Wednesday, March 15, 2006

FUCK YOU.. T-MOBILE!

Warning: Extra long post ahead, even by my standards...

My travails with T-mobile started probably the day I got my phone. The phone arrived and a quick call to T-Mobile ensued to take care of activation etc. Deluded I was to think that I could get a custom number, that I requested and surprisingly was given one. But the area code allocated to me did not match that of Athens (Ohio) where I was then and the T-Mobile customer service person tried to convince me that the code was the right one. I hung up and then called back, to get a different agent who accepted my argument and finally gave me a "740" number. Little did I know that my troubles were just at their infancy.

My troubles with cell phone coverage are legendary among my friends. Unless I stood right next to the window in our hall or walked out of the basement apartment to the parking lot, I was never going to complete a call without dropping it at least once. When I graduated that summer, I moved from Ohio to Illinois to hunt for a job, but my scene was no better. To add to it, the Illinois weather in late fall and winter forced my staying indoors for 99% percent of the time. With no alternative, I included V's (my roomy in Illinois) home phone number with my resume and promised myself that I would break the contract and go for a new cell phone when I got my first job. Sadly that was not to happen, till much later.

That was around the time when I heard that friends who tried to call me sometimes got "all circuits are currently busy. Please try your call later" messages. It seemed to happen rather randomly and was limited to just incoming calls. And later, things got ugly when I moved to Delaware. Once the training period ended and I started applying actively for open positions, I started talking to customer service about it along with another friend from Ohio was also facing the same issue. During one particular billing cycle, I spent almost 140 day time minutes (over a period of two weeks) enquiring with T-Mobile about the status of our complaints

The funny part is that they don’t seem to have a logical system. Logically one would assume that, your case history would be available on file. But no, every time you talk, in each level, you will have to explain what is wrong. If you are lucky and the lower levels think that you are eligible to talk to the advanced tech support, you will go forward. There were times when the first person would take my case history, tell me there are no updates with a promise to get back in touch in case something comes up, and hang up. At every level, one would be asked the same dumb questions about turning the phone off and on back again and so on, in spite of one having explained just a minute earlier that it does not work. At different points of time, we got our cases into tickets that we were asked to quote. A few days after I received the first ticket, I called and found out that the ticket had been mysteriously "closed" without us being informed. We managed to get the case re-opened, but all we heard was that they were looking into the issue and would get back to us once they knew what was wrong. Nothing came out of these claims. Then, a friend who used to work on wireless communication explained what was going on with the vague messages that plagued my phone. I won't go into technical details, but it was obvious that T-Mobile's circuits in Athens were the cause.

By then I had lost all hope of getting the issue resolved. And when, in November, I moved to New Jersey, I found that my new apartment was no better. According to T-Mobile’s coverage map, I was in a “fair” area (one above the bottom-most “None” class). The-whole-keeping-my-cell-on-the-window-sill continued, but even that did not help sometimes with calls going directly to voice mail. After I got a couple of pay-checks I decided to chuck T-Mobile and went on Amazon.com to hunt for a new service provider and phone.

I waited till I got the new phone in my hand and called T-Mobile to cancel my account at the end of the cycle. More stories and fantastic offers from T-Mobile followed. The lady in customer service promised to improve my service by putting up a new tower! I almost fell down on the floor laughing. She offered 1000 minutes for the 40 dollars that I was paying. I laughed and asked her if she thought I was a fool. I told her I knew how much a tower cost. I told her not to feed me stories and arranged to have my service cut on the 18th of February, when my billing cycle ended. Incidentally I was going to be in Chicago then for a long weekend.

Within a few days of my return from Chicago, on a Friday, I found a letter from T-Mobile informing me that my account had been referred to collections. It appeared that I had missed paying my bill (due to various reasons) and 30 days had gone past. I was surprised that my account had gone to collections even before I had received a final bill. Again due to various reasons, I decided to call them and pay them first thing on Monday morning from work. On Saturday, I finally found my final bill on the mail.

When I called them, I wanted to ask them why my account had been sent to collection even without a reminder. I know I was technically at fault and felt really bad and worried about the whole thing, but on the light of what transpired later, my worries now seem to be without reason. Anyways, when I called T-Mobile, they asked me to pay my bill and insisted that they had no record of my account being referred to collections. I paid the $90 odd that was due (my final bill) and resolved to take this matter up with the “collection agency” in question.

