How I Got T-Mobile To Give Me More Data For Less Money

Josh reached the data cap for his T-Mobile account, and his mobile Internet shut down entirely. Some customers might appreciate being unable to run up data overages, but Josh was annoyed. So he took on T-Mobile’s customer service bureaucracy and ultimately emerged victorious, with a 5GB data cap at a discounted price. Here’s how he did it.

I had a breakthrough with T-Mobile yesterday that I thought your readers might like to hear about. It’s a months-long saga, so I’ll try to distill it down to the fundamentals, though this leaves out much of the suffering.

The Problem:

After I reached my 2GB data cap, my data speed didn’t just slow down- the internet, and any online apps, stopped working completely. I spent hours talking to tech agents and customer service reps to no avail. A Tech supervisor did tell me that the problem was on T-Mobile’s end, not mine. She lifted the cap to 5GB for the remainder of the month, telling me I would not be charged for it. Of course, I was billed for it. The customer service (apparently a call center in South Asia) was deplorable, reading scripted faux-polite answers that rarely responded in any way to what I was saying. I was put on hold and transferred over and over again. I got disconnect twice, and on three separate occasions I was promised a call back that I never received.

The Resolution:

After wading through a customer service rep and a supervisor yesterday, I was transferred to the Customer Loyalty Department and spoke to an account specialist, [A]. I Iisted my complaints- retail store failed to tell me there was a cheaper plan (I saw on their website that they were offering prepaid plans with 5GB of data for $10 less than my plan), my internet connection would not work, the customer service was wanting, and I was billed for that which I did not owe.

After some discussion, she offered to raise the data cap to 5GB for no extra cost. I said that I’d accept that, but that it did not assuage my concerns about T-Mobile’s abusive treatment of longtime customers. She then also offered to give me a $10 discount off my bill every month for the next two years.

So, essentially I was able to switch to the terms of the cheaper plan without having to pay an early termination fee, which I think was reasonable. It still doesn’t make up for their bureaucratic cruelty, and I intend to put up whatever recordings I have on youtube and link to them on facebook.

The Moneyshot:

Here are the main takeaways for tortured T-Mobile clients-

1. Ask to talk to a supervisor immediately. Don’t even bother telling regular reps the problem. They didn’t do anything for me in any of my calls, but the supervisors were more competent and accommodating.

2. Get them to transfer you to an account specialist at the Loyalty department. The rep here did infinitely more for me in 15 minutes than all the other people to whom i spoke did combined,

3. Have a clear explanation of your issue ready, and express it calmly and firmly without any personal malice towards the person you’re speaking to.

4. Have some fun with the phone call. Most of the reps will be totally unresponsive. But getting angry only makes you stressed out and does nothing to advance your cause. Instead, I prefer to make a game out of it to educe the absurdity of their position. “You say it’s not possible for you to terminate my contract. Do mean this literally or are you just speaking euphemistically. I mean, if I died from a horrible disease and my weeping mother called and asked you to stopped sending bills because my rotting corpse could no longer use the phone… you COULD go into your computer at that point and push a button that would terminate my contract, right? You wouldn’t keep billing me even after the leprosy had won the battle would you?”

This is good advice, especially points 2 and 3. they’re useful in any negotiation of call center labyrinths. I have to disagree with point 4, though: as a former call center worker, I loathed being asked tortured hypotheticals that would only keep me on the phone longer with a difficult customer and could get me fired if I answered honestly. On the other hand, it is kind of fun to mention leprosy when talking about mobile phone contracts.


Edit Your Comment

  1. FatLynn says:

    If I were working at a call center and someone tried #4, I’d probably do everything in my power NOT to help them out.

    • gedster314 says:

      I think that would depend on the rapport up to that moment. If the whole conversation was lite and playful then yes #4 could be funny. But if #4 came out of the blue, I would go out of my way not to give this guy anything, maybe have him make another round in the phone tree.

