Our frontline teams know how to be there for our customers. Just ask the team at the AT&T store at 7900 North Point Parkway in Alpharetta, Georgia. But little did they know that the surprise they planned for a customer would leave them surprised, too.

Marilyn Warner Bogdonas, a long-time and loyal customer, came to the store earlier this summer to get assistance with her account and explore product options. Marilyn settled on switching from U-verse to DIRECTV, and store manager Natalie Madriz and team set her up.

Marilyn wanted to make the change as soon as possible, so Natalie and team offered same-day installation. However, it was Marilyn's 85th birthday and, no offense to the technician, but getting a service call on her big day wasn't exactly her preferred way to celebrate. So they scheduled the install for a couple days later.

Natalie then asked how Marilyn, who is retired and on a fixed, single income, would be celebrating her birthday. Marilyn said her husband had recently passed away and her children were busy, so she planned to spend the day gardening, alone.

That's when the Alpharetta team hatched their plan. Not wanting Marilyn to let her birthday pass without a celebration, the team asked her to return to the store the next day.

Surprise! And, another surprise

The next day, Marilyn returned to the store and was greeted with a cake, balloons and a special birthday celebration.

During the party, Marilyn showed the team one of the things she's most proud of – a simple charm bracelet with 15 charms, one for each year of perfect attendance at her former place of employment. That's right, Marilyn didn't miss a day of work for 15 straight years. Upon closer look, the team noticed each charm had a familiar logo – that iconic bell.

That's when they realized that Marilyn was also a very loyal former AT&T employee and retiree.

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She started her career at Michigan Bell in 1952 in the traffic department as a switchboard operator and then transferred to Illinois Bell, where she moved to the business office as a service representative. She retired as a junior supervisor 19 years later.

"It was awesome," said Natalie. "In retail, we have a direct impact on the customer's perception of AT&T. I've always had the mindset of: Take care of the customer, take care of the company. But I had no idea that we were also taking care of an AT&T family member."

"I am so grateful for my time with the company back in Illinois. I treasure the great friendships I made along the way, and I take pride in all the awards I received," Marilyn said. "For living in a new community, it was great to know that AT&T here in Georgia gave me such a thoughtful birthday.

"I don't have the friends down here like I do back in Illinois. But I was honored to celebrate with Natalie and the team, and I did feel like family that day."

That personal connection

Marilyn makes a purposeful trip to the store each month to pay her bill.

"It's good for our people to know that sometimes older folks really do need help, and Natalie and John and William know that," Marilyn said. "It is so important to say 'Hi' and 'How are you doing?' It's always been a part of the telephone company, you always treat the customer with the utmost courtesy."

And her monthly visits mean just as much to Natalie and her team – especially the birthday celebration.

"It was something that made me feel like I had impacted a person's life, even if just for a day," says Natalie. "Hearing Marilyn's story and seeing her bracelet made it even more personal for me and the team."

And there's more thing that never changes. Marilyn felt so moved that she sent a thank you note to the Alpharetta team – on original Illinois Bell letterhead that included the pre-printed phrase "a good place to work."

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