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I haven't posted anything here in a while but over the last month or so I've had an experience with AT&T that is so disquieting that it has caused myself and everybody in my household to shake our heads in utter disbelief.  For decades, Americans have been conditioned to practically expect poor customer service and even borderline unethical business tactics but my recent interaction with this firm was so terrible that it truly bordered on the bizarre and surreal.  At this point I wonder how this company even keeps its doors open and I also would like to know how many others have shared this type of experience.  It was all so bad I actually started taking notes, but where do you go with this information?  Hopefully, you'll follow me over the fold.    

We live in Southern California.  With a move to a new location, my wife and I were happy to be getting away from cable and signing up for satellite.  That wasn't painless, but a day after our move a few glitches got solved and we were up and running.  Satellite TV for half the price, at least for 24 months (yeah, I know that drill).  For internet, we had a choice of ATT and Charter and since we didnt want to deal with any vestige of cable and ATT had a good price, we opted for U-Verse thru ATT.  The sales rep (situated in Wisconsin) ran me thru the particulars, signed me up, even got me a 100 dollar gift certificate for getting satellite TV.  I stipulated that even though it was three weeks before the move, I wanted the modem device shipped to my current home address way in advance, so that I could bring it to my new home forty miles away.  I did not want to sweat out waiting for the modem to be delivered either to our new location when we werent there or old location when we were already gone. Fine, no problem.  The modem will be shipped in 3-5 business days.  Five business days go by.  Nothing.
I call back.  My first call, clearly to order new service, took only a few seconds to get a human being on the line, but this time with internal ATT voicemail knowing that I had a customer service issue, it was much longer.  About twenty minutes on hold until someone got on the line.  When I asked for my modem and where it was, I was told after some hesitation that "Oh, it is shipping today."  When I asked where it was being shipped to I was told "Oh, to your service address".  When I explained that I wanted it shipped to my current address, I was met with some confusion but ultimately the ATT rep said that he had noted the change and that the package would be shipped later that day with the change.  Innocently, I hung up thinking that my package was only a few days away, hurtling towards its proper destination.
Moving can be very disorienting and time consuming with all sorts of vendors, tasks and concerns so I did not even think of my modem until the Monday of our scheduled Saturday move.  Nothing had showed up.  Best to call and see what up.  This time in the customer service loop, I was warned of long delays to speak to a customer service rep and gently urged to get on the internet.  For me that was not an option.  My modem would not be able to email me as to what location it was in.  Finally, after about thirty five minutes (!!) someone got on the phone and after hearing of my plight and asking me for my security code and account number (which I had already provided long before in the initial voicemail interaction) I was told "Your order has booked and your modem will be delivered no later than Saturday, the date of your installation".  Interesting.  Where, I asked, would my modem be shipped to?  "To your new service address.!" The ATT rep was taken aback when I was not obviously as elated by her revelation as she was.  Inquiring about why I had not received my modem after two previous calls claimed it had already shipped and explaining that we might not be present to receive the modem, she asked to place me on hold to try and resolve the problem.  Within a few seconds when my cell phone returned to its normal time superimposed over a tranquil scene, I realized that I had been disconnected.  Luckily, the music ATT plays while you are on hold is so earsplittingly discordant that you can place your phone under several layers of cement and railroad timbers and it will still be audible enough to allow you to wander through your house working on other move related tasks.  I was also getting better at the introductory voice activated greeting that got me back in the "all customer service representative are currently busy" line within a matter of seconds.  Another twenty five minutes passed before a rep got on the phone.  By now, based on the rising decibel level and teeth gritting responses to "Your order has been booked" I was now identified as a customer who was a tad disgruntled and would benefit from some human empathy.  "I'm very sorry Mr. (Name garbled and mispronounced) and I understand the situation.  I am going to do everything I can to fix the problem."  Again, I was told that my package was on route and would definitely arrive by the installation date on Saturday. When I asked how it would be shipped I was told "UPS".  Fine, give me the UPS tracking number so at least I can contact them.  This seemed to be out of the standard service box, because I got put on hold for five minutes and when my rep returned I was told "You must contact UPS for that information".  And then it dawned on me.  This is not customer service, this is deflect, ignore, stall and above all get the customer off of the phone.  When I asked how I could possibly get UPS to help me without a customer service number, I was told "They will be able to find your package with just a name and address." Where are you by the way? "We are in Manilla, the Phillippines" If UPS doesn't know me from a hole in the ground, do you have a direct line where I can call back without waiting for thirty minutes? "No" Well, do you have a number or name that I can identify you with if (I should have said when) I have to call back? I got a first name and five digit number.  Meaningless, but at least I wanted to induce some anxiety over such a bald faced lie.
Needless to say when I called UPS, they practically laughed at me.  "We can't track a package without a tracking number."  After I insisted that there must be a way to track my package, the UPS rep at least went through the motions of tracking the package by both addresses.  With elapsed time of two hours, fifteen minutes, I decided that this was enough of this sort of thing for one day.  I would start fresh again tomorrow.
A new day brought another twenty five minute wait in the sales customer service seventh circle of ATT with the same "the modem will be delivered by Saturday" brushoff followed up by the inability to answer whether UPS even delivered on Saturday.  I asked to speak with someone in management.  Although I was advised in a tone that indicated that I was akin to an arrested murder suspect pleading to detectives for an attorney, I was told that a manager would get on the line soon.  After forty minutes of musical repetition that was about to induce a Grand Mal seizure, a women based in San Diego performed major surgery on my order and assured me that by at least Thursday or Friday, if I didn't receive my package I could call back for the UPS number and go and pick up my package.  The UPS number that headquarters in Manilla had assured me I had not needed, ah, but I was now aware that that guidance had been nothing short of a cruel hoax. With the move approaching, I no longer had the time for additional such interaction.  I would leave it up to the internet gods.
