EECB Scores Direct Hit On T-Mobile

Reader Rob got some bad information from a T-Mobile sales rep and it resulted in a huge text messaging bill. He launched an EECB (Executive Email Carpet Bomb) and got a very pleasant response:

I just wanted to thank “The Consumerist” for the EXCEPTIONAL information! EECB was instrumental in helping me resolve my billing dispute with T-Mobile. Here is a copy of e-mail I sent off to the e-mail of Robert Dotson, CEO of T-Mobile and the correspondence that followed. I have to say that T-Mobile’s Executive Customer Relations department was phenomenal to deal with. In the letter they write back to me, they essentially say I was wrong, but they are reimbursing me anyways.

Thanks Again

-=Rob=-

Rob writes to T-Mobile’s CEO:

2/25/08

Dear Sir,

When I received my February bill, I was surprised to see my bill that is usually under $100.00 had skyrocketed over $275.00.

I briefly had the opportunity to discuss this with a customer representative when I received my bill. She was exceedingly helpful and professional. She kindly informed me that the billing charges were the result of a huge text messaging overage caused by instant messaging. I stated that I had the Unlimited T-Zones on my plan, and that I was told by a store representative that Instant messaging was free with t-zones. She informed me that this is true, but only when used from T-Mobile’s WAP site, and not through the client installed on the phone. I did not have time to go further into the matter that night due to family obligations, but asked the representative to change my plan at that time to include unlimited text messages to put a stop to the overages for the time being.

Yesterday evening I spoke with a T-Mobile customer service representative, and eventually his supervisor, to continue my dialogue and try to resolve the matter of the service charges on my bill. I have always praised T-Mobile’s customer service, but for the first time in my 5 years as a customer in good standing, I am exceedingly disappointed with T-Mobile’s customer service.

I purchased my new Shadow phone on December the 6th. While browsing through the features on this new phone at checkout, I noticed that AOL instant messenger was included on the phone and asked the sales representative about this particular feature. He stated that since I was a T-Zones customer at the time, instant messaging would be free. When I called to discuss this with customer service representatives yesterday evening, I was told to:

“Go find the store rep that made the error”

and that I could not be credited or helped further without

“Proper Documentation”.

When I asked what proper documentation was, neither the customer representative nor his supervisor could give me any answer at all other than to repeat that they need proper documentation. I was repeatedly instructed to try and find that specific store representative and resolve the matter with him. When I informed the phone representative that most stores will not give out employee scheduling information as this is a personal security risk, I was also not given a reply, and was only met by dead silence on the phone.

This incredible lapse in customer care leads me to rethink T-Mobile’s service when my contract comes to completion. Working for a customer-centric electric utility company, I understand dedication to customer service and satisfaction, as we are reminded everyday that no company can work and grow without it’s customers.

Sincerely,

Robert

T-Mo writes:

Mr. XXXXXXXXX,

Thank you for your reply. As stated in your email to Mr. Dotson, you are aware that when using the instant messaging feature embedded in the menu of your device, you are billed at a per message rate of $.15 a message, unless you have a messaging bundle added to your monthly services.

T-Mobile records indicate that you used a total of 1312 text messages during your December 28, 2007, to January 27, 2008, billing cycle. As such, it is T-Mobile’s position that the text messaging charges are valid and owed.

Nevertheless, as a gesture of good faith to you, and in an effort to amicably resolve the issue, T-Mobile has rerated your January 2008 billing statement as if you were on the $14.99 Unlimited Messaging Value Bundle. As such, we have placed a one time credit on your account in the amount of $197.39, for the text messaging charges less the cost of the Unlimited Messaging Bundle.

You currently have a credit balance on your account in the amount of $197.39; you can verify this by dialing #646# on your T-Mobile phone, or by calling Customer Care at 800-937-8997. If you wish to have this amount refunded to you, please reply to this email and we will do so in three to five business days. T-Mobile regrets any inconvenience to you.

Sincerely,

Brian Watson
Executive Customer Relations
Office of the President

For more information about how to learn to launch your own EECB, click here.

