How-To Get Out Of A T-Mobile Restocking Fee: Get Mugged

By T-Mobile’s logic, a broken phone that they sold you is your burden to bear. Is the battery faulty? You pay the shipping. $20.

Of course, if they send you a new battery, and you happen to be mugged, you obviously have no use for the battery they just sent you. You suggest you’ll send it back.

How much will sending it back cost? $100. Restocking fee: that’s what the boy who scans in the barcode and puts it back on the shelf makes for his five minutes.

And, of course, you’ll have to buy a new phone.

Of course, if — like James — you have happened to get into this predicament by being mugged, you can at least take solace in the fact that all your credit cards are cancelled, and T-Mobile has no way to bill you, until they start calling in the collecting agency.

James’ email, after the jump.

My name is James. I signed up for a TMobil wireless plan around three months ago when I first moved to Philadelphia. I was charged an upfront fee of $75, I guess because I have less than perfect credit. I signed up for a plan that was around $40 a month, to include 300 text messages, and I got their second-cheapest phone which, when included in a plan sign up, was $10.

From the beginning I had constant problems with the phone. 1 out of every 2 calls dropped, reception was awful – and this in in Philly, one of the largest cities in the U.S.! After a month I had had it, so I called TMobil. They attempted to run some “tests” on my phone from their location, and then determined I must have recieved a bad model. They agreed to send a replacement phone – but wanted me to pay a $20 shipping charge.

I outright refused, and my customer service person – unfortunately I didn’t note down her name – said that they would do me the COURTESY of waiving that fee this one time, but if I needed a replacement in the future, they would not.

Well, as I was waiting for the replacement phone, more good luck came my way when I got mugged at gunpoint. And – you guessed it – they took my phone. Now I thought to myself, “Ha-ha, the joke is on them, it doesn’t work properly and a new one is on the way!” But when the new one arrived, imagine my surprise to discover it was only a PIECE of the phone – specifically the main phone unit itself. There was no battery, and no memory chip.

A leaflet inside told me that I was supposed to take my battery and memory out of the non-working phone, put them in the new phone, and then mail the non-working phone back to them. Problem – my non-working phone was in the hands of some nasty ruffians.

I called T-Mobil. I was told that since I did not have the non-functioning model to send back to them, I would be accessed a restocking fee of $100.

WTF? That’s more than it would have cost for me to buy a NEW TMobil phone – battery and all – from a local TMobil Store!!

So to recap – I was expected to pay $100 restocking fee, *AND* to buy a new battery and memory card. At that point I told the woman to just completely cancel my service, and she told me she would be glad to – at a $200 early cancellation fee. I told her that their service never worked properly to BEGIN WITH, and she told me that I was outside of my 2 week grace period to make that decision without being fined.

Ultimately, though, the joke is on TMobil, since among the things in my wallet which was also stolen was the credit card they had on file for me, which has since been cancelled.


Edit Your Comment

  1. B says:

    Apparently the mugger also got James’ E key. Still, uhh, cancelling your credit card isn’t a successful way of getting out of paying the fee. They will use a collection agency, and it will end up on his credit report, giving James an even worse credit rating.

  2. Avery says:

    You could just say that it’s the mugger’s charge on that credit report.

  3. bambino says:

    since when did Mobil start selling phones

  4. Mr. Gunn says:

    Shouldn’t the headline be how NOT to get out of a re-stocking fee?

    A sensible course of action would be to just buy a battery from and a sim card from ebay, which you would then call in and activate. You might even be able to get a T-mobile store to give you a sim card. If you go the route, you can use the following coupons they just sent me: SUMCLEAR10 and SUMCLEAR20 for 10 or 20% off a $10 or $25 purchase. I have no affiliation with them, that’s just where I usually go to get cheap phone parts.

  5. spinachdip says:

    …reception was awful – and this in in Philly, one of the largest cities in the U.S.!

    Well, big cities tend to have tall buildings, thick concrete walls, crossing signals and bunch of other stuff that cause signal interference. Yeah, a service provider should ensure decent reception, but expecting decent signals because it’s a big city is just silly.

  6. ivanjrn says:

    This is really not a story of bad customer service. If your phone is defective and they’re replacing it because it has a warranty, then you must give the old phone back to the warranty program. All the wireless carriers do it the same way and T-Mobile’s shipping fee is $9.95 and it covers UPS tracked shipping both ways. They read you a script explaining the entire process in detail and they even credited him the shipping fee which you can tell he greatly appreciated by his sarcasm.

    Unfortunately this guy was mugged and his phone was taken, that’s not TMO’s fault, so he either sends the replacement phone they sent him back or he keeps it for the cost of $100 and that’s not a restocking fee because he didn’t send the stolen phone back that’s the cost to keep the new one without sending the defective one back.

    I’m very disappointed with this story. It seems the Consumerist has been posting many twisted stories by costumers lately instead of focusing on the actual bad customer service out there.

  7. jaybeebrad says:

    James here…I think maybe you guys missed the point?

    Assuming for a minute there are three “phone parts” – the body, the sim card and the battery. The part that they sent me was the body. They wanted me to take the sim card and batter out of my STOLEN phone and put them in the new body, and to send the OLD body back to them.

    So even if I went out and bought a battery and sim card for the new body, I had no OLD body to send back to them, meaning I would still have to pay that $100 restocking fee.

    The obvious solution would have been to send back the NEW body, and to just go buy a new phone. But after all of the B.S. I didn’t want anything to do with them anymore.

    And for the record, yes, I think it is absurd for a company to demand you pay a shipping fee to have them send you a replacement part for a device that was clealy not working when you purchased it. I don’t think that should be a “courtsey”, I think it should be standard.

    PS – Yeah. I don’t know what I was thinking with the “mobil” instead of “Mobile”. Chalk it up to having just been robbed at gunpoint. (Perhaps I should write an article about the Philly police department and my experience filing that report. My fav part: “Where did he put the gun?” “He pressed it to my clavicle”. “Your…what?”