    On Friday, our modem unceremoniously showed up on our front step at our old address.  Since we were still there, I figured maybe I shouldn't have been concerned.  Maybe ATT doesnt want to ship your modem weeks in advance because, well, you know, folks are pretty disorganized and they might just lose or not be able to find the thing and then waddyado? Maybe, for a brief interlude, I thought ATT was smarter than I thought.
     In the chaos of our immense moving van being unloaded at our new address, I noticed an ATT truck slithering in reverse toward a light pole in the vicinity of our house.  Wow, turn it on at the pole, I get on after the 8PM installation time and Voila!, ATT and I are now soulmates!  Several minutes later I noticed the hard hatted ATT repair guy on a cell phone, on the street near my house.  As i approached, he wouldn't even look me in the eye.  When I merely asked if he was here to work on my address, he replied "I just get it into the house, I don't do anything else." Workflow process, clearly defined. When I asked if everything was okay, at least outside?, he put the phone back to his ear and stuck his finger into his other ear and turned his back to me.  I sensed that this was not a good sign.
       And it wasn't.  I must say that the modem set up was also clearly defined, and all lights were flashing green, except the only light that mattered.  The light that indicated that the external internet connection was connected properly.  It kept flashing an uncooperative yellow.  Time to get back on the horn.  Luckily, most human beings avoid this sort of masochism on a Saturday night so I was able to connect with a human being in a lightning like six minutes or so.  "Congratulations!" I was told, "You have successfully installed your ATT U-Verse modem!" Unfortunately, based on your successful configuration there is either a problem with the line leading to your home or the phone jacks in the wall.  This will require an in person repair and an appointment. And no availability until Wednesday. Four days later.  No apology, just a cheery assurance that the repair visit would be at absolutely no charge.  Kind of like "The operation was a success, but the patient died."  I sensed that I was being set up for the dastardly "you need new phone jacks fraud", but I figured I'd play along.  I didn't want to have to send back the modem and maybe this still could work and I had a mountain of other stuff to do until mid-week
        The local library got me thru to Wednesday but I was really looking forward to 8-12 AM and resolution.  Eight to twelve came and went and no salvation.  In fact, no nothing.  Well, there was a nifty email welcoming my new account and imploring me to open my online account so I could handle things like bill paying online.  How considerate.  I realized that Plan B, call Charter, order an installation was my only recourse.  If ATT ever showed up and tried to install, I'd retreat to my Panic Room.  Thursday, midway through the 8-12 window, Charter appeared, installed internet, even wore nice plastic booties that were a nice touch and was gone inside of forty five minutes and a full hour before the noon deadline.  Awe inspiring!
        Now navigating the ATT voicemail process like a virtuoso, I got thru to some Southeast Asian call center and uttered the most satisfying phrase in months: "Please cancel my order and account." "But there is nothing pending on your account." No record of a repair appointment, no service issue no nothing.  "Why don't I walk you through the troubleshooting system and if that doesn't work, we can make another service appointment."  I briefly looked over my shoulder for the Candid Camera crew.  and then thanked my rep for her newfound account saving determination.  But, no, I want to cancel my account.  "Well, okay, let me transfer you to our cancellation department."  Somebody else took my account number and promised to cancel my account.  
         Since the modem incurs a one time $100 charge I wrestled with whether or not to return it.  So far, it seemed, no one even knew who I was much less had the ability to actually install service.  How would they even know that I hadn't returned the modem?  But when I looked at the packaging and it had a prepaid label with explicit return instructions, I figured return was the right option.  You needed to call AGAIN to get a return authorization number, but I figured that much like major surgery much of the malignancy had been removed and I was only yards away from victory.  The next day there was some confusion as to whether I had actually had cancelled my account but when I was adamant that I had, I was given a return authorization number.  I dutifully wrote it on the appropriate label, placed the pre-paid mailing label on the box, walked it into the post office like a character out of the Hurt Locker and gingerly handed it to the clerk.  An incredible relief accompanied my walk home.  I wasn't disconcerted by the website that days later kept spitting back "BAN number is either incorrect or system has not been updated".  One of these decades my package would be correctly accounted for.  
          I was thoroughly enjoying perusing my email on Sunday when out of nowhere in my inbox I receive "AT&T:Your online bill is here!".  I open it up and sure enough, for my convenience, a nice peek at my first month's bill.  One month of wonderful U-Verse service, one third of my modem charge.  The fact that this never even got installed much less has been cancelled twice, has not penetrated the Accounts Receivable process.  Why did it not surprise me that the only thing that was accomplished in a timely and seemingly exact fashion was the billing process?  Everything else was screwed up, ignored, mishandled or downright lied about.  Not your bill! Got it right here! And the paper copy will be there in seven days! Actually, I received it within two days but even if I started taking hostages on an airplane you knew the paper copy would be generated.  I called ATT again and got someone on the line who got so confused himself that he directly patched me into a cancellation center for a lengthy conversation with a "customer service manager" who actually started to try and convince me that I should keep the service and was actually digging in when I insisted keeping it wasn't the issue, I had already cancelled. Sheepishly, she finally offered that I should keep ATT in mind should my customer needs change.  Like if selecting an ATT product might rescue me from being burned alive at the stake?  Okay, if those were the options, I might consider it.
         I'm not out of the woods, yet.  Even though the last lady gave me a cancellation "order number", I still get no acknowledgement that my modem has arrived, safe and sound.  And I still got another ATT email, telling me that my recent service issue "had been resolved" without defining exactly what issue that was.  I have a bad feeling that I haven't heard the last of this.
          I don't believe for a second that senior management in this company doesn't completely understand the type of customer service "experience" that they are providing.  There is only one way to deal with the type of arrogance and stupidity that this corporation inflicts on even a POTENTIAL customer.  Run, don't walk in the other direction!        

