Trump Hotel Fracas Highlights How T-Mobile's Consumer-Friendly Brand Schtick Is Wearing A Little Thin

from the ill-communication dept

To be clear, T-Mobile initially had an indisputably-positive impact on the wireless sector. The company's decision to eliminate consumer pain points like long-term contracts and early termination fees was quickly mirrored by other carriers thanks to a strange concept known as "competition." And CEO John Legere's relentless attacks on giants like AT&T and Verizon have proven to be immensely entertaining over the years. All told, T-Mobile has built its entire brand on the back of the idea that it was a polar opposite of the type of ethically-dubious giants that have dominated telecom for a generation.

In more recent years the company's "uncarrier" branding schtick has started to look a little worn around the edges. From supporting efforts to kill net neutrality to weirdly attacking the EFF, the company occasionally lets its mask slip, showing it's not all that different from the companies it professes to be better than. This shift has been particularly obvious as the company has tried to sell the press, public, and Trump administration on the company's job and competition killing merger with Sprint (like that time it hired Corey Lewandowski to "consult" despite his comments mocking a kid with Down Syndrome).

As it rushes to consolidate the wireless sector from four to three carriers, T-Mobile's increasingly engaging in behavior it used to mock AT&T and Verizon for. Not least of which being the company's empty promises to police the sale of user location data to dubious third brokers and aggregators, something T-Mobile was perfectly happy to do in lock-step with other carriers.

That brings us to this week's revelations that T-Mobile executives booked 9 rooms at Trump's DC hotel the day after it first announced its Sprint merger ambitions. T-Mobile execs have been regular patrons ever since as they try to sell the government on the latest telecom sector megadeal nobody asked for:

"T-Mobile executives have returned to President Trump’s hotel repeatedly since then, according to eyewitnesses and hotel documents obtained by The Washington Post.

By mid-June, seven weeks after the announcement of the merger, hotel records indicated that one T-Mobile executive was making his 10th visit to the hotel. Legere appears to have made at least four visits to the Trump hotel, walking the lobby in his T-Mobile gear."

The Post had been digging into this story for months. When they recently confronted Legere in the lobby of Trump's hotel he tried to claim his patronage was thanks to the "convenience" and "security" Trump's hotel offered:

"Last week, a Post reporter spotted Legere in the Trump hotel’s lobby. In an impromptu interview, the T-Mobile chief executive said he was not seeking special treatment. He chose the Trump hotel, he said, for its fine service and good security.

"It’s become a place I feel very comfortable,” Legere said. He also praised the hotel’s location, next to one of the departments that must approve the company’s merger. "At the moment I am in town for some meetings at the Department of Justice,” Legere said. “And it’s very convenient for that."

Legere has historically built his brand on the idea that he's part of a straight shooting, no bullshit alternative to traditionally sketchy telecom operators. Yet here he is pretty clearly assuming a major media outlet and his Twitter followers are stupid. Legere took to Twitter to similarly proclaim there's just no way that his heavy sudden patronage of a Trump business could possibly influence the Trump administration's policy making decisions:

Right. There's just no way that giving additional money and attention to a raging narcissist's brand could possibly shape the thinking of such an influence-immune administration, right? Again, the assumption here appears to be that we're collectively fairly dim, especially given the ample coverage of the emoluments battle currently being waged. T-Mobile went from insisting it didn't engage in the same "bullshit" as AT&T and T-Mobile, to quickly becoming arguably indistinguishable when it comes to pandering for governmental favors.

To be fair, this was a situation Legere was likely forced into. T-Mobile's owner Deutsche Telekom has been eager to exit the U.S. wireless market for years, putting Legere in the unenviable position of having to shift from playing an edgy Millennial caricature to selling a mammoth turd. Still, the amount of bullshit Legere's been pushing to sell the merger is pretty comical, ranging from claims that eliminating one of just four major competitors will magically increase competition, to claims the deal will create thousands of jobs (despite the fact that Wall Street, and history, predict the exact opposite).

There are, of course, fifty years of history documenting how these kinds of mergers generally raise rates, erode jobs, and reduce service quality as consolidation reduces the incentive to compete. It's the exact cause of the problem Legere has spent the last ten years ranting about. Despite this, opposition to this deal has been slow to materialize, though New York and California regulators are just starting to have some doubts as to whether this deal will even remotely deliver a fraction of its promised "synergies."

All told, T-Mobile in its earlier incarnations applied some very useful pressure on a stale, historically anti-consumer wireless sector, even if its impact on price competition has probably been overstated by the press. But as T-Mobile stumbles further and further down the rabbit hole in its bid to kiss Trump's ass and get its merger approved, it's starting to look more and more like the companies' T-Mobile has spent years making fun of. Should the deal be approved and competitive pressure proportionally reduced, you can expect this metamorphosis away from T-Mobile's consumer-friendly roots to rapidly accelerate.

