When a Bears game costs $28,000 to watch...
The past few years have seen a ridiculous flood of stories
about customers who didn't read the fine print on their wireless 3G broadband contracts, and were hammered by wireless data bills that almost require second mortgages. The Chicago Tribune
has the latest tale of a man who decided to watch a "Slingboxed" Chicago Bears game while on a cruise ship, in the process racking up an AT&T HSDPA bill of $27,788.93. The man clearly didn't understand that "unlimited" means "5GB plus overages" in telecom parlance, but he was also charged international overage rates, despite the fact her ship was still sitting in the Miami port:
I explained that I was not at sea but in port and my cell phone was still working without roaming, and that I should have still been on my unlimited wireless card. I have since been in contact with five or six different people at AT&T, and the best they could do, even though I am not at fault, is to bring the bill down to $6,000.
Once the Tribune got involved, AT&T gave him a full refund. We asked AT&T, and apparently the customer was using the ship's on board wireless phone antenna, which automatically incurs international roaming fees.
Given that people in these stories almost never read their contract, set up an international plan before departure, or read AT&T's overage fee breakdown
, it's often hard to feel too badly for them. Our one request in the past has been that carriers, as in many other industries, alert customers when user accounts start to show severe balance anomalies. Interestingly, in this case AT&T did
send the customer an SMS alerting him that her bill was getting out of hand, but they sent it to the data card, which apparently wasn't available to chat.