    • bigroblee says:

      I’m going to hijack the top comment to share a bit of info; rather than try to get tier one customer service to transfer you to loyalty, when you call 611 from your handset and it asks you to say the reason for your call, just say “Cancel service”. The nice automated voice will say “I understand you want to speak to someone about your account, is that correct?” and if you say yes it will immediately transfer you to loyalty.

  2. Retired Again says:

    THANK YOU for writing about T-Mobile. You saved me from going from trash to trash. I joined Magic Jack. Many Problems but ONE BIGGY …. I have 16 months of service left but non-workable magicjack. No refund, no help cannot even get an email response and CHAT is like talking to a mirror – worthless. At least you came out WORKING —- not magicjack

    • Snape says:

      Check out OOMA

      • Southern says:

        $200 for the device? No thank you – that’s like 10 years worth of Magic Jack right there.

        Myself, I just use Google Voice & a Logitech Cordless Headset for most stuff. Plus if I’m not home it auto forwards directly to my Android phone.

        • Snape says:

          Unless MagicJack has changed Ooma is a significantly better product. You plug it into your router like Vonage and you can hook up a regular telephone to it. Do you not need to have magic jack plugged into a USB drive of your computer? How do you call 911?

          • diagoro says:

            I’ve had Ooma for two years now (found a discounted unit at Fry’s for $150). Not one problem since. I had Vonage before that, and had to cut my net usage during any call for the quality to be adequate. With Ooma, it works without any net tweaking.

            I will admit it’s not complete gravy since the initial purchase……I pay about .30 cents a month in taxes.

            • Snape says:

              Consumer Reports (June 2012 issue) rates Ooma number one over all phone companies period. It rated 25 phone companies including landlines, VOIP, and fiber.

    • BettyCrocker says:

      Our magic jack works fine – as long as I don’t have 3 or 4 people trying to download things / play games online at once. Then it’s poppy like a bad cell phone connection. Is it perfect? no… but for $20 a year? It’s totally worth it.

      • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

        I had MagicJack before, and yes, it was usable to a point. It is very cheap. But without some hacking, it was quite a pain to use–The soft-dialer popping up whenever a handset was picked up, requiring the computer to be on in order for it to work (Haven’t looked into the Plus version which claims it doesn’t need to be connected to a computer) I ended up buying a Thinclient to be able to keep it running 24/7 as economically as possible. The call quality ranged from “acceptable” to “unusable”, never “good” or better. Even when no other internet bandwidth was being used.

        When I lost most everything in the Nashville flood two years ago, I replaced my deal MagicJack and ThinClient with the Ooma Telo. Call quality is “Excellent” to “Good” and generally, you’d never know it wasn’t a landline were it not for the custom dialtone it produces. The called party would never have any clue.

        In short, I’d call friends or relatives with the MagicJack when I wanted to talk for a while. For most anything else, I’d use my cellphone. With Ooma, I’m comfortable making important as well as casual calls, and greatly reduced the voice minutes on my cell plan as a result, more than offsetting the higher cost of the Ooma over the MagicJack.

    • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

      Expect nonexistent to crappy customer service from whichever carrier you choose. They’ll tell you it’s because they have to keep costs down, the cynical among us would counter, that it’s to maximize profits.. But no matter who you get service from, expect that you’ll have a Byzantine automated call center to work through, and if you do reach a human, it will be someone reading from a script in Bangalore.

      Which is why Points 2 and 3 come into play.. You’re far more likely to get a native English speaker who actually has the power to solve problems if you ask for the “customer retention” department (or just ask to cancel your service) Likewise, don’t lash out at the rep helping you for being on hold for 45 minutes, getting transferred to the wrong departments and getting disconnected before reaching them–We all have had those experiences.. If you at least try to act pleasant and cheerful, the rep will be far more eager to assist you after having been screamed at by other customers over the last few hours.

