T-Mobile Admits It Made A $250 Error, Still Manages To Blame Me

Welcome to the T-Mobile Customer Service Labyrinth, where every turn brings you back to the center, where headset wearing minotaurs tell you that the exit is right in front of you but it’s not the exit, and where the company can admit in writing to making an error that costs you $250 but says it’s your fault.

This is the story of Consumerist reader Katrina, who decided back in January that she was burning cash on her $80/month plan, especially when her carrier has a $30/month prepaid plan that provides all her monthly phone needs.

So on January 17, she called up T-Mobile and asked to be switched to the pre-paid plan. All seemed fine, until she got her February bill and realized that she was still listed as being on her old $80 post-paid plan.

After a fruitless visit to her local T-Mobile store, she called T-Mobile and spent 24 minutes being passed around from CSR to CSR.

“Each agent passed the problem to another department,” she tells Consumerist. “The prepaid department would transfer me back to postpaid and vice versa, even though I explained that I had already spoken with those departments. Each time I had to repeat all of my information so each new CSR could pull up my account.”

In the end, she just ended up being disconnected.

She tried T-Mobile’s online chat, which was about as helpful as asking my 7-year-old niece to fix your problem.

An e-mail in early March to a handful of T-Mobile execs provided an incredibly brief glimmer of hope, as she was told she’d receive a response from the company’s T-Force within 24 hours.

Apparently, in the T-Mobile CSR Labyrinth, 24 hours means two months — and only after sending yet another e-mail to T-Mobile.

When someone from finally got back to Katrina in early May, it was quite evident that no one at T-Force actually read more than 10 words of her thorough, detailed letter:

A review of your account shows that you are currently subscribed to our post paid rate plan. Please advise if you would like to have me change your account over to prepaid services. I can initiate the change once you advise me to do so and the process typically takes approximately 24 hours to complete. Should you wish to migrate to prepaid, I will also place a $30.00 credit on your account representing your first month of services.

Katrina wrote back, pointing out that she had already made the switch to prepaid back in January, and that she’d overpaid around $250 to T-Mobile during all the months this problem has not been resolved.

At this point, the same T-Force member appears to have actually looked at what Katrina was trying to tell her:

Our records indicate that on January 17, 2012, you requested to have your post paid account canceled and to open a prepaid account. Regretfully, due to an administrative error, that account change never took place.

Great — problem fixed, right?

Wait… no, T-Mobile wasn’t done passing the blame off on the customer.

Remember the calls she made where she attempted to have this problem resolved? T-Mobile suddenly does, as says they don’t count:

Our records indicate that on February 29, 2012, you were advised on two separate occasions that you were not on a prepaid account and on each of the calls, you were transferred to a prepaid specialist to complete the migration. However, you elected to disconnect the calls without completing the change. As the change was not completed upon the initial request, I will credit the difference of $57.49.

“Why would I spend 24 minutes (on the second call!) and hang up?” asks Katrina. “I called in to find out why my bill was incorrect… I did everything I could have done and explained the problem five different times. The T-Mobile customer service representatives were incapable of fixing a very simple problem and I was disconnected by T-mobile. I did not end the call. That is why I was forced to go to a chat, and then to email.”

So even though T-Mobile admits in writing (we’ve seen the actual e-mail from the T-Force member), and Katrina made multiple attempts by phone, chat and e-mail to have the issue resolved, she is still partly to blame, apparently because she didn’t stand outside the T-Mobile office hoisting a boom box over her head.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Shouhdes says:

    Find out where they have a call center and commit a heinous act of violence.

    • finbar says:

      Just makes them the victum :/

    • Coffee says:

      “In criminal news today, an Oklahoma City resident was arrested after she ran out of gas and police found a surprise in her car.”

      cut to Katrina being led away in hand cuffs, crying

      “The molotov cocktail in her driver’s seat was, she says, ‘for the bastards who hung up on me over and over.’ The 32-year-old drove her car to the nearest T-Mobile office, where she was told that it was the office across town that disconnected on her. When she drove across town, the second office clarified that while it handled the call, the switches are located in the first office. Ms. [redacted] ran out of gas on the freeway while driving back to deliver her deadly message.”

