Dear T-Mobile

I think it’s time you educated your customer service staff.

Let’s come to a mutual understanding of the word “free.” Even better, let’s talk about what I, the customer, might deem a good value.

My husband, son and I come into your store with my son’s cell phone, one we purchased at that same store in August. It doesn’t work. When we say it doesn’t work, we mean it neither makes nor receives phone calls, which are what phones are intended to do. It is an Alcatel, admittedly your low-end model, but all I want for my son is that he be able to send and receive texts and phone calls.

Jaime is very friendly, and he is able to get the phone working again, but he is unable to say exactly why the phone would not pick up your signal. This is disconcerting; it’s nice that it works, less nice that we have no idea how long it will work until it quits again. He says it should be working fine now, and when it quits just bring it in again.

Then he says the magic words: “How would you like a free tablet? We’re only offering them today.” Okay, let’s look at this free tablet. Hmmm, it’s an Alcatel. He says it has so much memory, we can play Minecraft on it. I don’t need Minecraft, my son has a tablet, so the tablet would be for me, as I still do not have a smart phone. But here’s the catch: we’d have to add $10 per month to add a data line for the tablet.

I don’t know if I can add another monthly fee, I tell Jaime. We’re still paying for one tablet. This isn’t looking all that free.

“Maybe I can look at your plan and help you. Sometimes new plans come out and we can offer our customers a better deal.” And he takes us to the front desk. There he discovers we’ve blocked data.

“Oh, I see you have data blocked. We’d have to unblock data. We can put you on an unlimited data plan for $20, for all your devices. And then we add the $10 for a line for your free Alcatel tablet.”

“I don’t want data,” I say.

“Why don’t you want data?” Why would we want data? I tell him, when my kids go somewhere, when I go somewhere, I want to be present to what we are doing and who we are with. I don’t need another distracting screen.

Fine then, it’s still $10/month for the free tablet.  “So, when this breaks (it is, after all, an Alcatel) do I pay $10 a month for the rest of my life?”

“Oh, no. You can stop the service after 2 years. But the tablet is free. You could always sell the tablet.”

“Uh, no. That would make the tablet $240. Then I would have no tablet and service I won’t use.” And who would buy a low-end tablet after 2 years? 

Still, I comment, $240 is pretty cheap for a tablet.

“Yes, Alcatel’s strength is that they produce quality products for a very low price.”

“Like my son’s phone?”

“Well, that’s an old model.”

“It was new when we bought it in August!”

“Well, it wasn’t their best model.”

“That’s not what the salesman said when we bought it.”

“Look,” says Jaime, “If you don’t want the plan, you can just buy the tablet outright.”

“For $240?”

“Well, actually, they run for $168.”

“Every day?”

“Every day.”




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