AT&T Lawyers Want You To Know That AT&T's CEO Will Never Listen To Customer Suggestions

from the CYA dept

Whatever you do, don't give AT&T any suggestions. The company's simply not listening at this time, sorry. That's the message AT&T sent one self-professed happy AT&T customer who recently wrote to the company to offer a few ideas. The loyal quadruple play customer (wireless, broadband, voice and TV) wrote a very polite e-mail to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson making a few suggestions. As the e-mail notes, the user didn't expect a reply, they were simply sharing their thoughts on how AT&T might make its customers happier:
"Hi. I have two suggestions. Please do not contact me in regards to these. These are suggestions. Allow unlimited data for DSL customers, particularly those in neighborhoods not serviced by U-verse. Bring back text messaging plans like 1,000 Messages for $10 or create a new plan like 500 Messages for $7. "Your lifelong customer, Alfred Valrie."
There are, of course, multiple possible responses to this pretty harmless scenario. You could send the user a polite form letter with a signed, glossy glamour shot of Stephenson in an alluring pose. You could send the user a short, polite e-mail thanking the user for their thoughts and maybe include a $5 bill credit. You could ignore the letter entirely and go about your day nibbling on the NSA's earlobe. AT&T, in its wisdom, apparently decided that its best path forward was to forward the letter to the company's legal department, whose first instinct (being the legal department) was to cover AT&T's ass:
Stephenson...referred Valrie's email to AT&T's legal department, which unleashed Thomas A. Restaino, chief intellectual property counsel. Restaino thanked Valrie for being a lifelong customer. Then he adopted an adversarial tone. "AT&T has a policy of not entertaining unsolicited offers to adopt, analyze, develop, license or purchase third-party intellectual property ... from members of the general public," Restaino said. "Therefore, we respectfully decline to consider your suggestion."
Really? Suggesting that maybe AT&T stop imposing usage caps is a recommendation to "adopt, analyze, develop, license or purchase third-party intellectual property?" Effectively, AT&T's saying it will field no consumer recommendations. What, exactly, is the temperature in that icy, inhuman bunker, fellas? AT&T proceeds to inform the Times that the reason it treats all of its customers like potential enemies is because some folks sue AT&T claiming ideas were stolen:
"In the past, we've had customers send us unsolicited ideas and then later threaten to take legal action, claiming we stole their ideas," she explained. "That's why our responses have been a bit formal and legalistic. It's so we can protect ourselves."
Seriously? You chose to treat a happy customer with some relatively innocuous suggestions like an adversary on the off chance he might sue AT&T over an ingenious plan to not impose usage caps on DSL lines? Doesn't that clash just a little bit with AT&T's professed code of conduct?:
"Our customers should always know we value them. We fairly represent our products and services to them. We listen to our customers, and challenge ourselves to find new ways to offer the best solutions available to help them communicate efficiently, sustainably, and safely.
Yeah, or we refuse to field any suggestions whatsoever and hint at legal action at the slightest breeze. This was a satisfied customer who was reaching out to AT&T and providing an opportunity for positive brand engagement, an opportunity AT&T has apparently squandered several times in the past:
"AT&T missed a huge opportunity with this customer," said Andrea Godfrey Flynn, an associate marketing professor at the University of San Diego. "They may have jeopardized a long-term relationship and could end up driving him to a competitor." This isn't the first time AT&T has stumbled in this way. In 2010, the company apologized after threatening legal action against a customer who had griped in an email to Stephenson about not qualifying for an iPhone discount."
Maybe, just maybe, that's why as a phone company, AT&T's customer satisfaction scores are so atrocious? Of course AT&T, being a pampered duopolist, doesn't really give a shit what you think. It doesn't have to. Companies in competitive markets need to make an effort at fostering brand relationships. AT&T, in contrast, is a legacy turf-protection machine, so hardened from protecting the status quo with its armies of lawyers it sees enemies in the wind and is utterly incapable of having a human-esque chat.

