Acquiesce to the Zombie Debt Collectors

Chris writes in a self-described rant about how a debt collection agency is constantly auto-dialing him on his cellphone. He called T-Mobile to see if there’s any, “selective call blocking, smoke signals, or death threats” he could deploy to stop the number from harassing him. Short answer: nope. Catherine Zeta Jones is powerless against zombies.

Enter, The Consumerist.

Instead of ejaculating shrill vitriol or otherwise one-handed histrionics, we give Chris some practical advice. It’s located after his letter, after the jump…

Chris writes:

    “I called [T-Mobile] yesterday because I am receiving a rash of phone calls from a company that uses an auto dialer to contact me, and requests [I] call back. Though this isn’t as exciting as Spanish speaking people telling me what sort of prizes I’ve won, it’s certainly annoying to the point that once you scroll through your call logs and realize you’re getting 10 of these a day, there’s something that needs to be done.

    I’ve been a valued customer of T-Mo’s for the past two years, going so far as to extend 3 lines of service, as well as having a 2 year contract renewal slapped on me this month because I wanted a Blackberry and didn’t want to sell my first born. (sidebar – Blackberry 8700g is the tits!)

    I figured I would call my dear friends at customer service and see if there was any form of selective call blocking, smoke signals, or death threats that could be used to prevent this number from further annoying me.

    I’ve actually come to like Claire … oh wait, Claire is the automated system that Sprint PCS threw in the trash … and then T-Mobile dug out sometime after and started using. Actually I think they sent Mrs. Zeta-Jones into the trash after her, given she’s so highly paid and usually without anything to do. I’ve learned recently that if you speak in a nice, quiet, soft tone to the automated response system, that the responses you get back actually sound nicer … though I haven’t put this to scientific experiment as of yet.

    I am connected to a telephone representative, to whom I deliver my plight … and I’m left hanging around while she bumbles through my account like a hooker in a Navy gauntlet. “Just another minute sir … I can’t find where that number is calling you.” Now granted, maybe that would be difficult if I was on my phone 24/7 and I had thousands of calls on my bill each month … but considering how often these people call me, it was kind of like searching for the elephant in the corner and not the needle in the haystack.

    After about 10 minutes of this, she proceeds to ask me a few questions … such as whether or not I thought the caller was a tele-marketer. When I told her I felt that it was likely a debt collector instead, but that an auto dialer was being used and I was having issues getting a live human being (even if I stay on the line and let the whole call go through) … she didn’t seem to realize that there were any sorts of laws that protected me from those sorts of things. Then again, maybe there isn’t – but I thought that there was a stipulation about the auto-dialer thing when it came to debt collectors.

    Anyway … after that exchange I am greeted with one option and one option only. “Well I guess you’ll just have to change your phone number, because we can’t do anything else for you.” Wow. Thanks for making me wait 15 minutes, going through my entire phone bill like you were looking for someone else’s dirty underwear in my closet, and then telling me that technology that has existed since the 1980’s (selective call blocking) can’t be applied to this one annoying phone number. So of course, I point out what a customer service issue this is, since I have many people who have my phone number, and the inconvenience of switching that phone number just because of one nuisance caller. She has no further suggestions … other than to inform me abruptly that T-Mobile did not sell my telephone number to anyone else. Well, wasn’t that profound? I don’t remember accusing them, and it wasn’t even a point of the conversation until she made it one. So of course I ask to speak to a supervisor, feeling that’s a customer service issue all in itself …

    And this is where the train wrecks entirely, folks.

    The “supervisor,” Andrew, gets on the phone and after explaining my plight to him … his ultra scripted response to me was that I needed to contact my local police department, followed by the FCC. Now I figured out in my mind just how much money I’ve given T-Mo since I started as a customer with them … and I realized that I paid way too much money to get such a crap-tastic answer. When I point out to him that I’ve figured out the caller is in another state than the one in which I reside, he says that “calling the police will give you a greater leg to stand on when you contact the FCC.” When I inform him that I am severely upset with that statement, and I feel that T-Mobile is not holding up their end of the contract by providing me with customer service and support, and that I would like to speak to his supervisor , I learn that stupidity really does come in three’s:

    “I don’t have a supervisor. You’ll need to fax or mail your complaint to our Customer Relations department.” “Hmm … so … you don’t have a boss?” “No.” I ask to speak to the retentions department at that point, thinking that if anyone could possibly get an end-road to Customer Relations, it was them … and I’m told, “If you want to cancel your account, I’m authorized to do that … there is no retentions department here.”

    OK — you know and I know and everyone else on the internet knows that T-Mobile has a retentions department. And yes, I realize that supporting the Zeta-Jones family probably has emptied out T-Mo’s pockets a bit … or maybe it was the EDGE network upgrade that took way longer than anyone else … but lets be real here! This is the customer service we actually pay for?!?!?!

    So, I informed “Andrew” that I would go my own routes … and that if need be I would do as much research as necessary until I could prove that this is somehow in some way a breach of my contract on T-Mobile’s part. Granted, I know this may not be possible — but damn it don’t back sissy in a corner!!!! I was not going to let the call end in any way that my dear friend “Andrew” felt as though he’d conquested me like some Saturday night singles mixer afterthought.

    I turn to you, oh wise ones at the Consumerist, for any suggestions you may have on getting this matter resolved properly. Or, for the phone number for the true T-Mobile customer relations department. Whatever’s clever!

    Thanks so much for hearing my rant … I’ll look forward to hopefully hearing from you.



The front line rep of the T-mobile customer service desk is obviously inept.
However, you’re right and Andrew is right.
Auto-dialers are illegal but neither Andrew nor his supervisors ensconced in secret ivory towers can do anything about it.

If you feel the calls are harassing, you need to call the police and report the calls as such. They can help you from there.

You can also file a complaint with the FCC. However, your number will have to be listed on their do-not-call list for 30 days before your claim becomes actionable. To do so, call the FCC at 1-888-382-1222 and press 4 or visit

However, the best way to stop these calls may be to… call them back.

If these are attempts by a debt collector trying to contact you and get you to pay what you legitimately owe, you need to deal with it head on. Work out a payment plan, even a dollar a month, anything. It will cost you less in the long run.

We went through a debt debacle a few years ago and thought we could just toss the increasingly insistent letters in the trash. That was until the process server came to our door to serve us with a subpoena because the debt was sold to debt collecting attorneys planning on taking us to court. Whee.

His tune may be shrill and annoying, but eventually it comes time to pay the piper.

Good luck.