5 On Your Side

Garner man struggles to cancel deceased mother's phone service

Posted September 17, 2008
Updated September 18, 2008

— Most people keep personal identification numbers, passwords and log-ins secret. That caused a big problem for a Garner man after his mother died in July.

Gene Turner said the cancellations of his mother’s accounts went smoothly until he got to AT&T.

“When I got on the line with AT&T, I was told I was an authorized user on the account and they asked me what my secret password was,” Turner said.

Turner’s mother never shared the password with him, so he did not know it.

“So she said ‘Well, I'm sorry Mr. Turner. If you don't know the private password, I cannot discuss this account further with you,’” Turner said.

When Turner called back, he said a representative told him to fax over the death certificate and other information. He faxed the documents to the company and got confirmation it went through.

A week later when the phone wasn’t disconnected Turner called AT&T again.

“Again (I) went through the now familiar runaround regarding the secret password and the fact I'm an authorized user, and I said ‘I've done what you have asked. I faxed everything to you. What's going on?’ She said, ‘Mr. Turner, we don't show any record of ever receiving any fax from you,’” Turner said.

After asking for a manager, Turner said he was told one would call him back within a day. Turner said no one called him, but he did get another phone bill.

“It's so outrageous that I'm just really, completely disgusted,” Turner said.

So he called 5 on Your Side. After 5 on Your Side called AT&T, the account was canceled the same day. AT&T spokesman Herb Crenshaw said it appears Turner's faxed information was never noted on the account.

Turner said he just couldn’t believe the situation got to that point.

“With all the customers AT&T has, they’ve had to have handled this sort of situation. It’s mind boggling. You would think it would be a routine,” Turner said.

Crenshaw canceled the service as of the date Turner's mother passed away. There was a credit on the account, so AT&T also refunded nearly $170 to Turner.


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  • BEACH Sep 23, 2008

    be glad you were not tell with Sprint/Nextel, sorry CUSTOMER
    service, I went through 6 people for 1 little problem.

    Cing. AT& T has been the best customer service I have ever had

  • ChristaS Sep 22, 2008

    AT&T never forgets..............

  • doinbizzness Sep 19, 2008

    don't pay the bill.....what are they going to do? put it against her credit? i don't think that's going to hurt anything

  • iron fist Sep 19, 2008

    Don't pay the bill they will cut off the service

  • bigpinkstork Sep 19, 2008

    I would have just stopped paying the bill, but by keeping up the fight, this man got the credit balance refunded, so good for him. AT&T refused to cancel my home phone because I owed them $41. They had my $50 deposit, but they said I had to pay the $41 first, then get the deposit refunded. I wouldn't have minded so much if it had been for services rendered, but since they bill ahead, I was actually paying for the upcoming month's service. Once the phone was disconnected, they had to refund me the $41 along with my $50 deposit anyway. I could NOT make anyone see how illogical the arrangement was. It doesn't surprise me at all that they couldn't comprehend that a dead customer is beyond the need for a security passcode.

  • Mmaker52 Sep 19, 2008

    When my husband died I had similiar problems with Alltel. I personally took in my husband's death certificate and was told I would not be charged the $200 termination fee since I took his certificate. Darn if it didnt show up on my next bill that I owed them $200. After many, many calls I was finally told the local "manager" would have to make that decision but Alltel HQ couldnt. Sounds screwy huh? Like many have said they could care less about their customers just the almighty buck!

  • Carolina Conservative Sep 19, 2008

    I'm going through this process now as executor of my father's estate. Instead of calling, I personally visited the offices of his service providers with copies of the death certificate and testamentary letter. I have to say that not only have I not had any problems, I've had people go out of their way to assist me. I know a personal visit isn't always possible but I'd encourage it in cases where it's feasible.

  • RICKJAMES Sep 19, 2008

    I worked for Cingular Wireless (now AT&T) at the call center in Fayetteville for over 2 years. Nine out of ten times these reps dont care what you have to say. Out of a 8 hour day the normal rep will answer 50 calls. Thats it. 80% of those calls are complaints or problems you have to fix. When it comes to a death in the family I dont care about the passcode. Send me a email or fax with death certificate and it will be taken care of asap. If you call these call centers for customer service and you dont recieve it, dont hang up, ask for their manager. If they dont help ask for theirs! Most of the time, the higher up the ladder the higher the I.Q. is anyway! JMO

  • Dr DatacIerk Sep 18, 2008

    TWC is pretty bad too, i'm on my 3rd DVR in less than 5 months... They also don't believe you when you call and say something is wrong with it. Do This! Do That!...you must be an idiot....guess not if they gave me another DVR (twice)

  • If the shoe fits.... Sep 18, 2008

    As executor of my uncle's estate, I found trying to cancel his Embarq landline long distance service just as difficult and time-consuming. Know that their long distance service has to be cancelled separately from local service.
    Direct TV has been another headache. I packed to return three receivers from his house. After Fed Ex delivered one of the three receivers several days later than the other two, Direct TV began billing my deceased uncle for cost of the one receiver - even though Direct TV located the "lost" receiver soon after its delivery and admitted so. Keep in mind I was talking to people in India trying to staighten all this out. Direct TV quickly turned the account over to a collection agency. I gave up trying to get it straight with Direct TV (different person on line - in India - every time I called, heavy accents). I throw the collection letters in the trash. I wonder how many other companies give accounts to collection agencies so quickly and carelessly?