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Jay Lake
Date: 2010-05-01 10:18
Subject: [tech] iPad 3G round two-a, major Apple and AT&T fail
Security: Public
Tags:help, ipad, personal, tech
A bit more explanation in response to various comments from last night's post about the AT&T problem.

Per AT&T, a Post Office Box cannot be used in place of a street address, in compliance with the Mobile Telecommunications Sourcing Act, which I believe is also connected to USA-PATRIOT requirements. (Thanks to amberdine for the link.)

However, the MTSA does not require that the payment mechanism (ie, credit card billing address) be a street address, only that a street address must be associated with the account. I am an AT&T iPhone user who gets his bills at a PO Box, and AT&T has my street address on file as part of the account. I have paid that iPhone bill on occasion in the past with this selfsame credit card without difficulty.

The issue with the iPad 3G data plans is AT&T provides no mechanism for gathering the street address in the event that the billing address is a PO Box. My completely uneducated guess was this was done to streamline the registration process, with fewer click-throughs and screens to fill in. But there's no legal requirement in play with respect to the credit card billing. It's a business decision on AT&T's part to lock out PO Box users by not allowing street addresses to be input as a secondary address.

Several people suggested I use my debit card. Problem there is it flows through the same PO Box as every other financial instrument I have. AT&T provides no alternate billing mechanisms such as ACH or PayPal, so I can't pursue that. The only possibility is for me to call my credit card company, change my account information, wait for that to propagate to the merchant account databases, then rerun the data plan sign up.

No other vendor has ever required me to go to so much trouble to purchase something from them. As Apple has granted AT&T exclusive status here, I have no choices. Neither do the tens or hundreds of thousands of other iPad users who prefer their PO Box address for any number of reasons.

To address a couple of other questions that came up, I use the PO Box because when I'm not on chemo I'm gone from home as much as half the month or more. I far prefer my mail safely locked up at the post office to sitting in my curbside mailbox where any passing meth head can rifle through it. This is a normal thing people do, and it's frankly better financial security. I'm not some kind of weirdo, and I'm certainly not trying to conceal my street address from my creditors and vendors. I'm happy to provide it on request. AT&T simply doesn't give me that option on the iPad 3G data plan.

Second, this isn't really a fraud issue as some have suggested. As it happens, I have quite a bit of familiarity with transaction processing and fraud management through my Day Jobbe. (That's why, for example, the zip codes have to match up.) AT&T already has my street address through my iPhone account. Even if they didn't, I'd be happy to provide it through my iPad account if they would let me. This is AT&T taking a nonstandard approach to credit card processing that locks me and thousands of others out.

I'm not going to work this any further until I get my iPad hardware issues resolved. I have a Genius Bar appointment tomorrow which may help, but I strongly suspect I have a lemon on my hands. However, I plan to file a complaint against AT&T and Apple with both my credit card issuer and with Visa, and possibly Oregon's consumer protection office at the Department of Consumer and Business Services as well. This is a ridiculous restriction of a reasonable and customary use of a credit card, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if it violated AT&T's agreements with them.

So that's pretty much the summary on AT&T. More on the sync and hardware issues tomorrow. So far, the iPad 3G experience continues to be a serious hassle and a major disappointment.

Thanks again, Apple and AT&T.

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User: ruralwriter
Date: 2010-05-01 18:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've been following this closely because I also am a PO box user (my house is one-tenth of a mile away from the nearest mailbox site) and I had been experiencing a certain desire to purchase an iPad. I'm starting to wonder if I'll have to wait for some other provider to release an iPad-like device.

Last year my husband attempted to buy a laptop; he preferred the specs of a Hewlett-Packard, but they wouldn't sell to him because he a) has a post office box and b) wanted to ship the laptop to a secure UPS store (since he works during the day). Despite his several attempts to contact Hewlett-Packard, they wouldn't compromise, so he now owns a Sony laptop.
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User: joycemocha
Date: 2010-05-01 23:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That's weird. My son had his HP laptop shipped to a secure UPS store (but the address looks like an apartment address, not a standard P.O. Box).

I never thought about that aspect of using a UPS store mailbox as opposed to the standard USPS mailbox. We just did it because we didn't want to mess with local USPS mailbox availability.

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User: ruralwriter
Date: 2010-05-04 01:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Interesting; my husband purchased his last fall, I think. Did your son get his credit card bill at that UPS store? My husband doesn't...
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User: joycemocha
Date: 2010-05-04 02:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yes, he does get his credit card bill at that UPS store mailbox. We love it because it's a lot easier than USPS--they can sign for UPS, Fed Ex, anything like that.
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They Didn't Ask Me: zoe-saldana-uhuru
User: dr_phil_physics
Date: 2010-05-01 18:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Go get 'em, Jay! As I commented on your previous post this is a matter of financial security -- and perfectly legal U.S. postal behavior. Where does my securing billing address have anything to do with my legal street address?


I've been looking at the 3G iPad because you can buy 3G service as you need it, rather than locked into a contract -- perfect for travel to my 'rents who don't have any computers. But they'll have to solve this problem.

Dr. Phil
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User: seventorches
Date: 2010-05-01 21:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
What happens if you initially bill to a home address, but for some reason you switch to a PO box later on? Do they kill your account?
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User: djonn
Date: 2010-05-02 06:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I may be missing something here, but it seems to me that there is a fairly obvious workaround for this -- albeit one that may or may not be specifically useful in your case. Namely, a private rent-a-mailbox (i.e. Postal Annex, The UPS Store, etc.).

I got one of these many, many moons ago, when I was getting bushels and pecks of ARCs and galleys in connection with various book reviewing gigs. And whereas I don't nowadays have nearly the same level of bookflow that I once did, the rent-a-box is highly useful in that it saves wear and tear on my apartment managers, and ensures that I can easily get UPS packages not only from publishers but from mail order places and family members mailing Christmas presents, and pick them up at my convenience. And the nifty thing about the private rent-a-boxes is that -- while I haven't encountered this particular credit-card issue -- they come with the street address of the mailbox place.

Which means, I would think, that the general case of the present issue may be soluble simply by converting from a PO Box to a private rent-a-mailbox. There would certainly be a degree of attendant hassle associated with the address change, which may or may not render it a helpful option for you right now. But if all AT&T wants is a street address, I'd think that would be the easiest way to acquire one.

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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-05-02 14:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
One major reason I have a PO Box is to never have to change my address. Given that about 300 literary contracts point to that PO Box, and dozens more every year, with attendant checks, royalty statements, proof sheets, author copies etc., the hassle factor of changing it would be incredible and have trailing consequences for years.

And loathe as I am to change my address of record with one credit card for these morons, why would I want to rearrange my entire financial life?

Also, Post Offices don't generally go out of business, but a PMB service could change at any time, and I could lose the address if i had one.
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cyborgsuzy: Bitey Face
User: cyborgsuzy
Date: 2010-05-05 19:36 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Bitey Face
I've been scratching my head over this issue. My cell provider is AT&T and like you I use a PO box for all billing. They've never had an issue with it. In fact, they fell all over themselves to help me when I walked into the store and announced I wanted to buy an iPhone.
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