Void Your Mobile Phone Warranty: Move Somewhere Humid

Until recently, Israel was a happy and loyal T-Mobile customer of almost a decade. He’s also that person left who’s still using a BlackBerry. He sent his phone in for a warranty exchange, dutifully checking the liquid damage sensor first to make sure his phone hadn’t been dunked. But TMo charged him a fee for water damage anyway, because the real moisture sensor is buried inside the phone, and told a different story. Because Israel had dared…. to live in Miami.

I have been a loyal T-Mobile customer for the past 9 years. It was a fairytale relationship until this morning….

I am one of the last remaining BlackBerry users and I was having a hardware issue which required me to do a warranty exchange. The T-Mobile CSR I spoke with on the phone had me check the liquid or water damage indicator which is located inside the battery compartment. It is normally white; if it turns pink your phone is flagged for water damage. I checked mine and it was white.

I sent the phone in and received a new one, but this morning I got a letter in the mail from T-Mobile indicating that my phone had water damage. I was not very happy to say the least, so I called customer service. I calmly explained to the CSR that I had checked my phone before sending it in and the liquid damage indicator was white. The CSR checked the notes and told me that there are “secret” liquid damage indicators inside the phone which had been triggered due to water submersion.

I had trouble understanding how the “secret” water damage indicators inside the phone were triggered yet the most accessible one inside the battery compartment stayed dry. At this point I asked to speak with a supervisor, who educated me on the fact that the internal or “secret” liquid damage indicators can be triggered simply by humidity. This was great to hear since I live in Miami, Florida, where its humid every day. I tried to reason with the supervisor to see if the $124.00 fee could be waived due to the fact that I have never wet the phone and I have been a T-Mobile customer for almost 10 years, but she didn’t really care. I guess if I can’t pull on T-Mobile’s heart strings I will pull on their purse strings.

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  1. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Until recently, Israel was a happy and loyal T-Mobile customer of almost a decade.

    I didn’t know you could pick up T-Mobile in Israel. Do they still issue roaming charges?

  2. Coffee says:

    These “secret indicators” are bullshit…there needs to be a way that the customer can confirm whether there is damage that doesn’t involve sending the phone somewhere where a tech can look at a “super secret” sensor and make an independent judgment. What is the point of the indicator in the battery case if it doesn’t ensure that the customer’s phone is still under warranty?

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      The one in the battery compartment can be tampered with. They are accusing the OP of such without saying so. It’s possible the CSR doesn’t realize this.

      • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

        What kind of sense does that make? Wouldn’t tampering with it set it off? And where would the OP get a replacement sensor to cover it up, if that’s what they thought he did?

        • UberGeek says:

          I had an old phone I tested with one of those little dessicant balls from those “Do Not Eat” packs. Place it over the sensor, seal it off with tape, and dunk in a sink. The sensor did not trip. Of course, that one had room for the dessicant and newer ones may be designed defeat such tactics.

          Still, that’s no excuse for keeping it hidden when a simple plastic/glass window could allow a customer to see its state (and therefore snap a picture before returning).

        • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

          And if that’s true, the other sensors can be tampered with, it would just take a little more time. Why are they even bothering with a fake one anyway?

          • AustinTXProgrammer says:

            It is much easier to get generic moister sensors than to get brand specific case tampering seals. And to the idea of a clear window, That would add a few pennies to the hundreds of dollars it cost to build the device and would never happen.

        • Difdi says:

          How exactly would tampering with a dye marker that changes color when exposed to water cause it to “go off”?

    • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

      Can’t someone here pull up a schematic for the phone, that shows if there is or isn’t a 2nd indicator?

      • RayanneGraff says:

        These secret indicators simply don’t exist. How do I know this? I’m a phone tech. Never seen one in all my years taking apart phones.

        • RedShirt says:

          Then you’re a pretty bad phone tech… I am a former phone tech and they put 2 or three of them in different places on most phone pcb’s… but it doesn’t even matter if ALL the LDI’s show no water damage, if the manufacturer finds rust or corrosion anywhere on the pcb the warranty is voided and they won’t even attempt to repair the phone even if you offer to pay for the repairs.