(Photo:Crawfishpie)

Comments

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  1. morganlh85 says:

    But I hate how they are soooo anal-retentive about apologizing. “Well, this really is YOUR fault, but we’ll be reeeealllly cool and give you the money back ANYWAY.”

  2. weakdome says:

    They have to say that – otherwise everyone else will want one, too.

  3. Sasquatch says:

    I used to work for TMO and had the opportunity to sit down for a
    meet and greet with Mr. Dotson, and I must say that he really does
    believe in customer service and keeping customers happy. He’s a good
    guy, and I liked having the opportunity to meet him. I quit working
    there over a year ago (I never considered it a career option, but a
    good job to hold me over while I found something I really wanted to
    do… also my store manager was a total douche), but I will remain on
    their service for the long haul as I respect their committment to
    customer service in an industry that is notorious for shirking that
    committment.

    The problem I can see here is that in-store people are not customer
    care representatives, but sales representatives, and have very high
    sales quotas in an industry where new business is hard to come by. A
    lot of the simple answers to questions similar to the one asked by the
    original poster are outside of the realm of many sales reps who have to
    focus on selling in order to keep their jobs. If you have a question
    like this regarding your bill, your best bet is to get on the phone
    with T-Mobile’s customer care rather than rely on the word of a sales
    rep who may not have the correct answer. This is not to say that all of
    the sales reps are unfamiliar with billing policies, etc., but the odds
    are that you’ll get the right answer from a customer care rep on the
    phone, and they will document your account with the conversation so it
    can be referenced later. While it would be nice if all sales reps were
    better trained in customer care, it’s unfortunately not the case.

  4. CorporateTool says:

    How do you send 1312 text messages in a month? Just physically?

  5. Toof_75_75 says:

    @morganlh85:
    They have a point, though. Granted, the salesman messed up, but so did he in the eyes of T-Mobile. Pretty good resolution, overall.

  6. Bozman8 says:

    i use verizon, and i don’t really care for them. but, that being said, i had a similar issue resolved by verizon in the same way (retroactively changing my plan), and i did not have to escalate the complaint past regular custumer service.

  7. ideagirl says:

    @CorporateTool: not text messages, AOL instant messenger.

  8. Avacasso says:

    1312/30

    about 43 per day.
    not so unreasonable if you do consider a ‘conversation’ over text with a person could have 20 or so individual texts.

  9. soulman901 says:

    Eh, not really so much in the way of say, oops, we screwed up but more of, Shut your damn whining, here’s some $$$ to cover the mess that we “Supposedly created for you”.
    T-Mobile proves that they continue to suck like all CellPhone companies do.

  10. azntg says:

    @CorporateTool: You don’t exactly. It’s the way the IM client on the phone is programmed. It has been reported that just accessing the buddy list can “run up” several text messages.

  11. ezacharyk says:

    This is not a surprising solution. T-Mobile, while not gaining nearly $200, has not lost any money in this deal. After all they did make their one month of unlimited instant messaging.

    Mr. Dotson took this reasoning and ran with it. He als okept a customer while he was at it.

  12. weakdome says:

    @azntg: so can “checking away messages” (because it has to send/access them via a txt) and doing other things. It’s a lose-lose.

  13. FightOnTrojans says:

    Yah, AT&T did something similar for me without being all douchey about. I called because my family went over the minutes (yet again) and it was still a good 6 days until the end of the billing cycle. I upgraded the plan to start with the next billing cycle and the CSR gave me extra minutes for the current month at no charge. Since there was no way (well, almost no way) possible for us to spend the extra 700 minutes, a majority of it went straight into my completely depleted rollover bank. Now I have a cushion. A few more months, then I’ll tell the fam that we have more minutes, cuz I just know they’ll go all hog wild.

  14. flamincheney says:

    @Bozman8:

    I have also had a Verizon rep retroactively change my account to help with overages, and didn’t need to escalate the matter or have to jump through hoops.

  15. KiLE says:

    I can vouch for t-mobile being misleading. Go into any t-mobile and see if they know what the unlimited messaging actually means. When I signed up for the plan it was with t-mobile customer service over the phone and they said “it covers any form of messaging other than calls”. If it wasn’t for the fact I don’t IM (only text) than I probably would have run into the same problem by now.

