It was September 11, 2009.
I was newly married and was beginning to learn what it meant to be an adult. But, I was still tied to my parents' cell phone plan. In fact, it had not been too long since my parents had graciously purchased me the first Android phone, the T-Mobile G1. Truthfully, that G1 was the entire reason for this debacle.
I was on my way to the Apple store for an entirely different reason. And, as I drove toward the Brandon Towne Center, my G1 rang. I answered (a rarity for me). And then, I lost the call (also a rarity on T-Mobile). I looked at my phone. It said...and I quote..."Application: Phone has frozen"
My one selectable option: "Force Quit Application: 'Phone'"
I looked at Allison and said, "Baby, I'm gonna walk in there and buy an iPhone and be rid of this headache." Surprisingly, she didn't stop me. All she said was, "If you do, I want one too." I walked out of the Apple store, new toy in hand, convinced that if I "didn't like it" that I would "return it within 30 days no questions asked."
I never looked back. It took me all of 45 seconds of playing with it that night to know we'd be back to buy another one very soon.
The infamous catch: the iPhone was only offered on AT&Terrible. After hearing horror stories about the company left and right, I remember saying to someone on the phone (after the purchase), "I just signed a contract with the devil."
It is that very contract that brings me here today. That very contract, those infamous two-year agreements, and the enticing 'grandfathering' of certain features has kept me with the company ever since. Since then, the iPhone has released on two other US carriers, Verizon and Sprint, and has sold spectacularly well despite certain hindrances to those carriers' service.
Up until this point, I've been allowed to keep my "Unlimited" data package that I originally signed up for back in 2009. This is not only no longer available on AT&Terrible, Verizon, or T-Mobile (the only main US carrier to feature unlimited data for the iPhone is Sprint and most have said that its speeds are abysmal), but it is coveted by every user who was enticed by AT&Terrible's 'hotspot' feature and immediately lost their unlimited data.
Lately, AT&Terrible has been cracking down on their 'bandwith hogs.' AT&Terrible has been forcing some users to have their data throttled to unusable speeds because they were 'using too much bandwith for their area.' As you can imagine, it lit up a storm. Some guy even sued them (and won) because he says they broke the contract.
So, AT&Terrible (understandably in a problematic place...people want fast data and they want lots of it) has changed their policy.
The New Policy:
- Previously 'granfathered' users won't have their data throttled until they reach 3GB a month.
- This is true for every user nationwide.
- The 'unlimited' plan costs $30 a month, matching the $30 3GB a month plan they currently sell.
- With a limited plan, the user has an option to buy unthrottled data for an extra $10/GB.
It seems fair, doesn't it?
In many ways, I suppose that it does. AT&Terrible needed a way to make this more fair, and they came up with one. Good move, buck-os.
Except for one thing - customer loyalty.
I once told an AT&Terrible manager on the phone that I don't stay with his service for the call quality, reliability, or widespread coverage (ALL THREE OF THESE SUCK COMPARED TO THE OTHER OPTIONS)...I stay because I stupidly signed a contract to be there and they were the only company that carried the iPhone...and because they still offered unlimited data. And, for the most part, I had good experiences with their customer service (I was approved for two iPhone 4s in the store by a manager...who didn't have to do what he did...after having spent 5 hours on the phone with customer service the weekend before. I greatly appreciated his kindness.).
There is now no advantage to having stayed with AT&Terrible. Looking forward, I'm looked at the same as the guy who has been with the company for 20 years, and the woman who signed the contract last week. Me, who stuck with the company when large numbers of customers declared an exodus to go to Verizon last January, is looked at the same. I have no pull, draw, or extra weight given to my account. I am much like the rest of the world.
I know what you're thinking...that's fair.
But fair isn't what creates great customer interactions. Fair isn't what convices the user to stick with a company. Fair is a nice concept, but it ends up not appearing fair to much of the people who thought they were giving you the benefit of the doubt when the world turned on you. Fair isn't a real thing.
When Apple replaces your iPhone for free when they didn't have to, that's not fair. That's Apple being a stand up company. Does it cost Apple more? Sure. Does it make it harder for them? Sure. Why do they do it? Not because it is or isn't fair. They do it because they want to keep you as a customer and they're going to do everything in their power to convince you to fall in love with their product and company. I go to a certain dry cleaners not because they were fair to me, I went because I liked the work and they went out of their way to make it better, not fair, for me.
Fair is stupid. The world isn't, never was, and never will be fair. It sounds good, it really does. And we are invited to truly believe it. But it simply isn't how American society has ever worked.
Better is what companies should go for. Not fair. Fair is what governments should go for, not companies.
Companies should try to win over consumers. The only reason I stick with AT&Terrible now is because they still have the fastest 3G network. You'd better bet that once Verizon's 4G LTE network takes off on a greater scale (like it already is doing) that AT&Terrible will be fighting for my business.
Because at this point, Unlimited data is simply a thing of the past.