AT&T vs. T-Mobile

AT&T vs. T-Mobile


For a variety of reasons, AT&T Mobility no longer seems to be the best option for my family. I’m both saddened at the need to leave a company that I have supported for some time and yet quite frustrated at the way customers are treated, in general.

I have been a long-time AT&T customer. I became a Bellsouth Mobility customer in 2001. Although my family had been a Bellsouth customer beforehand, I had jumped to Verizon for a brief period of 1999-2001 (perhaps 14 months) over the cooler Motorola phones I was able to get. My first phone was a Nokia barphone. Somehow, I traded to a smaller barphone that could do WAP and then to the dual-band 6340i (a really great phone in 2003). Somewhere in there, Cingular bought out BM (you can still see the name Cingular in AT&T Mobility URLs). In 2005, I think, AT&T (then struggling) bought Cingular. This heralded a significantly larger network and soon enough we really could travel across the US as infrastructure exploded. Slowly and sure we went through other Motorolas and Nokias until 2008. In 2008 we acquired Samsung Impressions (great phones) but saw a new change in the customer service we received. It was horrible! Money would get credited to our account for large amounts of time on hold, etc. In 2011, I got my first smartphone (still AT&T)–a Motorola Atrix. Today, at least until our contract expires, we are still AT&T customers.

AT&T Vs. T-Mobile

Today, we are a family with four phone lines on our AT&T family plan. We’ve been grandfathered into the A-List (it is no longer available) and that saves us beaucoup minutes because there is a minute allotment. Because of our employer, we also receive a 15% discount on the primary line telephone service.

The plan we were on, the 1200 minute plan was 79.99. With a 15% discount, we were at (basically) $68 ($67.99). Before May, 2013, the total additional fees on that line added to $6.75 for a whopping $73.99. As of May, 2013, there is a new (non-announced) $0.61 charge billed as “administrative fee” that was not present before–consequently Line 1 (L1) is actually $74.60.

There are two lines that are just phones. Their $9.99/line charge becomes $13.71 as concluded.

$13.71/line @2 lines = $27.42.

Finally, a fourth line (my line) includes the original $13.71 plus the data charges for a smartphone. My total charges come to $28.71.

Total bill = 74.60+27.42+28.71 = 129.00+1.73=$130.73 (if quick head arithmetic is correct).

This included no text messaging for anyone. Consequently, most phone bills were higher because we received and necessarily responded (in some cases) to text messages. At $.20/msg ($.30/mms), 5 text messages make $1 so 25 text messages made our bill be $135. With services like Straighttalk, this service was clearly too expensive. So, I called and got customer service reps.


When I asked if they could work with me to come up with an alternate plan, the CSRs plainly said they could not. However, I could name at least 3 competitors (using the AT&T network!) who would net me a lower bill with no loss in service. I finally asked how much the early termination fees would be and promptly got transferred to the “Customer Retention Department”.

When asked what was causing me to be unhappy with my service, I was clear. Competitors charge lower rates for unlimited calls, unlimited data, and unlimited texting. I had long done the math (I’m a mathematician) and even if I bought new phones my family came out ahead financially. The gentleman I spoke with instantly did two things:

  1. He gave me free family messaging for six months and said that when the six months concludes I could call back and get the texting prices down to $20/month. Not bad.
  2. He also changed us to a lower minute plan. We hadn’t done this before because I knew that if we switched we lost our rollover minutes AND the A-List. He let me keep the A-List and most of my rollovers even though we dropped down a plan.

All in all, we instantly shaved $20 off our phone bill until November. My bill will then re-increase back to its $130 glory but have messaging.  I will still be the only one with data.

Is this enough?  Probably not.

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