Filed Under: corruption, donald trump, emoluments, john legere, lobbying, merger, trump hotel, uncarrier
Companies: t-mobile


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 22 Jan 2019 @ 5:16am

    'Best hotel ever. Now unrelated, about that merger...'

    Again, the assumption here appears to be that we're collectively fairly dim, especially given the ample coverage of the emoluments battle currently being waged.

    To be fair, given the number of 'news' agencies/sites that will simply parrot whatever talking points are trotted out about how amazing the merger(and similar acts) will be for everyone and their dogs/cats, assuming that most of those groups will simply accept the assertion that it's a pure coincidence that numerous execs started booking rooms in a Trump hotel almost immediately after a merger was announce that will need administration approval isn't exactly unrealistic.

    Beyond laughable and nigh impossible to believe? Absolutely.

    Unrealistic for him to expect a good many to buy it at face value anyway? Unfortunately not really.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2019 @ 7:18am

    Gasp

    >"...in its bid to kiss Trump's ass and get its merger approved"


    <Gasp !> ... surely there was a Motel-6 in nearby Baltimore that these T-Mobile suits coulda stayed in ?

    Ya really truly think that billionaire Trump can be bribed by booking a few hotel rooms? Bizarre take on the situation.

    Not to worry -- we have our Guardian FCC regulators protecting us. FCC has nearly a century long, flawless record of public service(?)

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 22 Jan 2019 @ 7:27am

      Re: Gasp

      Yes, and 'What's your alternative, be specific' respectively.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2019 @ 7:41am

        Re: Re: Gasp

        ... my preferred alternative is the Marriott Hotel adjacent to the White House.

        (probably not the answer you desired, but you didn't bother to ask a specific question... while somehow requiring a "specific" response)

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

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 22 Jan 2019 @ 7:58am

          Re: Re: Re: Gasp

          Then let me be more specific then.

          Ya really truly think that billionaire Trump can be bribed by booking a few hotel rooms?

          Bribed? Eh. Influenced? Absolutely. He's a narcissist, someone flattering him by staying at his hotel and talking about how great it is all but guaranteed to get better treatment than they would have otherwise. Now, as to whether he'd take that far enough to suggest that the merger should be approved outright, that's up in the air, but influenced by it? That's a given.

          Not to worry -- we have our Guardian FCC regulators protecting us. FCC has nearly a century long, flawless record of public service(?)

          And the second part was in response to this, as in 'What's your alternative to a regulatory agency, that's isn't just as easily if not easier to subvert, in order to keep companies in check? Be specific.'

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

          • icon
            Bamboo Harvester (profile), 22 Jan 2019 @ 8:41am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Gasp

            Nah. If I had to fly to another state to negotiate with someone who owned a car rental business, I'd rent my cars from his business.

            As a simple courtesy - if I rented them from his competitors, it'd be an insult.

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

            • identicon
              Baron von Robber, 22 Jan 2019 @ 8:44am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Gasp

              What competitors does the POTUS have in the US?

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

              • identicon
                ryuugami, 22 Jan 2019 @ 8:53am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Gasp

                From what I hear, Hillary.

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

                • identicon
                  Baron von Robber, 22 Jan 2019 @ 8:56am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Gasp

                  Election results say, "Popular, yea, but not electoral" So no, she's not competition now. So right now. None.

                  In a couple years, he's expected to have competitors again.

                  Right now, none.

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

              • icon
                Bamboo Harvester (profile), 22 Jan 2019 @ 10:10am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Gasp

                In the hotel industry, Preferred, Hyatt, Hilton, Premier, Marriot, Radisson, IHG....

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

                • identicon
                  Baron von Robber, 22 Jan 2019 @ 10:38am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Gasp

                  So, his business is more important than being POTUS for both of you.

                  Got it.

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

                  • icon
                    Mason Wheeler (profile), 22 Jan 2019 @ 12:55pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Gasp

                    Given the way he seems to be treating the Presidency largely (though admittedly not entirely) as a vehicle for further expanding his own wealth and that of his family, I'd say it's not unfair to claim that his business is more important than being POTUS for Predident Trump himself!

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

            • icon
              That One Guy (profile), 22 Jan 2019 @ 8:51am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Gasp

              ... I honestly can't tell if you're being serious and think that those two situation are at all similar, or are making a joke.

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

              • icon
                Bamboo Harvester (profile), 22 Jan 2019 @ 10:14am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Gasp

                Really? Like I said, it's a courtesy. Generally speaking, you don't even mildly annoy someone you have to negotiate with if you can avoid it.

                They rented rooms at his hotel. Which probably never would have been noticed except for the "coverage". BUT... if they'd stayed at the Hilton, you can be sure he'd have noticed.