Whatever. As the old non-existent saying goes, one company's obnoxious tone deafness is another, hungrier company's marketing opportunity. T-Mobile was quick to issue a press release making fun of AT&T's version of customer interaction:
"The entire Un-carrier revolution began by listening to customers. It’s where we get our best ideas, and I want everyone to keep sending them my way at John.Legere@T-Mobile.com,” said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. “It absolutely amazes me that Randall would tell a lifelong customer to basically go away and talk to my lawyers. I interact with customers on a daily basis so I can hear their ideas firsthand. It’s called living in the 21st century."
So yes, clearly T-Mobile is terrified of the legal repercussions of fielding ordinary consumer feedback. Should AT&T want to investigate why T-Mobile's now adding significantly more subscribers per quarter, it shouldn't have to look far for data. I'd recommend that AT&T soften its unnecessarily defensive behavior before these losses get worse, but the suggestion box is most assuredly fucking closed.

Filed Under: customers, lawyers, legal liability, listening to customers, randall stephenson, unsolicited advice
Companies: at&t


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  • identicon
    Michael, 14 Oct 2015 @ 6:27am

    John Legere is a liar!

    It absolutely amazes me that Randall would tell a lifelong customer to basically go away and talk to my lawyers.

    There is NO WAY that amazes him at this point.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2015 @ 6:28am

    It's almost like treating your customers like people instead of money cattle is better for business.

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  • icon
    MDT (profile), 14 Oct 2015 @ 6:32am

    Proper Way to Handle This

    Dear Happy Customer,

    Officially, my really obnoxious lawyers have stated I must respond to you with the following boiler plate.



    Unofficially, I am thrilled that you are happy with our service, and I personally apologize for the above response from the lawyers. We are always looking for ways to improve our customer satisfaction, and we hope that we can get better and better at it, so more customers can feel like you do.

    Thank you very much for your communication,
    Sincerely,
    CEO That Couldn't Care Less

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    • icon
      MDT (profile), 14 Oct 2015 @ 6:57am

      Re: Proper Way to Handle This

      Dear Happy Customer,

      Officially, my really obnoxious lawyers have stated I must respond to you with the following boiler plate.

      [Insert Lawyer Puke Here]

      Unofficially, I am thrilled that you are happy with our service, and I personally apologize for the above response from the lawyers. We are always looking for ways to improve our customer satisfaction, and we hope that we can get better and better at it, so more customers can feel like you do.

      Thank you very much for your communication,
      Sincerely,
      CEO That Couldn't Care Less


      EDIT : Fixed to show what got left out by formatting

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2015 @ 7:19am

      Re: Proper Way to Handle This

      No, the proper way to handle this is for the CEO to remember that the lawyers work for him, and that the courts are not completely devoid of common sense. They can send a letter when someone threatens them (and who's doing this anyway? Kramer from Seinfeld? "2.9% financing on a Toyota 1-ton! That was my idea too!"). If AT&T lawyers have the time to be doing this, AT&T clearly has too many lawyers.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2015 @ 6:48am

    Your lifelong customer...

    It was then that I knew that this wasn't going to end well.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2015 @ 6:53am

    It is a legit response.

    Send an unsolicited idea to a company about a product they are working on and then sue when it comes to market claiming they stole your idea.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      saulgoode (profile), 14 Oct 2015 @ 7:40am

      Re:

      It doesn't say much for your legal department if they aren't competent enough to fend off a claim that "unlimited data" somehow qualifies as intellectual property.

      Think about it for a sec. If "unlimited data" qualifies for IP protection then were some other company to ever have previously offered it, AT&T themselves would be prohibited from legally doing so lest they infringe on that other company's IP. If such trivial concepts are protected by copyrights/patents, AT&T has bigger things to worry about than some suggestion letters tendered by satisfied customers.

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      • identicon
        Michael, 14 Oct 2015 @ 7:52am

        Re: Re:

        It doesn't say much for your legal department if they aren't competent enough to fend off a claim that "unlimited data" somehow qualifies as intellectual property

        In the cellular market, offering unlimited data is a pretty novel idea.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2015 @ 3:47pm

      Re:

      Agreed.

      Considering that attorneys are very expensive on a per-hour rate, this was definitely the proper response.

      The function of Legal Counsel is at a company to provide legal advice, and sometimes research.

      To compare, T-Mobile doesn't have very good counsel. Good Counsel at T-Mobile would have notified the CEO that the Federal Trade Commission has created legal precedent for the cost of a breached SSN at $1.5M. With 15,000,000 customers having breached SSN and drivers license information, that means serious liability.