I looked up their number and called them. And that’s when I realized T-Mobile’s game plan. The “collection agency” acknowledged that they had been asked by T-Mobile to contact me about my over due bill. But the guy I spoke to told me that they were just a “letter” agency, i.e. they just send letters and do not actually “collect”. He said that if I had called them first (instead of T-Mobile), all he would have done, would be to instruct me to call T-Mobile immediately. He told me that T-Mobile does this to all overdue accounts just to offend the customer to pay their overdue bills. And the customers usually do so immediately on the notion that because their account has been “marked” for collection, their credit history has already been maligned and any more procrastination would only damage things more.

I do have with me, both letters that inform me that my account has been referred for collections. And when I call, T-mobile has no record of this, while the “collection agency” claims that this is the norm with T-mobile. I understand I was at fault in the first place for being late with my payment, but was $90 big enough for T-Mobile to play around with the truth by threatening me with (two) collection notices? My co-workers tell me that I should lodge a complaint with the FCC on the basis of “unfair” and fraudulent business practices. Having heard all the bullshit over the last 20 months or so, I am quite inclined to do so. And though I dont want to bring the "R" word or "D" word here, but hey, after all the talk of desi dudes in customer service, I am wondering what would an American do in this scenario, given that not much news/information of this kind comes out in public. Hmmm...

54 comments:

RPM said...

I was expecting a story.

But I think after discovering that there is no story, the impact of the subject line is even larger!

I felt the same about Cingular last weekend while I was in the LA area. Sucks!

dumbs said...

anti is this one of your posts that will disappear in a couple of days?...as for t-mobile...was it your rebate or phone?

lazy said...

i second dumbs :)

i come from the state of T mobile. not just that but also i read a commenter week post on google reader but i don't seem to catch it here. what hap ?

WA said...

Are you employed by them?

Hardu said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hardu said...

Were you trying to call up your girl friend who has a t-mobile connection and could not get the connection? :P

D.N.A. said...

Either they screwed-up your billing or a bad connection during a phone interview! Which one is it?

anantha said...

Guys: Have changed providers in the past week, but am totally pissed with t-Mobile for screwing with me even after I changed. Will post in detail about this tonight. Started making one, but have been involved in "meeting mania 06" since yesterday morning!

lazy said...

just for you anti -

http://hotspot.t-mobile.com/freeweekends/

kuttichuvaru said...

I hav been thro tat.. i was with t-mobile first n then switched...

Sriks said...

Their coverage map has a footnote, if you have missed it,
I have copied it for you here
**************
We Really do not have any clue about our coverage; We hired a artist from Ireland who made this map for us, being Irish he used Green Color instead of red.
*******************
-- imo, A royal junk.

anantha said...

Sriks: You are joking right? In any case, my issues started with coverage, went to customer service and now is much more than both these. Now my issues include ethics too.

Anonymous said...

Ethics? WTF ? Do you live in the same world that I live in?

All these guys are out to screw us:) There is a Konar guide amount of data between the lines, in the terms of agreement. On an average I pay $70/ month / phone, and you know how prompt I am in picking up fone calls and returning them:)

"Ellam verum eye wass sir"

-Prabhu

Sachin said...

Okay, now that you've said it, how do you plan to go about doing it?

Sriks said...

anti, ofcourse I made it up however for their service...
it doesnt sound like one..:)
:)

Another foot note :
T*-Mobile

*T =Trash

Anonymous said...

Come on guys, you all (at least, most of you) come from India and you talk about issues like Customer Service and ethics? You guys may or may not remember the good old days in India, when there was only one landline service provider and that was government owned. To get a basic phone connection you'd have to wait for months (or years in some cases). There was no concept of customer service then - they were actually taboo words, although every govt. owned business invariably had a quote by Gandhi on how customers are the first priority ... Trash-mobile, huh? Okay, whatever makes you happy! Nice blogs, though, Anti.

tilotamma said...

enga da romba nala alla kanumenu paathen!

anantha said...

Tilo: Did not know u come here often enough to say what you just said.. mucho honored, we are... Anyways, am spending a nice weekend with friends and blogging about my T-Mobile experience(s) could be way too negative for this nice weekend!

Anon: Well, we are talking about those things only cos we are from india and I am doing it cos everyone seems to have such a low opinion about desi call centers.

Sriks: :)

Sachin: You mean fcuking T-Mobile? Well they are already so fcuked up that I decided that I will blog about it..eventually!