    • dush says:

      That’s why they outsource the call centers overseas.

      • bigroblee says:

        Actually, they don’t. They do have some overflow call handling done by WMS in the Philippines, but otherwise they have twenty four call centers in the US including two in Oregon. Unfortunately, to have more funds to invest in infrastructure they are closing seven of them in the coming months.

        • J-Purchase says:

          Nah, you want to go for some of the executives. Leave the poor call-center people alone.

          • CommonSense(ಠ_ಠ) says:

            The poor call center people can just fix this, but they are the ones refusing.
            The execs most likely have no idea how to log into their computer system.

    • Weekilter says:

      You can always count on non-helpful snarky replies.

    • nightowl85 says:

      The best thing we can do is run away from them. I read on this very site that T-Mobile has lost 800k customers this year alone, and they well deserve it. Their practices are probably because they want to stay afloat but people are leaving them because they nickel and dime you and most of their practices are borderline illegal and they know people have better things to do than fight them. I tell my friends to never get T-Mobile. I hope they disappear soon.

  2. Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

    Apparently they mean it when the T-Mobile chick’s “miss nice girl no more”.

  3. pdxguy says:

    Two words: small claims.

    • DubbaEwwTeeEff says:

      This – so very, very much. Get on to the T-Mobile chat again, explain the situation to whoever you get and immediately ask for a supervisor. When the supervisor gets on, tell them they can either fix this and credit your account, or they can handle it in small claims court and expect a letter from your state’s Attorney General. An administrative error doesn’t give them the right to keep your money.

      A few months ago I used this same strategy on them – they had a glitch that ended up causing incorrect data overage charges on our account, and said that we’d be credited in something like 6 months. I told them that if they can’t give me my money back by the next billing cycle then I’ll file complaints with the AG, executive customer service, and small claims. 5 minutes later I had the credit applied to the account.

      • burstlag says:

        You have to be careful with this strategy if you don’t actually plan to follow through with court proceedings. I worked for a call center once. We were encouraged to do everything in our power to make things right with the customer… right up until they threatened legal action. If they so much as even vaguely hinted at a lawsuit, we were instructed to provide them with the contact information for the legal department, place a legal flag on their account, and then discontinue all support contact with them until the flag was removed. Nine times out of ten, the customer would apologize profusely to our lawyer, the flag would be removed, and the customer would be _much_ more cooperative towards helping us resolve their problem.

  4. KrispyKrink says:

    You see, it’s your fault because you’re a customer and that caused them to screw up and give you the shaft. Logic, people!

  5. Biblio Fiend says:

    I don’t know what the purpose of T-Mobile’s computer system is since it tracks all of your interactions with them but nothing ever gets done. I had T-Mobile back before I was married 8+ years ago and after I was married I attempted to change my name on my account. They told me to bring my marriage license in to a T-Mobile location so I did and the rep faxed it in. Didn’t work, so a couple of months later I repeated the process. Again it didn’t work. A couple of months after that I called CS to ask why the change wasn’t going through and even though their computer showed record of both faxes they told me to take it into the store again and have the rep send yet another fax. I decided it was no longer worth my time and just let it go.

    Fast forward a year or so and I sent T-Mobile an email asking when my contract was up (I had my eyes on an iPhone). They responded with the information and asked why I was leaving – I told them that I wanted a phone they didn’t offer and mentioned my CS difficulties with the name change process. All of a sudden they were magically able to change the name on my account because their records showed two faxes proving the name change. Their computer system is most definitely useless.

    • deejmer says:

      I disagree. It sounds like their computer system is fine. Your faxes and records were retained, hell, for even over a year! What is obviously lacking there is a real focus on pleasing the customer. That reeks of bad management.

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        Yup. Their computer system is just fine…the problem is they don’t care.

        And they don’t have to. Well, not about anyone they have in post-paid plans anyway…you’re in a contract and can’t get out no matter how they treat you, so why would they bother to treat you well?

        The one and only way to even begin to foster a change with that issue, which exists industry-wide, is to regulate the end of subsidized phones and their accompanying contracts and ETFs. Make cell phones work the way landline phones do…you buy a phone, and you can connect it to whatever company you want, and change companies at any time you like.

