Treaty Reached with Invisible Phonejacker Sky Pirates

February 8th, 2010  |  Published in mac and iphone  |  4 Comments

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_Note: New to this story? Be sure to read “Taking the Dumb Pipe to China” and “[Cognitive Styles of Customer Support Reps

](” for the back story._

I’ve reached a treaty with the Invisible Phonejacker Sky Pirates: If I don’t call a particular 866 number from my iPhone, they will not reach into the bowels of the AT&T billing system and see to it I’m billed for a call to China.

Other terms of the treaty: AT&T will not suggest I buy a special long distance calling plan for an extra $3.99 a month and will not charge me an extra $0.15 per minute for calls already made to the 866 number.

This treaty was arrived at after my third escalation. I dealt with someone at AT&T on two separate calls this morning. Unlike the first person I dealt with when I walked through the front door of the AT&T support apparatus, she was empowered to deal with customers like any normal human being might wish to be dealt with. Unlike the next two people along the way after that, she was empowered to be a little bit curious about my problem and contact people who might have an idea what was going on.

To the extent she turned the issue into a sort of joint exploration of the experience I had instead of a bizarre but ultimately unassailable brute fact, I feel a little better. Experts have been consulted, circumstances explained. I’m being treated no worse by AT&T than it treats its own employees. Doesn’t say much nice about what it must be like to work for AT&T, but I’ll take baffled empathy over chilly disregard. I’ll also take “no additional charges at all” over the un-apology that was the company’s initial insistence I be charged something for the whole affair.

But that’s where it ends. Technicians at AT&T are insistent that I must have dialed a “+86” somewhere along the way, even though that would imply that there’s a magical number in China that can come after the initial “86” that also connects me to the exact WebEx conference I was trying to reach in the first place.

If I make the mistake of dialing that allegedly toll-free 866 number again (or let the WebEx app on the iPhone dial it for me), I’ll be looking at having to contact someone to get whatever charges might or might not be assessed by the Invisible Phonejacker Sky Pirates removed from my bill.

The remaining unchecked box on the list is what, if any, response WebEx/Cisco will have about the whole thing. My guess: There’s no response it can have, because AT&T has a problem it’s not going to solve while I sit on hold and use Acorn to make funny pictures of iPhones and pirate flags.

Even if someone at AT&T has some moment of clarity, identifies exactly what went wrong, then promptly fixes it, nobody outside of AT&T will ever hear about it: There’ll just be a sudden reduction in Invisible Phonejacker Sky Pirate activity, and we won’t even know to step outside and spend a moment staring into the skies with looks of dumb gratitude.


  1. gl. says:

    February 8th, 2010 at 4:54 pm (#)

    glad it finally worked out, but that’s so much wasted frustrated time. but are you ever going to use that webex app again?

  2. mph says:

    February 8th, 2010 at 5:02 pm (#)

    A lot of wasted time.

    I will not use that app unless someone from AT&T contacts me directly and says “problem fixed.” Or someone from WebEx gets back to me after my most recent e-mail, in which I relayed AT&T’s position on the matter, and says “the problem is fixed and we confirmed that with AT&T.”

    Haven’t heard back since initial contact from a WebEx social media consultant, though, so I don’t know what’s going on there. At this point, the only thing I really know is that AT&T doesn’t know anything, and that’s enough to keep me the hell away from the app.

  3. Neil Griffiths says:

    February 10th, 2010 at 12:54 pm (#)


    My name is Neil Griffiths and Im the audio platfrom product manager at Cisco WebEx.

    I really want to get this resolved and get you using the iPhone app again. Can you contact me using the email I posted this with? I weant to pull together all the call records from you and from our platform and follow up with AT&T directly.


    Neil Griffiths

  4. Return of the Invisible Phonejacker Sky Pirates :: dot unplanned says:

    February 12th, 2010 at 9:12 am (#)

    […] Treaty Reached with Invisible Phonejacker Sky Pirates: Several escalations later, someone agrees that a $3.99/month Invisible Phonejacker Sky Pirates prevention surcharge is inappropriate. […]

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