   

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Comment Preferences

  •  We're the phone company. (26+ / 0-)

    We don't care. We don't have to.

    -- Ernestine (Lily Tomlin)

  •  Just be glad that you didn't ask the (11+ / 0-)

    American Telephone and Telegraph company to hook up your telegraph.

    Living the austerity dream.

    by jwinIL14 on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 07:22:18 PM PDT

  •  Similar experience (22+ / 0-)

    And they tried to bill me for services I never got. Also they never remitted the money for the returned modem. Just last month they apparently sold the bill for no service o a collection agency. Fortunately my state laws allow me to send the unsuspecting collection agency that just bought an invalid account a request for proof of the debt and a request that they never contact me.

  •  AT&T keeps sending us missives... (7+ / 0-)

    ...trying to get us to sign up for U-Verse, etc. My late best friend worked for Ameritech, who was then engulfed by the reanimated AT&T, and he told me the copper in my neighborhood was too crappy for DSL, and that we were far enough from the switch that it would be about as fast as dialup. He moved the Internet operation to Plano, then resigned and got a better job back here in Chicago.

    The Arge was right about the wires: you still hear bacon cooking when you pick up the phone.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 07:32:41 PM PDT

  •  When we moved earlier this year (7+ / 0-)

    we decided to dump Comcast and go with ATT U-Verse as well.

    I called them and set up the installation appointment for the afternoon of the day we moved in.  The guy came at the appointed time and got it all set up and everything has been fine since.

    Maybe we got lucky or maybe it is because we are in Northern California which is of course much better in every way than SoCal.

  •  My AT&T story is similarly disquieting… (12+ / 0-)

    …but I don't think I'm up to typing the whole thing out. I'll just tease you by reporting that one (just one, of many) aspect involved their insistence on sending a new password to get on the website I had set up for my 94 year old mother, who at the time was 1000 miles away, to her phone. Even after we had a three way connection with the CS rep, my mother, and me. No other way to do it, they insisted—security procedure.

    It finally got resolved, but it involved hours (literally) on the phone, at least four different reps/supervisors, a visit to the local AT&T center, two reps there, plus their contacting two more reps.