      Oh and for the OT bit on MagicJack.. Cut your losses and throw the thing in the trash. If you want VoIP home phone service, Ooma is the way to go. Once you buy the box (which connects directly to your broadband internet connection, not your computer) the service is (mostly) free for life.. Got to pay about $2-3 in taxes every month, and they optionally charge $5-10 per month for advanced calling features.

      • Southern says:

        I’ve never had a problem with Cricket, because the CSRs at the Corporate Owned stores have the power to do *everything* with your account. Credits, plan changes, discounts on new devices, whatever.. Not like those other carriers where they have to call the main office, or Customer Service, or get something “approved”.. Cricket just does it all right there in the store.

        Only had a problem once in 4 years that I needed them to fix, though.. but I’ve upgraded our families phones about 4 times each, and they always go out of their way to give me a deal.. Matching the new-customer web price, free accessories.. I certainly can’t complain about their in-store customer service. The same can’t be said for their *611 team though; it’s the standard Bangalore agent who you can’t understand, reads from scripts, and is pretty much incapable of helping you with anything other than paying your bill. :p

  3. homehome says:

    I hate when ppl say the supes are more competent, they’re not more competent, supes can just flat out do more stuff, which is why they’re supes.

    # 4 would also shut me down nd do the least possible to help someone. doing that, to me, is disrespectful.

  4. Lucky225 says:

    To those dissing #4, it’s exactly this kind of attitude WHY C.S. sucks. Recently I tried to use my credit card at a gas station for a $100 purchase. The CSRs told me that MasterCard had flagged the merchant as ‘risky’, and that with the coded transaction they could not override MasterCard and I would never be able to use my card at this merchant. I asked them how I’m supposed to know which merchants are risky and which aren’t. If I go to a restaurant with every intention of paying with my funds, and said restaurant has MasterCard logos indicating they’ll take my card, and that is the ONLY form of payment method I have, and I’m trying to pay my bill, would ING just let me go to Jail for ‘defrauding an inn keeper’ since they’re declining my card and letting the transaction go through? “Well, that’s not the case here” was the only response I got from the rep and “I could let you speak to a supervisor if that was the case”. Well If a supervisor CAN override the transaction, why can’t I speak to one now? So I get a supervisor, who, informs me they can’t override the transaction and suggests I use an ATM.. Instead since this is probably a credit transaction fiasco, I opt to use my PIN # at this merchant, it goes through fine. I ask ING how it is that if I use my PIN at a ‘risky’ merchant, that it’s a-okay to approve me, considering they now have swipe data from the card and possibly my PIN where they can now withdrawl funds in addition to using my card data. No response. It’s this kind of non-sense from reps that frustrates me as a customer. Let’s be real and clear, the problem probably wasn’t the merchant at all, but more a combination of factors including the $100 amount of the purchase that didn’t allow the card to go through, considering I was waiting for a new card because I had just got an email days before about how MasterCard had informed ING that my card was comprimised and that I could only use it until May 29th while they were mailing out a new card. This would have been a much more logical response then ‘well the merchant is risky, and there’s nothing we can do.’

    • make7acs says:

      What you don’t understand is the reps agree with you 99% of the time. They are hard working people who generally hate the company they work for and think their policies are stupid. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to refuse a customer something I honestly thought they deserved.

      Don’t get mad at the person conveying the companies policies, they are just doing their job and getting angry won’t do anything to help the situation. Since you are right, them defending it is very difficult because they know you are right to, hence why they default to “Talk to a manager?”

  5. Invader Zim says:

    This is how I handled the same issue. Call tmobile and say cancel. That got me to retention. I told them that the plan I was one was too high and that I was aware that I could go without a two year agreement and get more for less. I now have the cheaper plan. I have threee lines so all have it now.

  6. chucklesjh says:

    Asking for a supervisor right off the bat is a HORRIBLE idea. Keep in mind that when you are connected to a regular CSR, that person spends exponentially more time on the phone and is actually more likely to find a way to help you (unless they just suck to begin with). Let the CSR come up with a solution or two and if they aren’t acceptable, THEN ask for a supervisor.

