My Doomed Romance with T-Mobile

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T-MobileAs the old song says, breaking up is hard to do. I thought that I was long past the time when breakups were a concern, but -- as I learned recently -- you're never too old to have your heart torn to pieces. Last month, I ended one of my longest relationships when I broke up with T-Mobile.

We've been together for a while, T-Mobile and I. We started dating back in the early 2000s: I was coming off an bad relationship with Sprint (S), which was doing me wrong with the raising prices/lowering quality two-step, and T-Mobile was on the market, aggressively trolling for new customers. When Sprint refused to replace a malfunctioning phone despite the expensive insurance policy that they had convinced me to purchase, I decided that our relationship had passed from neglectful to actively abusive. It was time to pull the plug.

I Just Called to Say I Love You

I had been eyeing T-Mobile for a while. Long before we began our courtship, I asked around and found that, despite a few rough edges, the company had a reputation for treating its customers well. Even better, its "Five Faves" promotion, which promised me unlimited free phone calls to my five favorite people, seemed too good to pass up. With Sprint passing into the rear-view, my decision was easy, and I joined up with T-Mobile.

Things weren't always smooth. Unlike some of the brighter, flashier companies, T-Mobile had limited coverage, and I soon learned that there were places in town where phone calls were impossible. Even so, I loved my new cell provider, warts and all. I got used to the occasional dropped call and rejoiced whenever the company managed to fill in yet another spot in its coverage.

As time went on, things just kept getting better; by the mid-2000s, T-Mobile and I were almost inseparable. When my girlfriend moved in, she joined my account; later, when my sister got tired of her abusive provider, we added her to the plan. She, like my now-wife and me, became a staunch T-Mobile fan.

Stand By Your Cell Provider

And T-Mobile stuck with us through thick and thin. When my sister was hospitalized with a life-threatening illness, we suddenly found ourselves constantly on the phone with friends, relatives and doctors. Facing a shocking $400 monthly bill, we called T-Mobile, which agreed to retroactively change our plan so that we weren't hit with tons of charges that we couldn't afford. Over the following months, as my sister moved in and out of the hospital, T-Mobile kept pace with our needs, shifting our plans and letting us add and remove our "faves" in order to keep our bills under control. Even in the toughest times, we knew that we could rely on them.

t-mobile

By now, my wife, my sister and I were all living in New York. T-Mobile still had its rough spots: Even in the city, there were places where our phones cut out, and we had to deal with the occasional dropped call. But with great customer service and reasonable prices, T-Mobile kept our relationship strong, and we were quick to tell our friends about how much we loved the cell company.

T-Mobile's Cheatin' Heart

But there were dark clouds on the horizon. In late March 2011, AT&T (T) announced plans to buy T-Mobile for $39 billion, a plan that would have made AT&T the biggest telecom provider in the United States. For us, this seemed like a mixed blessing: on the bright side, my wife had been eying iPhones for a while, but the fact that we weren't with AT&T had made using the sweet little gadgets an impossibility. Then again, we were pretty happy with our Android phones, and trading in T-Mobile's low prices and great customer service for one of Steve Jobs' slick beauties didn't seem like a great deal. When AT&T abandoned the plan in December 2011, we breathed a sigh of relief.

While the merger didn't go through, T-Mobile was still headed south. We had always prized their great customer service, particularly the ability to quickly get hold of a human being. But last fall, my wife called the company to ask about some plan changes, only to get dumped into an automated-calling maze that left her on the phone for an eternity before she gave up. Later, I discovered that T-Mobile had sharply cut staffing at many of its call centers and, in July 2011, closed off the option that made it possible for customers to directly contact an actual person.

Before this move, T-Mobile had the top-rated customer service in the business, but by summer 2011, it had dropped behind Verizon (VZ). And while the service went down, the prices crept up, as T-Mobile began charging more for our data plan. Needless to say, any attempts to discuss this with a human resulted in long waits and disappointment. This March, the company doubled down on its high price/low service plan with a decision to layoff 1,900 customer service employees while further raising prices for data. After a long, tough talk, my wife and I decided that the time had come to say goodbye to T-Mobile.

Here's a Quarter, Call Someone Who Cares

Since the breakup, we've moved on to Verizon. While my wife and I don't feel the same passion for our new cell provider, we've been pleased with Verizon's faster data downloads and slightly cheaper prices. The customer service is a lot better, and we also have a lot fewer dropped calls. My sister and her husband have also made the jump, and are also happy with their new provider.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile seems to be sticking with its decision to raise prices and decrease its workforce. They hit us with one last bill, a whopper that included all sorts of little fees and fines, some of which seemed questionable. When we got it, my wife and I talked for a couple of minutes about calling the company, arguing about the charges, and trying to get the price knocked down. Then we thought about spending an hour on the line, trying to get through to a human.

We decided to write the check and move on.

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.


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N68Firebird

Another note: in September of 2005, we ended up stuck in the 'statewide parking lot' known as the Hurricane Rita evacuation. We tried to get ourselves, our cars, our stuff and the dog out of the state to my dad's house, but didn't make it; we ended up in a shelter outside of Crockett, TX. The phones quit working early on, because the signals were jammed. But people with other phone services were nice enough to lend us their phones, so we could call everyone.