          Lots of idiots think that they can just deny that they got the phone wet like the guy in the headline article and think that the manufacturer or carrier is somehow legally obligated to repair the phone just because the customer refuses to acknowledge that the phone’s been wet… wrong. It’s obvious when you’re lying… rust and corrosion tell the truth of what happened… and the more you lie about it or deny it the more you’re talking the rep out of having any simpathy for you and reducing the possibility of getting a credit toward the purchase of a new phone. I’ve had people stand in front of me with water dripping out of their phones trying to claim that the phone has never been wet… get a clue people. Be honest and fess up right up front, we’re FAR more likely to use our power to credit accounts to give you at least partial credit toward that new phone you’re going to have to end up getting if you are.

        • joako says:

          Seriously? It’s not “secret” that many phones have moisture indicators on the circuit board. Take it apart and remove it before sending it in if it turned red.

      • RedShirt says:

        Research In Motion (makers of the BlackBerry phones) do not release their schematics… despite having ripped off everyone else’s patents and despite being hopelessly out of date themselves, they are highly secretive and think everyone’s trying to steal anything proprietary to them. I’m BlackBerry Certified T2 v4.0, v4.1+BIS, and I couldn’t even hope to get a schematic from RIM. Also, a schematic wouldn’t have any liquid damage indicator listed on it since the LDI is not part of the electronics of the phone, it’s just a litmus paper sticker, it can be placed nearly anywhere (except over a mic or speaker).

        RIM also won’t authorize third parties to do warranty repair work for them at all. If anyone cracks any of their phones open other than their own in house repair center, their warranty is voided flat out. However, there are plenty of photos of blackberry circuit boards floating around… seeing as how they are outdated and people have moved onto real smartphones there have been plenty of people that have cracked their old ones open and photographed the insides of them. The trouble is that the OP didn’t list what model she had… and most likely it wouldn’t matter anyway because in all liklihood the manufacturer sent it back as liquid damaged after seeing corrosion in the phone, not from an LDI, but CS reps don’t know the first thing about phone repair, so they make up whatever they think sounds good… but bottom line is that the manufacturer refused to repair the device due to liquid damage… that’s likely all the CSR’s knew, well that, and that there’s nothing that T-Mobile can do to get the manufacturer (RIM) to repair a liquid damaged device. Asking a CS rep about phone repair is like asking a grocery store baker about car repair. They might be able to string together a sentance that sounds good, but you better double-check anything they say with an expert because anything they say on the subject is suspect.

    • incident_man says:

      secret indicator = secret way of wringing money out of a customer for warranty work.

    • JonBoy470 says:

      Uh, yeah, the internal indicators are to prevent warranty fraud. Being something that folks carry everywhere on their person, cell phones succumb to water damage or physical damage far more often than they fail due to manufacturing defects. And, if your contract isn’t up yet, you’re getting reamed the full, unsubsidized price. Heck of a motive to fake the moisture sensor, if you ask me. Hence the internal sensors. And the warranties on these things state that the internal sensors are deemed to be definitive with regard to indication of water damage.

      All a window would buy you is seeing that your warranty is void to begin with, rather than finding out after the fact. Either way, you’re not getting a warranty replacement, so the difference is negligible for the carrier/manufacturer. In other words, suck it…

      • wkm001 says:

        I disagree, a window would give him/her the ability to buy a phone on eBay or CraigsList for much less than $150. And they would more than likely get a phone in better condition. Refurbed phones had something wrong with them at one time or another.

  3. Cat says:

    +Just one more reason to never, ever live in the swamp they call Florida.

  4. 180CS says:

    Just sue them in small claims court for hundreds of dollars more than the phone is worth. They would have to pay to fly an executive in just to defend in the case, and then explain how water damage caused the phone to break when the phone itself exhibits no water damage, other than an over reactive piece of litmus paper. Even if you had done the damage they would be insane to actually fight a small claims suit.

  5. Nessiah says:

    This got me curious…so I opened up the back of my phone and touched the sensor with my wet finger. It turned pink almost immediately. I wonder if that will cause me any problems later…

    • Lyn Torden says:

      We played with those things (sensor strips) in chemistry class. There is a way to reverse that reaction, but I don’t recall what it is right now. I only recall it involved an alcohol and an acid, and some drying time. Maybe the Google knows.

  6. neilb says:

    Canon did the same to me and latched onto the “water damage” argument and never let up.
    I ended up bothering them enough for them to “sort of, but not really” make the situation right. I will not be buying their products anymore…they have no warranty.
    It is a stupid situation–we have to document everything with the assumption that companies are going to TRY to screw us out of whatever rights we had.
    HTC does the same with the “right to decide how much to cover” for certain defects (e.g., USB ports). It essentially takes away the warranty. It is unusable because they will likely screw you if you take advantage of it. Why not? They have every incentive to do so.
    I am glad I work next door to the small claims court, though I have only had to use it once, it was easy to do so. People are there to answer questions and default “no-show” judgments are the most common judgments.

