Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rant: TMobile and Other Wireless Carriers (economics/politics, rambling)

This is about my experience last week as I went to my local TMobile store to add $ to my prepaid cell phone. But more than that, I found out about an industry-wide practice that I think is just wrong and should be corrected.

It all started when the previous prepaid plan I bought had expired. I didn't know it at the time because the only notification I got was one text message. Since I never use the phone for texting, it never occurred to me to open it. While at the store, it didn't help that the salesperson didn't really know what any of the plans/rates were, and kept having to ask the store manager in the back. When she finally pulled up my account on her screen, she said that it showed I was on a 10cent/min plan. Since I don't use this second cell phone very often, I decided to only add $15 worth.

So the transaction is done and then I get a text message notifying me of my balance. Except it lists only 52 minutes for my $15. So the salesperson calls in to customer service, and it turns out that unless you buy the $100/1000 minute plan, the rates are higher. The salesperson didn't seem to be able to do anything about it, and as my voice got louder with frustration, the manager came out from the back.

The solution seemed simple enough to me. I wanted a refund. If I had gotten the correct quote, I probably would have made a different decision, and I clearly deserved the opportunity to make an informed decision. Except that the manager's reply was, "Prepaid transactions cannot be refunded. Every major carrier has this same policy." WHAT!? This wasn't a simple case of buyer's remorse. I informed him that this was their fault since they gave me the wrong quote. To which he REPEATED, "Prepaid transactions cannot be refunded. Every major carrier has this same policy."

At this point, I really was yelling because this was so inane. "Do you think Consumer Affairs cares about your policy? Your salesperson gave me the wrong quote. Call customer service, there has to be someone higher ranking who can fix this." Defeatedly, the store manager calls in to the customer service rep, who gives me 150 minutes for my $15. While I accepted this solution because I didn't want to bother with it anymore, in my mind, this was still wrong. How is it that I still had no choice in the matter? The manager didn't tell me what he was doing until it was done, but what if it's not what I wanted? What if I just wanted to get my money back and take my business elsewhere? How is that not an option?

To sum up all the things I thought were wrong about the encounter:

1. Lack of customer service. It's bad enough that the store manager didn't actually train his employees to be up-to-date on the things they offered, but at least the salesperson tried. The manager should have realized they made a mistake and actively tried to resolve it, instead of quoting "policy" and trying to get away with it until he couldn't.

2. Which leads to a bigger problem with corporations in general. It's all about "getting away with what they can", as opposed to developing real, beneficial relationships with their clients. This happens more often than not, and is shielded by, "Everyone else does it."

3. Which was the exact excuse the store manager used. "Every major carrier has this same policy." How is this even an acceptable industry-wide practice? How can something that (I assume) can be easily reversed in the computer system not have a refund policy of some sort? How does the FTC allow this? Or worse, was the store manager just bullshtting me?

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