  6. RayanneGraff says:

    Sounds about like T-Mobile, when you’re trying to switch plans anyway. I love my service, but I thank my lucky stars every day that I’m already on a plan that fits my every need.

  7. longfeltwant says:

    What a complainer! $250?! That’s small potatoes compared to the unforgivable travesty of EA releasing Mass Effect 3 with an unsatisfying storyline.

  8. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I think these things happen because companies simply don’t care about their customers in any way, shape or form. They just screw them over, and if someone complains loudly enough, they might semi-solve the problem. Lose a customer? Oh well, there’s 100 more where that sucker came from.

    Verizon did this with their “third party billing” scam on their landlines. Finally, there’s a class action suit against them. Their excuse was “you should have told us to block third party billing on your phone line”. No Verizon, YOU shouldn’t have allowed known scammy companies to steal your customer’s money while taking a cut of it without mentioning anywhere that a consumer should call and have the billing service blocked!

    T-Mobile-ATT-Sprint-Verizon-Comcast, whatever, same song different day. I don’t see it changing unless companies experience mass cancellations, and that’s not going to happen because we’ve all become too complacent and dependent on the very technology we’re getting screwed over about.

    /rant over

  9. mastmaker says:

    T-mobile once lost 60$ (or about 500 minutes) somehow during the interval between locking out a phone that I lost and enabling service on a new phone that I eventually bought. No amount of talking to Customer Service allowed me to recoup the amount, so I just reversed a $50 recharge that I did 15 days previous to the loss.

    Result: I am now banned FOR LIFE from using my credit card on ANY cell phone provider’s payment system anywhere! I have to use recharge cards bought from grocery stores in order to have any cell phone at all.

  10. HomerSimpson says:

    OP is to blame no matter WHAT the story is. We should all know that by now. Sheesh!

  11. Such an Interesting Monster says:

    In case anyone else wants to do something like this the better way is to create a new pre-paid account and port your number from your post-paid account. This will allow you to keep your old number and effectively cancel your old account at the same time.

    Too late for Katrina tho.

  12. Levk says:

    just file complaints really I would

  13. SoCalGNX says:

    This is pretty much the same treatment you can get from Time Warner Cable, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Allied Insurance, Mohave Wireless, Charter Cable and lots of other companies that have the power to ignore you.

  14. Weekilter says:

    You need to do things the right way. Since you didn’t get satisfaction with regular channels you needed to call the corporate office at 1-800-318-9270 or 425-653-4600. Any time I’ve ever had problems they fix it. Always.

  15. Blueskylaw says:

    “where headset wearing minotaurs tell you that the exit is right in front of you but it’s not the exit”

    Sounds like you’re talking about IKEA instead of T-Mobile.

  16. OldSchool says:

    Complaints to the FCC and your state’s Attourney General; file a small claims case.
    You should also file a complaint with the new federal consumer protection bureau at

  17. USAmaid says:

    T-Mobile specializes in customer abuse, especially in the area of short-changing the customer for credits due because of dropped calls and wrong numbers from Directory Assistance. You are told the credit will take TWO MONTHS (!) to appear on your statement — most likely in the hopes you will forget about it after such a long period of time — but it never manages to make it to the account ledger.

    And if you happen to go a week past the due date (tough economy, right?), the cell phone begins to ring numerous times per day — each time with a different number showing on the ID, so you won’t know it’s the jerks at T-Mobile calling to harrass you.

    I cannot wait until my contract is up, so I can drop this miserable excuse for a company like a hot potato.

  18. zibby says:

    Sounds like they have too many employees confusing each other. SIMPLIFY, maaaaan. Get rid of 50% of the workforce.

  19. mbd says:

    · Go directly to Walmart.
    · Purchase a Straight Talk Pre-paid phone.
    · Sign up for either the $30/month 1000 minutes 1000 text message or the $45/month unlimited.
    · Have Straight Talk port your current phone number over to Straight Talk.
    · After your Straight Talk phone is working correctly with your number, cancel T-Mobile.

    And the best of all, Straight Talk GMS phones are on T-Mobile’s network. The few CDMA phones they sell are on Verizon’s network.