May 01 2012 at 5:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
N68Firebird

I have been a T-Mobil customer since around 2002; I too dumped Sprint, and we also dumped Verizon after they refused to fix the landline for days (I needed the DSL, had to go to the library to use their computer, then we got Comcast cable & broadband) I decided to cancel my T-Mobil data plan, since I now work out of my house and I'm around the computer all the time. I used to pay my bill every other month, as I had for years, then without telling me they started instituting some policy where they would shut my phone off whenever possible, even if one minute late in paying the bill, then force me to pay a $25 "reconnect" fee. On top of that, they flood my message box with all sorts of crap until it is full - then I get a warning that it is full. Yaaaaay. Of course, I check it, and almost every single one is from T-Mobil. (My friends and family members know that I prefer calls to texts, as I have taken 'texting' off my plan.) They have expanded their service areas, but otherwise they have gone downhill.

May 01 2012 at 5:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rlharbi

I was one of the first customers in our city to join tmobile. Had been there for years but suddenly started getting BS charges on my bill and despite not having changed my plan in years my average bill went from $160/mo for family to over $400. Tried everything I could to reason with them but usually just failed to speak to a live person. Our departure billing was over $1200 of all kinds of made up crap. They use the credit agencies to blackmail and extort. We are still fighting 4 mos. later. The solution is Walmart. Same Tmobile phones and towers but better service and NO surprises.

May 01 2012 at 4:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rlharbi

I was one of the first customers in our city to join tmobile. Had been there for years but suddenly started getting BS charges on my bill and despite not having changed my plan in years my average bill went from $160/mo for family to over $400. Tried everything I could to reason with them but usually just failed to speak to a live person. Our departure billing was over $1200 of all kinds of made up crap. They use the credit agencies to blackmail and extort. We are still fighting 4 mos. later. The solution is Walmart. Same Tmobile phones and towers but better service and NO surprises.

May 01 2012 at 4:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jnaquinn

We live in Europe but go to the States a couple times a year....We found out HOW BAD T-Mobile was on our last visit; my mother in law has Verizon and her phone had a strong signal and worked fine. Our phone had T-Mobile and we had to drive for 10 minutes out of town before we had a signal....

May 01 2012 at 3:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tmhuud

wow-how uncanny. This article is EXCLTY what happened to me. When I heard T-mobile [might] merge with AT&T I totally bailed. Never looked back. Verizon is awesome. My friends STILL complain about AT&T. Folks- get a clue. Go to Verizon. Customer service there is A++ too!. :)

May 01 2012 at 2:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sonnettwo

I was with Voice Stream when T-Mobile acquired it. I loved having Jamie Lee Curtis as our pitchwoman. Yes, there were a few years when I literally carried a Tracfone to augment the hide-and-seek signal that T-Mobile played at times. I was faithful for 11 years . . . then, two terrible things happened: I had to get rid of my 'grandfathered plan' because my other 'family plan' member wanted out of our relationship, and the infamous 'data package' that all new phones had to have. I couldn't afford the FULL pricing T-Mobile had for its new phones. Still wanting to be loyal, I moved to their 'monthly plans' which I found out I no longer had an english speaking customer service person. I had to learn key words in Indian and Phillipino. Then everytime I sent a picture with a text the phone told me I couldn't send it because I "didn't have enough funds" . . . even though I had just paid them. I found myself a homeless telecommunications wanderer. I tried Boost Mobile (talk about an automated phone maze in an urban english speaking recording . . . then to get an Indian or Phillipino in a crowded room that you can barely hear them speaking to you). I tried Net 10, Tracfone, Straight Talk . . . all the same! No american english speaking service people. I find myself missing the days of the Motorola pager -- how simple . . . page me. I will call.

May 01 2012 at 1:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
HI MARSIDA

ive been with tmobile since i was 19 everything was always great prices and customer service til the AT&T thing happened i noticed that everytime we would upgrade to a new phone i would have a new huge charge last year it was because my contract restarted they are having people pay for the 1st month instead of waving the 1st month ??? this year when my brother upgraded his phone my bill went from 156 thats for 4 lines to 189 with no explanation i was on the phone for 2 hours trying to figure it out and none of them could tell me only one line has data so i was thinking 166 or something like that but nope 189 i dont know what happened to this company but they suck they drop calls barely any signal im sure if i was in the woods with a bear chasing me tmobile would do me no good and i would be spending the day on a tree, thankfully im moving to GA and i barely get service where we are living of course tmobile is the only one that doesnt work out there but that will help me get out their contract cant wait!

May 01 2012 at 12:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
scbeachgirl1

If you don't like TMobile, who do you think is better???

May 01 2012 at 12:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to scbeachgirl1's comment
ajax@when.com

I used to enjoy Tmobile, great connection.. Great C.S. but then I started missing a lot of extra money at the end of the month.. Got a pre-paid TracPhone, pay thirty bucks every three months and never looked back.

May 01 2012 at 5:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
scbeachgirl1

I've been a Tmobile customer for a LONG time and recently had a charge on my bill that wasn't something I had done. I called them and it was imediately taken off. Several years ago I was in Mexico my phone was stolen. They ran up many charges. When I got back to the States, I called them and all the charges were removed, no questions asked. I'm not thinking of ditching them...they've done right by me.

May 01 2012 at 12:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply