T-Mobile Store Can't Explain Why You Can't Have This Deal: You Just Can't

Kevin and his wife tried to take advantage of a buy one smartphone, get one free promotion that T-Mobile e-mailed them about. At the time, Kevin was at the end of his contract and eligible for a full upgrade. His wife was a few months away from her full upgrade, but willing to pay a fee to replace her non-working phone. Because Kevin’s wife wasn’t yet eligible, the local store refused to honor the promotion, even after corporate intervened.

Frustrated, Kevin sent the following executive e-mail carpet bomb to T-Mobile last week. They still haven’t responded.

My name is Kevin [redacted], I’ve been a TMobile customer for ~3 years and my wife has been a customer for 10(!) years. We have a family plan with 3 phones (our father in law who we take care of is the other account holder). This email is in response to a negative customer experience I had at Store [redacted] in which I feel I was at the receiving end of a bait-and-switch. I received an email from T-Mobile about the buy one get one free offer that is currently running. The email (which was checked in store) has the following text:

Buy One, Get One Offer: Devices must be purchased and activated at same time on the same account. While supplies last. Qualifying post-paid family plan with Web and new two-year agreement required for each device; limit two free devices per account.

This sounded like a great offer! I was eligible for a full upgrade (having held off getting an upgrade for a while to get us all in sync with contracts terminating at the same time), and my wife’s phone (Blackberry Curve TI, purchased at T-Mobile) recently has been nearly non-functional due to the device’s scroll ball falling out. She called customer care and found out she can sign a new two year contract and receive an upgrade to the MyTouch 4G or G2 for ~$270, a $50 fee applied because she is a few months away from getting a full upgrade. We figured we would take advantage of this situation by signing two new two-year agreements and getting a free phone (assuming we would still need to pay the fee, of course).

At the store they said they would not offer that because both accounts had to be eligible for a full upgrade, despite the email not containing that stipulation. The managers at the store asked that we print out the email to see what the terms were. We printed out the email and we all read it over, and no one could say it contained that requirement. At that point they said they could not do anything and I asked multiple times to talk to corporate. Finally Josh agreed, called corporate and I spoke to a representative. The representative heard what I said and she said she’d be happy to note the account authorizing the Buy-One-Get-One deal, but it would need to be over-ridden in the store.

The managers were unwilling to assist in the situation. They said there was nothing they could do. I was very disappointed in [redacted] in particular, as he seemed particularly not interested in trying to work something out, despite us coming out in the cold with our 4 month daughter in tow. [redacted] seemed to try what he could after the corporate officer had authorized the buy-one get-one, and said there was nothing else he could do.

I hope there is something we can work out around this. As I mentioned, I am happy to pay the extra fee to get my wife a new two-year contract and pay the full price of a phone upgrade to one of the qualifying phones (MT4G or G2), but I am disappointed the email that invited me to take advantage of this offer was not honored because of an unwritten and undocumented stipulation.

A side note: while Kevin complains that this is a “bait and switch,” advertising a sale without disclosing all of the terms doesn’t fit the FTC definition of “bait and switch.” What does? Advertising one product, then intending to sell customers a different one once they’re in the store.

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