Monday, May 1, 2017

I'm free! Bye, AT&T!

When AT&T finally capitulated and started offering unlimited plans without the DirecTV requirement, lots of people got really excited, especially reps at AT&T. My thought was, “Okay, phones don’t mean anything to AT&T anymore.”

I was right.

In the last few months, the business changed again. AT&T is now focusing (read: forcing) reps to push DirecTV satellite service for every customer that walks in the door. As I started receiving coaching results about this (and I was the only one in my store getting those – another issue in itself), I got taken back to a time when the movie theater ruled.

AT&T, Comcast, Charter, and Verizon are all trying to bring back the era of vertical integration, to the point the studio system is no longer the puppet master, but the owners of the pipes getting the entertainment are controlling the strings. These four companies own the content, the pipelines, and the end user experience. 

This has happened before in entertainment. The movie studios controlled every aspect of movies, from actor contracts, owning the theaters and locking out theaters not friendly to the studios wishes. In 1948, the US successfully won an antitrust suit against Paramount, and broke up the way films were made, distributed, and exhibited. The four telecoms listed here (mostly Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon) are trying to consolidate their power in those three areas again.

I totally understand why AT&T wants to pursue this strategy, but I feel that the purchase of Time Warner will consolidate too much power in the hands of the telecoms. I cannot be a part of that, especially since I live in an area of the country that is usually ahead of the curve.

Basically, I decided to leave because my store was losing traffic to cell phones becoming commodity. AT&T’s business model is moving from controlling the retail experience to outsourcing it to third parties (National Retailers and Authorized Dealers – those guys that look like corporate AT&T stores, but are not). AT&T has gutted its internal positions for indirect control and outsourced it. New stores being built are not corporate (Lincoln appears to be getting two dealer locations) which will gut traffic even further for my former coworkers.

The CWA knows this is happening, so they are doing what they can to make it fair for the front line that is actually AT&T employees. The company wants to cut costs at every level, it’s now a priority for this year that is promoted internally to employees as a good thing!

With a manager that is targeting me specifically, no opportunity to move, and a dwindling retail base, it was time for me to move on, even without an exit strategy that I craved. My wife is still employed, plus I will have some of my pension to cash out, 401(k) will get rolled over. I’m going to take the time to figure out who I am work-wise.

Several of my former work colleagues have said that the change underway is not good, and I agreed. AT&T needs to stop thinking about becoming Hollywood and become a better telecom. If not, they will literally become like any other utility.

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