  7. Jack says:

    The article mentioned that he’s one of the last Blackberry users. I’m genuinely curious and not trying to start a fight – are there really few Blackberry users in America? I see them absolutely everywhere here in Canada.

    • Coffee says:

      Blackberry’s market share in America is very small…maybe 5%, and it’s predominantly used by people in the business community. The company that makes Blackberry will very likely be forced into bankruptcy soon, if the reports are true.

      • marillion says:

        A lot of us in government still use them, but I was just notified that I now have a choice of getting a smart phone the next time my phone is up for replacement. That said, I will still want something with a qwerty sliding keyboard. I send a lot of email with my BlackBerry and while It is definetely lacking in things like apps and such, I prefer the interface it has for emails and document manipulation over my personal (droid 2) phone.

      • JonBoy470 says:

        They are definitely tanking in terms of new sales, though their market share in terms of installed base isn’t quite as bleak. Definitely doesn’t bode well though, as evidenced by the recent ouster of their co-CEO’s.

        http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/consumer/more-us-consumers-choosing-smartphones-as-apple-closes-the-gap-on-android/

        • Coffee says:

          Thanks for the clarification, JonBoy…the number I was referencing was from CNET’s Buzz Out Loud podcast, so I was going off the cuff a bit. Yeah…they were talking about new user acquisition, not the existing customer base.

    • OSAM says:

      The canadian wireless market doesn’t react as quickly to tech changes as the american one. We tend not to be bleeding-edge innovation users and are generally less prone to change as well. Blackberries were, for the large part, business tools in Canada for the longest time until RIM enjoyed a strong but brief period of consumer-level success. Then they botched it and ensured all their products sucked. On one hand I can count how many friends of mine use a RIM/Blackberry device… I’d need several hands to count the number of friends I have that have switched from a BBerry device to another (Apple, Android) device, and thats just in the last year.

      Give it 6-12 months: Blackberry handsets will be the Razr of smartphones up here too.

      • JonBoy470 says:

        Also, the norm for cell phone contracts in Canada is three years, versus the two year cycle in the US.

    • APCO25guy says:

      Blackberry is going the way of Nextel. At one time, EVERYONE had a BB. But they failed to introduce any new powerful Smartphones…app market is getting smaller. BB’s are not great for running apps, they don’t handle multitasking well and are WAY underpowered. I loved my BB9630, but got tired of having to do daily battery pulls and wipes- because load more than a couple of apps, and it becomes a paperweight.

      I give RIM about another 6 months.

  8. JHDarkLeg says:

    Sounds to me like T-Mobile is committing some sort of fraud. By voiding the warranty due to sensor that they know is tripped just with humidity, they are knowingly selling a phone with no warranty in Florida while still advertising that it does have a warranty.

  9. APCO25guy says:

    Why are consumer cellphones built like shit? You’d think that manufacturers would take simple steps like adding O-ring seals and epoxy coatings to prevent humidity and water damage. People live in the real world. Cellphones should not be rendered inoperable from being carried in the rain, or left in a bathroom counter, or from humidity in the Southeastern air.

    I MISS my Nextel i580. It was water resistant, with O-ring seals on the battery cover, rubber port covers, and an O-ring on the main housing. It could be dropped, stepped on, used in pouring rain, and NEVER gave me any trouble. It had a LOUD speaker that could be heard standing on a busy street corner, and lasted 3 days of heavy use on a single charge. It had great reception everywhere.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love my Iphone, but that phone worked great- and I NEVER had to worry about babying it or an Otterbox like I do my Iphone 4S. Too bad Sprint destroyed Nextel, the Nextel system was a superb voice network that many of us in public safety used as an interagency radio system and phone network, I’d otherwise still have mine today.

  10. Difdi says:

    I’ve long wished they’d make a high-humidity Blackberry version for where I live, with extra water-proofing. Call it The Huckleberry maybe, as a Pacific Northwest edition. It’d work in places like Miami too, though the name would be different, I imagine.

  11. RayanneGraff says:

    Um… in all my time as a phone tech, I have never, EVER encountered any “secret water damage indicator”. I’ve taken apart all kinds of phones, from Blackberries to HTCs to Samsungs to the cheapest little flip phones & have never seen any other than the ones on the battery & in the battery compartment. So yeah, I have to call bullshit here.