Prabhu: What the....

?! said...

Nonnymouse, my congratulations. You have achieved the condescension and crappiness that me and Nilu et al only dream of. Your point is that Indians are not allowed to demand value for money in the States ? And hullo, even the US had a monopoly before Ma Bell was broken up.

Nope, idjit not worth even flaming.

Anonymous said...

I had bad experiences with T-Mobile too last week when I changed from Cingular. But I thought they had more technical difficulties than lack of ethics. I can see the former can lead to the latter! For me the problem was porting the number from Cingular to T-Mobile which they screwed up badly! But I dont have gripes about their service, at least, not yet!

Looking forward to commiserate with you...to read read your post.

-KK

Anonymous said...

?!, I'm proud that you dream to attain crappiness, although, I don't think there was anything crappy about my post - that depends on how you would define the word, crappy. There is nothing wrong for Indians to demand good customer service and ethics, but, as I mentioned, since we are from India, we should be used to this kind of treatment and shouldn't make a big deal about it, right? Right? I guess you need to sit down and pat yourself in the back ... drumroll... you've achieved the kind of crappiness that you've been dreaming about - responding to a comment without fully understanding its meaning!

Anyway, as Anti pointed out later, since they have a low opinion about our call centers, it makes sense.

-S

Me said...

aNTi Superman what happened?

capriciously_me said...

hey, in spite of all ur anger, can i pppppppplzzzzz say "naanjonna keppiya?"??? remember we had this discussion on lazy's page? go verizon man!

Saranya Kishore said...

Achoo.. what happened?!

Sachin said...

Makes sense. T-Mobile sucks. It doesn't have a good network. Good phones, though. Verizon has the best network and Cingular has the best phones. What sriks says is right: Trash-Mobile!!! While you're at it, you may want to check out my blogspace and leave some comments.

dumbs said...

anti - i had t mobile for more than a year. ...the service was gr8...no probs whatsoever....the phone was good and customer supportr was awesome...i changed seervice coz i wanted a new phone..i wonder what happened to u

Ishwar said...

anti, porumai..
ennava irundhalum pesi theethukkalam..
you want baagi/anantharaman ;)

?! said...

How can they call it the greatest match ever ? Not one decent bowling performance, cept for Bracken, and he dropped Gibbs in the field : (

The Desi Nole said...

umm.. did you know that you could forward your calls to any phone (upto 300 mts. I think) a month at no additional cost.

I did this when I had T Mobile. But again, T Mobile IMHO has the best customer service as compared to sprint and Cingular. I have had no experience with Verizon, so I cannot comment on that one.

D.N.A. said...

Getting customer service agents on the phone is like playing slot machines. It depends on the element of "luck". When I ported my sprint number to cingular, for some reason I had 2 billing cycles for the same number. When I asked them to look into this, they "consolidated" both, even though they were for the same SIM. And the lazy me, had signed-up for auto payment. So I was paying double for like 3 months. Ultimately, I made them agree to their goof-up and they refunded the excess. No, refund is not the word, they credited it for my future billings.

And, I have my own theory on the gender and racial factors of the agents influencing the quality of service one gets. It's a science alright!

koushik said...

tamasu..tamasu :)

Hathirpithi said...

I can totally identify and empathise. Having huge problems with StanChart, which has not only withdrawn money from my account to clear credit card dues, but also insists that it has not and is adding late fees at a phenomenal 100%, I kid you not, every 20 days.

dev2r said...

Verizon has very good customer service. Friendly reps, no scripted BS.
The rates are a bit high if you go over the limit, though. I ended up paying $480 one cycle, because they don't send you a warning TXT message if you exceed the limit -- which would be cool, if any other provider did something like that.

anantha said...

Dev: Hmmm.. it would certainly be cool. But ultimately any service that requires a contract sinks to the levels. Because they know you are caught and they know you will weigh spending $175 immediately against the hope that your problems will be solved.

Hathirpithi: Private banks in India seem to be run by the Mob... Do we have to kiss the hand of the loan managers?

Kou: Looks like you are doing what you need to do.. Onnaku tamasa irrukalam.. But me.. :p

D.N.A: I am not sure what you mean, but I think gender of the employee who you talk to, aint do shit for your chances. In fact for some reason, my voice comes across so "sweet" that almost every customer service person (including the desis) use "maam" instead of Sir, which pisses me off even more. So if I was female, I don't think my treatment would be any better.

