Joining the Pink Party: Ditching AT&T for T-Mobile

Friday morning, I had a customer service interaction with AT&T that left me so incensed with anger that I took to Twitter, and dropped a good share of f-bombs on the matter. My cell phone carrier managed to break my zen and reduce me to a raging ass spouting expletives on the internet. Rather than leave it at it that, I find it would be more productive to tell the story behind the interaction.

AT&T BIll Jan - Feb 2014
AT&T Bill for the period in question

I started my day by processing my email inbox to zero, which i’ve been neglecting to do all week. As I went through my messages, I noticed one from AT&T notifying me that my account was past due for the amount of $136.94 for the period of January 8th through February 8th. When I looked at the bill in detail, I saw that I was being invoiced for my monthly service fee of $89.99 — $39.99 for 450 Nation Rollover Minutes, $20 for Messaging Unlimited w/ Mobile to Any Mobile Calling, and $30 for my grandfathered data unlimited plan — in addition to a $40 service reactivation fee. My issue with this lay in the fact that my mobile services weren’t in effect during that time period.
It’s here that I’ll admit that sharing a story that’s resulting from the current financial hurdles I’m finally in the last stages of squaring away is a little awkward. However, considering that that seems to be the narrative shared by the majority of the American public in this present economy , I feel no shame in writing about it; it makes the story all the more relevant. In recovering from the last round of car repairs, I had to forego having cellphone service to get a smog check and pay the registration fees to the DMV. My service was deactivated on January 10th, and wasn’t reinstated until February 7th when I paid the outstanding $183. In turn, AT&T was trying to collect payment on service it was withholding. More concisely, they were demanding I pay for nothing.
On my break at work, I called their customer support line and got in touch with a billing service representative, whose name I didn’t catch because he mumbled it so incoherently. I explained the situation, and argued that there was no sense in those charges being made. I told him I would understand if I were still on contract and that payment was going towards the subsidy on the equipment, but I’m using an unlocked iPhone 4S that I bought on launch date and have been off-contract for a good while now. I offered that I didn’t mind paying the $40 reactivation fee (which is a complete joke in itself, but that’s a different matter for another time) since it’s part of the process, but that I had to draw the line at paying for a month of something I couldn’t access. The phone rep coldly replied that those were charges that couldn’t be waived. I responded that I didn’t agree with that practice, and that they could either take the $40 reactivation fee and waive the service charges or I could ditch them for T-Mobile and refuse to pay their bill. In a bored unaffected tone he told me that it was certainly my decision to do so. We ended the call without successfully resolving the issue, and I decided I was going to make the switch. I’d been interested in jumping over to T-Mobile when they started giving out 200MB of monthly data for tablets for free regardless of whether or not you contract cellular phone service with them. They’re positioning themselves as the company you want to do business with, and their “uncarrier” initiative has certainly done it’s job with me. I’ve stayed on AT&T partly out of the convenience of having existing service and not dealing with the migration process, and partly because of memories of my best friend having terrible service through T-Mobile back in the Sidekick days.
Since the call was so brief, I decided to use the remaining time on my break to cast a line out into the Twittersphere. My inner marketing student enjoys comparing the difference between interactions conducted through traditional customer service channels and those once social media enters the picture.

Sure enough, within minutes someone on their Twitter team reached out, the complete opposite of uncaring Mr. Blow-It-Out-Your-Ass I had just spoken to on the phone. Also, note T-Mobile is so excited they can hardly spell straight.

AT&T/T-Mobile Tweets
AT&T/T-Mobile Tweet in Response

Later on in the day once I found another block of free time, I decided to see what AT&T was willing to do. I’d spent my workday so committed to the switch that I knew the relationship wasn’t salvageable, but if I could get those charges wiped and not have to deal with continuing to dispute them or have them reported against my credit, I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity. I identified myself via DM as instructed, briefly recapped the situation at hand, then put a mental deadline of “end of business day” on their resolution effort. When I checked my phone again before the end of the work day, I had the following exchange:

