AT&T: A Model for How Not to do Business

I have the unfortunate duty of overseeing Grand Rapids Community College’s presence in phone book listings and the yellow pages.  This usually-menial task takes on sisyphusean dimensions because I’m forced to work with AT&T, an entity whose customer service is routinely panned.

Incorrect Listings
Incorrect Listings

Five times in the past two years, the online directories owned by AT&T have published the college’s listing incorrectly.  The way I typically find out about this is that we start receiving complaints from callers angry that they’ve been transferred numerous times in an attempt to get information from the college, or one lone employee will begin receiving a flood of traffic intended for the college switchboard.

Right now, the primary number listed in for GRCC goes to an extension of a now-defunct nonprofit organization that used to have an office on GRCC’s campus.  One of the other wrong numbers is an 800 number for a federal student aid help hotline.  All three addresses attributed to GRCC are also incorrect (they refer to some of our regional centers).

My theory is that AT&T keeps merging databases as it acquires new online directories, and the listings go wrong in the merge process.   When the listings go bad, it’s typically because the correct listing with the college’s main number (616-234-4000) is buried amid listings all labeled as GRCC that actually list the phone numbers of various departments or individuals at the college.

Incorrect Listings
Incorrect Listings

Every time it happens, I’m forced to take several hours out of my day and catalog all of the errors, and contact AT&T’s unresponsive customer service operations and then keep checking up on them until they fix their screw-ups.

Perhaps the worst part is that this happens in spite of the fact that GRCC pays AT&T thousands of dollars every year for yellow pages listings.  When I’ve tried to complain to the sales side of AT&T about this recurring problem and threatened to pull the college’s advertising – they act as though they share none of the responsibility, claiming that it’s a separate department (as though all of their paychecks don’t say “AT&T” on them).

I suppose we can take comfort in the fact that if US intelligence agencies are wiretapping citizens without warrants with AT&T’s assistance – none of the data they’re getting is any good.

5 thoughts on “AT&T: A Model for How Not to do Business

  1. John Cole says:

    Hey Derek,

    I’m sorry to hear about the frustrating situations you’ve had to go through to keep GRCC’s listing accurate. It’s true, dealing with a big company CAN be a royal pain…and here at AT&T Yellowpages we’re not perfect ;-)

    I’m going to look into this situation with my colleagues and see if I can find out what’s happening and get it fixed for you. Feel free to e-mail me directly.

    John Cole
    Product Manager, SEO
    AT&T Interactive | YELLOWPAGES.COM


  2. Howard says:

    While there are few companies anywhere that can survive while indifferently shrugging its corporate shoulders at the needs or desires of its customers, AT&T continues to find ways to grow and prosper despite leaving tidal waves of disenchantment in its wake. They give the world an awful lot to not like.

    Still, indifference is one thing, but it’s quite another to embrace a corporate tactic of foisting open disdain on customers. I’ve been on the receiving end of just such a tactic.

    For years AT&T was my local telephone company, providing service that was steady, if unremarkable. For a very long time, that was good enough for me.

    All of that changed in March of 2009. That was when I was talked into expanding my relationship with AT&T. That was when I discovered that after 15 years of measuring customer satisfaction for a living, I still had no idea just how spectacularly arrogant and incompetent a company could be.

    I decided to document my experiences with them. I have posted the tale at: Fair warning; it’s a long story.

    The more I read about this company, the more I realize they are the antichrist of customer service. What I am curious about is how many other people have been exposed to the same level of miserable service, and whether there is anything that can be done to get this company under control.


    1. derekdevries says:

      Wow – now THAT’S an epic tale of woe! I still can’t get over the $147.70 charge for the 35-min phone call and the $1,480 “contract commitment charge.” (I guess that’s because someone would have to be committed to an asylum to pay it!)


  3. John Cole says:


    I was able to get in touch with our data quality guys and they have taken down the duplicate entries for the GRCC and cleaned up the main listing ( The listing has also been configured so that it won’t be automatically over-written when we merge new data sets. That said, I learned that colleges and universities are the most challenging listings for our team, in large part due to the fact they often have multiple phone numbers and departments with the same mailing address. Hopefully this takes care of your issue, but in the case you find the GRCC info still being over-written, get back in touch with me. Best wishes,

    Product Manager, SEO
    AT&T Interactive | YELLOWPAGES.COM


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