- Posted December 27, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
At&t Scams Customers out of 2.7 Billion!
What’s this 3 dollars on my phone bill?
Awww it’s a story as old as time, well, at least as old as odd charges popping up on your cell phone bill. We’ve all been there, what’s this fee or that charge? Then we call the company and are given some half legitimate excuse for it’s presence, offered a courtesy credit and a given some pre written apologetic statement and assured that they’re grateful for our business. Normally speaking, it probably is just an error or some arbitrary fee that we missed when we signed our contract. But what about when it’s not? What about when it’s the company themselves intentionally adding these things to your account? Well I’m sorry to say, but if you’ve purchased a phone from At&t in the past six months, there’s a good chance you’ve been a victim to this fraudulent activity.
First of all, who am I? Well, let’s call me Joe. I, Joe, am a manager at a corporate At&t store, better known as company owned retail. This means I do not work for one of the shady resellers, but am a legitimate At&t employee, and have been for over half of a decade. During my career I have seen the company roll out countless new sales initiatives. It makes sense, in a market that is over 100% saturated with cell phone users, we have to find ways to make more money, growth, I get it. Most of the initiatives I have seem come have been great and stayed, or not so great and left. Goals always vary as nobody really knows what to expect. In 2012 we introduced a new initiative, it is called MPP.
So briefly MPP: “Mobile Protection Pack”, a product of Asurion who provides insurance coverage for all of the major carriers, is an enhanced support service that you add to your plan that gives you certain benefits such as phone tracking, but mostly is there to give you access to american based call centers who can provide you with enhanced technical support above that of At&t.
So that being said, if you have purchased a phone from At&t in the past 6 or so months the odds are very good that you’ve been offered insurance, how much is it you ask? $9.99 per month is more than likely the response you were given. Or in some cases when it came time to sign your service agreement $9.99 was highlighted on your bill and you were informed that you have been “auto-enrolled” but could take it off whenever you want. In many cases, you may have heard nothing of it until you took the time to review your bill details which to be fair might as well be written in brail for most of us. Insurance is not $9.99, it is $6.99. That extra $3 is for the MPP.
Did you look at your bill? Is MPP on there? Have you heard anything of the details of this until right now? I believe it. You’re probably already mad at the person who sold you your phone, probably really liked them and maybe even gave them a glowing survey response when asked how your experience was. I have to tell you, don’t be to mad at them, it’s really not their fault. The goal for MPP in a company owned store is 50%, that means for 50% of the phones you sell, you are required to have a minimum 50% attach rate.
Let’s review. iPhones come preloaded with phone tracking software, and of course are At&t’s most popular phone. That means that the company is suggesting that it be reasonable to expect that half of iPhone users would find the benefit of American based call centers, even though many purchase apple care and have free access to a person at the genius bar at any time. Android and Windows users are generally more tech savvy, and would doubtfully see any benefit in this service. Blackberry really doesn’t count anymore and basic phone users are generally speaking young children or the elderly, two demographics that are unlikely to need to call and enhance tech center to learn how to make a call or send a text message.
So what are the options for your run of the mill cell phone salesmen? Well, sadly they are limited. They are told by their managers the “tricks” like auto-enrolling and just saying insurance is $9.99. I have even personally heard an area manager responsible for 8 company locations tell us to position it as $13.00 per month for insurance and roadside assistance or $9.99 just for insurance.
This happened a few years back where At&t was offering first month free for roadside and At&t navigator ($2.99 and $9.99 respectively). Just like MPP, you were told that you can take it off whenever you want, bet you some of you will still find those on your bills too, and have probably never used them, nor knew you were paying for them. Eventually people got wind of this and a whole bunch of retail level folks were fired for “feature slamming” (the act of adding something to a plan without the customers consent). Alas, here we are again, and feature slamming is in full swing.
Why would they want to do this? Well, lets just say that over the next year At&t manages to get MPP attached to 50% of it’s roughly 80 million customers, that is $240 million dollars a month in additional revenue, nearly 2.7 billion dollars a year, that’s a lot of loot, and surely enough to settle a few class actions and still walk away with a tidy profit.
Let me be clear, these goals are being put forth by high level executives, the big boys, the guys upstairs, and are being force fed all the way down to the guy who transfers your contacts for you.
So why am I writing about this? For one, I’m tired of working for a company that claims absolute integrity but implements things that simply impossible to be accomplished without a little under handing. Am I suggesting that the executive leadership team is encouraging these practices? Absolutely not, and I am certain they would shun the idea of them. However, they are the ones putting forth the goals and holding people accountable to ensure they are met. I’m tired of answering daily to this number and being told “we aren’t positioning MPP correctly” because it’s a bunch of crap.
Mostly, I’m tired of feeling like we’re ripping people off just to pad At&t’s already ultra fat pockets a little more. I’m tired of taking advantage of the trust that people instill in us as their consultants who they expect to guide them through these tedious processes. I’m tired to jeopardizing my job and my integrity over this ridiculous initiative.
All of that said, don’t take my word for it, take a look at your phone bill. I hope you’re not surprised by what you find.