      It's just unfortunate, however, that the customer didn't forward their inquiry about wireless service to Ralph De La Vega, who is President and CEO of AT&T's more maturely managed (and customer friendly) Wireless division, based in Atlanta.

      AT&T is saying it's wireline division (based in Dallas) should take a hike... But no one should act surprised.

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    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 16 Oct 2015 @ 5:52am

      Re:

      It's thinking of mere marketing and customer service ideas as property that's causing the problem. It's got to stop.

      Let's refuse to use the term "Intellectual property" from now on. It's "Intellectual monopoly privilege."

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  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 14 Oct 2015 @ 6:55am

    What a dramatic difference in worldview

    "That's why our responses have been a bit formal and legalistic. It's so we can protect ourselves."



    So, AT&T thinks that the problem with the statement is that it is "a bit formal and legalistic" rather than the real problem of it being downright hostile.

    That says a lot.

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  • identicon
    David, 14 Oct 2015 @ 7:00am

    They are just covering their ass

    I mean, with a skin suit made from customers so that they don't need to stand up to shit on them.

    But yeah, that's the way to do it.

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  • icon
    Grey (profile), 14 Oct 2015 @ 7:52am

    In ATT's defen **Hurrrk.... HRRRRRrrkkk** sorry almost lost my coffee...

    In ATT's defense... I received a similar E-mail from Taco Bell years ago when asking them to consider making a taco with just black beans and potatoes in it. (not Vegetarian, just not into giant wads of grease)

    It's a little sad that our society is so litigious that companies can't risk listening to their customers on the off chance that a particular customer will sue for stealing their idea if you use it.

    Still a piss-poor choice to let the lawyer handle it like that.

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    • identicon
      Andrew, 14 Oct 2015 @ 8:01am

      Re:

      It's a little sad that our society is so litigious that companies can't risk listening to their customers on the off chance that a particular customer will sue for stealing their idea if you use it.


      I have to admit when I read the article I thought about this. While I understand that its really obnoxious to treat a long time customer as they did, some people on this planet love confusion.

      We love to complain about how companies treat their customers and I highly agree that companies should be accountable. However lets also look at how some people treat the companies, then maybe we can get some insight into some of their policies even if we don't agree wtih them.

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      • icon
        Karl Bode (profile), 14 Oct 2015 @ 8:29am

        Re: Re:

        "However lets also look at how some people treat the companies, then maybe we can get some insight into some of their policies even if we don't agree wtih them."

        I still don't think if four customers out of a thousand might sue it's a good idea to treat all 1,000 customers as hostile adversaries.

        And if you DO still think it's necessary, there's certainly softer language you could use that what AT&T did here.

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        • identicon
          Andrew, 14 Oct 2015 @ 8:56am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I still don't think if four customers out of a thousand might sue it's a good idea to treat all 1,000 customers as hostile adversaries.


          Unfortunately those 4 people could undoubtedly cost the company millions. It has happened in the past with other companies and it only happens because people love to find loop holes in the law.

          Additionally the world we live in, the whole "It was my idea first" is a big issue. Its why they "tried" to solve that with patents, unfortunately very unsuccessfully.

          And if you DO still think it's necessary, there's certainly softer language you could use that what AT&T did here.


          I do agree the language is quite harsh and make no mistake I am in agreement that they should not have done it to a long time customer. There were so many other ways they could have gotten the same point across without looking like they are treating a customer very badly.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2015 @ 9:34am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            It has happened in the past with other companies and it only happens because people love to find loop holes in the law.

            And who taught them to do that, why the companies and their political cronies.

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            • identicon
              Andrew, 14 Oct 2015 @ 9:39am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              And who taught them to do that, why the companies and their political cronies.


              Can't deny that but unfortunately companies consist of people and political cronies are people as well so what we have here is one massive loop with no end in sight.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2015 @ 10:23am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            No. There is no loophole here. The customer cannot sue for this. (To the extent that they could sue and lose... well, what's to stop them doing that no matter how you respond?)

            The ideas the customer sent them are clearly not ones that could possibly be protected. For crying out loud, one of the ideas was to bring back a discontinued program.