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

                • icon
                  JoeCool (profile), 22 Jan 2019 @ 2:02pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Gasp

                  That says something more negative about Trump than about T-Mobile. If the POTUS is going to penalize someone for not using his personal businesses means he's putting his personal welfare ahead of the welfare of the country. It shouldn't matter that they stayed in a competitor's hotel, the decision shouldn't weigh on that in the slightest.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2019 @ 9:51am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Gasp

              "If I had to fly to another state to negotiate with someone who owned a car rental business, I'd rent my cars from his business."

              No conflict of interest there, no worries then.

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

            • icon
              John85851 (profile), 22 Jan 2019 @ 10:22am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Gasp

              And this is exactly why the emoluments clause was added to the Constitution.
              It's simple courtesy to woo a CEO by using his company's cars or hotels, but Trump is the president of the United States, arguably the most powerful man in the world. Do we really want ANY companies (US or international) wooing the president so he'll create policies that favor them or hurt their competitors?

              What's to stop Apple or Google from booking an entire Trump hotel and then asking President Trump to nuke Europe so they can be done with the GDPR and "right to be forgotten" and other EU privacy laws? Okay, not literally nuking them, but he could create sanctions or tariffs or blockades or whatever.

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

              • icon
                Bamboo Harvester (profile), 22 Jan 2019 @ 10:35am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Gasp

                Woo? I think we just see it differently. Not woo, but not deliberately annoy.

                Staying at his hotel isn't going to sway him. But to stay at a competing hotel would be a slap in the face - generally not something you want to do prior to negotiations.

                And where do you draw the line? Which gas stations they can use? Which airlines?

                From this story, it doesn't appear that there's special treatment over these rooms in either direction. If they were overpaying, deliberately booking an entire floor (or more), if they were getting the rooms gratis, etc.

                As to SomeCo renting out entire buildings *in return for political favors*, that's another kettle of fish entirely - and what the emoluments clause protects against.

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2019 @ 12:18pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Gasp

                  Staying at his hotel isn't going to sway him. But to stay at a competing hotel would be a slap in the face - generally not something you want to do prior to negotiations.

                  You're mincing words. If not staying at his hotel is a negative influence on negotiations then, by the commutative law, staying at his hotel is not a negative influence. Either way, staying at his hotel is nigh mandatory to a successful negotiation.

                  It's all the same when you strip off the political bias.

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2019 @ 12:26pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Gasp

                  How much real experience do you have in business dealings between two or more businesses?

                  I realize the many laws regulating business do not apply to the uber riche, and that the rest of us are expected to follow said laws under threat of persecution, but you seem to be rationalizing their bad behavior.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2019 @ 8:48am

      Re: Gasp

      Let's see.

      That "billionaire" got all of his wealth from his father (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/10/02/us/politics/trump-family-wealth.html), performed worse with his inherited money than an index fund (http://fortune.com/2015/08/20/donald-trump-index-funds/) despite creative cheating (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/10/02/us/politics/donald-trump-tax-schemes-fred-trump.html ), doesn't pay his bills (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/06/09/donald-trump-unpaid-bills-republi can-president-laswuits/85297274/), owes hundreds of millions in debt (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-still-owes-lenders-including-deutsche-bank-as-much-as-480-m illion-2018-05-16), hides (and lies about) his tax returns (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2016/02/26/donald-trump-internal-revenue-se rvice-audits/80996086/), and cashed a check for 13 cents (https://patch.com/district-columbia/washingtondc/donald-trump-once-cashed-13-cent-check-incredible- true-stories).

      So yes, he probably can be bribed by booking "a few" hotel rooms, at his hotel, which he still makes money from, and which coincidentally avoided the government shutdown (https://www.npr.org/2019/01/10/683638056/shutdown-shutters-many-d-c-tourist-attractions-but-not-the -one-in-trumps-hotel).

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

    • identicon
      carlb, 22 Jan 2019 @ 10:26am

      Re: Gasp

      "Ya really truly think that billionaire Trump can be bribed by booking a few hotel rooms? Bizarre take on the situation."

      Yup, because this isn't about him needing the money; this guy has an ego and pandering to that ego is an effective tactic. Ask any of the dictators to whom he panders...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2019 @ 7:25am

    It's a very big rear end too. Why it alone is 239 pounds.

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

  • icon
    Thad (profile), 22 Jan 2019 @ 8:55am

    Eh, when has a Washington Post story involving a president and a hotel ever turned out to be anything important?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2019 @ 10:05am

    Not giving attention

    Right. There's just no way that giving additional money and attention to a raging narcissist's brand could possibly shape the thinking of such an influence-immune administration, right?

    To be fair, he was only giving them money. The media created the attention.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 22 Jan 2019 @ 11:57am

    Eventually they all go the evil giant corporation way. See Google.

    Wall-e is starting to look mora like a prophecy than some hearth warming animation.

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

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


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