Desi Nole: True, but the other land line did not have a answering machine etc. and the phone in Delaware was almost always occupied since there were atleast 10 more ppl waiting to be placed.

?!: I know... but then to score at that rate, even if one of the teams was masquerading as Kenya (as some suggested) is no small deal! Am waiting for the torrent!

Ish:Bhagi...Anantharaman... LOL...Btw, Ganesh Ratnam (the third member of that trio) seems to be in UIC!

Dumbs: Mebbe its just me, but my treatment was very bad, every step of the way. Lots of promises, each of which seemed to be too good to be true and were almost never kept.

Sachin: Will do...

SK: Idhu dhaan achu.. (*points to my post)

CM: Niruthu :p

S: Exactly my point. People seem to think that just because we are non resident aliens we should take lower our pants and bend over for some good old fashioned GMD! In fact one anon said just that. When a friend posted about a couple of incidents that seemed to have racial overtones, one anon said - Why don't you use this vast amount of space that you have to talk about some experiences which show the americans in better light? Remember that we're in their country and be happy that you're in the US and not in some place like Australia. I have issues with such arguments. Btw, do I know you?

tilotamma said...

unrelated to anything and everything;

http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/003147.html
are u going?

koushik said...

I know!
But then, can't you take a 'corporate connection' as we guys in India do and muscle the service provider guys into giving you good service?

anantha said...

Kou: Corporate connection.. nah.. it don't work here...

Tilo: One statement from me and you are after my back.. lol..
nah.. DC's too far! And moreover if I go now the other DC guys will kill me cos I politely excused myself from last week's meet. Of course work in New England beckoned then.

D.N.A. said...

Anti, you misunderstood me. The factors I was referring to was that of the agents not the clients :)

Those gender misunderstanding you're referring, yes, I've been through some myself. The worst is when somebody asks you "Is it male/female". I'm like, "dude, I don't have a big B like voice but come on, I told you my name and I know you are a desi from that accent of yours!"

The Desi Nole said...

Tilo, Anti

Are you guys going to the SM meetup. I am thinking about it.

anantha said...

Desi Nole: Not me, at least not this one. Mebbe the next NYC meetup! But I am way to insignificant there. Might just do a Night Shyamalan and sit there quietly watching everything! And I have a faint idea that Tilo was trying to pull my leg :p

The Desi Nole said...

LOL. If you are insignificant then I think I know what to do.

Amethyst said...

This is a universal phenomenon. ICICI used to automatically deduct money from my account for a credit card I never had. Despite following it up with them for over a year nothing happened. Finally got Kamath's email ID and wrote a grievance mail. Issue was sorted out in a week's time :-) Someone from corporate office even called up to check if the problem was resolved

Doesn't matter if it is a developed or developing country….. customer service is abysmal in a lot of places. So when things don't work out, go to higher authorities...it always helps

anantha said...

Amethyst: The problem is that it is almost impossible to get through to anyone other than customer service here. The layers are well insulated and you almost always cannot go beyond customer service.

Anonymous said...

Complain in better business bureau. www.bbb.org Had problems with verizon with contract cancellation. I got a call from a verizon manager within 24 hours. Got an apology and refund of my last 2 months bill.

Manoj said...

yeah complain in bbb.org

Sachin said...

Well, I guess, T-mobile is popular only because of its phones. It was among the first service providers in the US to provide the popular Razr. The service sucks. I agree. Even here in Cali, a lot of people in my school complain that the phone neither works at home nor in their labs. They have to go outside to speak. Among the service providers, I think Cingular and Verizon are the best (I'm not sure there are too many Cingular fans over here).

By the way, Anti, did your calls get routed to India?

Sriks said...

Back in 1996 here in the US, it used to be a night mare dealing MCI or AT&T, rate to India was from $1.50 to $2.50 per minute, rounded off to nearest min. Often we would get random billing errors; it was a real pain to get back credit. Once I got an $1100 charge from no where, I tried explaining them but nothing worked. I moved out to AT&T. MCI called me everyday and warned me about collection agency etc for next 2 months, when I was about to give up - thanks to my American friends here, they asked me to talk to the state attorney, just a single phone call from her office - MCI cleared everything at once, it was their mistake, they offered me discounted call plans etc which I never took. :)
Phone companies are notorious :)

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