            The lawyer is incompetent if he thinks that his company cannot accept suggestions. I am reminded of the recent McDonald's commercials featuring people tweeting at them to serve breakfast all day. This guy would probably have a heart attack if he was working there - they not only read the suggestions, they implemented them!

            But if that lawyer really thinks protection is needed, he could direct the customer to a feedback form which has the disclaimers he thinks are needed.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2015 @ 7:55am

    A response to the attorney's email

    To; ATT Attorneys
    CC: ATT CEO

    Hi,

    Thanks for your quick responce. So that you know, I have forwarded your email to all my friends and family and everyone else I can think of with the recommendation that they go shopping for wireless, broadband, voice and TV services at companies that are not, nor are related to, ATT.

    Sincerely,

    Your FORMER life long customer

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    • identicon
      Michael, 14 Oct 2015 @ 7:57am

      Re: A response to the attorney's email

      Dear Customer,



      Good luck with that. We blocked that email so they will never get it and since we have a monopoly on broadband in most of their home areas, they couldn't switch if they wanted to.



      Sincerely,
      AT&T Customer Service

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  • identicon
    Michael, 14 Oct 2015 @ 7:58am

    AT&T Lawyers Want You To Know That AT&T's CEO Will Never Listen To Customer Suggestions

    They didn't need to tell us that. We already knew.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2015 @ 8:17am

      Re:

      AT&T Lawyers Want You To Know That AT&T's CEO Will Never Listen To Customer Suggestions

      They didn't need to tell us that. We already knew.


      Yeah, but there was that last burning ember of hope... But thanks to Smokey the Lawyer, that will never grow into a forest fire of customer approval.

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  • icon
    leehb9 (profile), 14 Oct 2015 @ 8:07am

    Not unusual for AT&T...

    They've obviously hired too many damn lawyers, and need to keep them busy. What wonderful consumer relations! Really makes you want to do business with folks like this!

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  • icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 14 Oct 2015 @ 8:25am

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2015 @ 8:26am

    So if I own a business and I ask my customers what could be done to improve my business and better serve them and they give me suggestions and they work and make my business more successful the customers can then sue me for taking their suggestions?

    Wait ... yes, that's how our current world actually does work here in intellectual property extremism land.

    I thought intellectual property was about serving a public interest. How is it a public interest for a company to, say for instance, be legally deterred from improving what they have to offer by actually listening to customers and giving them what they want. That harms the public interest because it deters companies from finding out how to better improve the goods and services they provide. and the entire point of any law should be to improve the public interest and the point of an economy should be to increase aggregate output/social wealth and wealth is defined as the quality and quantity of the goods and services that customers receive (money is just a medium of exchanging those goods and services and has no intrinsic value. Jobs are just a mean of improving social wealth).

    If you have a suggestion for how someone else can improve their business that you do business with or how someone can start a business and provide something you think would be cool to have and they take on that suggestion and succeed and you didn't that's your own fault. You have just as much an opportunity to start your own business and implement that suggestion and you failed and they succeeded (though in the case of the telcos they often do have special laws restricting competition which shouldn't exist). You are owed nothing. If someone else can better implement your idea to serve the public interest than you them being able to do so without fearing getting sued is in the public interest. If you don't want someone copying your idea then don't suggest anything. But we shouldn't create a legal system that prevents businesses from improving what they have to offer customers by taking on the suggestions of their customers.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2015 @ 8:37am

      Re:

      The successful business should be the one that best listens to their customers and best provides them with what they want. In exchange to the customers they are now wealthier because of the improvement in goods and services they receive. That is their motivation for giving suggestions. Freely giving, receiving, and listening to suggestions is a natural part of human nature that helps enable us to progress. We shouldn't have a legal environment that deters this by adding all these restrictions and unnecessary costs. That's not promoting the progress. It's restricting one of the very things that has helped enable us to progress in the first place. The sharing of ideas and suggestions and the ability to freely build upon each others ideas.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2015 @ 8:43am

      Re:

      Frankly, I think big business will have to look in the mirror and take the blame for customers suing them for "stealing" ideas. The whole idea of 'everything' must be owned came from them (greedy businesses), to a large degree. The customer with ideas just learned from them suing over things like one click and rounded corners. The fact of their big purse creating an evermore anti public flavor to laws (contrary to the intent stated in the constitution) hasn't hurt that concept.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2015 @ 9:01am

        Re: Re:

        True enough. IP was always about serving business interests. It's not like there was ever mass protests from everyone demanding the creation and expansion of these laws. No, their original creation and their expansion was never a result of public pressure but a result of pressure from businesses trying to convince politicians to implement and expand them. Their intent was to serve business, not the public, interest and to satisfy the requests of businesses requesting them. Some democracy.

