back to article AT&T tracked its own sales bods using GPS, secretly charged them $135 a month to do so, lawsuit claims

AT&T tracks its sales reps to make sure they keep to its schedule and then charges them for doing so, claims one of its "in-home experts" Daniel Gunther. Gunther has sued the American telco giant, and hopes to lead a class-action lawsuit against it in California, where he is based. He alleges the cellular network uses the GPS …

  1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Customer service?

    Customer service in the AT&T world is simple and easy, how do you want your customer cooked? With beans, sauce, garlic? Maybe a little fish or a sales rep on the side?

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Customer service?

      how do you want your customer cooked?

      Slow-roasted in a pit, covered with earth. Hmmmm.. long pig...

  2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
    Boffin

    California has it right

    All these companies are simply trying to skirt existing labor laws by making up new terms for employees. The bottom line is "how are the employees treated and compensated"?

    1. Giovani Tapini Silver badge

      Re: California has it right

      I was thinking on the same lines, regardless of the law who thought this was a good idea? and frankly after having been on pre-sales a few times as an expert, that doesn't suddenly reclassify me as sales.

      I hope this guy has the evidence to follow thought, and doesn't settle out of court.

      Timed sales visits? yes you have to keep commitments but that makes it sound more like a service call.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: I hope this guy has the evidence to follow through

        So do I, because AT&T is going to want to settle as soon as it realizes that a judicial decision will not be in its favor.

        Besides, if I'm a salesperson, I fail to see why I should be "rewriting and correcting technician orders of wireless and wired television boxes", "assisting the technicians in rewriting customer orders", or "changing customer install internet speed upon customer request" and the other stuff that is clearly the domain of support, not sales.

        Far be it from me to actually defend salespeople, but there is a clear divide between sales and support, and it seems obvious to me that this divide was not respected.

        It also seems obvious to me that, because AT&T is clearly abusing their sales reps, AT&T will "fight these claims" until it becomes obvious that a judge is going to rule against them, at which point, just like Oracle, IBM and countless others, they will fold like a wet mop to avoid having an actual judgement against them that will cost a lot more than another court case against some disgruntled salesdroid.

        Honestly, it is high time that the US judicial system refuse settlements and lay down the spirit of the law clearly and unequivocally to avoid behemoth US companies from continuing to profit from their shady practices.

  3. big_D Silver badge

    Telekom

    Our Telekom rep in Germany can spend 10 minutes here or several hours depending on what he is dealing with and what needs to be discussed.

    If there is a major problem with one of our sites, he won't be out of here again in 45 minutes. Likewise, we were looking for a replacement exchange a couple of years ago, we had about half a dozen suppliers turn up, none of them could fully demonstrate the solution and answer all questions in 45 minutes.

    If it takes longer, the reps don't complain, they aren't pounded on by the beancounters. Their company knows that customer satisfaction is paramount to keeping the customer and if they need to spend more time with the customer, they can. The AT&T model seems very counterproductive, there is no way I'd give business to somebody who keeps looking at his watch and can't wait to get out the door to the next appointment.

    I've had the rep take a break to call his next appointment to cancel or move the appointment or he has called me to explain that he will be late. If they are honest about it, I have no problem with them taking longer with another customer, because I know they will do the same for me, if I have questions or problems.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Telekom

      It sounds as if you are talking about corporate sales. In the UK I have the same experience with all the wireless carriers, when they are trying to sell corporate services you get the time you need. The article refers to 'in home' consumer sales which are far lower value.

      1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

        Re: Telekom

        The other thing to consider for Leftpondians is that most of them suffer a virtual monopoly when it comes to telecom companies. Those AT&T customers probably don't have a viable alternative that they can go to, so AT&T can't be punished for this sort of behaviour by customers voting with their feet.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Telekom

          Yep. And if someone wants to buy, and there is only one option, then it does not really take longer than 45 mins to decide... the customer has almost certainly already decided if they will or will not buy.

