Dear T-Mobile, thanks for wasting my time!

By | May 9, 2014

Dear T-Mobile,

In my life, I am blessed in many ways. I have a wonderful family; I am part of several great communities; I have a good job I love with people I respect and learn from every day; I have a roof over my head and enough food to eat.

However, like many other people, the thing that is in shortest supply in my life is time. And the time I can’t afford most of all, the time that drives me crazier than anything else in my life, is the time I am forced to waste dealing with other people’s incompetence. And this is why I am writing to you today to register two complaints, one general and one painfully specific.

Your web site is awful. I mean, truly terrible. I’ve used it many times, from exploring the possibility of becoming a T-Mobile customer, through placing the orders to move my family of cell-phone users from Verizon Wireless to T-Mobile, through managing my T-Mobile account, to trying to arrange to trade in our old phones as part of your early-termination-fee reimbursement promotion. I can honestly say that I have not had a single interaction with your web site, not one, in which I felt that its performance was adequate.

I’m not just talking about poor UX design choices, though there are quite a few of those. I’m talking about honest-to-goodness failures of the site. Here are just a few of them, though certainly not all the ones I’ve experienced:

  • Trying to compare the prices of the various phones you sell requires clicking through to all of them individually, because all you display on the index page is “$0 up front,” not the full phone price.
  • Pages on regularly failing to display properly in too many ways to list.
  • Pages on displaying drastically differently when you load them twice in a row.
  • telling me I’m not eligible to add a line account, then changing its mind and telling me that I am when I refresh the page.
  • Frequent error messages about the site having technical difficulties telling me to try again later.
  • AJAX queries driving dynamic page content that apparently fail as often as they succeed.
  • Slow, SLOW, SLOW page loads pretty much all the time.
  • When I am logged out of the site due to inactivity, the login form on the auto-logout page doesn’t work.
  • When I view your site in Google Chrome on a Nexus 5, it refuses to display the full desktop version of the site even when I tell Chrome to ask for the desktop version.
  • On my Nexus 5, the “Trade-in now” link under “Other links” on the shop page brings me now to the “Trade-in now” page, but rather to a blank page or the “Trade-in status” page.

I could go on and on and on, but I’m sure you get the idea. These are not merely isolated problems. This is not something you can fix by going down a punch-list of bugs and fixing them one by one (although God knows that would be a good start!). Your web site is rotten to the core. You need to fire everyone responsible for building and maintaining it and replace them with people who actually know what they’re doing. Maybe you should call the people who fixed the ObamaCare web site and offer them oodles of money to do the same thing for yours.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let me tell you the specific problem that finally prompted me to feel the need to trash you on my blog.

I ordered three phones for your web site to replace three Verizon Wireless phones. After the T-Mobile phones arrived and my family had spent enough time using them to know that we were satisfied with them, I returned to your web site to arrange to trade in our old phones so that we could get reimbursed by you for their Verizon Wireless early termination fees.

I was able to arrange the trade-ins for two of the three phones without any trouble. But when I went to trade in the third phone, a Galaxy S III Mini, I discovered that it was not listed in the drop-down as one of the valid options for Verizon Wireless Samsung phones to trade in. At this point I initiated a live chat with your support team to find out how I could go about trading in that phone.

After I explained my problem, the chat support agent went away for a couple minutes to ask someone else what I should do, then came back and informed me that I should bring the old phone to a store and they would be able to arrange the trade-in there. “So let me just make sure I’ve got this straight,” I typed. “I bring the old phone I want to trade in to a T-Mobile store, and they’ll be able to arrange the trade-in that I can’t arrange on the web site, and they’ll ship the phone back to you for me. Is that correct?” The chat representative confirmed that I had understood the instructions correctly.

So off I went to the T-Mobile store. After waiting ten minutes for one of the staff there to free up, I explained my problem. The staff member who was helping me had no idea what to do. She insisted that what the chat support agent told me was impossible; she said they simply had no way to arrange in the store a trade-in for a phone already purchased over the web. She called over the store manager, and he said the same thing. Finally, she called customer support. She explained the problem to them, and they told her to send me back to the web site, where if I looked again I would find that I could select “Generic” in the drop-downs to trade in a phone whose model wasn’t listed explicitly.

I wasted my time shlepping to the T-Mobile store, waiting there to be served, explaining the problem to the agent there, listening to her explain the problem to her manager, listening to her explain the problem again to the customer support request, and then shlepping home from the store, all because your chat support agent wasn’t trained with the information I needed, and the person whom s/he went to ask about my problem also wasn’t trained with the information I needed, and instead gave an answer which was completely, 100% wrong.

You need to do better.


Jonathan Kamens

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