AT&T Abuses "Valued Customers" Over Verizon iPhone

For the most part, I’ve avoided speculating on the validity of the iPhone ultimately becoming available on Verizon’s network. Sure, I’ve been following the rumors – but they haven’t meant much to me… until tonight.

Now, I’ve been an AT&T customer for a number of years – having switched away directly FROM Verizon, feeling like I was being overcharged for rather “okay” service. Mind you, I’ve never been thrilled with any mobile voice or data service provider. Moreover, even before the iPhone, AT&T (Cingular) had a “better” array of phones to offer customers.

My iPhone drops calls more frequently than a man-whore drops trou. Despite this, I haven’t abandoned AT&T for a few reasons: (1) I don’t care to jailbreak my iPhone and move to T-Mobile; (2) I have tons of rollover minutes; (3) believe it or not, AT&T has offered to save me money on a few occasions; (4) momentum.

Today, however, AT&T planted a big “we love you so much, we’re going to overcharge you for leaving” statement into our laps – adding insult to injury by addressing us as “Valued Customers” all the while:

For customers who enter into new two-year service agreements in connection with the purchase of our more advanced, higher end devices, including netbooks and smartphones, the ETF will increase to $325. [Up from $175]

Why are they increasing their smartphone early termination fee (ETF) on June 1, 2010? There can be only one reason; they’re expecting smartphone users to jump ship soon. But why, pray tell, would smartphone users leave AT&T in the near future? Oh, that’s as easy to read as an iPhone’s “Call Failed” notification:

The next iPhone must be headed to Verizon’s network.

So, instead of offering me a discount for all the dropped calls I’ve incurred, they’re “offering” to charge me more to leave their network. Instead of putting the “work” back into their network, they’re making it financially disadvantageous to leave their ecosystem.

You know what, AT&T? That’s just messed up. You don’t treat your “valued customers” like convicts – you don’t force them to stay with you by levying fines.

How dare you: (a) call me a “valued customer” when you decided to stop treating me like one; (b) don’t enable commenting on your press release; (c) believe that this is anywhere near an “open” letter.

If anybody owes anybody anything, it’s you who owes your customers for all those failed promises (where’s my tethering option in the U.S.A.?). That you’re increasing this already-outrageous fee on the eve of the next iPhone announcement is pretty much confirming every Verizon-iPhone rumor out there.

Fact: a lost customer is one near-impossible to regain. I wasn’t even considering Verizon (or any other network) as an option… until I read your statement, AT&T. Verizon’s commercials didn’t faze me. I had no want, need, nor desire to leave you, AT&T. So, why are you putting the squeeze on me?!

“Won’t you tell (us) ’bout those rabbits, George?”

Don’t you ever call me a “valued customer” again – you have no right. I should leave you on principle, alone.

Some have noted that Verizon (itself) charges the same amount of money for early termination, but that doesn’t make it right. These policies are typically put in place to keep people where they are, and while the document further states the ETF will:

…be reduced by $10 for each month that you remain with us as a customer during the balance of your two-year service agreement. After that, the ETF will no longer apply.

Why changes things NOW – right before an iPhone announcement?