The iPhone and Starbucks’ AT&T Hotspots

If you live in New York City, you know there’s a Starbucks on every corner, and sometimes on the blocks in between as well. They’re as ubiquitous as street vendors, and with AT&T’s new smartphone data plans, you have free and automatic access to the “ATTWifi” networks at each of them.

Which should be a boon for iPhone users stuck on AT&T’s overloaded 3G network. But instead, the auto-connected wifi hangs on for just long enough to be annoying. The signal is too weak to do anything with, and yet you’ve got to go through a few screens on the iPhone to switch off the wireless so you can get 3G service.

It may seem trivial, but it’s one of my biggest user experience complaints about my phone. And I don’t think there’s necessarily an easy solution from AT&T and Apple’s perspective. AT&T wants to offer good service, which means keeping people off of 3G when there’s a faster (and free) option in-range. Apple wants a strong wireless antenna that does a good job holding on to a hotspot connection.

From my perspective, I set the phone not to auto-join ATTWifi networks… but I see that as a band-aid.

LOVE this Ad on the Daily Beast

I love the effect of this ad on the Daily Beast. The dynamic wrap-around is really innovative. Creates a lot of spaghetti source code, but wow does it make an impact.

Never Rent From Budget Truck

I don’t often use my blog or other social media outlets like Twitter to complain about companies, but Budget Truck is just too shady to keep quiet.

As friends know, I recently moved downtown and rented a Budget Truck. My plan was to move to Chelsea and put some stuff into storage in New Jersey. I compared two rates – a one-way rental for $257 or returning it back to Queens for $185. Easy decision.

When moving day came, Budget Truck in Queens told me my bill would be $399 plus a $300 deposit, which I immediately disputed. The Budget Truck representative in Queens told me to call the 1-800 number and we could resolve it. Things happen, computers get quirky, and I’m an easy guy to get along with, so I was happy to.

As I’m standing inside Budget Truck, the phone rep. tells me that indeed I have a reservation for $184.99. So I put him on the phone with the guy at the counter. They can’t seem to agree or figure it out, and no one is empowered to honor the rate that the phone rep. is seeing on his screen at that very moment.

(PS, the phone reps, of whom I spoke to no less than three, tried to transfer me to “customer service,” which was closed. Says a lot right there.)

Eventually, after waiting well over an hour (with the movers and my friends at my apartment waiting to load the truck!), the counter rep told me the only way I could get a truck was to pay him $330. I agreed, because honestly what else can one do in that situation?

On the next business day, I contacted Budget Truck customer service, confident that they’d figure it out. I’ve got a lot of faith in people; it’s just how I am. They got back to me and told me they have no record of either the $257 reservation or the $185 reservation.

Ridiculous. Here’s what I’ve done.

  1. Instructed Citibank to deny the $337 charge from Budget Truck.
  2. Sent Budget Truck’s counsel a certified letter describing the situation and requesting them to honor the rate of $185, minus all costs, including my time, associated with resolving this situation. I’ve also requested that Budget Truck find and turn over audio recordings of all phone calls I’ve made to Budget, as well as all electronic records of my original reservation and all modifications made to it.
  3. Filed a formal complaint with the Better Business Bureau against the Queens location of Budget Truck, as well as a BBB complaint with national Budget Truck/Avis Rentals.
  4. Filed a complaint with the NYC Bureau of Consumer Affairs.
  5. Filed a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission for both misrepresentation of price and consumer coercion.

Budget Truck – let’s rumble. Here is a copy of the letter they are receiving from me.
Avis Budget Group Rd