    If the people working for t-mobile don’t get how it’s supposed to work, how is the customer???

  16. IndyJaws says:

    While I applaud TM for resolving the issue, I still have a bad taste in my mouth, due to the tone of the letter. Basically, it said, “You rang up all these charges, we don’t care that you were misinformed at the store and got nowhere with customer service, but due to our generosity and overall better-than-youness, we’re going to forgive you for being stupid this time.”

    Here’s a suggestion T-Mobile…if you’re going to take care of the customer, lose the attitude, take full accountability, apologize for the misinformation and poor customer service and act contrite. Otherwise, what good does it do? Instead of having a happy customer who felt like they were taken care of and respected as a customer, they (if it were me) now are glad that they have their money but feel absolutely no respect or assurance that their original issues of misinformation and customer service will be taken care of; hence, no reason not to consider another provider when their contract is up.

    Sorry, TM, you blew a golden opportunity to make lots of $$$ off a customer, costing you little to no money to do so, but couldn’t keep your smart mouth shut.

  17. BillyShears says:

    What a dickish reply. Yes, he was “aware”, but only after he made a call to T-Mobile to ask why he was being billed one way when the store rep said he’d be billed another way.

  18. Difdi says:

    If an agent of the company, one who is authorized to enter the company into contracts or otherwise act on the company’s behalf (someone you can say “sign me up” to and they handle all the paperwork) states what the contract is, then that is the contract, whether they are right or wrong about what they should be telling you. Period.

    The problem is proving it, since the company can claim there was no such verbal contract. This is why most people you get on the phone when calling a company will instantly hang up if you tell them you will be recording the conversation. Because what they say to you in error is legally binding on the company, if a tangible record of the statement exists.

    In an ideal world, where everybody kept their promises and didn’t lie to make sales, and understood every aspect of the product perfectly, you wouldn’t need to record conversations or have written contracts. The fact that both things exist in our world, simply reinforces the old wisdom, of Let The Buyer Beware.

  19. darkened says:

    @CorporateTool: I have sent 5000 in a month. When txt messages consist of 10 words or less sentences it’s easy to amass a great number of them.

  20. falc says:

    i’ve talked before on this site about how much i appreciate T-Mobile’s customer service. I recently added a new line and new phone (the Shadow) to our plan. The Shadow had a 50 dollar mail in rebate and i did it over Presidents day weekend where they offered no $35 activation fee for a new line. so i go to the store and the sales rep says in order to get the mail in rebate i had to purchase the Total-Internet package which was $20 per month. but they said i could get it and then cancel it after my rebate came in. so i go through with the deal and get the phone and new line.
    my first problem was they added the Total-Internet to the wrong line which has a basic phone and would never use web browsing. so i called customer service to fix that. and while talking to them i asked about the rebate deal and they said i didnt need to get the total internet deal to get the rebate. wtf? so i had them cancel that. also i come to find out from the bill that they signed me up phone insurance for $5.95 per month (which i didn’t ask for) AND they included the $35 dollar activation charge for the new line! so i called up customer service again and they spotted the issue and apologized right away for the mistake (which is rare these days) and credited my account for the errors…
    i must say, from my experience, T-Mobile does have some of the best customer service agents around. (at their call centers, not the idiot sales reps at the store who will lie to your face)

  21. dweebster says:

    @Difdi: I notice that when I call most customer service centers of companies, they have a recording that says “this call may be monitored or recorded…” before I get a chance to talk with anyone. Well, if the call may be recorded, then AFAIK that’s very clear permission for me to record it. That game doesn’t only play one way.

    What’s astounding is when you follow up later and the company doesn’t seem to have any way to retrieve conversations from recordings. WTF do they do with the recordings, obviously they aren’t using them to “improve customer service” — if that were the case the information they provide would have to have SOME level of accuracy!

  22. dweebster says:

    I have Sprint and they play the same exact games. They’re always changing around the pricing and configurations of their plans that there’s _NO WAY_ they can train the worldwide staff to keep on top of it. They always screw up something, and every representative you reach to try fixing it manages to screw up your account in some other way if they fix that issue.

