Priceonomics

T-Mobile today announced several new cell phone plans. The announcements were either insanely bad press releases or insanely brilliant parodies. Let’s break it it down, starting with the title:

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Generally it’s weird to refer to yourself in the third person, but we’ll forgive that because it’s the title and this is a company. But praising yourself as bold? Show, don’t tell, T-Mobile. Show, don’t tell. Has there ever been an instance in human history where someone calling themselves bold was actually bold?

It gets weirder. The introduction reads:

T-Mobile has been talking the talk; now it’s walking the walk. The company, known for its “Un-carrier” attitude, today announced a series of moves to address consumer frustration with the unnecessary cost and complexity of wireless.

Referring to yourself in the third person while praising yourself is pretty bad, but proclaiming what you’re “known for” is bizarre. Cool companies don’t go around proclaiming that they are known for being cool. (“Apple, which is known for being visionary, releases the newest iPhone.”)

Moreover, is T-Mobile actually “known” by its attitude by its customers or the public? Has there ever been case where two friends had a conversation like:

Friend #1: You know T-Mobile?

Friend #2: That cell phone company with the bold “uncarrier” attitude? Boy do I know them.

Friend #1: Yeah, that’s the one. Well, they’ve sort of been talking the talk pretty well about being uncarrier.

Friend #2: Yep. They’re known for that bold position.

Okay, but this is just weird press release language. A real human wouldn’t allow themselves to be quoted speaking like a weirdo. Or would they, John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile USA?

“These bold moves serve notice that T-Mobile is canceling its membership in the out-of-touch wireless club,”

"As America’s Un-carrier, we are changing all of that and bringing common sense to wireless.”

Is this is a brilliant parody, or did a bunch of 60 year old executives try to simulate how they imagine teenagers talk? It’s as if T-mobile executives studying 1980s business school case studies about how Pepsi marketed itself against Coke decided to copy and paste it into a strategy document.

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After thoroughly praising its own boldness, T-Mobile gets to the central issue:

What could be simpler than one consumer rate plan?

Okay, you have us. What’s the one simple plan? Well, it’s not one simple plan. It’s a bunch of plans they’ve chosen to call one plan in an astounding display of doublespeak.

Simple Choice asks customers two basic questions: How many lines do you need, and how much high-speed data would you like? Customers start with one line at $50 per month for unlimited talk, text and Web with 500MB of high-speed data. Customers can add a second phone line for $30 per month, and each additional line is just $10 per month. They can also add 2 GB of high-speed data for $10 per month more per line. Unlimited 4G data is only $20 more per month per line. No caps. No overages. Just simple value.

The number of plans is actually three times the number of phone lines you are purchasing. It’s also really confusing.

Here’s our idea for how to rewrite the press release:

"You know how you hate that you’re locked into an expensive 2-year contract with your piece of shit cell phone carrier? T-Mobile has made a change so you don’t have to put up with it anymore.

"No cell phone contracts. Cancel anytime. Unlimited texts, voice and data for $70 a month. You can even save money with less data or a family plan.

"Oh yeah, we have iPhone and Android and a fast 4G LTE data network."

If we focus on the substance of the press release, we think it’s pretty awesome. Unsubsidized phones with no contracts is the kind of price transparency we can get behind. Even better, T-Mobile is actually competing against the other carriers in a substantive way, and that will only help consumers.

So, we give T-Mobile a pass, even though their press release its utterly terrible. 

This post was written by Rohin Dhar, who is known for being bold. He once switched to T-Mobile because of an especially persuasive commercial starring Catherine Zeta-Jones. He had bad cell reception for a year as a result. Follow him on Twitter here or Google.



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