My nightmare started less than 24 hours ago.
Spend just a few moments on the blogosphere and you will find a lot of stories just like mine.
On Google, Facebook and Twitter, these dark tales of woe, deceit and theft abound.
But my story is a tad different. And this, my friends, is the first warning shot across the bow of a corporate giant aircraft carrier that likely will pay little attention.
I am talking about AT&T, one of the nation’s largest and most well-known corporations.
AT&T (NYSE:T) is a Fortune 500 company and of the 30 stocks that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Their reported consolidated revenue for the 2011 reporting period was $126.7 billion. Randall L. Stephenson is the chairman and CEO of AT&T.
So now you know what I’m up against, but don’t count me out just yet.
Allow me to back up and offer some context.
I have been a loyal AT&T customer for more than 7 years. I have a Family Plan that is also used by my wife and two teenage step-sons. I have a data bundle, unlimited text and 1,500 minutes of monthly talk time. My average monthly bill runs approximately $200 every month.
I have upgraded my phones over the last few years. I have never said an unkind word about AT&T in the public realm, despite their rather dismal coverage and the fact that my cell phone is essentially useless in my own home. But I am hooked into everlasting contracts, and until now it seemed like a giant pain in the ass to leave.
But then this happened:
Last evening, I received an automated call from AT&T, suggesting that I should consider a new plan. Curious, I went to view my account online and almost had a massive coronary. According to AT&T, I owe them $1,016.21.
Go here to find out how it happened and how AT&T repeatedly failed in even the most basic of customer service tasks.
I spoke with at least two representatives, including a young man named Rico, a “customer satisfaction specialists,” who didn’t seem to know the first thing about customers or service. In summary, AT&T refused to budge.
Somehow, I was able to get Rico to set down his scripted talking points and listen to me for just a few seconds. And this is what I said.
I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for me to pay this bill, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you adjust this bill now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill your company’s reputation.
For good measure, I threw in some other key phrases like Maine Public Utilities Commission, Maine Office of the Public Advocate and Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology.
I am going to haunt AT&T’s Facebook page and chase them on Twitter. I am going to call their customer service line every day, multiple times a day. I am going to shout my story from the rooftops, call every member of the Legislature, file formal complaints and talk to my friends in the media.
I am going to buy AT&T stock so that I can participate in shareholder conference calls and stay updated on their corporate affairs. I am going to e-mail Randall Stephenson daily, sometimes two or three times a day. I am going to create a Facebook page and make sure that Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile know about it.
Strangely, there are several fun URL domains available, i.e. attsukz.com; attblows.com, etc.
But in the end, AT&T has me over a barrel. They can impact my credit report if I don’t pay on time. They have me locked in a contract.
But I am motivated, and unlike the foolishness and aimlessness of the Occupy fiasco, I have a clear objective: AT&T is going to spend at least 10 times more than what they are charging me for international calls that I never made.
Companies like AT&T spend millions every year to attract customers in a competitive market. They spend millions more on lobbyists and on PR professionals like me.
Go ahead and laugh, who could blame you? But consider this: social media helped bring down the Egyptian president. Lech Walesa, a Polish Factory worker, brought the Soviet Union to its knees in a matter of weeks. David beat Goliath and elephants are terrified of mice.
I invite you to join me in my crusade. I am going to have fun, and you can follow my progress with regular updates here.
Meanwhile, I will wrap it up here with a wonderful quote from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Hey, AT&T: can you hear me now? You guys may want to rethink possible.
AT&T customers are welcome to join the fight. Tell me your story here