June 3 2010

AT&T Threatens Customer With Cease & Desist Action Over Complaint Letters

Apparently if you are unhappy with the new AT&T data plans, then you just need to keep those thoughts to yourself.  Complaints will not be tolerated.

In this day and age of hyper-connectivity, it is not unusual for customers to e-mail CEOs of companies directly with questions and complaints.  Very few of them respond, although Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been on a response binge as of late, with almost all of his notes turning into blog posts on various tech blogs.

A customer named Giorgio Galante e-mail AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson two weeks ago about bumping up his iPhone upgrade eligibility date, and if the carrier would be adding tethering in the near future.  After the new data plans were announced, Mr. Galante e-mailed Mr. Stephenson again to inform him of his intent to switch to Spring as he was unhappy with the new policies of the company.

He received the following voicemail which you can listen to over on his blog:

Giorgio Galante, this is Brent [unintelligible] calling from AT&T’s Exectuive Response Team.  Calling in response to the latest e-mail which you sent to Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson, earlier today, Wednesday, June 2nd.

I want to first thank you for the feedback.  Going forward, need to warn you that if you continue to send e-mails to Randall Stephenson a cease & desist letter may be sent to you.  If you would like to speak with [cut off to remove phone number]

Yes, folks … if you e-mail the CEO of a company you spend $110 a month with (which is what Mr. Galante was paying for his iPhone and iPad) twice in two weeks, you get threatened with legal action.  Apparently commenters on some blogs that are discussing this are saying this appears to be standard policy.

I am absolutely dumbfounded by this.  How can any company, and especially one that is in the middle of receiving highly negative press over a new policy, think it’s a good idea in this day and age to threaten already displeased customers with legal action?  Have they not heard of the blogosphere?  Twitter?  I wouldn’t be too surprised to see this end up on some morning news shows.  If you want to make sure your reputation gets even more damaged, then you threaten to bring in lawyers for a customer expressing their displeasure with your company.

Has no one taught AT&T about how to route e-mail?  They could let all the e-mails in the world come in from this guy, send them a holding folder, and he would never be the wiser, and would feel better having vented his frustrations.  Instead you make them that much angrier and possibly spread their venom around by threatening legal action where absolutely none is needed.

Being so into technology, people seem to be constantly amazed that I don’t have an iPhone.  There is one very specific reason I don’t have one, and that would be AT&T is the only carrier with it.  I hate this company and have for years.  With each decision they make they remind me again why I avoid them like the plague, and I will continue to do so.

Good job, Mr. Stephenson.  Way to win friends and influence people.

Update 6/3/10: Mr. Galante received an apology from a Senior VP named Lori.  Good on AT&T for the apology, but considering the coverage this got, shouldn’t Mr. Stephenson done it himself?

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