At what point is a company responsible for the things that its customer service reps tell customers? Gus got a new T-Mobile smartphone on an unlimited plan, then took a job in the oil industry that requires him to travel out of the country frequently. While he could have a company phone, he’s still under contract. He chose to keep his T-Mobile plan with a company subsidy, and not pay an early termination fee. When he called T-Mobile to find out how much roaming in Colombia would cost with his plan, the startling answer was that he wouldn’t have to pay any roaming fees at all. He quadruple-checked this with the customer service rep, who confirmed it. But he should have just hung up and broken through the walls of reality to reach another rep, who would have told him something entirely different.
This letter has been condensed, but is still long. When we pick up the story, Gus is preparing for his very first business trip to Colombia.
I called the T-Mobile customer service number and asked what the rates were for using my phone in Colombia. The CS rep told me that I would not be charged any additional amounts above and beyond the amount that I pay for the unlimited service for calls from Colombia to the US, and that the standard long distance rates that are applicable in the US would apply for calls made to Colombian phone numbers while I was in Colombia. I confirmed this statement with the rep 3 different times and he even put me on hold for a good long while to confirm.
I was thrilled. I decided not to terminate my T-Mobile service, accept a company subsidy for my phone, and thus forgo paying the termination fee. I went on my business trip and in reliance on their advice proceeded to use my phone in the normal course to call my wife, my office, my family, etc.
While I was in Colombia, I noticed a warning from my phone that it was it was in roaming mode and that higher rates may apply. It seemed strange to me, but I figured it must be the standard spiel that the phone gives anytime it connects to a new network.
Fast forward 3 weeks. I get back from my 2nd business trip, and I decide to call to T-Mobile just confirm that the warning message on their network didn’t apply to me. Instead, the new CS rep told me that the first CS rep was mistaken. He told me that roaming rates DO apply, and that I would be charged $0.29/min to call a mobile number in Colombia from Colombia, $0.22/min to call a land line in Colombia, and $3.59/min to call a US number from Colombia. I was also told that I would be charged $15.00 per MB of data used.
I explained to the CS rep that they had made a mistake and asked him to waive the charges for roaming as I incurred such charges in reliance on their advice. The rep told me that he didn’t have the authority to do so, so I asked to speak to supervisor.
The supervisors were all unavailable, so I was told that one would call me back within 2-3 hours. I missed their call, so I was forced to call back into CS AGAIN, and wait on hold AGAIN so that I could wait to speak with a supervisor. In the meantime, I had to explain the situation to a new CS rep, who just kept telling me that the charges were validly incurred.
Finally, I convinced her to let me speak to a supervisor. The supervisor proceeds to tell me the same story, but says that there is a “feature” that I can add to my plan for $15 that will allow me to use my phone internationally in accordance with what the 1st CS rep told me. “Great!”, I think to myself, and I verbally confirm that the above is correct. However, this supervisor is unable to waive the fees that I have been charged because they were “validly incurred.”
I tell her, calmly, that I disagree. That because I relied on inaccurate information from her company in making my decision to keep my phone and use my phone while abroad, I have incurred significant roaming charges that I think that I should not have to pay. Following this, she puts me on hold to see what she can do for me.
I am on the phone with her for a very long time. Finally, she comes back and tells me that there is nothing that she can do for me with respect to the charges that I was charged because the were “validly incurred”, and that by the way, the $15 feature is not available for international calling, and that I instead already receive a discount on their flat roaming rate of $2.99 per minute because I pay $0.50 per minute.
I ask her how it can be that three different people within CS can give me 4 different price structures for what it will cost me to use my phone in Colombia. She tells me that I can trust what she says because she is a supervisor. I tell her, no offense, but that her story just changed over the past 15 minutes that I was on hold. I have no faith that what she is telling me could be relied on.
Well, guess what T-Mobile, you just stupidly lost a good client, because I am now in the process of porting my number to a company phone (we get iPhones) and giving T-Mobile the boot. I can’t understand how a company can give a customer bad information and then not make it right when the customer relies on that information and incurs substantial fees. I also don’t understand how so many people within an organization can operate without understanding their own rate structure.
Yes, expecting a customer service representative working for a phone company to correctly answer questions about that company’s rates is completely out of line. How dare he!
Gus didn’t say to whom at T-Mobile he sent this letter, but sending an executive e-mail carpet bomb would be a good way to get his story in front of someone who really does have the power to waive these fees. Maybe a shorter version, or one with an executive summary at the top.