Caveat Emptor - A T-Mobile Nightmare

My girlfriend has been pseudo-living out of an RV lately and has run up against data caps so I proposed that we switch from Google Fi to T-Mobile. I researched options and went online to set up service with just new SIM cards, using the text chat service on the website to customer care.

I finished up my order, assuming I’d get a detailed invoice and explanation of charges via email. Instead I got an itemized list with cryptic items like “PlusUp Data” on it, no costs and no explanations. Nonplussed, I tried to log into my new T-Mobile account, but couldn’t because you have to confirm your login via 2-step authentication to a T-Mobile phone number… which I didn’t have. I gave up.

The next day I called, asking to be let into my account. No dice. I asked for a detailed invoice. No dice. I asked for an explanation of the items on the order confirmation. The customer service rep hung up on me. So I called back again to cancel my order and was told that my SIM cards had already shipped and I’d have to wait for them to arrive to cancel. I was assured that my credit card will be refunded for the $123 I paid for SIM cards+account activation.

The SIM cards arrived a week later, when I was on vacation. Got back yesterday. Now it’s been 10 days since I placed the original service order. I called again to cancel service and was told I don’t have to ship back the SIM cards and the cost will be refunded, but they have to transfer me to cancel the service on the new phone lines. Fine.

Got on the phone to cancel the lines and they ask for my PIN, which I set up when creating the account. It doesn’t work. They say they can send me a one-time code to reset the PIN, but they have to send it to a phone number on the account…which I’ve never installed or activated. I ask if they can just send me the one-time code via email. Nope. They send me to a physical store so they can check my ID and change my PIN.

So I go to the store. They say they can’t do anything and say I have to go to a “corporate store.” Smartly, I call ahead to the corporate store and they say I can only change my PIN online, but give me a number to a T-Mobile service center that is U.S. based. I call there and they say when I went to the store, they should have called customer care and verified my ID to them so they could change my number.

I went back to the store and after 10 minutes trying to explain what it is I’m trying to do, they called their service line, got transferred twice to three different offices, finally reached someone who said she’d cancel the line and “prorate” the charges for the 10 days it’s been since I ordered service. When I protested that I tried to cancel the day after ordering the service and had never used a single minute of it, she relented and said she’d rebate the charges after my bill closes on the 5th. It took her 20 minutes on hold to actually cancel the lines.

Still no word on the $123 I paid to have them ship me SIM cards. Still no access to my account on their website. Still no email confirmation of any of this. I think I’m going to have to dispute charges on my credit card. Dear god, this is the 3rd worst customer service experience of my life. The first two both involved Sprint, which T-Mobile just merged with, so I guess thrice bitten.

Jumpin Jeebus on a pogo stick, that sucks. Remind me never to deal with T-Mobile. I hate the shade of pink they use for their logo anyhow.

I must admit that I have only had good experiences dealing with them over the last 8 years, I’m sorry that it didn’t work out for you.

Yeah, this sounds utterly hellish, but is mercifully very different from my overall experiences in the last ~6 years or so. With customer service, mind. The actual cellphone service is still shit-ass terrible. But! It is also very cheap.

One word: Mint.

Of course, they are now T-Mobile, but my service works fine, it is a lot cheaper AND I don’t actually have to deal with T-Mobile.

How did two SIM cards cost you $123? Were they prepaid or something?

Using a recent company deal, I switched two lines from AT&T to T-Mobile and received $700 in prepaid VISA cards, and dropped my monthly bill from $160 on AT&T to $120 on T-Mobile. Then I turned 55 and was able to get the exact same service for $80/month total for both lines. I switched about six months ago and have effectively had free phone service that whole time, and once I got the VISA cards I was free to switch to another carrier again. It was literally one of the best deals I’ve ever gotten, and the customer service folks were great. Service around Seattle is fine.

Sounds like you hit a nightmare of people not knowing how to deal with atypical situations. Sorry that happened.

I had a similar, but not near as bad, time with AT&T because of the strange one-off discounted plan i somehow found last year (25$/month with taxes for 8gb/data before cap). It’s part of their prepaid service, and the prepaid service has no connection with their stores. It’s kind of a rodeo to go through 4 different phone calls and in and out of the store 2 times to finally find someone that can actually manage to understand the problem of, you know, paying for the service, and also able to do something about it. It especially doesn’t help when a failure point, like a website login, just inexplicably doesn’t work or kicks you off for no apparent reasons.

Google’s service dept. is by comparison a relative joy… it’s just almost impossible to contact them.

All of these companies seem to be really trying hard to ween consumers away from stores and onto online sales exclusively. AT&T stores used to be these flashy new things… now they’re too large, basically empty and with a handful of phones against a giant wall (reminds me of the dying era of Blockbuster, when they liquidated their old inventories and would have huge tracts of empty shelving with like a foot between VHS boxes). But worst of all the staff seems organized to make using them annoying and also utterly powerless to do anything helpful at all. They call the same number you do to talk to the “real” customer service, much like bank branch “bankers” do.

Wireless phone service in the US is just the most painful experience that seems only to get worse year on year as they try to cut brick and mortar out of their balance sheets and outsource all customer service to India. To be honest i’d rather buy a phone in a Best Buy now.

Oh jeez. When I went to switch my kid’s phone from Verizon to AT&T the middle-aged guy in the Redmond, WA store was such a condescending ass (literally living the stereotype “the world answers to me” older white dude persona) that I walked out without doing it. I went to another branch near Microsoft, dealt with a young guy who knew his shit 10x better than Mr. Smug, and got the phone service politely transferred in about 15 minutes. Since then I avoid the stores unless I need to pick up a Sim or some other reason to be get physical items in person.

Capitalism working here as intended in these examples. Nothing to see here.

Get shitty, unresponsive service/customer service with a cell carrier? Tough titty. Take your business to a “competitor”, and their service/CS is just as bad.

(And to add insult to injury, CS drones have “world class” expectations of them from corporate, but certainly no “world class” pay. I wouldn’t give a shit about anyone’s cell phone whining if I was making $<9 an hour.)

I can say that I’ve stuck with AT&T simply because I haven’t really ever asked anything from them. My cellphone is years old and paid off, my plan has stayed the same for years. God forbid if I ever need to change anything out.