Thursday, December 18, 2008

T-Mobile Does the Right Thing

For those of you who read the previous post about T-Mobile raising my rates on the Guam call, this is to let you know they did the right thing and dropped those charges. However, and let me say I can't stress this enough, for a communications company, they sure need to find a way to resolve issues before they get to the stage this one did.

The problem began with me calling when I received the bill and getting told I had no options for a resolution unless I let my bill go into default. I did not consider this a realistic option and after my second call with no one being able to do or say anything consistent, I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The problem then increased when T-Mobile responded to the complaint by claiming they had tried to contact me several times by phone and were unable to.

Keep in mind this is a PHONE company who did not leave a voice mail or a text message or even try and call again. I'm not sure WHAT number they were calling "repeatedly" but it wasn't either of mine. I did check on my phone after reading their response and there was a call listed as "customer service" with a phone number from the day after I filed the complaint, but it never registered as a "missed call." Unless I checked I had no way of knowing it was there as they called in the morning while I was asleep.

I called it and was immediately in "no one knows anything hell." I gave up and waited for them to call me back, which they never did. What I suspect happened is that the person calling did not get the message that several months ago we changed the primary phone number to a new one they assigned us because it was getting tons of telemarketer calls and text messages. It's a reasonable assumption that my account would have this noted, or they could simply have called the number the charges were billed to. That doesn't seem like an unreasonable assumption on my part, does it? If you can't get hold of someone, CHECK THE PHONE NUMBER AND MAKE SURE IT'S CORRECT!!!!

Or the other option is "someone" wasn't being completely honest when they claimed they called and tried to work things out with me. Maybe they took off work early and just kind of shoved it aside because who am I but an ordinary powerless consumer against a huge corporate entity that would just ignore my squeaking?

Those who have read my blog over the years know that I am not one to sit back and take stuff like that. I may be shy and have a hard time with in person or on the phone contacts, but I have become very familiar with my consumer rights over the years. I've fought back every time, whether it was getting hit with shipping charges I was promised would be free, a cable company that doesn't know its ass from a hole in the ground half the time, and late fees for payments that weren't late. I've won every one of those battles and others. And every month the cable company screws me around, I demand and get a credit on my bill. It's not a lot but it's the principle of the matter: if they don't provide the service I'm paying for, they need to have my bill reflect that.

As a consumer I've noticed in the last few years that more and more  corporations do the nickle and dime gouging that multiplied by thousands does increase their bottom line, but what it does to their reputation and consumer loyalty costs them far more. They've forgotten the most important part of being in business: without customers you're just selling to your relatives and those who owe you favors. If you treat the customer well, you'll have a loyal and happy customer who will talk up your company and build your success. Without it you have unhappy and pissed off customers who will trash you in ways that weren't even possible a few years ago.

Or they won't use your services anymore. I'm sure that Circuit City misses my holiday shopping this year but sadly they thought cheating me out of a ten dollar rebate last year was more important than keeping me as a customer. Anyone check how many of their stores are closing this year because of policies like that? That was a fairly expensive ten dollars and if you multiply it by thousands, then yeah they made some money off not paying those rebates and having someone in India blow off those who tried to collect. But those same thousands could have easily been surpassed by treating the customer decently and selling them new HD TVs to go with the change to digital coming up in February. They chose the ten dollars, which is why their company is in the toilet these days.

But the important message is number one, fight back. They count on you caving in to their nickle and diming, their mistakes, their incompetent outsourced customer support frustration. Refuse to do business at all with companies who don't treat you as a respected and valued customer.

And the important thing is get and communicate everything in writing. In this digital age it is easy to just dash off something and leave it to hang in the ether. Make hard copies of everything. If you communicate by phone, keep a record of person talked to, time you called, and a summary of the conversation. Don't assume a communcations company is going to have communication skills.

And if you still can't get a resolution to your complaint, do file a formal complaint with the Better Business Bureau. They do an amazing job of communication go-between and it does get the company's attention when they receive notice of a complaint filed. For serious rip-offs and outright frauds, there's the Attorney General's websites of your respective states. There's a lot of information on their websites and the one time I had to file a formal complaint, they helped me resolve it.

I don't recommend the consumer fraud people on local news stations, etc. Most of them I suspect take cases that don't conflict with paid advertisers, or they take on cases with lots of cute kids and handsome men and attractive women. If you're ordinary with an ordinary problem, don't waste your phone call or email on "celebrity" consumer advocates. They won't even answer most of the time.

And a resource many of you might not consider is your local congressional representative, especially if you're trying to interface a bureaucracy at the local or federal level. My local rep helped me get a passport after some federal weenie took a dislike to me and did everything in her power to make me miss my plane to a long planned vacation to Australia. Her last words to me were that as long as it was up to her, she'd make sure none of the expedited fees I was charged to send more paperwork after I was already officially denied would ever be refunded. I received a nice fat check several months later so I assume it was no longer up to her. :-)

Stay active, fight back, and stay loyal to sompanies who treat you well and dump the ones that don't. Together we can reclaim some of the rights and respect taken away from us these last few years. All new beginnings start with a healthy dose of activism directed at the right targets.

Shirt available at Ursine Logic

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