AT&T’s Christmas Present

There once was a wonderful mobile carrier named Cingular Wireless. It had excellent customer service, quality phones, and overall great coverage. At the time of Cingular’s dominance, another mobile carrier was foundering. This carrier was named AT&T Wireless. For reasons that probably seemed good at the time, among which was the creation of the largest mobile carrier, Cingular purchased AT&T Wireless. As an existing Cingular customer, I didn’t immediately notice the change. It was to be much later that the full implications came to the surface.

Over time I noticed I was dropping a lot more calls. I was unable to make calls from the places I used to. I had to find new nooks for coverage. It turned out that my area had been switched to AT&T cellular towers and my phone hadn’t been informed of this. They swore that once my phone was updated everything would go back to normal. It didn’t. For the last few years, since 2004 to be exact, my experience with the new AT&T Wireless has been on a steady downward slope. I have remained a loyal customer through all these years, and through all the battles I’ve been forced to wage with them. Even still, I remained a loyal customer.

I have been watching AT&T for the last few months, waiting for any sign that it will get its act together and start selling Android phones, or at least Sony Ericsson smart phones. I have been consistently disappointed. I keep telling myself, “at least they aren’t Verizon, or Sprint”, or any other carrier I have had problems with. To be fair to Verizon I have had problems with their Business and Personal DSL, T1, and land-line phones. I have yet to try its mobile service, though I’ve heard plenty of stories.

During this same period of watching AT&T, it gets into a PR war with Verizon. Commercials going back and forth defending its fast yet nearly non-existent 3G network. I didn’t mind this so much, and they even hired a decent actor to do their commercials. I thought the money could have been better spent on improving the cellular coverage, or at least customer service. I was content to stick with them a bit longer even so. That brings us to today.

Yesterday I got a text message from AT&T that I didn’t notice until this morning. It says

Billing Notice: FamilyTalk accounts need Family Messaging Unlimited to qualify for Data Unl @ $10/mo/line. If not, Data Unl costs $15/mo/line. Pls call 611 or go online & add Family Msg Unl to your account. If no action is taken in 30 days charges will be adjusted to $15/mo.

Ok, what in the world was that? Upon closer look, it appears that since I downgraded my text messaging plan from unlimited due to limited usage, it ticked AT&T off. They decided to raise my monthly rate by $5/month, which ordinarily would have been fine. Annoying, but fine. The annoying thing is, they want me to add a $20/month service to my account to avoid the $5/month charge. Not gonna happen. We called AT&T this morning and the customer service reps had not heard of this new edict. They agreed it made no sense. The game plan developed between AT&T and my wife this morning was to wait until AT&T carried out its price increase and then call back. I made sure we got our early termination amounts so we could be prepared.

As of today, my relationship with AT&T has a drop-dead date. If they do not improve their customer service and cellular coverage, and do not have at least two Android phones by February of 2010, I will no longer be an AT&T customer. This is the end of my contract, and we will pay the early termination fee on my wife’s worthless iPhone. The clock is ticking, AT&T. Thanks for your Christmas gift. Instead of the rate hike you thought you were giving me, you gave me a better gift. The gift of a final straw. I am grateful for this gift. While it will be hard to part after all these years, it is time AT&T remembers how to value its customers. I will certainly keep everyone updated as this story develops.

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