Mythbuster Adam Savage fights $11,000 AT&T bill with Twitter army

Mythbuster Adam Savage just got socked with an enormous AT&T (T) bill: $11,000 for roaming in Canada. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers blog their disgust for AT&T and wonder what might have happened if Savage wasn't famous.

By Richi Jennings -- your humble blogwatcher -- who  selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention muffins...

Adam "@donttrythis" Savage tweets his disgust at AT&T:

AT&T is attempting to charge me 11k for a few hours of web surfing in Canada ... they've turned off my phone until I pay. ... They're claiming I uploaded/downloaded 9 million kilobytes (9 gigs) while in Canada. Frakking impossible.


There's movement! Apparently I'll be getting a call soon ... Just got off the phone with AT&T and they've taken care of everything to my great satisfaction. ... AT&T guy on the phone with me:" apparently you've got enough Twitter followers to get our attention." me: "50,000". Him: "wow" ... [but]  it shouldn't just work for me. The data carriers MUST stop thinking in kilobytes and start thinking in customers.

Kim LaCapria wonders:

Adam Savage has invoked the wrath of 50,000 Twitter followers in the general direction of telecommunications giant AT&T due to a $11,000 phone bill incurred while Savage was in Canada. Savage says he surfed the web on a mobile modem for “a few hours,” inadvertently cha-chinging up a bill that could keep any sane person in hookers and blow for at least a month.


Savage soon updated that AT&T was quick to quash the spurious charges after the fast and furious backlash. ... But would any of us have received the same quick and painless resolution?

Pete Cashmore has a similar idea:

Normally those suffering the extortionate roaming fees charged by the carriers suffer in silence, or go through the endless phone systems to try and reach a more modest sum. But Savage has more than 50,000 Twitter followers, many of whom appear equally disgruntled about high roaming fees. His message has spread so fast that AT&T is now the second most discussed topic on Twitter, second only to Michael Jackson.


Best of luck if you end up in the same predicament and don’t have a Twitter army behind you.

Jason Kincaid does the math:

What’s worse, the customer service rep Savage was dealing with was apparently a bit loose with their decimal points, telling Savage that “data is charged at .015 cents, or a penny and a half, per kb”. Read that again — there’s a couple orders of magnitude difference there.


It’s clear that AT&T needs to work on letting its customers know when they’re spending exorbitant amounts of money on data charges. An AT&T spokesman says that any phone taken abroad that begins racking up excessive charges will automatically receive an SMS alert, [and] that it often Emails the account on record and sometimes calls the account.

But Karl Bode's seen it all before:

It's been a few months since the last time a mobile broadband user received a roaming bandwidth bill that required a second mortgage, so we were clearly overdue ... $11,000 [is] actually low compared to other stories. ... This endless stream of stories about insane bills is only going to get worse as carriers start offering subsidized netbooks with 3G connections to consumers unfamiliar with caps and overages (or even what a gigabyte is).


Clearly there's a disconnect happening somewhere in the customer education and alert process that needs fixing. ... Ultimately, carriers might want to do something about helping consumers through this process before an Attorney General in a state with tough consumer protection laws picks this up as his or her pet project.

So what's your take?

Get involved: leave a comment.

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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 24 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email:

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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