    I feel your pain.

    Incidentally, a line noise issue a few weeks later on my POTS got fixed pretty painlessly, although in not at all satisfactory timeframe. The tech on site was a joy to talk to. It's generally not the techs in the field—it's a corporate culture in a third world.

    LRod—UID 238035
    ZJX, ORD, ZAU retired
    My ATC site
    My Norm's Tools site

    by exatc on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 07:34:48 PM PDT

  •  I finally got AT&T replacement phone w. insurance (5+ / 0-)

    claim --- after six weeks and four insurance filing. After three "Sorry, Lost Paperwork" whines by store employees, the local store finally got it together after I threatened to have it repaired by another company but then send AT&T the bill.

    The original clerk who handled the first filing suggested I would get a better, quicker insurance settlement if I just threw the phone away and claimed it was lost, rather than sending a shattered lens replacement back to the factory.  I thought she was kidding, but time proved her correct, but she did offer to apply a plastic film to protect the cracked lens --- for $50.00.  I didn't think I could afford that.  Finally, on the third trip into the AT&T store, after I warned the clerk to be careful while testing my phone, to avoid getting glass in his hand, he did put on the plastic film --- at no cost.  

    When I finally got the replacement phone and took it in to switch SIM cards, the store employees all acted as if I was their long lost friend.  Sorry folks, it's too late to make amends now!

  •  my son has 3 modems - they don't even want them (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, mookins, Mannie, normcash

    sell it to you at a great price!

    sell it to anyone

    give it away

    ....

  •  I must be incredibly lucky . . . (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dem Beans, Aunt Pat, normcash

    because while I've had exactly that sort of problem with other companies my AT&T U-verse install went smoothly and on time, as had my previous AT&T DSL line.  And I've done OK with DirectTV too . . .

    Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

    by Deward Hastings on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 07:48:46 PM PDT

    •  directv actually got it... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Yo Bubba

      done for us, too. But they showed up without the explicit instructions provided by my sales guy and immediately wanted to drill which they were told in advance was a no-no.  Luckily, I had the under the sliding door cable and they sold me a 200 dollar platform dish stand which is how bad I wanted out from Time-Warner.  I consider Directv and Verizon to be the functioning alcoholic corporation to ATT's full blown, meth addicted, identity stealing version of a corporate entity.  There's difficult to deal with and then there's HORRIBLE! My apologies to the guy whose sister works for 'em, especially if I have to take him up on his offer.

      Sometimes, out of the most ordinary looking vessel can flow the most extraordinary wine.

      by normcash on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 09:59:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have a sister who works for AT&T (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mannie, Aunt Pat, Yo Bubba, IL clb

    If you have any more problems with the billing/modem issue KosMail me and I'll see if she can help out.

    you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

    by Dem Beans on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 08:14:32 PM PDT

  •  I had to click. Norm Cash was one of my favorite (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    normcash, Nowhere Man, tampaedski

    Tigers.  That you're hating on ATT&T only helps.

    DOMA delenda est. DOMA: September 21, 1996 - June 26, 2013

    by lineatus on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 09:46:01 PM PDT

  •  I have been debating with myself (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Yo Bubba

    as to which is worse, calling customer service of a gigantic corporation or going to prison. I'm still not sure.

    The Fierce Urgency of Later

    by Faroutman on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 10:15:09 PM PDT

  •  AT&T Have Totally Lost Their Way (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt, Nowhere Man, normcash

    You don't say where you moved to, but I nevertheless highly recommend these guys:

    http://sonic.net/

    I'm lucky enough to have them here on the San Francisco Peninsula.  Their Fusion service is combined ADSL plus POTS.  Not VOIP.  POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service).  That means all your existing wiring and phones will continue to work. And all domestic voice calls are effectively free.

    Their customer service people are here in the US, answer the phone quickly, and will stay with you until the problem is resolved.  Even if you have a wacky configuration request ("Yes, I have my own gateway at home, and I'd like to configure my modem as a dumb bridge."  "No problem, sir; let me walk you through the settings...").

    Sonic are also one of the few ISPs who've gotten fed up with the ILECs foot-dragging and are pulling their own fiber connections to customers' homes.  I can't wait for the day they light up my neighborhood.

  •  Waiting for competition (0+ / 0-)

    I'm just waiting for Verizon to light up the towers they've spent a year constructing here so that AT&T has some competition.  My iPhone contract expired 4 months ago, so I'm just waiting to see if I can get a better deal.  I don't have much faith, though, that another BigCorp would be any better.  They all don't care about service any more.