So, their response was to ask me for details extraneous to the underlying principle that they should be more than capable of extrapolating from their own records. I tried to measure myself so as to not come off aggressively hostile off the bat, but I find unnecessary redundancies like that to be a pet peeve of mine. It’s like when I call my bank and enter my identifying information using their voice recognition and keypad entry prompts, and then have that same information immediately asked for again by the phone banker that takes my call.
I waited until the end of the day at work, and never got another response from the AT&T Twitter team. After making my way home through evening traffic and doing some preparatory research on the web, I made a trip to my local T-Mobile store. I walked in and told the sales rep that I’d gotten fed up with AT&T, and requested that he make the switch as appealing and painless as possible. I got a service fee breakdown: for the lower cost of $70 per month, $20 less than I was paying AT&T, I get unlimited everything, tethering at no extra cost, and international text & data roaming. I signed the paperwork, and we got started on trying to port my existing number with AT&T over to my new service line. Minutes later, I was given a T-Mobile SIM card, and instructed to pop it in once service with my AT&T SIM card went offline.
A couple hours after I got home, the moment arrived, and I swapped SIM cards, officially giving up my grandfathered unlimited data plan and moving off from AT&T’s service.
Homescreen: New Carrier
The Before & After

As I mentioned earlier, I was committed to change carriers in spite of whatever retention incentive AT&T would have came up with, and was firmly intent on doing so as a matter of principle (well, that and because they broke my zen & caused me to drop some hard expletives on the web). I was being billed for services that weren’t rendered, and AT&T had the gall to tell me that’s just the way it goes, entitled to take money for nothing. Out of all the various adjectives that I’ve thought of to describe that, the one I’ve found most fitting is Un-American. There was no sense of pride in service or relationship appreciation in my interactions with AT&T, just the usual corporate indifferent scripts. I can’t say I wouldn’t encounter the same thing with T-Mobile in those same circumstances, but I like to believe that part of the “Uncarrier” initiative includes allowing their billing service representatives to utilize logic and moral judgement rather than defaulting to rigid policies and guidelines. Even if that should still prove not to be the case, I’d rather be giving my money to the carrier giving out more value for the dollar and no-strings free data service for tablets than the one trying to charge me for not giving me service.
Six years I’ve been with AT&T, since the launch of the iPhone 3G. I upgraded every year, and wasted so much extra money juggling additional lines to get equipment subsidies that otherwise went unused. And now, all that business (though I’ve admittedly long-since broken my yearly upgrade habit) will be going to the other guy now. T-Mobile’s marketing message would say that I’ve joined “Team Magenta”. On top of sounding a bit too Twilight for my tastes, I find the disruption “uncarrier” is causing in the wireless industry to have more of a political charge. So I’m going to say that I’ve registered and joined up with the Pink Party, and I’m likely to start encouraging more people to follow suit.
TMobile Logo with Stars
Join the Pink Party

In Memoriam: Steven Paul “Steve” Jobs


It’s been five days since Steve Jobs passed away. Even now, five days later, it’s still difficult to wrap my mind around the idea that he’s gone forever. The world has lost a living legend and an amazing modern renaissance man. Jobs’ contributions to modern society, be they Pixar animation studios or the iconic iPhone, have changed the course of human culture and technological development in previously unimaginable ways. He was to us what DaVinci was to the world in the 1500’s. Like so many others, I mourn the loss of one of history’s most talented visionaries and leaders.

Now, I would love to continue to extol the virtues of Steve Jobs, but that would be misleading on my part. The truth of the matter is that my opinion of Steve Jobs has not always been the most favorable. See, for the longest time, I was a strong opponent to Apple products. Not out of allegiance to the Microsoft brand, but out of my love for technology as a whole.


Though I am primarily a Windows user, the Mac OS has been a large part of my computing experience as a whole. I first taught myself to use a computer using outdated Macintoshes in my elementary school’s computer lab, and later on using my Uncle’s Macintosh LCIII. Every time I used a Macintosh, I enjoyed it. As a child, it was intuitive and user friendly.


However, I also had been given a Packard Bell D160 Multimedia PC by father as a Christmas present in 1995, and grew to love the Windows operating system. Though in hindsight it wasn’t that great, at the time the immersive Packard Bell navigator software that booted with Windows was impressive. It simulated an actual living environment, each room with a specific function – living room for media, office for documents, etc. The games that were available (The Journeyman Project comes to mind) offered me a way more impressive computer experience at home than the ones at school did.


In the years since then, Steve Jobs returned to Apple and revived the company with the iMac. At the time, I was enrolled at Lewis Middle School, whose school slogan was “Leading in Technology”. They lived up to it: every classroom and every computer lab was stocked with both the color all in one iMacs with the hockey puck mouse, or with the latest variants of the classic Macintosh line. I once again grew to love the Mac experience. Though I hate to admit it, I loved playing the shit out of Nanosaur at any chance I could get.

