T-Mobile and Amazon don’t really like you

My sister likes to talk on the phone. A lot. And Cingular charges use $85 for a family plan where we share 1250 minutes. And 35 cents/minute for extra minutes. Highway robbery! With T-Mobile, we could get 1500 minutes each with two $50 individual plans. Great, I thought.

However, T-Mobile doesn’t work in my house. Still. I figured three years was plenty of time for them to fix the holes in their network. I figured wrong.

In Sunnyvale, the middle of Silicon Valley, finding good cell phone coverage is harder than you think. So it’s T-Mobile for my sister and I get to stay with Cingular (GSM 800 gets them reception in my house).

First stop is the T-Mobile store on El Camino Real in Sunnyvale. I tell the sales rep I want to sign up for a plan (pass the credit check and such) here in California, and have my sister pick up the phone at a NYC store. No can do, the guy says. If you want the phone in NY, you’ll have to ship it there yourself. I point out to the guy that if I order online, shipping is free.

“What do I get out of it?” he asks me, point-blank.

Well, I explain. First, you get to bill my sister for at least $500 worth of phone service this year. And, second, I go around telling my friends how helpful the T-Mobile guy was to me.

He remains unpersuaded. Apparently not a student of customer experience. So I leave the store and head home.

There are better deals online, it seems.

i ordered a T-Mobile phone and plan for my sister from Amazon.com. This was due to Amazon’s offering of a great deal on the phone — $150 rebate on a $100 phone. This turned out to be a rather poor experience.

  • The T-Mobile “risk assessment” page on Amazon would not let me specify my address as the billing address for the T-Mobile bills. (This is different than the credit card billing address Amazon uses.) So the bills have to go to my sister, even though I’m the one paying them.
  • T-Mobile won’t let me change my billing address until I’ve been a customer for at least a month. They will, however, let me add a second billing address, which means we both get a bill for the first month. Then, I can call and change it. Yay, kill more trees!
  • Calling Amazon for cell phone-related customer service requires being routed to India, convincing the Indian CSR to transfer you to the cell phone department (which may or may not require divulging multiple pieces of personal and order-related information). Then you have to give your information to the CSR, in, say, West Virigina. Then, she puts you on hold while she consults with another department for help. Why I couldn’t talk directly with whoever she was asking for help is beyond me.

My sister decided she wanted a different phone than the one I ordered.

  • Amazon would not let me exchange the phone. What, you say! Amazon lets you return anything! Well, almost anything…
  • The Amazon CSRs had several “creative” suggestions, including:
    • exchanging the phone via T-Mobile
    • ordering a plan from another provider, so I could still get the rebate (but I want T-Mobile!)
    • Cancel the phone service, return the phone and order a new plan and a new phone. Yet Amazon could not guarantee that T-Mobile would approve a new plan after one was just cancelled.
  • T-Mobile would not exchange the phone for me, since it was not purchased directly from them.
  • T-Mobile would not price-match Amazon on the phone.
  • To further complicate matters, the T-Mobile plan I signed up for was a “special” plan (Get More 1500, $50/month), and was no longer offered. So, if I cancelled and re-signed up, I would lose the plan I wanted, which was the main reason for choosing T-Mobile. The T-Mobile CSRs could not override that choice.
  • Along those lines, if I made any changes or returns to my Amazon order, it seemed likely I would lose my rebate.

So, I ended up buying a phone for my sister (Motorola RAZR) and shipping it to her. I’m hoping to sell the (new, unused Nokia 6101) phone she bought for close to what I paid for the RAZR so I’m not out too much money.

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