Yes, I know I'm on deadline. Yes, I know I am supposed to be in hibernation. Yes, I have to get this off my chest.
I've been with AT&T for approximately 10 years. I have spent, very conservatively speaking, at least $25,000 with them through the years on phones and service. Now with four phones on my plan, my bill averages $270 a month.
I won't get into how terrible their coverage is. You've certainly seen the Verizon ads poking fun at AT&T's coverage. "There's a map for that."
Obviously they struck a nerve because AT&T now has their own ads touting the speed of their 3G network. Newsflash AT&T: Speed is great if you just happen to be standing next to a cell tower having a sandwich, but does you little good if you have no signal at all.
AT&T's argument is like saying: "Look at us! We make the fastest sports cars on the planet, but they don't always start! But zooooooom, when they do, baby watch out!"
Back to venting. A few weeks ago I added a line to my account for a "family phone", a phone available to the kids but tightly controlled by Mom and Dad. They have access to it when they babysit, when we're gone, field trips, etc.
If only it worked.
Within two weeks the phone was dead. No problem, right? Just take it back? Sure, if you have the original box. When I went to AT&T, I was told they couldn't replace it without every stitch of the original packaging, even though I was well within the 30-day return window.
1. Purchase a replacement model for $299. (That's the price you pay when you're not activating service, which is where wireless carriers make their real profits. Phones are just a means to a contract.)
2. Roll the dice and purchase a used phone with no warranty on eBay from some guy in a "Finding Nemo" bathroom logging on from his mother's half-finished basement.
3. Pay an early termination fee of $175.
4. Throw the dead phone in the Shenandoah River and pay for the service, without actually using it, until the contract expires. Then renew my contract and get a phone at the "new customer" discount.
So I tried calling. What did AT&T say?
"No box, no replacement. No box, no canceling. No box, no soup for you."
Frustrated, I sent an admittedly "aggressive" e-mail through their web site. To their credit, a polite woman called from customer service, reiterated their policy, but made an enticing offer to keep me from leaving. AT&T would credit my account for up to $40 if I replaced the dead phone with one of their cheapo pre-paid models available at finer convenience stores everywhere.
I wonder if she'd also cover my Big Gulp.
Whew. I feel better already. Now it's back to comparison shopping at Verizon and Sprint.