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AT&T has fired several employees in Hawaii for reportedly using unethical sales tactics to convince customers to sign up for a streaming service, but some of those employees said they were only following orders from their bosses.
According to Hawaii News Now, at least six people were fired after an internal investigation showed they were unethically trying to sell trial subscriptions to AT&T’s DirecTV Now streaming service. But Abraham Bounya, the state’s top seller who was terminated, told the news site that managers “encouraged us and informed us how to manipulate sales.”
Though Hawaii reportedly is one of the country’s top sellers of DirecTV Now subscriptions for AT&T, one current employee told the site that they believe 90 percent of the sales made during the second half of 2017 were done unethically.
One allegation made by Buonya is that salesmen would offer a free trial of the service and then tell the customer that the employee would cancel it for them before they had to start paying money on the subscription. But some AT&T employees reportedly forgot to actually cancel the service for the customers—a subscription to DirecTV Now costs $35 per month—meaning those customers would be paying for the service whether they knew it or not. Some customers apparently didn’t notice the unwanted addition to their bills for as many as seven months.
One fired AT&T employee told the site that some representatives signed up for several trials on the same person’s credit card to increase their sales and meet their quotas, particularly when AT&T was offering a DirecTV Now subscription for $10 for the first month.
“My manager picked up my iPad, which was signed in under me, made a fake email and then activated a Direct TV Now subscription on that email and then said if I can do it, here you go, you can do the next one,” the anonymous employee said told Hawaii News Now.
AT&T didn’t comment to Hawaii News Now about the ethical implications but said it had reversed some customers’ charges. In a statement, the company said, “Last fall, we detected some simultaneous customer orders and cancellations of a free product trial. We determined some employees had violated our policies and based on our findings we took appropriate action.”
Another approach reportedly taken by AT&T employees was to tell a customer buying a cell phone that they would waive a completely made-up fee if the customer would purchase a trial of DirecTV Now.
All of this was reportedly done to maintain company sales goals.
“They just keep pressuring us to do it,” Buonya said.
Though DirecTV Now reportedly has close to 1.5 million subscribers, Variety reported in April that AT&T’s video business is actually “shrinking.”
One current employee, though, had some good advice for AT&T customers. “Check your statements, I have no doubt that there are still people that are being charged,” the employee said.
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Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.