    If you go directly to a supervisor, you’ll just get the first two solutions or nothing useful at all. Asking for the supervisor’s manager will just make them angry and you’ll be talking to someone who spends even less time on the phones.

    Souce: Used to work at DirecTV.

  7. LanMan04 says:

    I loathed being asked tortured hypotheticals that would only keep me on the phone longer with a difficult customer **and could get me fired if I answered honestly**
    Great employer you have there…

    • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

      I take it you’ve never worked customer service? I did in the days long before outsourcing was a viable option, and it was still hell. You’re given policies to adhere to, and customers make demands. Seldom does the latter not exceed the former. So you’re trying to placate an upset customer using the very few options you are authorized to use, and while trying to keep the call times to an average of 3 minutes or less.

      And as to being fired for being honest? Suppose as a CSR you’re authorized to replace a defective product under warranty. If a customer complained that their widget wouldn’t turn on and you offered this solution BEFORE doing some basic troubleshooting like checking to see that they installed the battery, it was fully charged, that they had reset the device, etc; you can bet that these customers would demand replacements for products which in many cases weren’t defective. This would justifiably curtail your career as a CSR.

      • homehome says:

        In my line of business, if I think someone shouldn’t be getting a loan even if they are approved because I see that they are a financial clutz or very irresponsible or their income leaves them no room to be flexible with payments, I couldn’t do that. Even if it’s my honest and blunt opinion. And I could get fired for that. Some business flat out tell you or have it in your contract that you can’t say ******** or ******** to customers. And it is fireable offense.

  8. Something2Say says:

    I work in a call center for a cell phone company (not T-Mobile, to be fair), and I have taken supervisor calls before. #1 and #4 will make anyone less inclined to go above and beyond.

    From experience, people who immediately want to speak to a supervisor on every call are wasting a supervisor’s time in most cases, because a good rep will come up with the same solution as a supervisor AND do it more quickly. At least give the representative a chance and then ask for a supervisor if you have to.

    Playing the hypothetical situation game is stupid. Calls are recorded. You shouldn’t be placing a representative in that spot–if he agrees with you, he gets in trouble if that call is listened to. If he doesn’t agree with you (which is more likely, because I’m not risking my job for some customer’s mind games), you get frustrated at him for not agreeing with you. It doesn’t help your case to make up an elaborate story about you having leprosy. It just gives the rep a story to tell about the guy he talked to on the phone who didn’t understand the difference between physically not being able to do something and not doing something because of policy and common sense.

    #2 is a toss-up, because that depends on your account history. I’ve seen plenty of customers be transferred to the “loyalty” department…only to have their services terminated *with* ETFs.

  9. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I can’t comment on T-Mobile but in general, my trick to get good service on a complicated problem is to always select the Spanish option at the beginning.

    It tends to result in bypassing the automated system and being connected directly to an upper tier, bilingual CSR rep, at an American call center. It seems to be a backdoor way of getting a supervisor, without having to go through the front line, script readers.

  10. zyphbear says:

    Both #1 and #4 are very unfriendly and doing that for number 1 could get the agent in trouble. All call centers have their specific policy to have to speak to a regular agent and Verify your information as well as finding out the issue, trying to not let them do their job might have some supervisors not be as willing to work with you. You would be surprised how many agents can do the same thing a sup could do if you gave them half a chance.

  11. Greggen says:

    Good luck on getting that $10 buck a month credit..

    Towards the end of my 10 years with Tmobile, I got a call out of the blue, freely offered me $5 bucks a month to reward me since I was such a ‘good customer’. I was out of contract, had a good grandfathered plan I was mostly happy with.

