T-Mobile: Sorry You Lost Your Job And Had To Move, Here’s Your $500 ETF Bill

Walter’s wife was laid off from her position in Chicago, and she needed a job. She found one in a different Midwestern city: Omaha. She doesn’t seem to have any complaints about Omaha, except for the thing where she has next to no cell phone service. This still isn’t enough to get her out of her contract with T-Mobile, and she’s on the hook for her entire early termination fee, plus her whole non-prorated last month of service.

My wife lost her job at the end of 2011 when her former employer was acquired in a buyout. After two months of seeking a job, she found an opportunity out of state in Nebraska. While staying in Chicago would have been ideal, we decided that it would be best for her to take the job as it was a good opportunity and she didn’t want to risk being unemployed for an unknown period of time. We do have a toddler and they don’t come cheap!

So after moving to Omaha, NE in February 2012 to start her new job (and while I work on selling our condo), one of the first things she noticed, other than the corn fields, was that her cell phone was unusable. In Chicago, T-Mobile has fairly good service, but in Omaha, it is (ALMOST) non-existent. What signal she could get was very weak, whether at work or at home. In fact, if you go onto the T-Mobile website and use the store locator, you will notice that there aren’t any T-Mobile stores within a 100 miles of Omaha (it could be more than 100 miles, but that’s the maximum radius). The only retail presence is through a 3rd party, such a Wal-Mart or Best Buy. In essence, T-Mobile doesn’t even exist in Omaha, NE.

She called T-Mobile to voice her concerns (thank god for her home phone that is VOIP). She told them about her job situation, how she was unemployed and moved to Omaha for work. She told them that she is paying $80 a month for useless phone. Her moving to Omaha from Chicago was not an attempt to terminate her contract; it was an attempt to become gainfully employed again. All of this fell on deaf ears. After escalating her call, in the end, all we got was a “sorry about your luck” letter in the mail and a bill for $500. Not only did they charge the full Early Termination Fee (rather than scaled to months remaining on the contract), they also charged a month of service, even though she ended up porting her phone number to AT&T, which has service in Omaha.

For a company that praises itself for its customer service, I found that their stance on this is indefensible. Their position on this boils down to if you are taking a job out of the area, make sure to check the service levels in your new home town because even if we don’t have any cell phone towers there or even sell phones there at all, you are on the hook for your whole ETF and then some.

After numerous calls to T-Mobile, they are still standing their ground on this, and before this goes to collections and ruins my wife’s credit, we wanted to reach out to your site for advice, as well as to warn others that might be in a similar job situation.