    What would help is for these utility companies to provide simple, clear pricing for their various services, it ain’t hard: 1) voice minutes 2) text messages 3) data KB’s, and whatever else.

    They play it loose and free like Bally’s Health Clubs and then send off snarky “apology” letters like this one when the inevitable problems arise between what the rep tells the customer and their actual murky terms.

    News flash to Cell Phone companies: Want to retain customers? Simplify and clarify your plans and stop playing the shell game.

  23. jryan says:

    @CorporateTool:
    You don’t need to send 1312 text message, half of them could have been received – 656 and the other half sent. It’s only about 33 message sent per day.

  24. TrexSchad says:

    @dweebster: Actually, when I worked for T-Mobile we couldn’t access the recordings either. But our manager and a national quality assurance team would randomly select one every other day to listen to, and we’d be rated on what we did on the call. Promotions and bonuses were based on your score from the call. Sadly, after 2 weeks or so, the call would be purged and so if we wanted to dispute a score we received, it had to be very shortly after it occured, otherwise it was already deleted.

  25. MPHinPgh says:

    @CorporateTool: You OBVIOUSLY don’t have a teenage daughter [grin]

  26. sibertater says:

    @CorporateTool: Instant messages count toward your SMS limit. I am a messaging whore.

  27. nikitab says:

    I hate T-Mobile. Overcharged me on an account I didn’t use and refused to refund me when they were supposed to cancel my contract and didn’t and I was basically paying them every month without using a single minute. Shameful company that treats their customers like a crap.

  28. elephantstomp says:

    @ dweebster “this call may be monitored or recorded…” those statements, aren’t they just informing you of your right to record the conversation. I do not recall a stipulation that it only applies to them.

  29. STrRedWolf says:

    Did he get his rate switched? I’d double-check that to make sure his plan’s switched over to cover the IM-over-SMS’s.

    Me, I’d run Bluetooth on a small device like a Zaurus and use the phone’s Bluetooth Dial-up Networking (DUN) profile to IM. Cheaper in the long run.

  30. JustaConsumer says:

    I have always had good luck with T-Mobile.

  31. sirmoosh says:

    I had a similar problem with my bill, that went up to $320 from the $65 it was supposed to be after only a few days. But when I called customer service to ask why I was charged even though I got the $15 unlimited texting, they shuffled around for about an hour and a half looking through my information in their system and somehow couldn’t find any hint of me actually getting that added to my plan, along with more things that seemed to be missing. The problem is that I had purposely switched to TMobile because with the unlimited messaging my plan would be almost the same price as with my former provider for almost the same services. The only way I can prove to them that I ordered it is if I have paperwork showing the information on it, which is the major problem because I ordered the phone through their online store, but wasn’t able to print up the reference number after my order went through because I had just moved to college without a printer. No contract information was sent with the phone either, even though they told me that I should have gotten a copy of it in the mail. Now I’m stuck at an impass because their computer system decided to screw me over and I have no way to prove it, or any way to pay the huge bill.

  32. Devidence says:

    What they should have advised in the email is to avoid T-Mobile stores at all costs. The staff at our local store appears to know nothing about the phones they carry, or the services they offer. I didn’t know you could employ 16 year olds with no training, but they’ve managed to pull it off.

    Double check everything when adding/changing services, and especially if you’re dealing with a store rep.

  33. pigeonpenelope says:

    @CorporateTool: lOL!! Teenagers these days can do so much. I talked with this one dad who’s daughter did over 40,000 text messages.

    I myself can barely do 100 in a month.

  34. mintyscrolls says:

    I think my son must know your daughter, when I saw 3200 texts in 2 weeks I could have died. Lucky for me it was the rep from tmobile that I was calling about something else that told me and allowed me to sign up for family unlimited texting for 19.99 which was way cheaper than the 300 plus I would have paid.

  35. YinYang says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Could I ask for the email address you used to reach the Tmobile executives? I have problem with T-Mobile’s misleading billing method and have wasted a lot of time talking to customer service reps without getting anywhere. I did search, but could not find the contact information. It would be great if I could get their email address…. Thanks!

    yinyang