Think about your experience when returning an item at an Apple Store, Best Buy, or Amazon. The return is processed efficiently and painlessly. Any delay in receiving in receiving your refund is mostly due to the settlement process between banks. Now picture the opposite experience, where every step of the transaction is painful. That’s how I would describe my experience with T-Mobile online orders.
I’ve been a satisfied T-Mobile customer for seven years. I’ve been enthusiastically recommending T-Mobile to my clients since then. Unfortunately my opinion about T-Mobile has turned negative based on my iPhone online order experience. (In prior years, I purchased my iPhones directly from Apple.) The way T-Mobile handles routine e-commerce issues leaves much to be desired. At this point, I can’t recommend T-Mobile for anyone dealing with online phone orders and upgrades. Customers who buy from a bricks and mortar T-Mobile store may have a different experience, one that I am not in a position to opine on.
I ordered two iPhones on November 11, 2020, one for myself and the other for my mother. After using my phone for less than 24 hours, and still in the return period, T-Mobile issued a press release stating that iPhone 12 minis would be free with a trade in. Given that this was a substantially better offer than I received, I called customer support.
Pain point 1: I asked if I could receive a credit for the price difference and was declined. The T-Mobile representative suggested I return the phones and reorder to take advantage of the holiday promotion. I proceeded to return the phones.
Why would a company make a customer go through the return and reorder process, just for a price adjustment? I could have remained on the original promotion and a one-time credit would have satisfied me. Its current approach is a huge waste of time and effort. And why would a company with thousands of retail locations not allow in-store returns for online purchases?
Pain point 2: The representative who processed my order told me I would receive two return shipping labels, one for each phone. I received one label during our phone call. I didn’t receive the second one. The representative told me I would eventually receive it. I didn’t. I visited my local T-mobile store for advice. I was told that a link to the shipping label would be on T-Mobile’s website. I logged in and couldn’t find the needed label. Only the RMA labels for our trade-in phones were available. I called customer support again and another representative emailed me the second return label.
Pain point 3: After placing a new phone order for myself, I signed the agreement paperwork on DocuSign and was redirected to a T-Mobile page with an error message. Apparently T-Mobile’s website timed out. I was left with a signed agreement, but no phone order. It’s remarkable that T-Mobile’s QA testers haven’t picked up on the website’s ridiculously short timeout. I suspect that they zoom through their test orders, not realizing that customers read over the pages before submitting.
Pain point 4: For my iPhone order do-over, I entered my delivery address. The website clearly accepted my home address, asking if I wanted to use it as the billing address too. To my astonishment, the order confirmation email stated that the phone was being shipped to my mother. I called customer support to explain the situation. The T-Mobile representative couldn’t change the address but told me to contact UPS after I received the tracking number. When I gave UPS the tracking number I was told T-Mobile doesn’t allow address changes under its contract.
Pain point 5: According to UPS tracking, the two returned iPhones were signed for at the warehouse dock at the exact same time on Monday morning, November 30. T-Mobile uses UPS for its return logistics.
On Wednesday, December 2 T-Mobile sent me an email and text message stating that my phone was received and the refund was being processed. Yet there was no acknowledgement of my mother’s phone.
I returned the two phones in the same boxes that T-Mobile used for the original shipments. I used the two shipping labels provided by T-Mobile, each with a unique tracking number. My iPhone 12 was used briefly, but my mother’s iPhone was brand new, still sealed in Apple’s packaging.
Could my mother’s phone be lost? I started doing Google searches and was dismayed at what I found. T-Mobile customers have much to say about lost devices. Here are a sample of comments:
4/2/2015: “TMO lost both our trade in phones, I had the UPS tracking number which indicated they did receive them at the warehouse. Long story short, took no less than 4 hrs on the phone over 2 months with at lease [sic] 6 phone calls to finally get issue resolved and another 2 months to get the $300 credit after another phone call and hour on the phone.”
