an iPhone 6. AT&T’s practices are threatening to screw me over.
If you want the whole story before getting to the crux of the problem, read the Timeline section below.
The Two Technicalities
Any company creates a return period for a reason. You should be able to use it to evaluate your purchase and whether you’re happy with it, even if you need every day to come to a conclusion. At this point, I feel like AT&T has cheated me on two compounded points: one is bad policy, the other bad math. Both lead to a horrible customer experience.
There is no way the return period (or “buyer’s remorse period”, as AT&T calls it) should start from the date an item shipped. If the phone had shipped before on a Thursday, like my wife’s iPhone 6 did, this would only have cost me a single day, but since it shipped on a Friday, I was unfortunate enough to have Saturday and Sunday also deducted.
I called AT&T to start the return process on October 9th, which was precisely two weeks (14 days) after the phone shipped, which to me and any other reasonable person, would have still qualified me for a return. But AT&T refers to this as the “15th day”. I clarified this with the “supervisor”1 who called me back today like so:
Me: So, let’s say I walk into an AT&T store today, and purchase a phone, taking the whole ship/receive issue off the table. I walk in, and I buy a phone. I return the phone later on that evening. How many days has that been? To me, that’s zero days. It has not yet been an entire day from when I purchased the phone.
AT&T “supervisor”: That’s one day.
So, I buy a phone on the 16th. I return it on the 16th. AT&T is telling me 16 – 16 = 1? I think quite a few people would disagree with that. If that’s how they intend their return policy to function, they should call it a 13-day policy, not a 14-day one. By the time you deduct the receive – ship time, that cuts down an ostensible 14-day period to a 10-day period, which is very different.
Friday, June 29, 2007: I purchased the first iPhone, from the an AT&T store in Manhattan’s financial district, having already been a customer of AT&T (Cingular, at the time) for a year and a half. In the years since then, I keep two subscribers on the line, upgrade regularly, and pay my bill on time.
Friday, September 12, 2014: I pre-order an iPhone 6 Plus for myself, and an iPhone 6 for my wife. This will be the fourth iPhone for each of us, having owned the original, the 4, and the 5. The camera and screen on the Plus sound like they will be amazing, but I’m concerned about one-handed use. I ultimately feel I could never be happy with an iPhone 6 without having given the Plus a chance. I would always wonder if I could have made it work. Every store in which I might by the phone has an (alleged) 14-day return policy, so I will have enough time to really try out the phone in daily usage.
My first choice for ordering was Best Buy, since I get reward points from purchases there. They inform me that, since I live in New York and have AT&T Next, they cannot sell me a phone at the present time. I get the same answers from RadioShack and the Apple Store iPhone app. I have no choice (without switching plans and/or carriers) but to purchase both phones from AT&T, so I do that, using their iPhone app.
AT&T estimates my phone will ship between November 9th and November 27th, a time frame two months in the future.
Friday, September 19, 2014: My wife’s iPhone 6 arrives, on launch day. It seems really nice and, seeing how much bigger it already is than the 5, prompts me to question whether the Plus will work for me. The paper cutouts I printed out do not help whatsoever with this decision.
Saturday, September 20, 2014: We travel to the nearest Apple Store, and I try out the iPhone 6 Plus in person. I operate it for 20 minutes in the store, switching between 6 and 6 Plus demo units, helpfully arranged side-by-side. Hoping to be dissuaded, so I can cancel the Plus preorder and get an iPhone 6 much sooner, I come away from the experience even more excited for the possibility of the Plus. That screen blew my socks off. I could actually type one-handed on the stock keyboard, which had been one of my primary concerns, through the amazing job Autocorrect does. I decide to keep my Plus preorder and wait.
In hindsight, while I was using the iPhone 6 Plus for what seemed like a long time in the store, I was not using it in the ways I would typically use a phone. Since I’d never had a larger phone before, I didn’t even know what criteria to judge it on.2
Friday, September 26, 2014: I’m elated to find out my phone has shipped, two months before the worst estimated date3. I’ll have it on Monday. Joy!