        The fact that there was never a lot of public pressure to create and expand these laws suggests they should have never existed in the first place because they resulted not from public pressure and hence democracy. Politicians have a duty to uphold public values and serve the public interest based on those values and to (generally) give the public what they ask for. Not to create arbitrary laws the public never asked for. The public never asked for these laws. They never asked for their extreme expansion and extension. I don't recall mass protests of people ever demanding their institution and expansion. Perhaps they shouldn't exist or at least their current extreme state should be reduced.

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    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 16 Oct 2015 @ 5:57am

      Re:

      I thought intellectual property was about serving a public interest.

      The error here is in thinking that property rights are in the interest of the public. They're not, they're in the interests of the owners.

      That's why I push back against the idea of ideas (or culture) being treated as property. It causes this to happen and since maximalists won't accept a middle ground compromise they should not be allowed to set the tone for the debate. Let's get the narrative off of them and frame it in our own words, challenging their outright lies and attempts to manipulate us into going along with their fencing-off and rent-seeking scams.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Oct 2015 @ 1:41pm

        Re: Re:

        "The error here is in thinking that property rights are in the interest of the public. They're not, they're in the interests of the owners."

        Not always. Sometimes property rights are taken, maliciously, by government in the interest of corporations. Take for example the oil companies (this was here in the U.S.). I knew someone that owned property and later oil was found below it. The government confiscated the owners property and all of the neighboring property taking property away from many people under eminent domain to give that property over to oil companies. The oil companies compensated the landowners three times the value of the property before oil was found on it (a pittance of what the property was worth after oil was found on it). Many of the previous landowners fought this in court and lost. The government & industry got to take their property against their will in exchange for a small fraction of what it was worth. Thieves. You want to know why gas prices are so high? You want to know why a few multi-billion dollar corporations own all the important natural resources? Because they stole it and they continue to steal it (eminent domain). If someone finds natural resources the government will steal it from the owners, under eminent domain laws, to give it to incumbent corporations and private interests and compensate the owners a small fraction of its value. So that individuals can't extract the oil and natural resources themselves, sell it on the market, and drive prices down. This lets a small handful of businesses control the market.

        Sorry this is off topic but another thing is big pharma talks about the high cost of drug development due to R&D failure rates. What they don't tell you is how much the burden of failures is carried by small, independent, companies and how the incumbent pharma companies only buy out promising companies and drugs after R&D has shown they have potential. So the incumbents don't take on much of the risks of failures, they lets independents do that, and then they buy out the most promising ones. This prevents newcomers from entering the market and allows incumbents to maintain their dominance. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that (well, unless there is some possible back door dealing between incumbents and the FDA whereby the FDA/incumbent complex will threaten a newcomer that if they don't sell then their drug will likely not get approval, which is very possible) but it does make their cries about expensive R&D costs less valid when they aren't the ones usually bearing the burden.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2015 @ 8:33am

    AT&T first with groundbraking new idea. Other ISP's follow in a gallop.

    The Legal department and customer service was merged years ago.
    Stephenson simply just submitted a ticket.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 14 Oct 2015 @ 8:53am

    Progress!

    What we have here is a failure to communicate.
    - The Captain, Cool Hand Luke

    What we require here is a failure to communicate.
    - The Captain, AT&T

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2015 @ 9:56am

    I would think....

    ...that the customer was doing so under an implicit contract, legally giving ownership of their ideas to AT&T.

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  • icon
    Richard (profile), 14 Oct 2015 @ 10:00am

    Time to sue!

    I sent them the suggestion that they should reply to all suggestions with legal boilerplate years ago!

    Imagine how much money I can make by suing them for using my idea!