    They just wanted to

  12. Herah says:

    “Secret water damage indicator” = corrosion. Most places can send you pictures of the inside of your phone when they deny the warranty repair.
    Warranty doesn’t cover wear and tear, environmental or acts of god. Blackberry doesn’t get to decide where and how you use the phone, so they’re not going to pay for it.

    • RedShirt says:

      Point of fact, warranties are not in fact voided by normal wear and tear… such as cosmetic damage (aka, scratches)… but exposure to liquid, is not normal wear and tear, neither is excessive physical damage (cracked LCD screens, etc).

      But you’re right on the money about corrosion… LDI’s don’t matter if they aren’t tripped, if there’s corrosion/rust in the phone, there’s no denying it’s been wet.

  13. GadgetsAlwaysFit says:

    I live in the Southeast nearer the coast and we have many, many days where the humidity is 100% and IT ISN’T EVEN RAINING. Does that mean that all of our cell phones would fail a water damage check? I find it hard to believe that they don’t take into account where the subscriber lives and if they don’t, they suck. On a more positive note, the high humidity does help keep wrinkles and static electricity at bay.

  14. scottd34 says:

    VZW dosen’t check the indicators, haven’t in years. They are too easy to trip on a humid day and there are better indicators of liquid damage like corrosion etc.

  15. LordieLordie says:

    I spent three weeks in Singapore, and the two indicators in my Motorola Atrix indicate water exposure. and it is BS. It you go our of an air conditioned building into to the warm and humid weather of Singapore, the condensation clings to everything cool and it gets wet. I would male a Mitt bet ($10,000) that 90% pf phones in Singapore have their indicators tripped.

  16. khooray says:

    My video camera literally would not turn on in Florida because of the high humidity sensor built into it.
    Missed my daughter’s first steps at Fort Pickens.

  17. MichaelSF says:

    It is sad to see you waffling on leaving T-Mobile. Anyone who stays with T-Mobile after the way they treated you, well maybe you deserve each other. They pulled similar stuff on me (shifty treatment) and I left.

    I have a lot to say about this, but since I am no longer a T-Mobile customer, (after 9 years left them due to degrading customer service and their system using deflection software to blacklist me as calling to frequently – yeah, I love spending an hour of my time calling T-Mobile to THEIR overcharge removed from my bill).

    Anyway, I heard a story similar to this in 2006. Someone with a BlackBerry Pearl sent it in for a warranty claim and T-Mobile denied it due to red water indicators. He was like you, no water damage whatsoever. But because he did not have proof, they would not budge on demanding the fee (I think it was $125).

    All he could figure is that the employee handling the returns got the phones mixed up and he made an incorrect entry in the log. No matter, he switched carriers simply on the principle of the matter.

    Same goes here. T-Mobile assumes that you are like the thousands of others who are unhappy. You won’t switch, you will complain to the CSR, then stay put. They know that switching is a hassle and if you complain, so what.

    I am sure they have studies showing that people will sign with a carrier no matter what, because they don’t read sites like this, they think they will be treated differently, and that the person complaining actually did something wrong. So they go with T-Mobile.

    End result, there’s no incentive for T-Mobile to address this. The employees perceive the customers as the enemy, people always trying to get away with something, trying to get stuff for free and otherwise cheat the customer.

    In 2012 “good customer service” is not the path to profits. In fact, these companies think that good customer is one of the biggest drains on the bottom line. CSRs should be selling the callers additional services and accessories, not trying to solve problems.

    T-Mobile employees actually have ways to deal with callers like this. This person will be red flagged (blacklisted) as a problem customer. So if he calls from here forward, he will be placed on hold for an hour or longer. If he gets through, using another phone, for example, T-Mobile approves employees simply hanging up on the customer. The goal is for the customer to get fed up and stop calling.

    And ideally, after the initial sale, the goal is to process support calls in the least amount of time as possible.

    There are also other ways that T-Mobile makes a few million here, few million there (such as what happened to this caller).

    My solution to all this is move to prepaid. There’s no contracts, and a company like MetroPCS charges $50 monthly for unlimited everything. But the best part, if they treat me like T-Mobile treated this customer, I can move to another carrier the next month. (That’s why carriers like T-Mobile HATE prepaid, it puts power back into the hands of the customers and requires a carrier to shape up or get shipped out.)