Still, Macs came at a premium, and my Dad governed the computer purchases. He was a fan of the more practical Windows platform, so that’s what I got at home. I remember wanting to eventually get a Mac to do graphic design work on when I was in high school. Unfortunately, by then, the revolution started by the iMac sparked the elitism of the Mac brand: if you own a Mac, you’re better than everyone else. As a computer enthusiast who had grown up with an enjoyable Windows experience, I stuck with Microsoft. I understood the power of each platform, but didn’t agree that one necessarily had to be better than the other. Since they were both good, I felt I needed to stick with the one I’d grown up with and was subject to very harsh criticism.


In the years between high school and the present, that resistance to Apple became an absolute disdain for it. I loathed the arrogance of the Justin Long Mac vs. PC commercials. Steve Jobs was perpetuating that elitist attitude I couldn’t stand. This became even worse when my best friend Chris switched from PC to a Mac. At every chance he could get, he would interject how my computer is pathetic because it runs on Windows. Any performance hiccup was interpreted as a plea for a gospel on the superiority of the Mac. Or, in layman’s terms, he became very fucking annoying.

Now, as much as I had grown to resent Apple, I was still a techie, and I still liked my gadgets. I’ve purchased many iPods over the years. When I was a teenager and finally had the option to upgrade from my Nokia 6682 to a smartphone running a real OS, my only viable options for a good 3G phone were the iPhone 3G and the Blackberry Bold. Android was only barely starting to gain traction, and AT&T went many years without carrying Android devices in favor of its exclusivity with Apple for the iPhone. Though I’d always wanted to get a Blackberry throughout my time in high school, I found myself going with the iPhone simply because it’s unique touch screen allowed the best mobile browsing experience possible. So it was with heavy heart in December of 2008 that I “sold out” and became an iPhone user.


Even with iPod and iPhone in hand, I still continued to resent Apple solely because of my resentment of Steve Jobs. I’ve jailbroken every iPhone I have because I don’t agree with the limitations Apple has set on the device. They sell you something they will allow it to do for you, not something that can do everything it can for you. I was outraged at the 30% Apple started charging for in-app purchases, forcing competitors to rely on webapps to circumvent the unnecessary fee, thereby making iBooks a more attractive option with simple in-app purchasing. I was pissed when Steve had his Apple townhall and called Google’s “Do No Evil” mantra “bullshit”. I was furious when Steve set his crosshairs on Adobe (yeah, the company that makes the software that most professional Mac users use a Mac for) and Flash. Even worse was when the iPhone Developer ToS were updated to render the flash-to-iPhone compiler Adobe was planning on including in the upcoming CS update unusable.


Google is bullshit and Adobe is lazy, says the Goblin King!

So, Steve did shit that pissed me off because I like Apple, but I also like everyone else that Apple has been absolutely shitty to. This led me to say (and by say, I mean “post online”) very many ugly things about Steve. God, I couldn’t stand the guy. I admired him for his achievements and business acumen, but hated his totalitarian approach.

A few months ago, I decided that I was going to invest in the Mac platf
orm. As an iPhone and iPad owner, I want to explore the integration that iCloud will offer across it’s devices. I remember that it was only two days after I first had this thought that Steve resigned as CEO. I remember laughing to myself that it was as if by simply having that thought in my head, Steve had won. I was interested in finally giving in on the one front I staunchly refused to give in on, the PC computing experience, and so his work was done. He stepped down in victory.


Once he resigned, I found myself missing having him in charge. Without Steve at the helm of Apple, there was no reason to really resist Apple. My love-hate thing with Steve only worked when he was still in charge and ready to do something more. So in the time that I would normally read the latest on Steve Jobs, I started reading about Steve Jobs. I then started to realize the true extent of his genius and innovation, and the importance of his contributions. I also have come to realize that the very things that I hated about him were the things that I admire the most about him. He was innovative and decisive. He had great standards of excellence and amazing insight. And most of all, when it came to something he had made up his mind on, he just didn’t give a fuck. His word was final.

So, I’ll say it. I miss you, Steve. Furthermore, I’m glad to have shared time on earth with you. I can say that I lived during the era that Steve Jobs revolutionized the world. I don’t regret that I spent so much time hating you – you were kind of a real prick. However, the fact that you had the balls to do all the things that set me off was always something I secretly admired. Now that you’re gone, I only wish you were still around to keep doing what you did for another 20 years.


Rest in Peace, Friend.