This past summer, AT&T double charged me. It took phone calls, faxes, and several visits to the AT&T store to prove to them that they took my money. In the end they refunded the fee but I still lost my rollover minutes, my dignity, and five hours of my life.
When I asked to be compensated for my time, AT&T customer service offered me ten dollars—their maximum possible credit. I argued with the representative. She said AT&T values me as a customer, apologized, and promised I wouldn’t be double charged again. I asked for that in writing but she couldn’t furnish such a letter. She did “talk with her supervisor” (ten minutes on hold) and offered me a new maximum possible credit—fifteen dollars.
What happens when an individual goes up against a huge company like AT&T? They lose. Every single time. I can’t put this on AT&T’s credit report. All I can do is complain about it online. But that doesn’t matter because there are thousands of complaints floating around out here. People need a phone and one of the monster phone service companies is inevitably gonna get us as their servant/customer.
Which brings me to Apple. After much hype, Apple announced its new product line today. I was really hoping they’d add 3G to the iPod touch. A pipe dream, yes, but one worth imagining. Steve Jobs was radical when he refused to enable Flash on Apple devices. But alas, Apple is in bed with its phone carriers. Why would they put out an iPod Touch that competes with the iPhone? What if Apple did just that?
Yes, Apple sells unlocked iPhones but the trick would be giving the masses an easy alternative to monthly carrier bills. If everyone could ditch their phone number but still communicate using an online phone application it would change everything. EVERYTHING. I’m envisioning teens writing their iPhone or Facetime user ID where it says “phone number” on job application forms. It’s not crazy.
With iTunes, Apple created a market that didn’t exist beforehand. Now iTunes is huge. So why didn’t they make iPhone into its own service that Apple could own? It could have been free or really affordable with all kinds of apps and whatnot. It would “democratize” the telephone. Instead we’re still being nickel and dimed (or dollared and hundred dollared) for every bit of information we send across one of these monster company’s networks.
Why do we pay huge monthly usage fees to these behmoths when they could give a crap less about us as customers? Because we’re not being given the tools to do otherwise. If we had the tools, service providing companies would have to step up and innovate rather than sit back and regulate.