Monday, September 29, 2014: Home sick from work, I receive the phone as it arrives in the afternoon and excitedly transfer my iPhone 5’s backup to it. I start using it right away, and still like all the things I thought I would.
Sunday, October 5, 2014: It’s still too tough to call. I ask my wife, and she consents, to switching phones for a few days. I use the iPhone 6 in all the same places and situations in which I had used the Plus. I can now easily reach the horizontally-far edge of the screen, and Reachability means I can get to every corner of the screen with one hand, without any precarious grip-shifting.
Thursday, October 8, 2014: Back on the Plus, time’s ticking away on the return period, and I have to make a decision. I figured I have until Monday anyways, which will be the 14th day after I received the phone. I’m leaning toward downgrading, but choose to sleep on it.
Friday, October 9, 2014: I decide to downgrade to the iPhone 6. It’s a tough call, but I value one-handed operation too highly, and using the Plus that way makes me feel like I’m not in control of the device. I can’t achieve what I need to without putting myself at greater risk of dropping the device (and I don’t like the downsides of having a case on my iPhone).
Having decided to return it, I’m now concerned about ordering a new iPhone 6 as soon as possible, since they’re still not available in stores, and I don’t want to have to wait any longer than necessary. I call AT&T Premier’s customer service line, since the purchase (apparently) went through that division, because I have a corporate discount through my employer. He tells me I’m outside of the buyer’s remorse period, which begins, he informs me, on the day the phone shipped. I get a sick feeling in my stomach.
I don’t want to be a bad customer4. I keep calm and ask to speak to a supervisor, thinking that I surely have reason and logic on my side. He informs me he cannot transfer me to a supervisor, as they aren’t accepting calls, but he creates a ticket for them to call me back.
Not satisfied with most of what I’ve heard, I call AT&T’s main (not Premier) support line, questioning what I had been told. He tells me the return period begins on the date of receipt, not shipping, and defended it logically: “if the phone were delayed two weeks in shipping, then you wouldn’t have any return period at all”. My thoughts precisely. He also confirms I can return the phone to a store, rather than shipping it back, which is what I had hoped for (with the goal of quickest turnaround until I get the new phone).
Sunday, October 11, 2014: My wife and I travel to, and wait in line for way too long at, two different AT&T stores in my area, only to be told by both of them that they can’t accept returns of phones purchased online. At the second store, he tried blaming Apple (which I didn’t let slide) and recommended another store I could try – the store I had tried first, it turns out.
Monday, October 12, 2014: It is now two weeks (14 days) from the day I received the phone. I call AT&T Premier’s support line again, and have a similarly fruitless conversation. My only option is to wait for a supervisor to call me back.
Thursday, October 16, 2014: It is now six days since I first called to initiate a return. I’ve been using my iPhone 5 since the weekend5. A representative from AT&T Premier calls me back. She informs me there’s nothing she can do, since I was outside of the buyer’s remorse period. I am now in another queue, waiting to hear back from a “manager”[^1].
Later on, I draft this blog post.
This story isn’t over yet, but I’m no longer very hopeful AT&T will do the right thing. Even according to their own misleading and customer-hostile rules, I still only called one day late, and the “supervisor” doesn’t have the authority to grant an exception (since I’ve never had any problem like this with them before)? I doubt how much the “manager” will be able to do.
I will keep this post updated as events unfold.
The original customer service agent escalated me to a “supervisor” who by the end of the call offered to escalate me to a “manager” ↩
In the future, I would now have a better idea. For instance, if Apple released a phone with a 4.9 inch screen next year, I would know that I need to see if my thumb can reach across the width of the phone, and use that as a litmus test ↩
How on Earth did they come up with those estimates? ↩
And boy oh boy does it feel tiny after acclimating to the iPhone 6 Plus ↩