Starting Sunday, an automated voice will chirp "AT&T;" over a musical background for callers reaching American Telephone & Telegraph's long-distance operators.
The new identification is intended to avoid unpleasant billing surprises for AT&T;'s traveling customers. AT&T; said some people have complained of unknowingly being routed to other long-distance carriers when they placed calls from hotel or pay phones and charged the calls to their AT&T; "Calling Cards."
These customers would discover what happened weeks later when their local phone bill contained charges--often higher than anticipated--from the other long-distance phone company.
"Our customers told us they wanted to be assured of getting AT&T; service and prices before they talk to an operator or key in the AT&T; card numbers," said Merrill Tutton, vice president of consumer services. If the "AT&T;" identification fails to sound after dialing 0 and a long-distance number for an operator-assisted or AT&T; credit card call, he said, the customer should verify which carrier is on the line and ask to be switched to AT&T.;
AT&T; said the identification will be heard initially on about 70% of AT&T; credit card and operator-assisted calls and on virtually all these calls by the end of next year. AT&T; customers who make direct long-distance calls from home will not hear the identification.