I suppose I should rewind a little bit. I was a T-Mobile customer for over five years. Back in 2003 I signed up with T-Mobile because I was moving to Austin, TX to work for the now-defunct Origin Systems and they had the best plan for me at the time. My wife and I mostly use our cell phones to call each other, so the cheapest no-frills family plan usually suffices for me.
Fast forward to 11/27/2006. I was sick of using the bottom-of-the-barrel free no-camera monochrome Nokia phone that I got for free when signing up in 2003. My original two-year contract had long since expired. Verizon was offering the inexplicably popular RAZR phone for some ridiculously low price. However, having been a loyal T-Mobile customer for over three years, I decided that I'd give them the chance to beat Verizon's deal and compete for my business. The "Customer Loyalty" representative that I talked to jumped at the opportunity. Not only did they give me better RAZRs than Verizon was offering at the same price (and the same two-year committment), he also changed my phone numbers and gave me some text messages for free, waived all of the upgrade fees AND put me on an "unlisted" family plan that was slightly cheaper. Wow! That's customer service!
And then followed four months of hell.
They sent me the wrong phones. They charged me full price. They wouldn't reimburse me to ship them back. Every representative that I talked to showed a new previously-unheard-of level of incompetence and screwed something else up, making it all the more difficult to explain my plight to the next representative. Untold hours on the phone forever lost arguing with people, explaining my situation and fighting to get my bill fixed and figured out. Pages and pages of notes with a myriad of representatives' and supervisors' names weaving a trail of regret and resentment. For four months.
Had it not been for that damned two-year contract I would've flushed them right then and there, but eventually the dust settled and things were worked out.
Two years later, my contract was nearing its end, though I didn't know the exact date it was up. I once again figured that I'd give T-Mobile every opportunity to keep my business. I went into their stores looking at various Blackberrys and the G1. I was interested in a phone that would give me access to my corporate email and the Internet. I was asking for a little bit better price on the phone and the plan. They wouldn't budge. I called "Customer Loyalty" again and they were resilient against my requests. I told them that I really wanted the iPhone and was willing to go to AT&T unless T-Mobile would give me a better deal but instead got stuck talking to some blatherskite who insisted on hammering me on the irrelevant topic that the iPhone was available through T-Mobile--in Germany. I feel that I gave T-Mobile every opportunity to keep my business. Suffice to say, now I'm with AT&T and proud to walk around with my Apple iPhone (I have an iPod Touch too, but adding a phone to it is just brilliant).
Now, about this $446 bill. You'll notice that I upgraded (and started a new two-year contract) on 11/27/2006. I switched to AT&T on 11/23/2008. Four days away from two years and T-Mobile slaps me with two $200 early terminations fees--one for each of my two lines. Four days! At the very least paying the whole amount for my last month would fulfill my obligation to the two-year contract.
Needless to say, I immediately got T-Mobile customer service on the phone. Despite the lividity coursing through my veins I managed to remain level-headed. The "Customer Loyalty" representative offered to cut the $200 per-line fee down to $50 per-line. "That is unacceptable," was my reply. Her next response was cut short as I quipped, "I'll need to speak to your supervisor." The merry Christmas tunes that filled my ear while I was waiting filled me with a sense of irony. Finally the woman came back and told me that her supervisor was busy on another call but she could finagle it so that I'd just finish paying for the full final month, dropping $384 from my bill and returning sanity to the evening. Another 30 minutes of my life wasted on the phone with T-Mobile to combat utter, inane stupidity.
To T-Mobile, if you happen to be listening:
- Either allow "customer loyalty" more authority to please customers (especially on plan prices) or lose them.
- Pro-rate the early termination fee or at the very least, change your system so customers who are within the billing cycle of their end-of-contract just pay out the rest of their month to fulfill their obligations.
- Recognize the Charlie Foxtrot cases and assign a single person be your customer's advocate and to sort the problem out. Dealing with one competent person who understood my problem after upgrading in 2006 would've been very nice, but alas, it was not so.
- You can do better than the G1. It doesn't even natively support Microsoft Exchange email.
To everyone else, I'd have to recommend against T-Mobile. By all means, use a different cell phone provider. If you're with T-Mobile now, get out as soon as you can. If you're not big on data, you can probably save a bundle by buying individual minutes and not having a plan.