Reader Miss_smartypants bought a new PEBL cellphone from T-mobile, free after $50 rebate. After she sent in the rebate forms, she saw a notice on T-mobile’s site for the phone free, straight up, with no rebate business. She called to request a pricematch so she wouldn’t have to wait for the rebate.
A lengthy adventure launches with calls to customer service, threats to cancel service, and lobbying of executive customer service and t-mobile’s legal department.
If she waited for the rebate to process, wouldn’t she have the original deal she wanted?
“Not really,” says Miss_smartypants, “T-Mobile will have borrowed my $50 free for 2 months (their estimation of average time frame) without compensating me.”
After reading her letters posted inside, vote. — BEN POPKEN
On November 9, I ordered a new phone from T-Mobile online, a Motorola PEBL free following a $50 refund. When I received my phone the following week, I immediately took the steps required by T-Mobile to process the rebate, which are specifically the completion and mailing in of the phone, inclusion of a copy of the invoice and inclusion of an original box cut-out. I logged on to T-Mobile’s site within days later to confirm the receipt and status of the rebate, and after struggling to find the small-print, buried area where I could check rebate status, discovered that the same phone is now being offered free without regard to a rebate.
I called T-Mobile to request as a courtesy that the later/better offer, extended to all customers only days after I accepted the earlier/worse offer, be extended to me as a courtesy price-match that most businesses provide to customers. After speaking with Sandra, Thomas and Rhonda, I was advised alternately that (a) they would not do this because I had a prior agreement on the worse terms – I’ll call this the “Ha ha we got you sucka!” answer, that (b) their system had no way to refund me $50, put a $50 credit on my bill or take any other redressive action whatsoever – I’ll call this the “Maybe if we lie this sucka will go away” answer, and that (c) I am certain to receive my refund anyway (4-8 weeks later) so I should be unconcerned. I advised that in reviewing my contract and current pricing information, it appeared that I’d be best off canceling the phone since I am still within the 14-day “second thoughts” grace period (and boy am I having second thoughts!), and here’s the kicker – I am prevented from canceling my service because I have submitted the documentation for a rebate.
Rhonda is EMPHATIC in assuring me that T-Mobile does not price match, and is unconcerned that other companies do because “T-Mobile is a cell phone company”. I am not sure how this explanation suffices to answer the question. Is there a regulatory requirement that cell carriers can’t price match? I don’t know – Rhonda couldn’t say. Rhonda found my concern that T-Mobile took a “screw you” approach to their customers who relied on an offer being fair unpersuasive, responding “Oh you’re very funny!”. Rhonda is CERTAIN that there is no physical way that it might be even remotely possible for T-Mobile to redress this situation, as it is against their policy to price match for regular customers.
Now, the result of these discussions is that I no longer have any confidence that (sometime next year, 8 weeks later) I will get my rebate, and that as a result of relying on T-Mobile’s assurances I am going to be (a) out $50, and (b) charged a cancellation fee of $250 if I choose to use my ONLY available option out of this situation, i.e. revoking my acceptance of the contract under it’s revocation terms. Other than avoiding rebates generally (but I assumed, wrongly, that T-Mobile was offering a good deal and wouldn’t make the phone free days later!), and learning my lesson with T-Mobile, I am wondering whether anyone has negotiated this cell phone/rebate/cancellation problem before, has any advice or thoughts on how to make sure I am not utterly screwed by T-Mobile here – since customer service has told me expressly that they are going to leave me out in the wind with no assistance.
In addition, Rhonda advises that their legal department has no telephones and cannot receive email. Rhonda advises that their corporate department also cannot accept telephone calls – saying “Can you imagine what would happen if our corporate people had to take phone calls like this?”.
Yeah, I can imagine – someone would probably actually receive customer service from this company!
It looks like there is nothing much that can be done and I just have to cross my fingers and hope for the best, but again – any advice is appreciated as I’m up against a brick wall.
New York, NY
Quick follow up: I’ve called and written the T-Mobile executive suite and the T-Mobile legal department with a copy to the NY Consumer Protection Board, and so far no response.
Just wanted to take a minute and let you know how this turned out. On November 27, when I initially called T-Mobile, I was within the 14-day period to cancel the contract on the phone. I contacted the CEO/Executive Customer Service department, and Tammy Swonik (sp?) in the legal department. Tammy has not responded to my written correspondence or 2 follow up phone calls, however I’ve now received a phone call back (and been hung up on by) Anthony in the Executive Customer Service Department, whose direct line is 877-290-6323, ext. 3418012.
Anthony advised that since the time to cancel the contract had passed, I would be charged a fee to cancel the service, and was unmoved by the fact that the passage of time was T-Mobile’s fault because they failed to comply with my request on the day of my call. At contract law and under equity jurisdiction, in common law and here in NY State, a party to a contract that fails to act in compliance with a condition they’ve requested ( i.e. you only have *14 days* to cancel), waives the ability to enforce that condition – at least this is my law school memory, as I am not a contracts attorney. Otherwise, of course, any caller to T-Mobile could attempt to cancel and be denied for 14 days, thus losing the ability to cancel and being trapped into the $250 fee that is now the subject of litigation. Anthony was unmoved by this, simply re-stating that the time had passed, the time had passed, the time had passed and they were not going to assist me in any way. If I cancel now, they will charge me a fee – even though the failure to cancel within the time period was their fault.
When I asked for further contact information so I could make a formal complaint requesting release from my contract without liquidated damages, Anthony gave me Tammy Swonik’s (sp?) name. When I advised she was unresponsive to telephone calls and written correspondence, Anthony advised I must have an attorney to speak with their legal department (bullshit). When I advised truthfully that I am a lawyer (currently pending admission here in NY), Anthony said “no one in the legal department will call you back” and hung up on me.
So, here I am, stuck with two phone lines with T-Mobile and an unresposive, sarcastic and rude Executive Customer Service branch. But, at any rate, I thought the name and direct line of someone in that branch (however unhelpful they are) might be a good lead for others, or something to add to the Consumerist address book.
New York, NY
It looks like where you fell down was accepting the story about a rebate submission stalling a cancellation request. Seems like just a delaying tactic.
Lobbying the legal department is also probably a dead end.
At this point, I would try Executive Customer Service again. This time, instead of trying to cancel, push hard for the $50 rebate. On top of the price-matching, include the pain and acrimony and lies of the three first-tier customer service reps as further reason for the refund.
Also, If you wait for the original rebate to process, won’t it still be Thanks for the tip, free?
Not really: T-Mobile will have borrowed my $50 free for 2 months (their estimation of average time frame) without compensating me, and I have no guarantee I’ll actually get the rebate. If they refuse the rebate or take an unreasonable time, I then have no recourse since they have run out the cancellation clock on me and claim that they take no responsibility and have no ability to control the rebate process since it’s executed by a third-party company unrelated to T-Mobile. It’s MUCH better to be in the position of the consumer who paid nothing, than the consumer who could, at some point, get $50 back after someone else has use of the money for several months. When I realized and requested the opportunity to join the preferred class of customers, they ran out the clock on me – offering me the option, and then by their own actions preventing me from accepting the offer. So I’ve just got my fingers crossed, I know I filled out the paperwork correctly so if they’re not totally screwing around it should be okay, sometime in 2007.