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  • icon
    yankinwaoz (profile), 14 Oct 2015 @ 10:12am

    This describes AT&T's attitude perfectly.

    http://despair.com/products/apathy

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  • icon
    philthepill (profile), 14 Oct 2015 @ 11:15am

    Back in the day...

    Before the turn of the century, little 8-year-old me played with Legos all day but wanted more variety than castles and spaceships. So, I wrote to Lego corporate, suggesting new themed sets: cowboys and indians, sports arenas, dinosaurs, submarines vs mutant sharks, maybe some licensed Star Wars sets if they could work out a licensing deal... and some exec sent me back a nice but firm letter saying thanks but no thanks for the suggestions, as their legal guys have told their design guys not to consider input from customers because patent blah copyright liability blah blah.

    In the next 2-3 years, nearly everything I asked for came true, starting with the Aquazone underwater action sets in '95 I think. Did 10-year-old me lawyer up and demand a settlement from them for my unsolicited yet uncompensated input? Hell to the no, I bought every Lego research sub and laser-mounted techno-shark I could get my hands on, and remained a happy and loyal customer.

    My point is that a company can have it both ways: Listen to your customers' input in good faith, but still send the CYA letter telling them that such suggestions are not usually considered for legal reasons (but by voluntary sending it in you've lost the right to claim IP, much like how FB lays claim to any and all of its users' content that it hosts). Then if it's actually a decent idea, flesh it out and do it because customer happiness leads to success. Everybody wins, good vibes all around, and they still have their CYA letter as a legal shield in case some litigious asshat comes a-trolling.

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    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 14 Oct 2015 @ 1:09pm

      Re: Back in the day...

      "(but by voluntary sending it in you've lost the right to claim IP, much like how FB lays claim to any and all of its users' content that it hosts)"

      Without some sort of contract saying otherwise (such as the one Facebook uses), this is not true. Further, a company cannot make it true by retroactively asserting such a thing.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2015 @ 11:46am

    Thats seriously a detached response........one i imagine, their environment promotes.....

    Equal in all things, not below, not above

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  • identicon
    Another Anonymous, 14 Oct 2015 @ 12:29pm

    Huge Contrast in Understanding a Market

    AT&T is so choked up in its own bureaucracy and inbreeding that sensible interactions with the public is impossible. Massive size makes it tone-deaf to anything except internal procedures set up to avoid addressing anything directly.

    John Legere as a person annoys me greatly. But I have to admit that his response was a brilliant and perceptive exploitation of AT&T's collosal clumsiness.

    What a contrast in basic understanding of how to interact effectively with customers!

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  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 14 Oct 2015 @ 1:33pm

    Mirroring Greed

    It's a mirroring problem.

    If AT&T gave a suggestion to anyone else, it would expect major$ in return. Therefore, it expects that if a customer provides a suggestion, the customer will be demanding major$ in return (so forget it, we'll come up with our own ideas).

    That's what happens when you expect others to mirror your own endlessly greedy behavior.

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  • icon
    nasch (profile), 14 Oct 2015 @ 2:05pm

    First mistake

    Why would anyone send the letter to legal to begin with? Once you do that, the outcome is predictable. They're lawyers, and they're going to behave like lawyers. Send it to the Customer Appreciation Team or whatever they have to pretend they care about customers and this bad press never happens.

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  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 14 Oct 2015 @ 2:12pm

    I disagree with the assessment

    While the response from AT&T may have been heavy-handed, their policy is in line with Disney, ILM, Pixar and other companies.

    The problem is two-fold:
    1) People think they own every little thing they create and they want credit for it, even if it's an obvious idea that other people could have thought up.
    2) We live in such a litigious society that people sue over the littlest thing that companies have to protect themselves.
    And like other posters said, one or two lawsuits could start to take up a chunk of change, even if the suing-person is wrong.

    How many times have we heard stories that go something like this:
    "I made a suggestion that cast members on this ride should wear hats. Now they're wearing hats and they didn't give me credit for coming up with the idea, so now I'm mad and I'm suing."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 6:46am

      Re: I disagree with the assessment

      The problem with the response is not that they don't take direct customer suggestions. As you say, that's a fairly common policy.

