Monday, January 19

They Call This "Customer Service"?

Once upon a time, back in December 2002, I wanted to have a cell phone. I'd never had one before, so I went online to research. I compared service plans available in my area, I looked at different phones, and I chose to go with T-Mobile. Conveniently, there was a T-Mobile store on my way home from work.

I stopped in one evening and the saleswoman was quite helpful in getting me all signed up for service and showing me the options for free phones. I was so excited to be joining the wireless age!

For nearly 6 years I loved their service. I told anyone who asked that T-Mobile was a great company and I was so happy with them I'd never considered another provider. What impressed me the most was their excellent customer service. A few years back, they even helped me lower my monthly bill by switching to a different plan. Unfortunately, they seem to have changed their standards lately.

I was a bit bummed when we moved to Sioux Falls because T-Mobile doesn't offer coverage here. We were able to use our phones, but only because everything was forwarded through local companies. Our plan was to stay with T-Mobile until the contract ran out next fall, then switch to a company that provided regional coverage for South Dakota.

Meanwhile, Adam got a list of employee discounts for which he is eligible from work. We were pleased to find that one of the companies offering a corporate discount was T-Mobile.

Early last month, we called to add the 15% off discount code to our plan. Two-and-a-half hours and half a dozen representatives later, the discount was applied to our account in about five minutes. When Adam asked what the company would do for us to make up for the fact that they wasted the entire afternoon with their crummy customer service, he was transferred to yet another representative, this time in the Customer Relations department. She offered him 600 extra minutes which would expire in 90 days (mind you, we weren't even using the minutes included in our plan as it was--for this to be beneficial, we'd have to spend an extra 45 HOURS on the phone over the next three months) or a $5 "courtesy refund."

Adam suggested we would like a month of service for free or perhaps have our contract ended now so that we could sign up for a company that has local service. This was when we discovered that our contract had been extended for an additional two years, without our knowledge, as a part of the discount sign-up process. Adam explained our situation of having just moved and not having T-Mobile coverage in this area. The woman gave him an address to send a letter with this same information and a date to terminate our service.

We've mailed our letter and, so far, have only received a one notice marked "Final Bill." I'm not so sure we're in the clear yet, though. My brother and sister got the very same advice from T-Mobile when they moved here almost a year ago. They mailed and faxed their information multiple times, as requested. Still, they are arguing with the company over the response they received: a bill for several hundred dollars in contract termination fees.

On the plus side, we've now had almost a full month of service with Verizon and have yet to encounter any problems. Our phones get better reception, there is a big store right at the mall if we have any concerns, and with the 22% discount we get through Adam's work, our monthly phone bill is lower. And, as my sister put it, "At least with the Network following you around, you won't get lonely there."

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