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AT&T Sent Me a Free MicroCell

Published July 16, 2010

FREE 3g microcellIf you're familiar with AT&T, you've probably heard of the AT&T 3G MicroCell. It's a femtocell (a weird, orange router thingy) that connects to modem or internet router and creates a 'mini cellphone tower' in your house to give you excellent service in your house. We have a 3G MicroCell in the RustyBrick office and we love it. Not only does it give us 5 bars (we used to get 0 to 1 bar), but it also had some unintended, great side-effects like eliminating the weird 3G buzz in the earpieces of our phones.

I have lousy service in my apartment, so when I'm at home I generally toggle between 2 bars and no service. I drop calls all the time; I generally need to stand by a window to get a strong signal. So, after I got my iPhone 4 and renewed my contract in late June 2010, I decided it was time to get a 3G Microcell of my own. After doing some research, I read that certain users were getting free MicroCells shipped to them if they called and complained about their service at home. I called and spoke to the representative who told me that my lousy service could be due to the new phone. (She likely said that to get rid of the responsibility on her end.)

I asked her directly for a free 3G MicroCell and she said "no" and that "we do not offer a discount on our 3G Microcell". I then asked to be transferred to a manager who said exactly the same thing. I said "fine, cancel my account! Send me to cancellation department!!!". (Naturally this was a bluff.) She sent me to the cancellation department who told me I had 30 days to return my new iPhone, goodbye.

So, after I gave up on the hopes of a free MicroCell, I went to the AT&T Store and shelled out the $150 for the device. I set it up and it's been running for 2 weeks as of today. It works great and I wish I had bought it sooner. It's excellent.

But today in the mail, I received the letter that has been the center of a lot of rumors lately. The FREE 3G MICROCELL LETTER.

Click for full size:


Now, the question is why? Why did I receive this letter and not any of my co-workers? What is the algorithm that gets your account marked for the free device? The letter states that I am "one of AT&T's most valuable customers" and that "if you are not getting the signal you expect in your house, this may be the perfect solution for you." If I had to guess, it would be the fact that I complained about the lousy service and theatened to cancel. However, many users are saying that they never complained and just happened to receive the letter.

Hopefully, I can return my current MicroCell and get my $150 back. Luckily, I kept the box and the receipt. So, later today I'm going to go back to the AT&T store and return my device and get the money back, then hand in my voucher and get it right back. I'm hoping that they don't give me a hard time about it, stating that "you already have the device, so you aren't eligible..."

I'll be sure to update the blog post after I get back from AT&T. Maybe the employees will have answers to the mystery of the free MicroCell letters. Did anyone reading this receive a letter? Let me know by posting below. Also post if you complained to receive it or not! Let's see if being a "squeaky wheel" is the key to getting a free 3G MicroCell!

UPDATE 7/16/10 1:40pm:

I just got back from the AT&T store at the Palisades Mall in West Nyack, NY. I told them my situation and the salesman told me that the 3G MicroCell is completely out of stock. They have had several people coming in with letters yesterday and today. I asked him if I could return my MicroCell and just 'buy' it back with the voucher. He said no, because as soon as it's returned, it gets deactivated.

I told him OK, give me my money back now and I'll wait. He then told me I'd be charged a $35 restocking fee if I returned it. I politely showed disinterest in that, so he talked to his manager who told me I could keep my 3G MicroCell and I could get a $150 credit applied to my ATT bill. So, that's what I did.


I asked the guy what the criteria to receive letters was. He told me the following: So far, all the letters he's seen have been from Orange County, NY.  (I live in Orange County as well) There have been no from customers in Rockland County, NY (where this AT&T store happens to be). Coincidentally, the picture of the letter used in the Gizmodo article happens to be from Orange County, NY. Perhaps it's regional?

The salesman also did not scan the barcode in the letter, nor type in the voucher code. All he did was pull up my account. So, the letter itself isn't really a 'voucher' or 'coupon'. It's just a notifcation that you have some magic flag on your AT&T account. I also learned that at least one person went down to the store claiming that "his relative just received this letter for a free MicroCell and he wanted a free one too". Apparently, the salespeople down at the store can't authorize free sales. It'd have to just be on your account already. Hope this helps!

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Alex worked on several successful e-commerce websites before joining the RB team. He graduated from SUNY Purchase with a Bachelor's in Math & Computer Science.

This article is under Apple, iPhone, Mobile

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