6/10/2015: “I returned my S6 edge to tmobile nearly 2 months ago and I hadn’t seen a credit on my bill yet so I contacted tmobile. They did a T-Mobile Handset Order Research Request. I got an email back from them today saying that they had no record if it being received by their warehouse. I have a tracking number that shows it was delivered.”
10/12/2016: “T-Mobile lost my 9/26 delivered trade-in. Denies receiving the package despite the shipping label (which they provided) showing as delivered. Way to lose a customer T-Mo. All they’ve done to resolve the issue is give me the runaround.”
12/9/2017: “Same thing happened with a returned iphone x. The t mobile warehouse in Texas had it for 25 days. I informed them that I would file a police report in regards to the phone being “lost” in there [sic] warehouse. I also asked for the CEO contact team and it seemed to resolve this. It’s nuts the garbage system they have. Never had an issue with AT&T like this.”
10/6/2018: “I’ve had like a 90% success rate in T-Mobile losing phones that I’ve mailed back. I’ve had to had them do a handset research form multiple times for each phone and eventually one had to be escalated and credited off because they couldn’t find it. At one point I sent back 3 phones at once. The same guy, Tom, signed for all 3 of them on the same day at the same time, yet 1 was marked not returned and couldn’t be found in the warehouse.” (This customer identifies himself as a former T-Mobile employee.)
12/6/2019: “The T-Mobile TX warehouse lost my device and won’t close out my credit because of it…So after two investigations I’m still waiting to see if they will refund my money. So disappointed I like T-Mobile and didn’t think they would treat there [sic] customers like crap.”
8/22/2020: “I recently traded in my old iPhone for iPhone 11 and sent the old with there [sic] shipping label btw and long story short they checked the warehouse no phone.”
A reply: “T-Mobile’s warehouse is notorious for losing phones.”
Another reply: “They lost a S9 of mine, The only time I actually sent it in via mail. Normally I used to always take it in to the store for turning it in for jump on demand but that one time I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal. Took me 9 months to clear it up.”
10/28/2020: “The tracking showed that it was delivered. Fast forward, she got a collection call for 300 from tmobile. We call multiple times and they always said they’re going to research on it. Well today, we called again (10th) time and finally got a bs answer! Oh, we did see it was delivered but we couldn’t locate the modem. We don’t know if you sent in the modem or something else. We have to charge you and can’t do anything.”
The customer reached out to T-Mobile on Twitter. A T-Force representative replied, “…I do see that you reached out about this previously, and I do wish I had another answer for you, my friend. We certainly don’t wish to insult you, merely share with you the facts as we have found them. At this point in time, since we have done three separate search tickets for it and are still not seeing anything, we do not have any wiggle room on this, though I really wish we did.”
You get the picture. If you’d like to read more cases like this the Reddit posts on the topic are plentiful.
Unless T-Mobile can produce evidence that a customer committed fraud, once the worker signs for a package, there is a legal presumption that the device was delivered. When it continues to bill a customer for the device, T-Mobile is committing an unethical, and perhaps illegal act.
When I informed T-Mobile that I would be blogging about my experience, my case was taken up by a representative named Stephanie. She assured me that I will have the “best experience” moving forward and she would look into options to get the refund completed. T-Mobile will likely come through for us. It always has. But we’re not done with this saga yet. Here’s what remains:
- My mother’s phone return needs to be processed.
- The installment payments for the returned phones need to be refunded. (T-Mobile claims this was done for my phone, but may not be reflected until the next bill.)
- The sales tax for my mother’s returned phone needs to be refunded to her credit card. (I already received the credit for the sales tax on my credit card.)
- Our trade-in iPhones are currently on their way to Assurant. Once they reach the warehouse, they need to be examined and credited. (For the record, both trade-in phones are in mint condition and 100% functional. The liquid contact indicators have not tripped.)
While these remaining items should be straightforward and hassle-free, I am not so sure given everything that has occurred so far. God help me and my mother. (This is coming from someone who isn’t religious.) As always with my customer service stories, I will provide updates.
