Buyer's Lament

I'll be honest: I wish I could stay with AT&T.

I just pre-ordered an iPhone 4S. From Verizon. And while I'm excited to get the new phone, and thrilled at the prospect of improved call quality and coverage, I do feel a pang of regret at having to leave AT&T.

I switched to AT&T when the first iPhone first hit the streets. A very big part of that decision was that I was at that time a Sprint customer. And here's the thing about Sprint: I hate them. I truly hate them. I was a Sprint customer for probably ten years, over which I had several problems. Once, for instance, after moving from upstate New York to New York City, Sprint continued to bill me for my upstate land line for three months after I'd cancelled it. Correcting this took numerous calls to customer service, making me really question the competence of the company.

If competence had been the only issue, I might've stayed. But then, years later, I continued to have problems, once when upgrading to a new phone, and then later with billing. At one point Sprint charged me several hundred dollars for a few hours worth of data use that occurred in the wee hours of the morning, when I can assure you I was quite asleep. I managed to have that charge removed, but it took over an hour on the phone — much of it on hold — during which I was, at one point, berated by a Sprint technician for using the phone improperly.

That was when I vowed my revenge.

That day I vowed to leave Sprint at my earliest convenience. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of my life. And when the iPhone hit, I knew it was my chance. That was the day Sprint lost my business forever.

I've been pretty happy to see where Sprint's landed in the ensuing years. They're currently the #3 carrier, and they've only just gotten the iPhone. Ha! Serves you right, Sprint. You guys suck!

I do not have such feelings of ill will toward AT&T, however. In fact, all my personal experiences with AT&T — be they over the phone with customer service, or just using AT&T's customer website — have been quite pleasant. Their customer service folks have always been courteous and quick, and I've never spent more than a minute on hold with them in the handful of times I've ever even need to call them. Their customer billing site is also quite good, with clear, user-friendly graphics and explanations of my bill that always make perfect sense. Overall I've been pretty happy with AT&T.

There is one area, however, in which AT&T has not fared so well. It will likely come as no surprise to readers of this site that AT&T's cellular reception, particularly in large urban areas — particularly New York City, where I spend the vast majority of my time — is less than stellar. Reception at my workplace is especially bad. There are areas where I often need to be in which I simply get no signal whatsoever. But coworkers with Verizon iPhones have no problems anywhere in the building I work in. This more than anything is the reason for my switch; it's purely technical. It's not everyday I need phone service at work, but when I do it's usually pretty urgent, and having to use the land line while I'm troubleshooting a server or a projector with a colleague over the phone is incredibly frustrating. It just plain slows me down, and when time is of the essence, that's a real problem.

So I've made the switch. I don't feel completely good about it — I like to think I'm as loyal to good service as I am damning of bad service. But there is it. It's done. Sorry AT&T. I wish I could stay.

But, Verizon, consider yourself on notice: treat me like you don't want my business, and you will most certainly lose it.