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I had been tethered to my BlackBerry for two and a half years. I brought it with me when I left the house, and was secure in the notion that if a business critical issue arose, I could call someone back, or I could jot off a quick note to acknowledge when I could fully address the issue. I wasn't tied to my desk at my home office. I had independence, I had work flexibility.
When I traveled to customers, the BlackBerry was fantastic. I didn't need to yank out my laptop in airports or carry printed documents with me -- I could simply pull out the device, look up an email I had sent to myself with critical information that I needed, or check in with colleagues to see if I was missing anything when I was in transit. Being part of a connected world when I was away from my desktop PC or not using my laptop wasn't a luxury, it was an essential part of the way I conducted my business life.
But now I no longer need corporate email on my mobile device. And I was given the option of terminating the contract early. I could continue paying a $30 per month BIS data plan as opposed to the $50 per month BES plan, and use it for my personal email and connectivity needs, but the device warranty ends next month and if it breaks, I'll get hit with the dreaded "Early Upgrade" penalty if I have to replace it with a new mobile device.
I wasn't eligible for another upgrade at subsidized prices from AT&T until April of 2010. Six months is an awful long time to go with no maintenance plan, particularly with my recent "Ball" problem that could creep back at any time, and frankly, In recent weeks I had become extremely dissatisfied with AT&Ts coverage. I was dropping calls, reception was flaky. Maybe the iPhone guys were onto something, maybe the network WAS saturated.
I called AT&T Wireless on Tuesday morning to find out what the termination fee would be. $125.00. The customer service rep of course wanted to know why I was terminating the contract, and I explained that I would no longer be needing BES, which my employer was paying for. I explained that my device was going to run out of warranty next month and I knew what the consequences were for having to buy a new device at full retail with 1 year left on the contract if it broke. I wasn't having the best of luck with the BlackBerry Bold, I had to replace it three times already.
"Well sir, I'm sorry to hear that, but as a valued customer I'm prepared to offer you a special discounted price on the device of your choice, as well as a $20 per month credit on your service bill for the next four months."
"Oh, really? Hmm. What's your price on the iPhone 3GS?"
"That's the only one I can't give you a discount on. Do you want another BlackBerry?"
"No, without the need for BES I'd rather use something else. There are more advanced products out on the market. Do you have any Android phones yet?"
"No, not yet. Maybe in a few months."
"Well, the way I see it, is that I can terminate my contract with you, and another wireless carrier will be happy to bring me on as a new customer, with a fully subsidized device. I wasn't such a valued customer and offered special pricing the last time I had a crisis with my mobile device and it was out of warranty."
"The termination fee is $125.00, you are aware sir."
"It's a managed corporate device. I'm no longer responsible for it."
"I see, Sir."
"Please terminate my account."
"I'll transfer you to billing so they can help you take care of it."
My BlackBerry Bold 9000 now lies lifeless on my coffee table. Batteries drained. We had a good two and a half years together. But now I'm looking forward to a relationship with a new, subsidized shiny toy, with a carrier that is eager for my business.
Have you also had to go through a BlackBerry break-up recently? Talk Back and Let Me Know.
Disclaimer: The postings and opinions on this blog are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.