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Exit ArchiveArchive for May 23rd, 2006

UPDATED! You can skip to it here.

Since Disney pays for my cell phone service, I have not used my home phone for anything but incoming calls and the occasional toll-free number call. A while back, I pared down my Verizon and my AT&T services to the absolute minimum so that I could still have a land line in case of emergencies. Oh, and because I get DSL and have to have a Verizon telephone account to get the DSL. Yeah, I know, stupid requirement.

The AT&T plan I chose was a pay-as-you-go thingy, which means I haven’t paid any long-distance charges for many moons.

Here’s the post card I got in the mail today:

Beginning with bills issued on or after July 1, 2006, a $5 monthly usage minimum charge will apply to the AT&T One Rate® Simple plan. If your monthly AT&T qualifying calling charges* are less than $5, the difference will be included in your bill for that month. For example, if your applicable monthly calling charges are $4.00, then $1.00 will be added to your bill.

(The bold and the asterisk are part of the original text, so I left it in. The asterisk led to some mumbo-jumbo that meant nothing to me.)

I called the number on the card, and once I was in the menu branch explaining the new charge, I could not get out to talk to anyone. When I called the number back, I was told by the recording that the AT&T Customer Care office was closed for the day.

I got out the one piece of paper I have with any AT&T info on it from when I changed my plan, and I called the different number there. Same thing. Yes, AT&T no longer has 24-hour customer service.

I went to the website and hunted around (after first creating a new user account so I could do so). I compared the plans to see if they had one without the fee. Under the Fee column of the plan comparison page, three plans said “None³.” Ah, yes. The numbered footnote. That said, “³Learn about the Minimum Usage Charge that applies to this plan.” Following the link, I was treated to a wonderful surprise: All of the fee-free plans were not at all fee-free. There was a monthly minimum charge for all of them.

Poking around, I found I could not cancel my account online, which was fine, because I wanted to cancel in someone’s face. But there was an inviting “TAKE A SURVEY” link, so I clicked it and did so. At the end of the survey, I was offered a text box. Heh heh heh. I wrote something fun. Then I went to the e-mail section and sent AT&T an e-mail.

Below is what I sent through the e-mail interface:

I sent a comment via a survey on your website (see below), but I will send it to you again anyway. I have also posted this experience on my blog, which is read by at least five people, and will tell a couple consumer-sympathetic sites I know about it. Just because. I know you will not be quaking in your boots to hear this. I know you will not care that you have lost a customer who has not been making long-distance calls from home as of late. However, you should know that charging for “nothing” is a pretty reprehensible practice. I chose the long-distance plan I chose so that I would only pay you if I used your services. Now you’re planning to charge me for doing nothing. It’s disgusting.

I also know that there’s a small chance you will send me some reply message written by a Frankenstein committee of marketing and legal, the meaning of which will be, in the end, “too bad.” I look forward to that message and getting a good laugh and eye-roll out of it.

Following is the message I sent in the survey:

I am a decades-long AT&T customer. Your stupid $5 minimum charge that goes into effect July 1 for my “no-fee” plan, and the fact that all of your “no-fee” plans now effectively have a fee (which makes your company a big, fat liar), has left me no choice but to cancel my service with you. I have been making my long-distance calls from my cell phone as of late, but had your plan in place on my land line in case I ever needed it. But I will not pay $5 to your company for providing no service whatsoever. You also no longer have a 24-hour customer service number—an SBC carryover “feature,” perhaps?—so I will be calling tomorrow morning to cancel. I realize that you are no longer truly AT&T, but just another big-ass conglomerate who doesn’t care about its customers. Good luck gouging your remaining customers. Bye-bye.

The sad thing about all this is that, even though Disney pays for it, my cell service is through Cingular, which is SBC, which is AT&T. They’re still getting my (or someone’s) money. I hope they don’t figure this out and have themselves a good laugh and eye-roll.


I called AT&T today, and the woman was very nice. She laughed when I called the new fee “stupid.” I hated to pull the miffed customer routine on her, but, hey, I am a miffed customer!

In fact, I recorded the call. There it is, below, ready to be played for your amusement and horror. (It won’t show up in the RSS feed, so you’ll have to actually visit the site! DOUBLE HORROR!)

Also, in case you don’t make it into the comments area, it seems Tanya had to deal with AT&T as well, though she was nice enough to get the lady’s name and thank her.


I did indeed get a response e-mail from AT&T. However, it neither provided me with a good laugh or an eye-roll, so I’m not even going to re-print it here. Yes, it was that corporately boring!