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Q: Last night I went to the Burlington, Massachusetts T-Mobile (formerly VoiceStream) store to sign up for a 5-number Family Time. I was replacing a 3-number Cingular plan having been unable to resolve some issues with their customer service, and I wanted new phones and non-roaming coverage in Southern New Hampshire. At $10 each, the two family members whom I visit in SoNH were going to join, since we might actually use the free intra-family (intra-carrier) feature, and they have no cell phones now. The deals explained to me last week there and on this forum (free 3390, waived activation) were no longer in effect, but the manager said if I signed up then he would make it happen. Good, and I said go ahead. The credit check said they could give me four phones under those terms, but a fifth phone would require a $250 deposit. I wasn't comfortable with lending T-Mobile $250 for a year with no interest for the privilege of buying service from them, so no fifth phone. We went with four phones, and the recipients of that 4th now has 48 hours to figure out if it will work for them, especially considering that calls to would-be number 5 will not be free intra-carrier calls. What type of credit does it take to qualify for 5 post-pay numbers? (I have a blemish-free record, own a home, have a good income, although I am a bit extended.) I've had post-pay cellular service for more than 6 years. What does T-Mobile think I will do to hurt them with 5 phones that I can't do with 4 phones? What does it take to appeal their decision? Can would-be #5 vouch for himself on his credit record?
A: That would be nice. You have a remarkable faith in VS' credit department to be competent and reasonable. As a Brit who recently moved to NYC, I had to pay $600 - and that was despite not getting their subsidised phone as I recycled my 8890. The reason given was that at the time I had not yet been sent the actual SSN card, although I knew the number. I did have a letter from my employer (an investment bank) and all number of other pieces of supporting info, but no dice. I needed the phone so I agreed, thinking I could revisit the subject later. I now do have the SSN card, and all the above documentation has been good enough for various other credit providers. I am not getting instant credit, it usually requires a call to a competent and reasonable credit department - but that's fine, I appreciate I am (currently) an unusual case and that's their job. With VoiceStream however they have told me - and always through customer service because the credit people will not speak to me directly - that there is _no way_ to get that $600 back before the one-year anniversary, even though my circumstances have changed in the meantime. They will not even _consider_ it. This has me hopping mad - somehow if in their little parallel universe they thought there was a real risk I would make hundreds of lengthy calls to Bangladesh or wherever and then skip the country, I would not object to paying a deposit. I do object to their not being bothered even to have another look. Two footnotes are, firstly, that T-Mobile in the UK typically charges a ??200 deposit (around $300) for similar situations so I am not sure why T-Mobile / VoiceStream here requires so much more. The second is that the clowns at VoiceStream misapplied my deposit as a credit on my bill so even though they could _see_ that somehow my account was massively in credit, technically they did hot have the "deposit" per se. Simple problem to fix? Hardly. It took a further six weeks of dealing with mind-numbingly stupid people and faxes of their own documentation before they would turn on the international access which was the only reason I need VoiceStream in the first place. I did not have a breath of an apology - indeed, I think they thought I was unreasonable for getting upset about it. Upshot? Customer service sucks, and faith that the credit department will have someone who perhaps takes a second look at cases the computer rejects is, in my experience, optimistic. (If you, reader, work in credit in VS and are incensed that I paint your department as a bunch of morons, I can only go on experience. And it has been shocking. Send me a mail with your extension number and we'll talk - it would be wonderful to find a non-moron. Not holding my breath though.) The service itself - GSM - is of course great, but I knew that already. VoiceStream plans are also very competitive, so as a company they're doing a lot of things right from my point of view. But just none of the ones where I need to speak or deal with any of their representatives. Since I activated with VS Cingular has come to New York and I guess by the time my contract is up we should be closer to an agreement on number portability. Can't wait.
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