As every Roman historian and Shakespeare fan knows, a soothsayer once told Caesar to beware the Ides of March, for on that day, dark and terrible things would happen. I like to think the message was intended for me, too, because today, my beloved low-cost wireless carrier, Mint Mobile, packed up its ironic communications style, its celebrity ownership, and its $15/month plans… and agreed to sell them all to T-Mobile for $1.35 billion.
Good for actor Ryan Reynolds, part-owner of Mint Mobile. As Reynolds said in a statement, “We are so happy T-Mobile beat out an aggressive last-minute bid from my mom Tammy Reynolds as we believe the excellence of their 5G network will provide a better strategic fit than my mom’s slightly-above-average mahjong skills.” (Ha-ha!) Reynolds also released the funniest acquisition video I have ever seen.
Still, the news is depressing. Mint felt fresh; it was a wireless carrier with a slick website and app that worked (at least for me) simply and seamlessly, an irreverent and straight-talking style (Reynolds sent out temp tattoos of his face to subscribers for Christmas; they said, “No Ragrets”), and great prices. It all Just Worked™. Now, I love a good value, but not at the cost of janky service, constant hiccups, and 2000-era websites like I saw at other cheap mobile providers. And it wasn’t just me; Mint racked up many recommendations, including the “best budget” wireless option from Wirecutter.
So Mint felt special—customer-focused and quirky rather than corporate and soulless—but of course the company was just another closely owned acquisition play that, pending regulatory approval, will now be acquired by the “Un-Carrier.” Blargh.
I am not alone in feeling this way. In a shocking turn of events, I read the comments below the YouTube video announcement and did not despair for the future of humanity. (I mean, I did, but mostly because of the acquisition and not because “meatbot2576” wrote run-on sentences without commas in all lowercase letters.) The first 10 comments I read were united in their complaint that another good and fun and non-horrible thing in life will be acquired into the corporate blobosphere. A sample:
“As a Mint Mobile customer, I’m not thrilled by this announcement. With acquisitions like this, it’s only a matter of time before the prices go up, the quality goes down, and everything that made the smaller company great is gone.”
“Noooooo. I was a T-mobile customer for a few years, and I switched to Mint specifically to get away from T-mobile. This is like leaving an abusive relationship just to have your social worker at the safe shelter call your abusive partner to come pick you up.”
“Well, there goes the prices we have been all been used to. If you believe that Tmobile won’t change everything EVENTUALLY and jack up prices you are crazy….all good things come to an end. Good job Ryan for selling out!”
“I know that I don’t know Ryan personally and I know it was silly to take a chance on a newer phone company because a charismatic guy told me to…. But I still can’t help but feel betrayed. I thought he was actually a celebrity that cared about people and wanted to use his wealth for good. Having an affordable phone plan was a big positive influence on my life…”
“Husband and I are upset. We loved that it was a smaller wireless company. We loved supporting Mint Mobile. We loved Ryan Reynold’s marketing strategy. Let’s see how long before prices go up and quality goes down.”
“Unlike the big wireless companies we get acquired instead of acquiring smaller companies in an attempt to create a monopoly.”
“I really hope Ryan starts another phone company, I loved Mint, partly for the ‘reckless’ messages, and partly for the overall idea of not having any hidden fees, just a budget plan with budget performance.””
“I am…displeased by this turn of events. We’ll all be revisiting this jolly video and commenting in disgust in 2 years when we’re paying twice as much for the same plan and the added ‘benefit’ of T-Mobile’s crappy customer service. I trusted you, Deadpool!”
“What’s the worst thing to happen to America? Corporate consolidation of power. The fewer real options we have, the more it will only hurt the consumer. This is extremely disappointing.”
“Sold for… $1.35 billion??? Probably the happiest YouTube video Ryan has ever posted.”
Reynolds, when not managing his Welsh soccer team and starring in foul-mouthed superhero movies, will stay on in his role at Mint. And Mint will continue to operate as a separate unit within T-Mobile. Plus, the company is keeping its $15-per-month plan. (For now.) And Mint was always just an MVNO reseller of T-Mobile service. So maybe everything is fine, and years from now we’ll look back with laughter on our ludicrous fears. Perhaps we’ll all come to love the Un-Carrier. Perhaps I’ll personally don a bright pink T-shirt and proclaim my love of T-Mobile/Mint from the rooftops. But it’s hard to believe that, with its big financial payout achieved, Mint won’t change some of the things that made it awesome.
Life is change, of course. (Except for the part of life that involves us complaining about change. That is unchanging.) But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And for once, I have YouTube commenters on my side.