After Twitter Snafu, T-Mobile Reminds Customers Who's Boss

Last weekend, T-Mobile users who sent SMS updates to their Twitter feeds found that their messages were being blocked. Naturally, tempers flared. Many customers contacted T-Mobile to complain about the problem, but T-Mobile had no answer for the sudden blockage. (It turns out it was a technical glitch on Twitter’s end.) What’s interesting is that T-Mobile’s Executive Customer Relations rep responded to one user’s complaints with a hardcore reminder that when it comes to customer rights, his pretty much begin and end with being required to pay his bill on time. Nice PR work there, T-Mobile.

My name is Marianne Maestas and I am with the Executive Customer Relations department of T-Mobile. I am contacting you on behalf of Mr. Robert Dotson in regards to the email that you sent him yesterday evening.

In your email, you express concerns, as you are not able to use your service for Twitter. As you have been advised, Twitter is not an authorized third-party service provider, and therefore you are not able to utilize service from this provide any longer. You indicate your feeling that this is a violation of the Net Neutrality.

T-Mobile would like to bring to your attention that the Terms and Conditions of service, to which you agreed at activation, indicate “… some Services are not available on third-party networks or while roaming. We may impose credit, usage, or other limits to Service, cancel or suspend Service, or block certain types of calls, messages, or sessions (such as international, 900, or 976 calls) at our discretion.” Therefore, T-Mobile is not in violation of any agreement by not providing service to Twitter. T-Mobile regrets any inconvenience, however please note that if you remain under contract and choose to cancel service, you will be responsible for the $200 early termination fee that would be assessed to the account at cancellation.

To switch topics a bit and look at the Net Neutrality argument, a poster on this Twitter blog points out that while cell phone service is clearly not part of the official argument for Net Neutrality, many of the principles are the same, and that no carrier should be able to block short codes. On the Wired blog, a reader argues that cell phone users should shut up and deal with it, because short codes are in no way protected:

The arguments are relevant to the issue at hand, because text messaging is not the Internet. Until your communication hits the TPC/IP layer, it’s subject to all the corporate crap that phone messages are. The phone companies are more balkanized than you realize, clearly. Specifically, phone service providers are allowed to block any short code they want. Read the policies for using a short code to provide service.
T-Mobile already has the contractual right to pick and choose which short codes it supports.

“Net Neutrality outrage: reports of T-Mobile blocking Twitter” [ZDNet]
“Twitter, Tweeters, And T-Mobile: Everyone Loses” [Silicon Alley Insider]
“T-Mobile Attacks Net Neutrality Unnecessarily: Twitter Problem Not Its Fault” [Wired]


Edit Your Comment

  1. FLConsumer says:

    Jeez..does T-Mobile think they’re an airline now? The tone of that e-mails’ like what I’d expect a pissed-off flight attendant to scream at angry passengers.

  2. Benny Gesserit says:

    In all fairness, we didn’t see the peeved, Twitter-user’s letter. This looks like the tone used in response to a saliva-flecked rant.

  3. VoxPopuli says:

    @Jim (The Canuck One): My thoughts exactly. Anyone who goes on a “net neutrality rights” rant over twitter pretty much deserves a “too bad, so sad” response like this.

  4. darkclawsofchaos says:

    well, cellpones in the are PHONES! (GASP) Yeah, if you want something else, use a computer, never saw why people pay extra just for this crap, I mean there is little use and the quality is so poor that there is no justification.

  5. chiieddy says:

    @DARKCLAWSOFCHAOS: Thing with Twitter is you can send and receive text messages (SMS) to your account on the fly. Personally, I use it for ranting about things (my account is locked down and only 3 people can see it) that I couldn’t post about publicly. I find it a good release outlet. Otherwise, if you post publicly, the immediacy of the posting is a bit of a hazard :).

  6. bradanomics says:

    Correction: TCP/IP

  7. mammalpants says:

    no twitter support? omg, does this mean that the world will not know the details of my life?

    1:42 – peeing. restroom dirty

    1:44 – leaving restroom. hall well-lit.

  8. pzl says:

    In regards to T-Mobile, recently had the opportunity (need) to deal with thier customer support when I lost me mobile. Was told that I could replace it but would have to pay a $200 early termination fee and sign up for a new contract. Sent an e-mail to Mr. Dotson and was contacted the next day by Jason from the office of the president. With his help, the whole situation was straightened out quite well.

    So… sometimes it’s not the company, it’s just the person at the other end of the line.

  9. yooper1019 says:

    the point of all of this is that we should not have to pay a shit-ton of money to these cell phone companies just to have them tell us “we can do whatever the fuck we want with your account.” I will laugh my ass off when wifi is everywhere and we all use VOIP.