    I got $10 bucks credited right away (one for the last month and one for the current month the 1st CSR said)

    Sadly I did not get my $5 buck credit on the following bill. When I called in they had no record of the promised credit. In fact the new CSR acted like I was trying to scam some unearned credit. When I was able to refer the rude CSR to the previous credit, NOW she could see that I was supposed to get it. Promised it would be applied each month. We know what a TMobile promise is worth, right?

    Did not happen. I would call in every other month, be accused of trying to scam a credit, be told there were no notes about this, then finally they (or their supervisor) would find it (I found out about 6 months in it was supposed to be a ‘Loyalty Credit’) and would promise I would not have to call in again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Despite the frustration, I did find grim humor that one hand of TMobile tried to do a good thing: offer a small credit to build good will, and the rest of TMobile continued on with its consumer unfriendly policies which require customers to fight for each and every promised or contracted service.

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

    I’m poised to drop my T-Mobile data plan soon. I got the $30-a-month for 5 GB plan through Wal-Mart. Of course, I have to pay an extra $15 a month to tether my phone to my computer. (I’m not sure if this is true or not, but I’ve heard that the US is the only country that charges extra for this feature.)

    When it works, it’s fine. But therein lies the problem: it just stops working randomly for no apparent reason. $45 a month is way too much for any plan that I can’t rely on. So far no problems with my phone service, but data? Not worth it.

  13. TuxMan says:

    Sounds like an isolated incident. After I used up my data allotment on my T-Mobile Monthly 4G plan, I didn’t get cut off, just got reduced speeds.

    The price difference is $15 between the two plans according to the T-Mobile website.

    1) if calling didn’t fix the issue, visit a store.
    2) if they don’t fix it, you have two options:
    a) cancel service b) keep service
    3) if you choose to keep service you may or may not be able to negotiate a reduced price.
    4) if you choose to keep wasting your time over $15, blame the OP
    5) if they don’t fix it next month, claim breach of contract and cancel service

  14. Beaver6d9 says:

    This article is interesting but disconnected from reality. I have spent something like 40 hours of my life on the phone with T-mobile and I eventually just sued them in small claims court. Thinking that you can productively game the system while is good in theory, just won’t happen like that.

    For example… You ask to speak to a supervisor, and the asshole across the world with horrible english skills literally WILL NOT transfer you until you go through them with the entire spiel and troubleshooting etc. Do you hang up and call back expecting to get someone less retarded or stay on and just deal with them?

  15. sixsevenco says:

    I have unlimited data for $20/month with T-Mobile. No 2GB or 5GB caps or throttling. It’s a hidden plan that you have to ask for. I believe they will only give it to you if you’ve been with them for 2+ years.

  16. make7acs says:

    Generally whenever I hear about people having a hard time with customer service, it is because they don’t understand the person they are yelling usually has absolutely nothing to do with the issue they are calling about.

    Threatening to cancel, being firm, raising your voice, ect…Just makes people not want to help you. If anyone ever starts throwing around ridiculous hypotheticals, you are just wasting my time so I’m going out of my way to help you, even if it’s within my power.

  17. Peggee has pearls and will clutch them when cashiers ask "YOU GOT A WIC CHECK MA'AM?" says:

    Re #4, honestly, don’t ever try to “have fun” with any kind of CSR, over the phone or in person. If they laugh, rest assured they’re laughing at you and not with you.

    I’m not sure it’s a great idea to share your story when you get something extra from a company–at least, not in an “I did it and you can too!” way. All it means is that they’ll probably hear about this and crack down on reps being able to give discounts or extras.

    (Not having a smartphone, I thought it was obvious that when you reached your data cap, service would stop. Otherwise, wouldn’t you be racking up ridiculous overage charges? So this seems like a situation where they gave the OP something to retain his business but had no obligation to.)

    Think how you’d feel if you owned a business and occasionally handed out freebies in exceptional circumstances, and suddenly it got posted online and everyone came in wanting those same freebies. You wouldn’t do it for long.

  18. randomneko says:

    Talk to the guy on the other end of the phone like a human being. works on me every time.