Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hypocrisy at T-Mobile

"Don't worry," Maybelline was telling us, "I'm from the pre-paid department and I'll get you fixed up right away."


We were talking to Maybelline right now. Earlier we'd been on the phone with George. In between, we'd been on the phone with countless people. We were following up on a complaint by longterm reader Darcy -- a complaint a few others had made in the past year as well. The complaint was against T-Mobile. Specifically, against their pre-paid phones.

Actually, there were two complaints. The first was about setting up service, the second was about the 1661 model.

So we purchased three on Saturday morning and began attempting to set up service for one, then the other and then the third.

We'd talked to a cast of characters -- and "cast" and "characters" are the right terms. Take George who introduced himself but, half-way into a heated call, forgot that he was using the name "George." At which point, he became "Mike." When his name change was pointed out to him, he insisted that he'd always said it was Mike. We wondered if he'd like to hear himself saying he was George?

At which point, he became indignant insisting, "You are not supposed to record a call!" We found that interesting since T-Mobile's automated system, before transferring you to any human being, tells you that your call may be "monitored" for quality assurance.

We'd called with the first phone, to activate it, after there were problems online. We were told the phone would be activated shortly and we'd get a text message advising us that it had been activated.

We waited. After two hours, we'd entered the T-Mobile customer service labyrinth where we were forwarded here, there and everywhere and it was insisted that, in fact, our phone didn't have to be activated for 24 hours, that it might take T-Mobile that long to activate it.

Getting nowhere, we began work on phone number two.

Similar problems. But this time, in the labyrinth, Joe (or "Joe") emerged. Some step, on their end (and before activation), was not working. Was our phone charged? Yes. Could we turn it on? Yes.

"No sims card" was the message.

But the SIMS card was in it the phone.

"What's the model?" Joe asked.


"Yeah, there have been non-stop problems with that phone. About half of them don't even work. What I'd tell you to do is put the SIMS card into another phone. Chances are, this thing's never going to work. But if you put the card into another phone, that one will work."

Joe, we advised, not only did we buy this phone on sale, but the store was full of them. How long has this problem been known?

"I'd guess a year," he told us. "Look, they manufactured it and they're going to keep selling that piece of crap until they're all out of the warehouses."

We thanked Joe, Ty ran to the store to buy a different pre-paid phone card and the rest of us (Jim, Dona and Jess) got to work on phone number three.

With the exception of Joe (or "Joe"), no one was ever helpful and few were even nice. We were in the labyrinth again when Ava and C.I. (along with Wally) arrived. What were we doing?

We explained the premise. We explained the results and that Dona was on the phone with Hector or "Hector" at the moment and he was telling her that the phone might not be activated for 24 hours.

"Phone," C.I. said as Dona passed it over.

"Hector, is it? I'm looking at the box," C.I. declared while waiving for the box, "and tell me where on there it says that you have 24 hours to activate this phone?"

Hector stated that when people called to activate the phone they were told that it could take 2 to 4 hours for and "if the account is not yet activated after four hours, we will need to wait a day."

"Yeah, you're telling me what you say after people have paid good money for a phone, after. If you're unable to help me give me your supervisor."

Two people later, Elise (or "Elise") was telling C.I., "The whole point of buying a phone isn't to talk to us, it's to talk to other people, believe me, I understand. Now if you'll hang up and try to make a call, it should go through and I'll call you in five minutes to check on that."

And it was that easy. You confront T-Mobile with the fact that nowhere on their package does it say you will have to wait 24 hours, you confront them firmly, and they find a way to activate the phone that they told you wouldn't be active until the next day.

Jim called T-Mobile back about the first phone (still unactivated) and followed the example C.I. set and no problem. The same when Dona called after about the second phone.

T-Mobile sells pre-paid phones in stores. People see them and purchase them only to struggle through the activation phase. Then, after they've spent money, they're told it will be active a day after they've gone through the activation process. Over 24 hours after they've purchased the phone. In addition, they know they have problems with the 1661 model, according to Joe (or "Joe") but continue selling it.

Our problem with the SIMS card?

Ava popped the back off the phone when Ty was getting ready to swap out the SIMS card and put it in the new phone.

"Who told you to put it in like this?" she asked.

T-Mobile. The booklet offers a magical world where the SIMS card apparently pops into place on its own.

Ava shook her head and explained that it didn't need to just slide under the arm that holds it in place, it also needs to slide under the gold square and not rest on top of it.

We're not sure, but that may be the problem with the 1661 model. If it is, the problem includes the T-Mobile support staff because they are the ones who instructed us on where to put the SIMS card when we first had the message about no SIMS card being detected. (They also wrongly told us that the SIMS card would be in the right place when you couldn't see the "T" on T-Mobile but for all three phones, the "T" has to show if the SIMS cards are in their proper place.)

We felt good about the process after Ava fixed the SIMS cards and C.I. walked us through how to handle T-Mobile. Then Jim made the mistake of asking, "Hey, what's with this you have to call within 48 hours of the end of the month to get any remaining dollars on your account refunded or you lose them?" In the groans that followed it became obvious why we don't use pre-paid phones.
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