While everyone else was drooling over the iPhone, I knew to stay away. I suspected a consumer disaster of epic proportions when Apple, rightly famous for its brilliant products and exquisite marketing, collided in the marketplace with AT&T, one of the worst consumer vendors in the history of Earth.
Cellular One…no AT&T Wireless…no Cingular…no AT&T has been the target of repeated customer lawsuits (here and here) and has done just about everything it can do to customers from over-selling Digital One Rate in the late 1990’s to consistently scoring at the bottom of Consumer Reports subscriber surveys.
In fairness, none of the cell companies are very good. But the prize for being the worst for the longest and consistently treating customers like dirt goes to whatever-they-are-calling-themselves-today AT&T.
When Apple, the control freak of the consumer electronics biz, made the rounds of carriers to see which would allow it to control the user experience (this is from Wall Street Journal stories that you need a subscription to read), only AT&T signed up and in return got an exclusive for the iPhone.
I’ll bet you Steve Jobs and Apple are regretting that decision. It’s been a mess, with the ‘Net exploding with horror stories around activation and porting numbers from other carriers. AT&T and Apple are both minimizing the impact publicly, saying that it’s only a few customers.
I know how I’d feel if I’d just made a $2000 commitment to the iPhone — $600 plus 24 months of service at a minimum of $60 — and I was in the “2%” having problems. (Get this, even if you are an AT&T customer you must still activate for two more years. Talk about extending the sentence!)
C’mon…we all know when they’re saying “we had an unexpected surge” or “we’ll clear it up soon” it means it’s outta control. Can we really believe that AT&T didn’t know how many iPhones would be in the stores on June 29th? That they couldn’t have sized their systems to prepare for that number?
The thing is, this must be amazingly painful inside Apple. I feel for them. They tried to keep control of the experience, but they aren’t a cell phone operator…they just really don’t know how to screw customers.
AT&T has sure taught Apple something about control this week. It’s one lesson I hope Apple doesn’t take to heart.