  10. num1skeptic says:

    cell providers have us all by the cajones. the funny thing about it is, cell phones have become more of an annoying curse to carry around than convenient. i wish i wasn’t able to recieve calls at any given moment.

  11. burgundyyears says:

    @num1skeptic: Then turn it off? (My condolences if you are required to have it on for work.)

  12. BStu says:

    While I agree that it sounds like the original email was probably more than a little petulant about the situation, that in NO WAY justifies the corporate response. You know why? Because consumers are allowed to be pissed off. We’re giving people money to do things and we have a right to expect those things to be done to our satisfaction. That doesn’t mean companies should give into absurd demands or bow at our might feet. It just means they should treat us with respect and always act to diffuse consumer anger. This response does neither. Whether the complaint was fair or not is beside the point.

  13. Sasquatch says:

    Yet they have no problem allowing your kids to download $1000 worth of ringtones that they saw a commercial for.

  14. (I’m the user quoted from the Wired Blog. I must not post here enough for the editors to recognize my name.)

    This whole issue has been getting on my nerves because Bob “BibleBoy” Mertz has basically been trolling the entire Internet. He started with a false premise (that T-Mobile was “violating” something that didn’t apply to it). Then I told him in his own blog comments that he didn’t understand short codes and he ignores it, continuing the fake neutrality crusade all over the place until I call him on it in multiple blogs. Then he posts weasely apologize that basically claims its the blogosphere’s job to figure out what’s true, not his. (Doesn’t bother apologizing on any of the blogs he’s been getting people worked up on, though.)

    Back in my day, arguments started on false premises were considered trolls; now they’re apparently considered moral crusades. That’s what’s pissing me off here.

    You know what? I like the ideal of a neutral phone net, too. But I’m not stupid enough to believe that’s the current organizing principle of the system. I know this because I grew up in the United States of America. If you live here, the non-neutral phone companies have been screwing with you your entire life. If you thought “net neutrality” was a concept they would even acknowledge, you’re just not paying enough attention to your own life. You’re probably a moron. You shouldn’t be blogging.

    So I find myself in the weird position of defending a phone company (which, by the way, was blocking my Twitters messages, too) because I’m intellectually offended by everyone following BibleBoy off the cliff. People, you can’t win an argument by citing a delusion. It’s just bad rhetoric. Bad rhetoric pisses me off.

    If you want a neutral phone network, bitching about Twitter is not the way to go, because you have to reform the entire system. I think the energy is better expended on preserving the content-neutrality of the Internet, because that’s something the public can actually influence. If you’re that worked up about net neutrality, get off the blogs and write your congressman.

  15. vastrightwing says:

    I see a trend: service providers viying for who’s the worst?

    1) Comcast. No doubt in my mond, they are on top.
    2) DellAOLVonageDishAT&TCompaqeBay/PayPalSprintTMobile
    3) and many more!

  16. rjhiggins says:

    If someone starts making quasi-legal claims (about Net neutrality) in a missive to a vendor, I expect the vendor to respond in kind. So the fact that the T-Mobile rep fell back on the terms of service doesn’t surprise, or bother, me at all.

  17. fhic says:

    Ms Maestas’s letter should be posted on every customer service department’s bulletin board as an example of how to properly respond to a completely unfounded complaint.

  18. Leiterfluid says:

    To which layer in the TCP/IP protocol stack does the Wired reader refer? There are, in fact, four.

  19. BStu says:

    @fhic: I disagree. “Read your contract” is not a constructive response. This tactic is unlikely to diffuse what I’ll grant was an unfounded complaint. If snide retorts are justified to the obviously unfounded complaints, what happens when they do the same to well-founded complaints that they don’t want to deal with?

    Recently, and internet merchant delivered some packages to me, but omitted a line from the shipping address that made the packages undeliverable. When I pointed out THEIR error, I got a response blaming me for moving and not filling out a change of address form. They assumed I was being an idiot, so they attacked me without recognizing what my complaint was. Result? A very pissed off customer. But they probably felt I was making an unfounded complaint, and as such just needed a good talking to.

  20. Keter says:

    T-Mobile, you really should not hire people who can’t write well to write consumer-reply emails. I can’t be absolutely certain, but I have worked with a number of writers in China and India, and the grammar and spelling mistakes are typical of someone whose first language is not English. It is also obvious where this person wrote and where they copied from a script.

  21. pigeonpenelope says:

    As an insider, they should have the right to pick and chose which short codes they will honor. There are a lot of companies who commit sketchy acts of business, like Thumbplay, who will refuse to quit charging customers. Those companies, like Thumbplay, targeted underage consumers with ideas of free ringtones or jokes. They would quickly flash the charges of service but they were hard to see. Even when I knowingly looked for them, I had a hard time seeing them.

    Also, seriously, if you threaten to cancel service over something as lame as a short code not working, you should be reminded of that contract your failed to read but signed anyway.