      The problem is that the reply from AT&T was antagonistic. There is exactly zero reason for that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2015 @ 3:04pm

    Coming this fall its AT&Ts 'excuse xmas ad'

    Scene: a cosy house, a roaring fireplace and Uncle CEO sitting in a high backed armchair.
    .camera pans towards the CEO who smiles and opens his story book.
    CEO: Once upon a time there was a place called AT&T, and they really REALLY wanted to offer unmetered broadband, but then a big mean dragon came along and suggested the same thing, so AT&T were unable to take the idea onboard because of a ridiculous and fictional fear that the dragon would sue for payment for the idea. So they doubled their fees, cut the sole communication sources of of 85yr old grandmas in the middle of winter and then doubled their fees again because why the fuck not? Goodnight boys and girls.

    .camera pans away to an AT&T logo with arms double-fisting a customer whilst a voiceover chirps 'AT&T..it's not like you have a choice'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jonas bosson, 14 Oct 2015 @ 5:05pm

    Its because of software patents

    Software and business method patents are granted on the most trivial and abstract ideas using complex language.

    I've gotten several friendly introductions to ideas with the hidden intent of getting some written evidence that we are infringing on some abstract idea. So the recommendation goes usually goes:

    A) Don't respond on ideas that could prove willful infringement and cause treble damages.

    B) Don't elaborate on current or future practise, it might be used as evidence against you...

    The software patents promoted by BSA and patent community are turning us into morons and killing open innovation. AT&T's "won't read" response is just a result of exclusive rights on abstract ideas. AT&T should know, as they lobby for software patents and tried to sue MS with this http://www.google.com/patents/US4472832

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 4:58am

    E-mail at&t all the terrible implementations you can think of so that they cannot use those ideas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    blue skies (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 5:40am

    icy cold

    What, exactly, is the temperature in that icy, inhuman bunker, fellas?

    I think they're secretly a joint-venture between Daleks and Cybermen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 5:45am

    Translation: HAHAHAHA I CAN'T HEAR YOU FROM THE TOP OF MY MONEY PILES SUSTAINED BY LOBBYISTS AND GUARDED BY LAWYERS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wickedsmack (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 12:42pm

    Here is what I understand....

    Look, I get it, business are out there to make money and grow and make more money and get more users and get more money and..and..and. I find it totally counterintuitive for them to dump on their customers however. Isn't there more money in the long play? For instance if you build out infrastructure and ensure there is enough capacity wouldn't that make people really want your product? Wouldn't that infrastructure eventually pay for itself with people coming over to use a superior product?! I may be naive in my thinking, but honestly if you treat customers well and make your product really good and affordable, wouldn't that in the end make a zillion dollars? There is a good chance I would be a horrible businessman, I like people, I want people to be treated well because that's how I want to be treated. Childish? Perhaps. But I see no reason why they couldn't make money and not be total chauch weasles in the process.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 1:26pm

      Re: Here is what I understand....

      I find it totally counterintuitive for them to dump on their customers however. Isn't there more money in the long play? For instance if you build out infrastructure and ensure there is enough capacity wouldn't that make people really want your product?

      This is US home broadband, where there's little to no competition. In most areas they serve, there might be one competitor, and AT&T knows they also treat their customers like crap so there is no reason to treat customers well. Being nice to customers takes effort and usually also money, while crapping on them is easy, quick, and free. When the customers have nowhere else to go, what's the incentive to treat them well?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Oct 2015 @ 3:39am

    It's just basic CYA policy found in all large corporations.

    To be honest I kind of expected the letter to be a legal letter threatening harassment to the customer, especially since, quoting from the original article,
    "Valrie went online and tracked down Stephenson's email address."
    .

    Also given we're talking about AT&T here, I think the letter was quite polite and moderate in it's formulation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jake Halsted, 12 Mar 2016 @ 8:52am

    Angry DSL Patron

    After being an AT&T DSL customer for 15 years, I wake up Saturday morning and there's an outage. I MUST have my internet this weekend for taxes and other business related things. I call their tech support..."we know there's an outage, estimate it will be fixed 9am Monday morning."...recording. That's not acceptable to me....not for a service which costs nearly 100 dollars a month. I'm quitting AT&T for anything but a land line. They've just lost me as a customer

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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