Wednesday, June 10, 2009

AT&T and Apple: Smelly Pirate Hookers

A long time ago, (the 1990s) before everyone and their grandma ditched their landlines for their cell phones, a bunch of telecoms would compete vigorously for your long distance service. There were rebates and incentives to get you to switch, and the MCIs, AT&Ts and Sprints of the world were locked in a fierce death struggle. I remember one particular promotion in which AT&T offered anyone who had left them $100 to come back. As a loyal AT&T customer, this pissed me off, so I called them and said,

"Hey! I never left! Where's my $100? You reward people who left you for MCI and then come back? What about the people who never left you? I'm leaving unless you give me $100."

So they applied $100 to my account. I guess those were the glory days for customer service reps, when your random call-center jackleg in West Covina could toss around hundred-dollar bills.

Now, AT&T Wireless, (formerly Cingular) in conjunction with Apple (formerly the Satanic Church of Steve Jobs) are at it again.

I bought my iPhone in May. Now the new one is out. And it's pretty. And Better. Stronger. Faster. Apple was kind enough to let me know of the new version of the iPhone in a SPAM email they sent me, my very first SPAM from Apple since registering at iTunes and the App store.

If you've never owned an iPhone before, you can have this baby for just $199. Of course you'll also need to sign a two-year, iron-clad, sacrifice-your-children, accept the mark of the Beast contract with AT&T.

The $199 has an asterisk next to it. That asterisk is for those of us already in love with the iPhone. Its' text reads:

Requires new two-year AT&T wireless service contract, sold separately to qualified customers; credit check required; must be 18 or older. For non-qualified customers, including existing AT&T customers who want to upgrade from another phone or replace an iPhone 3G, the price with a new two-year agreement is $499 (8GB), $599 (16GB), or $699 (32GB).

I believe this is taught in business schools in a course called "Fucking Your Customers - Locking Them In and Hanging Them Out to Dry."

I'm trying to figure out the business logic of treating your current customers this way. I think it boils down to:

"We've got Dave locked in for two years as it is. In two years' time, he will either: (A) Break his iPhone and need a new one; (B) Sell his iPhone on eBay and then come back for the new one, in which case his two-year contract starts all over again; or (C) Quickly forget about this slight after blogging about it.

Attention Apple and AT&T: I don't need you. There are other phones in the sea (or something like that). There are other companies ready to counter this strategy where you woo new customers at the expense of your current customers. Something about "shitting in your nest" comes to mind.

I'm really mad at you bastards, and in two years, I'll make you pay!

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