Every year since 2007, Jim and his wife have celebrated the arrival of their federal income tax refund by going to the T-Mobile store, renewing their contract, and picking out shiny new phones at the new-contract discount. Year after year, they’ve done this, even though they’re renewing the 2-year contract every year. This was just part of what made being T-Mobile customers so awesome. Until, suddenly, the carrier stopped being as awesome, and insisted that the last five years and all of those discounted phones were all a dream.
My wife and I became T-Mobile customers when we moved from Milwaukee to Minneapolis in 2007, since our old carrier (U.S. Cellular) did not offer service in the area. Because of this, opting out of our old contract without penalty was no problem. We chose T-Mobile as our new carrier based on the fact that our existing U.S. Cellular phones were compatible with T-Mobile’s network at the time, meaning we could start service just by swapping our SIM cards. So, after signing a new 2-year contract, that’s what we did.
The next year, we got our federal tax refunds earlier than we’d expected, so we decided to go to a T-Mobile store to replace our by-now very beat-up 2-year-old handsets. T-Mobile was just fine with that, and even offered us the new-subscriber discount on the phones if we’d agree to sign a new 2-year contract. Having no problem with their pricing or service, we agreed. Starting then, it became a yearly tradition for us to head to a T-Mobile when our IRS refunds arrived in the mail. And every year since 2007, T-Mobile has had zero problem with us picking up new phones, and only charging us the new-customer prices for them…Just as long as we re-upped for another 2-year stint.
This year, all of that changed. And it not only changed, it changed so thoroughly that T-Mobile was actually able to RE-WRITE HISTORY.
This year, we once again deposited our refund checks, and went to the T-Mobile store. After browsing a bit, my wife and I decided on the phones we’d like to leave with: The HTC Amaze for her, and the Samsung Galaxy S II for me. But after waiting our turn in line and speaking to the CSR, we were informed that we’d be unable pay the discounted price for the phones, as we still had a year left on our current contract. We explained to her that we’d been down this road before, but had always been able to simply exercise the option of a new contract in order to enjoy the discount. She immediately went on the defensive, and told us that this would not only be impossible, but that for the last eight years that SHE had been an employee, it would ALWAYS have been impossible.
My wife and I were understandably confused. Not only did we know for a fact that this was something we had always been able to do going back at least five years, but the last two times we had been able to do it, we had done so in the very store we were standing in at the time!
We explained this to the CSR assisting us, but she utterly refused to budge. She maintained that our usual M.O. was completely out of the question, and would ALWAYS have been so. Not used to being called liars, we were a little irritated by this.
To T-Mobile’s credit, they weren’t entirely unsympathetic. When my wife added in the fact that another reason she’d been hoping to replace her phone was because her current handset had recently developed some bizarre performance issues (random re-starts, constant signal loss, etc.), they did offer her a comparable replacement 4G MyTouch handset to swap out her buggy HTC G2, which she accepted. That said, the CSR never backed down from her insistence that our previous dealings with T-Mobile simply would not and COULD not have ever happened the way we know they did.
Needless to say, the entire exchange left a bad taste in our mouths. We’re still T-Mobile customers owing to the year that remains on our contract, but we were a little rattled by having our honesty called into question. So, once the time arrives when we ARE able to get new phones with a new-member discount, I’m thinking we’ll actually become “new customers” somewhere else. And perhaps when the numbers continue to drop, T-Mobile will spin up the P.R.-O-Matic and assume that everyone has joined the ranks of the mass exodus down to their lack of an iPhone. And maybe for some, they’d be right. But in our case, we’ll be opting out in favor of a carrier less-apt to accuse its customers of unethical behavior.
Best of luck to Jim and Mrs. Jim in finding a carrier that will let them have a discounted handset every year.