          This sounds more like an installation or paperwork signing job, *not* sales. The sale was already booked, and they just turn up to sign the paperwork and hand over the modem.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Telekom

        I've definitely found that with corporate versus personal sales. At a very basic level, the amount of information and control about the product or service is significantly higher when it's a company buying it. With corporate internet service, I get information about the type of line, the expected bandwidth, the expected latency, firewall rules and how I can turn them all off, IP addresses and what I need to do to get statics, full manual for the supplied or suggested modem if I use it, freedom not to use their equipment. With the exact same company, home service looks like "Up to 100 MB/s" [I'm not sure if "MB" as opposed to "Mb" 's a typo or a deliberate lie). I've had a home ISP who had unremovable firewall rules on outbound traffic, and they were one of the best. I think it happens with nearly every other product as well. Oligopoly power is fun, isn't it?

      3. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Telekom

        That makes more sense, although our local consumer outlet don't really have any time constraints either. They are happy to talk to you as a human being.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Telekom

          Their salespeople are often happy to talk to you if you're a possible customer, but the conversation often goes like this:

          Me: I'm considering your internet service for my house.

          Them: Great.

          Me: Can I get a static IP?

          Them: We don't normally include that unless you want a business plan. I can transfer you to that team if you like.

          Me: I've already got an IPV6 block. Can you route that traffic to me?

          Them: What?

          Me: Never mind. Do you have any statistics about latency?

          Them: No.

          Me: I'm not asking for a guarantee or SLA. I'm just looking for a basic estimate.

          Them: Sorry. I don't know what that means and I don't think we have that.

          Me: Can I bring my own network equipment?

          Them: Sure. Just plug anything into the router.

          Me: I already have my own router. Do I need to go through yours?

          Them: Er ... not sure.

          Me: Well, I would like to sign up now. [Previous research has shown me that few of these questions are answered online either]

          Them: Great. Would you also like home phone service? It's not much more per month...

          This applies to any provider. After a couple of these, you just give up on asking others.

    2. Dinanziame

      Re: Telekom

      I can only assume that AT&T is mostly the only business in town, after having carefully agreed on regions with their competitors. They don't need customer service; the customers cannot leave anyway...

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: Telekom

      "The AT&T model seems very counterproductive"

      They don't care. They don't have to. They're The Phone Company.

  4. Not Enough Coffee

    "Gunther has sued the American telco giant, and hopes to lead a class-action lawsuit against it."

    I guess Gunther doesn't follow the results of class action suits, wherein the lawyers get millions and the rest get nothing. It's like getting screwed over twice.

    1. Snake Silver badge

      Screwed over twice

      Isn't the American economic system just PEACHY? Simply love it here, no corporation is ever repressed from their guaranteed 'freedoms'.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Screwed over twice

        Of course not. They're legally "people" in America...AND they have far bigger wallets than Joe Ordinary. Plus, no matter what the rules, there's always a way to bribe someone.

    2. Jim Mitchell

      As I understand it, there are 3 groups that get % in a class action suit, the lawyers, "the rest", and a handful of other people as representatives. Gunther, possibly, could get a significant settlement, even it is a class action. The rest might get a coupon for a a free session with an AT&T in-home sales agent...

  5. OtakuN3rd

    Par for the Course

    This sounds like typical behavior of a large company that provides any sort of in the field service. I worked for a different company* that also did stuff like that. I was hourly there, so at least I got overtime, but that didn't stop my manager from calling me at all hours of the day including on my days off and vacation about work related stuff, and the constant calls to the dispatch center before I started my shift so I could get service calls in my queue to dispatch on.

    *Unfortunately, I won't name this very large company because they actively search the Internet for negative publicity and have a history terminating or suing people over it.

  6. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Did not say

    "We pay our sales reps rarely and follow them around with binoculars and hidden microphones"

  7. RichardEM

    Back to serfdom

    We will now be charged for what we use even if the Lord of the manner requires us to us his stuff and then charges us for it. What is next we will be required to live in their homes use their choice of everything and we will be charged for what we use. Back to the company town and store. Next we will be paid in company script that only the company will except.

    SERFDOM here we come!

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Back to serfdom

      Will it be that or the born-and-raised company drones as told by William Gibson?

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