The L.A. Times’ David Lazarus has the story of a California AT&T customer who sent Randy Steve an innocuous e-mail and got a bizarre response from the company.
In his note to the CEO, the customer made two suggestions: Allow unlimited data for DSL customers, and bring back affordable, tiered text messaging plans for people who don’t use the service that frequently.
The customer’s e-mail explicitly stated that he had no interest in having a back and forth on this matter and that he was just throwing these out there as suggestions, so obviously he wasn’t expecting to hear back from the CEO’s office.
What he certainly wasn’t expecting was a letter from Randy’s legal team.
“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,” reads the response from AT&T’s chief intellectual property counsel. “Therefore, we respectfully decline to consider your suggestion.”
Lest you think this was some sort of automated response that is being misread as an overreaction, a rep for the Death Star confirmed to Lazarus that this is the way the company responds to customer suggestions.
“In the past, we’ve had customers send us unsolicited ideas and then later threaten to take legal action, claiming we stole their ideas,” explained a company rep. “That’s why our responses have been a bit formal and legalistic. It’s so we can protect ourselves.”
We can understand why AT&T might want to short-circuit any future legal battles, there has to be a better, that doesn’t scream “WE DON’T WANT YOUR SUGGESTION EVEN THOUGH YOU’RE A CUSTOMER WHO PAYS US HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS A MONTH.”
Like perhaps having an auto-reply to all customer messages with a more polite disclaimer? Or maybe just not treating every helpful customer like a potential litigant.
The AT&T rep says the company “will take a look at our processes to see where we can do better going forward.”