Update 12/7/20: On Twitter, I provided five T-Mobile executives the URL to this post. I also sent it to Stephanie. Dan, a social media specialist for T-Mobile senior executives, wrote back “It’s very important to us that all goes smoothly for you with your trade-in and that you receive all promo credits that are due to you.” This was a lovely sentiment, but it showed that he didn’t read this blog post carefully. The primary issue is that T-Mobile lost the new phone that was returned to its warehouse.
At 6:27 PM today, we received an email stating that my mother’s phone was received. My mother noticed the following issues in the communications. Maybe she should be hired as a T-Mobile (or Broadridge) user acceptance tester?
- The email says: “Please allow 3-5 business days for your financial institution to process the refund.” The accompanying text message says: “A refund will be issued within 10 business days to the card used for your order payment.” (Emphasis mine.)
- In the equipment refund email, my mother’s first and last name are flipped in the greeting.
Update 12/8/20: Stephanie reached out on Twitter today and processed the financial aspects of my mother’s phone return. The two USPS shipments to Assurant are delayed. Both are in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, according to the tracking.
Update 12/12/20: My mother and I both received “a friendly reminder” text from T-Mobile to return our trade-in phones. We shipped our phones on December 3 and 4, but they are sitting at the USPS Coppell Texas Distribution Center. My phone hasn’t moved from the Coppell in six days. Given the notoriety and news coverage of this particular USPS facility, one must wonder why Assurant doesn’t use a more reliable shipper.
Update 12/13/20: I found a discussion thread on T-Mobile’s community board about lost and delayed phone shipments, some very recent. It seems that some T-Mobile agents are putting the onus on the customer to locate lost phones. It is T-Mobile’s job to deal with lost phones and honor promotions – even if the phones cannot be found. Here’s why:
- The customer followed T-Mobile’s instructions and used the shipping label provided by its agent Assurant/The Signal and T-Mobile.
- Under the terms and conditions of trade-ins, The Signal owns the phone the split second the customer hands the package to the USPS. In other words, it’s not the customer’s phone anymore and not the customer’s problem. Here’s the applicable term: WHEN YOU SHIP YOUR DEVICE TO THE SIGNAL, YOU…(B) TRANSFER OWNERSHIP OF YOUR DEVICE TO THE SIGNAL;
- Assurant is grossly negligent using the USPS, considering that the distribution center used for its deliveries (of high-value items) was kneecapped by the Trump administration.
- It is unknown whether Assurant purchases insurance on its USPS shipments. If it does not, that is a risk that Assurant and T-Mobile bear. The customer was not afforded an opportunity to purchase insurance given the shipping label was provided by Assurant/T-Mobile. Regardless, the customer would not have a legal claim on the insurance, as the phone belongs to The Signal once shipped.
Update 12/22/20: My trade-in phone reached Assurant’s warehouse on 12/14/20. My mother’s trade-in phone was delivered on 12/16/20. We have not received any notifications from T-Mobile indicating that the trade-ins were processed.
Update 1/3/21: The saga is almost over. My trade-in iPhone was received and assessed by Assurant on 12/29/20. My mother’s trade-in iPhone was received and assessed by Assurant the next day. Our text notifications indicate that we received the promised trade-in credits. The extremely long shipping time was due to USPS delays and the fact that Assurant shipped the phones to its York, PA warehouse after arriving in Texas. (On the T-Mobile order status page, Assurant’s address is listed as Willow Sprint Lane. The actual street name is Willow Springs Lane. Perhaps a Freudian slip by a developer?)
On the December bill we received the correct EIP credits for the returned iPhone 12 minis and the new iPhone 12 minis. (The new iPhone 12 minis didn’t get the promo applied on the November bill. Sometimes it takes two billing cycles for a promo to kick in.) The only remaining credits are the trade-in credits, which should appear on the January bill. The credits are already reflected on the online balance.
Update 2/4/21: The January bill included our trade-in “device recovery” credits.