An Open Letter to AT&T Regarding My Attempts to Buy an iPhone

NEW YORK (MainStreet) —

Dear AT&T,

Giving you money shouldn't be this hard.

At the beginning of August I finally decided to upgrade my old iPhone 3. I bought the device back in the spring of 2010, and years later it began showing its age. Never mind my complaints about well-maintained technology that expires faster than a can of tuna, and I forgave the dropped calls and failed connections that caused me to miss more than one interview. A new telephone might fix my problems, and I was very willing to try.

Besides, as one of the holdovers of the unlimited data era, changing service providers was never really an option. Thanks to the commoditization of wireless data, my phone plan has become the third rail of my life: it has unlimited data and so is not, under any conditions, to be touched. My best bet was in buying a new phone.

I wanted this to be easy. I would visit the (only) AT&T store near my apartment in Chicago, renew my plan and purchase a new phone to go with it. Your customer service had other ideas.

The first time I tried stopping by your store over lunchtime on a Tuesday afternoon, one representative called out a cheerful "we'll be right with you" before turning back to her customer. This turned out to be wildly optimistic, and I spent the better part of an hour unnecessarily browsing cellular phones before eventually giving up.

On my second trip I tried to plan more carefully and arrived well after lunchtime, in an effort to avoid the rush. I did no better. My third trip ended before it even began. I marched out after noticing the haggard customers outnumbering floor staff by nearly three to one, more considering that one of those staff members had spent every minute I'd been in the store talking on the phone. This may seem like fitting bit of irony, but it was lost on me.