My opening gambit, on upgrading my iPhone:
“I just upgraded to new iPhone4s, and was angered to discover that ATT charges an $18 “upgrade” fee. Please tell me what work ATT did, what assets were deployed, how many staff hours were required to enable the 5 minute process, in the Apple store, to upgrade my phone. This is truly outrageous, extortionate behavior. How can you treat your customers like this?”
AT&T’s Customer Service Response:
“Thank you for taking the time to e-mail AT&T regarding the upgrade fees. I apologize for any confusion or misunderstanding this may have caused. My name is Terri Grissom, and I am happy to help you with your inquiry.
After reviewing your email and account, I understand that you are concerned about being charged a one-time fee of $18.00 for an equipment upgrade. An Upgrade Processing Fee in the amount of $18.00 per line is applied to all AT&T customers who upgrade their equipment. This fee is assessed on the billing statement immediately following the date of your upgrade. Our new customers pay a $36 Activation Fee, but we discount this amount for existing customers.
The $18 fee is to allow us to assist customers with recommending new equipment, offering special offers and discounts, providing assistance with the upgrade process if needed, and supporting the returns process within 30 days. These specialized processes help us to ensure you are satisfied with your new equipment, and are ready to use it the day you receive it. The upgrade fee allows us to defray some of these additional service costs.
Mr. XXXXXXX, I hope that the information provided has been helpful and has resolved all of your questions. Should you have additional concerns or questions about this issue please reply to this email. If you need to contact us again regarding a new issue please send us another email via the contact link through your online account. Again, my name is Terri Grissom, and I thank you for being a valued AT&T customer for several years. We will do our best to ensure that your wireless experience is a success.
I encourage you to visit our web site (www.att.com/wireless) often to view current and previous monthly statements, make payments and to shop for new product and service offerings.
Online Customer Care Professional”
And My Retort:
The “upgrade” process took less than 10 minutes, performed by an Apple employee, in the Apple store. There was no engagement, other than a nano-second electronic handshake to identify the new phone’s serial number, by ATT, no assets of ATT deployed, no advice or counsel from ATT employees regarding equipment, rate plans, etc. This fee is pure exploitation by ATT of a customer who has, over the past decade, spent tens of thousands of dollars on service fees with your company (if I include the technology companies I started, which also used ATT, it would be well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars). ATT saw an opportunity to pick the pocket of a customer, and it took the opportunity.
Small wonder that wireless operators, especially ATT, are held in even lower esteem by the public than Congress, Airlines, or Wall Street bankers. Color me disgusted.