    "Everybody wants to go to Heaven but nobody wants to die" --- Albert King

    by HarpboyAK on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 12:12:54 AM PDT

  •  Okey dokey... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue91, normcash

    I didn't want to put it in the subject line, but "FUCK AT&T".  The entire time (4 years) that I had an account with them, it was a mess.  They have no clue what is going on.  I could rant and rant, and my rant would look very similar to yours with a different theme.  Short note, it took an act of congress to get my bill paid every freakin' month.

    I try not to give my money to any of the behemoths, they aren't too big to fail, they ARE failed.

    "A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." Ralph Waldo Emerson

    by Yo Bubba on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 02:36:49 AM PDT

  •  I had comcast when I moved to Georgia (0+ / 0-)

    and it wasn't as bad as your "service" with AT&T, but it was pretty bad.  In comparison, ironically AT&T U-Verse has been great.  Sorry your experience was so horrible.  And, yeah, really, really horrible.  :(  I'm glad Charter's been great.

    We all made this journey for a reason. -- President Barack Obama (February 10, 2007)

    by arabian on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 03:49:40 AM PDT

  •  I've had ATT for cell phone service for years (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    normcash

    And have generally been pleased/unbothered.

    I detest any TV "service" - I have Bright House, which sucks, and a friend has FioS, which also sucks.

    I have been deemed an "uncooperative customer" by BHN.  That's what you get for expecting service for the money you pay these days.

  •  Zombie ATT (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    normcash

    To kill a zombie you have to remove the head.  Didn't happen the last time and see, they are back in full force.

    The Republican party has become the politburo of capitalism. It seeks to direct the direction this country is going NO MATTER WHAT WE THE PEOPLE THINK.

    by tarminian on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 05:31:04 AM PDT

  •  ATT slogan: "Love us. We're slightly better than (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    normcash

    dialup."

    I never was able to get the introductory rate of $23.99 per month that I signed up for. It was $40.00 plus from the first, advertisements and paperwork be damned.
       And there was the recent $3.00 price increase for no reason.
         

  •  Substitute Verizon for ATT (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    normcash

    And your narrative would be the same.  Verizon is all promise and meager delivery, too.  I got the FiOS triple-pack to get off Comcast's cable and was happy for about the first six months.  Then the monthly charge started to increase and the set-top box started to malfunction, requiring almost daily resets.
    Finally, after the land-line phone hadn't rung for more than a month, I decided to cancel the phone and go with just Internet and TV.  Verizon tells me my bill will go up because I'm breaking the bundle.  
    Comcast is starting to look better and better all the time.  I sure wish Google would bring their fiber to my neighborhood.  Or even WiFi.  I need to get Verizon's hands out of my wallet.  

  •  While we're complaining... (0+ / 0-)

    ...I just wanted to state that I find it mildly amusing, AT&T, that my cellular wireless data usage dropped by half as soon as I opt for the 3GB/mo. plan. With no changes in usage patterns, this months tally was 1/4 last month's and half a "normal" month's usage. Guess they just don't care when you have so many bytes to burn.

  •  My own experience suggests that ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    normcash

    ... it is intentional.  They knowingly tell you that they are going to do something that they are actually not going to do.  I have talked with so many ATT customer service people, that it seems clear to me that they are trained to do this.  It is, in my view, wrong.

    I would never recommend ATT to anyone for anything.

    ______________
    Love one another

    by davehouck on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 09:14:13 AM PDT

  •  The AT&T Deathstar strikes again! A once great (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    normcash

    company has been brought low by an incompetent upper management yet again.
    Don't blame the workforce though (at most lower levels), they have been beaten into submission and demoralized by braindead corporate policy.
    My ex worked there (several times), mostly in CS, her stories about it got worse and worse. She finally gave up with the bullshit and left, and now has a great job.
    I thought I had escaped the big telecomms (well, except for my Verizon POTS and Sprint/TMobile biz cells which are/were? being phased out; until I read the news).

    Found a pretty good, very reasonable, personal wireless/internet plan with Cricket. No bull, it works fine, little need for any CS, quite happy (costs half the big boys ones, don't even come close to data limits now).

    Guess what? AT&T just 'acquired' Cricket for ~$1.6B, deal will finalize in around four months.
    I'm sure we Cricket customers are on the road to Hell now. You just can't run, you can't hide; we are all doomed, I have no doubts anymore.
    The corporoctopuses have their tentacles everywhere.

    We’re Ready, Wendy’s Ready! WTF Are We Waiting For? Bring ‘em on! The revolution has begun! Come and take it!

    by Bluefin on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 10:05:05 AM PDT

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