  20. woogychuck says:

    I can sympathize with the OP. I’m currently going through a dispute with T-Mobile via the BBB. After closing my account and transferring my numbers to Sprint, T-Mobile charged me another 2 months for service. In their letter to the BBB, they even stated that the contract was done and the account was current when I closed it, but still insist I owe them for 2 months of service on numbers they no longer had access to.

    I find their lack of competence disturbing.

  21. Kyle says:

    Threats of lawyers and court don’t seem to carry any weight any more. But government threats? Oh, yeah. No company wants to be tied up with multiple agencies or levels.

    In my case, an old wireless provider put me on a two-year contract without my permission or knowledge and when I terminated my service they threatened me with collections if I didn’t pay it. I told the final CSR “You switched me from month-to-month to a contract when I moved from South Carolina to Maryland. So, either you do this the easy way and admit you were wrong and there is no early termination fee, or you’ll be dealing with the state Attorney General from South Carolina where I was living before you switched this, and the state Attorney General from Maryland where I moved when you made the switch, and the Federal Trade Commission since you’re an interstate business, and the FCC which oversees wireless communication.” The company rep replied, “There’s no need to go that far” and promptly caved.

    • scoosdad says:

      I’m seeing a lot of the same sort of behavior when you do something as simple as change your email address on file with a business, let alone move from state to state.

      I just changed internet providers and had to update maybe 30 addresses in various places. Suddenly all the e-commerce spam I had carefully opted-out of came back with a vengeance. These businesses decide that just because you changed your email address, that was the equivalent of giving them permission to spam you with their daily/weekly newsletters, special offers, etc once again. BofA was the first. I got spam from them within minutes of changing the address associated with my credit card.

  22. TuxMan says:

    What have we learned? Apparently after calling customer support a few times we realize you can’t just switch between post-paid and pre-paid. I highly doubt this is limited to just T-Mobile.

    These are separate departments and separate accounts within the major carriers. The solution seems simple enough. Open a new pre-paid account and port your post-paid phone number over. When you port your number it automatically closes the old account; as long as it’s in good standing. Why does the OP want to make it difficult for herself? Work the system.

  23. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Hell, I had a problem yesterday with my T-Mobile smartphone (a simple settings issues, totally my fault). I went online, logged in and went to the ‘Live Chat’ thingy. I got someone in less than a minute, he troubleshot the problem, I adjusted my phone settings, problem solved. It was quick and painless.

    I dread ever having to call because being put on hold sucks. When I do get someone, the CSR is usually foreign and I can’t make out what they’re saying half the time.

  24. trumpethead says:

    It seems the only thing T-Mobile managed to learn from their failed merger with the Deathstar ATT was how to offshore their one time decent customer service. I can’t wait until my contract expires.

  25. nightowl85 says:

    Something similar happened to me last month. My original contract said charges would be prorrated. But there is something with T-Mobile that allows them to change whatever they want whenever they want. Only the phone service is part of the Terms of Service, which they cannot change. But everything else is under ‘Conditions’. And the contract says they can change the conditions which means pricing on long distance, messaging, and other ‘extras’ and you have to accept them. Which is why I ran away. I had already gotten out of another contract three years ago and I only went back because of cheaper international calls. But they kept changing the price of the calls, first paying 5 dollars a month for ‘being able to make international phone calls’ and a charge of 10 cents a minute to the countries I usually call. So it was ok. Then they raised it to 10 dollars a month plus the minutes. Later they told me they could switched me to a package where I would have unlimited calls for 20 dollars a month. Three months later, while checking my bills, I saw they were charging me the 20 dollars plus the minutes. So I called to complain and they told me it included messages but not unlimited minutes. I said I don’t need messaging, but they said I couldn’t buy a package without messaging, and the truly unlimited minutes package was 35 dollars. I only had three months left in my contract so I agreed. I received my last bill last week. For the last month, they cancelled my unlimited package and charge me over 60 dollars in international long distance- and they charged me 43 dollars for 4 days of the month of service, when my whole month is

  26. beaverfan says:

    My guess is that employees are punished for closing accounts somehow, either by not meeting a corporate metric or some other way so nobody is willing to close the account.