Baby, please don't go: AT&T offering free microcells to keep customers from defecting to Verizon

But panicked carrier will have to do better than that, and we're here to help

In hopes of preventing a stampede of subscribers leaving for rival Verizon, which next week begins selling Apple's iPhone to the general public, AT&T has begun offering free microcells to "select" wireless customers, according to ars technica. (Also see: Is the Verizon iPhone deal a disaster for AT&T?) Jacqui Cheng writes: Some readers have reported receiving e-mails from AT&T with the microcell offer "as our way of saying 'thank you' for continued loyalty," though not all AT&T iPhone users have received it. The e-mail offer comes with a bar code and has instructions to visit an AT&T store to receive a "free" 3G microcell, which retails at $199.99. The deal for the signal extender isn't restricted to AT&T's iPhone customers, Cheng later reported. But it apparently does come with a few catches -- namely, customers who agree to the deal must sign on with AT&T for another year. And if any cancel their 12-month contract prematurely, they have to either send back the device or pay for it on a pro-rated basis. That's it, AT&T? That's how you think you're going to keep customers from defecting to Verizon, now that you no longer have an iPhone monopoly in the U.S.? You might want to consider upping the ante, my friends, because Verizon's playing hardball. Here are some far more effective ways to keep your customers: * Free weekly massages for the lifetime of their contracts. * Allow "most loyal" customers to star in AT&T reality TV show, "What Happened to My F*#%ing Call?" * Unlimited rides on CEO Randall Stephenson's corporate jet * Double date with Snooki and The Situation * Better wireless network (Kidding! Let's not get crazy here.) That's just the tip of the iceberg. I have more ideas, AT&T, but those will cost you money. Or at least some free massages.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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