"If you don't vote, you can't bitch"

Once, many years ago, I was waiting in line at the Post Office on election day. One postal worker asked another if she had voted, and the second responded, “Hell yes, I voted. If you don’t vote, you can’t bitch, and I am not giving up my right to bitch!”

I was thinking about that the other day when trying to decide whether to buy a new iPhone 4 or wait to see what happens with Verizon at some point in the future. I and many of my friends like to bitch about AT&T’s service. Some reviews of the iPhone 4, such as Walt Mossberg’s in the Wall St. Journal, praised the phone but slammed AT&T’s service as its biggest weakness. Even Steve Jobs seemed to acknowledge and validate the criticism of AT&T in his talk at the D8 conference.

If you’re buying an iPhone 4 tomorrow, then, you already know AT&T is almost universally considered the weakest aspect of the phone’s experience. You’re signing up for that. Not only that, since AT&T recently nearly doubled, to $325, its early termination fees for smartphones, including the iPhone, you’re in for a harsh penalty if a Verizon phone comes out next year and you want to switch to it.

So here’s the deal: if you buy that phone right now, you’re giving up your right to bitch about AT&T for the next two years. No, I mean it! Complaints will be returned to sender unread. I may even create my own Twitter client with a built-in filter for #attfail if you keep it up. Quiet down! You know full well the iPhone 4 is for seeing, not talking. (Unless you’re on Wi-Fi.)

I’m undecided about what to do, myself. I’ll probably cave. But if I do, I won’t bitch, and you shouldn’t either. The single strongest message you could send to Apple and AT&T would be to vote with your wallet against AT&T’s crappy service. If you don’t vote, then you’re getting what you paid for.

  • Mike

    And then there’s the small matter of ATT “violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive, illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans’ communications.”*

    But hey, if buying an expensive shiny toy with horrible service is more important to you than your privacy and the law, knock yourselves out.


  • Mike Bannister

    I think if you pay hundreds of dollars for something (in the case of Apple products some spend thousands in year) you have more of a right to be critical. You are paying good money for the right to bitch. Also, an an owner, you are most knowledgeable about the pros and cons of the product making you more qualified than other bitches. Plus, you’ll bitch either way, it’s human nature. Peace, Mike

  • Ravan Asteris

    IMO, anyone who runs out and buys the latest new sweatshop gadget from Apple needs their head examined – especially since it comes with AT&T service. The iPhone is fragile and designed for people so intellectually limited or attention impaired that they need everything put into pictures instead of words.

    It’s just a phone, with expensive add-ons and a constant money suck. If you’re unemployed, or could become unemployed, it’s a really idiotic thing to buy.

  • Mike Fratto

    Absolutely agree Marc. We consumers vote with our wallet. If you buy a iPhone knowing that there are problems with AT&T or buy “fixed priced” books, aka agency model, from publishers, then you are telling the vendor (AT&T and agency price publishers) that you agree with their business practices. Period.

    Oh you can bitch all you want. And your complaints may be valid. But since you voted with your wallet, you told the vendor you are bitching about it’s OK, you will still do business with them.

  • Shawn R

    Why would AT&T listen to anyone who HASN’T bought an iPhone? If you are not an AT&T customer, then they have no responsibility or obligation to you. And it is far more advantageous to them to keep current customers than to court new customers.

    So buy the phone — it’s not “fragile” or for “stupid people” (that’s a load of elitist BS). It’s a great little device. Are there other good phones? Absolutely. But you should use what you want to use.

    And if the service isn’t good, complain loudly and complain often. AT&T is listening. Three new towers have gone up within 10 miles of my house in the past two years. AT&T customer service tells me another tower is going in less than a mile from my house in the next six months. Service has improved notably since I first bought an iPhone.

    If you don’t like listening to other people, then shut out the rest of the world. Turn off the TV, disconnect your computer from the network, and dig yourself a little hobbit hole in some secluded forest. Otherwise, suck it up and listen to it. It’s no more annoying than having to hear people talk about football or Dancing With the Stars.

  • Rich Barrett

    I’ve been with AT&T Wireless for 12 years, and I honestly have no gripes about the wireless service. When they were Cingular, their customer service sucked, but it is now much, much better. I’m actually a very happy AT&T & iPhone customer.

    However, I’m getting very weary of these data charges, from ALL the carriers. I would jump ship in a heartbeat if a carrier offered a “family plan” for data. I don’t mind paying for the data I use. I don’t mind a “per-Gigabyte” charge – but I want to split that gigabyte between multiple devices (iPhone, laptop, wife’s iPhone, iPad) if I so choose.

    Thanks for listening to my rant.

  • Leanne Waldal

    It has rarely been capable of being a phone for me. It’s a great secondary gadget and I carry one around for some apps I like that don’t exist for other gadgets. I know that I have some neighbors who have complained and nagged AT&T and I recently noticed there’s now some service in my house thanks to my neighbors hounding AT&T. That bitching and snarking is a well-honed skill to create change, and, with AT&T, you basically pay for the right to raise your hand and complain.

  • Marc Hedlund

    Shawn, if you opt for Verizon & Android instead, that is a far more powerful complaint than paying AT&T and then complaining.

    I don’t literally mean you can’t complain at all (note joking tone of that paragraph) – nor do I think that postal worker would give up her right to free speech if she didn’t vote. Leanne and others are right that complaining *to AT&T* is very important.

    What I do mean is: (1) you know what you’re buying if you buy today; (2) the constant bitching is a little tiring given (1); and (3) if you really want change, “Buy Different” is the most effective complaint you can send.

  • JoeRyan

    I agree Marc. Unfortunately voting with your wallet has seemed to go the way of the newspaper. I hope this isn’t a picture of the way of Web 3.0. You know if it’s pretty I’ll buy it. We need to understand at a deep level that we lose our voice if we continue to let these mega-corps get away with decorating a pile of s–t and selling it as a flower. I mean come on where have we gone to when such a popular item making more then a few people very rich is little more then a game device masquerading as a “phone”. “But it is beautiful” That has got to be the most unintelligent response to a beautiful pretend phone.

  • Dave F

    Hear, hear. I’ve actually ordered both the iPhone 4 and the Droid Incredible from Verizon. I’ll have 30 days to make an informed choice.

    But I’ll take it one step further: because of the way things work in the US I’m stuck with iPhone+AT&T or Droid+Verizon. The two parts of each can’t be separated. Which means if I choose iPhone it may be with the acknowledgment of certain evils that are outweighed by the evils on the other side. At which point I reserve my right to bitch about them. :)

  • Liblo Greader

    In America, you can bitch AND be stoopid !

  • matt


    sorry about wesabe. that blows. any financial literacy program whether backed by masked banks or not is important.

    young people need to embrace their responsibility for earning, aggregating, and spending their money. tools that do that, in a meaningful non-passive (content) way help, not hinder.

    i have a project (of course) where your experience in the space could do some damage.

    DM after your hiatus.