Nancy Lands of Radford is what I call a “smart consumer”.
When Landes has a consumer issue with a major company, she picks up the phone and calls their customer service line. But at first she grabs a pen and some papers.
She keeps an accurate chronology of each contact, noting the name of the person she spoke to, the time of the call, how long it lasted and what a customer service representative says to her.
Nancy listens carefully – even to messages recorded on the customer service line. This came to light late in her six-month post of dissatisfaction with wireless carrier T-Mobile.
Unfortunately, the few T-Mobile representatives Landis and her husband Bill have spoken to since March have been of great help.
When Nancy Lands really called you, her main problem was the $449.19 cost from the company. The Landeses believed it should have been abolished. Instead, they were getting calls from bill collectors demanding the amount.
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Bill, 71, and Nancy, 67, were Verizon wireless customers until earlier this year. Then on March 5 the couple switched carriers. They joined T-Mobile after it started offering a package to seniors. The Landeses thought it would save them money.
The contract they signed included two new phones. The problem was that they barely worked in one room of their house and not in the others. Phones barely work in the yard, too.
“From the start with T-Mobile, we had issues with cellular coverage. We live in downtown Radford but the only way I could talk on my phone was if I went out. And then once I got out, I had to stand completely still while talking,” she tells me Nancy.
“I once thought I was going to weed some while I was having a long conversation on my phone while I was outside. Well, every time I leaned in, I would lose the signal and the person I was talking to wouldn’t be able to hear what I was saying!”
The couple first contacted T-Mobile about the issue on March 12, a week after they signed up. Their contract allowed them two weeks to cancel and return the phones.
The first time, Landes said, “Customer service tried to say we were in a low signal area despite our location in a flat downtown neighborhood.”
The March 12 call to T-Mobile wasn’t the last. The Landis family filed a second complaint that month. And another in April, and another four in July.
After one of the calls, the T-Mobile tech support team diagnosed the issue as bad SIM cards. The company sent two new sims. Their reception could not have been better. It could be worse, Nancy said.
“At first, I couldn’t use my phone (to make or receive calls) downstairs in our bedroom and our bedroom – I could only use it upstairs. After that, I could only use the phone in one room: the dining room upstairs. Upper She finally told me, I could only use my phone outside of my house.
In later — and nightly — skirmishes with tech support, “they tried to say we needed to buy some kind of signal booster,” Nancy recalls. That was on July 27. Instead, he demanded that the Landes relinquish their contract. They had enough.
That night, a T-Mobile supervisor named Dominic told them the company would cancel the contract and take back their phones. They attempted to complete the cancellation at a T-Mobile store in Fairlawn the next day. But the store will not accept phones.
A writer told the couple that T-Mobile will send them appropriate packaging in which the phones can be returned to T-Mobile. This never happened, Nancy said, despite them making a subsequent (and fruitless) attempt to get that pack on.
Meanwhile, Landes has partnered with another wireless carrier.
Then this month, Bill began taking calls from bill collectors, charging $449.19 for T-Mobile phones that Landeses had not returned. This was followed by a series of phone calls with T-Mobile customer service representatives. These were in the daytime, which is important.
To sum up what Nancy told me: Daytime customer service reps (based in Richmond) refused to acknowledge that T-Mobile nighttime customer service reps (based in the Philippines) had promised to take Landeses phones back.
To a delegate, Nancy suggested that T-Mobile check their digital audio files. (When you first contact T-Mobile customer service, the rep notifies callers that everything is being recorded.) But the rep refused, and wouldn’t budge on the $449.19 phones fee.
And the company won’t take back the phones, because it’s past the 14-day contract cancellation period. That ended on March 19.
Nancy wrote to me frustrated. Via email, we had a couple of times the next day – I asked and answered questions. In the end she sent me a long and detailed timeline.
Then I reached out via email with Jon Freier, president of T-Mobile Consumer Group.
The message asked Freier if he could help the Landeses obtain the recording in which Dominic promised to get their phones back — or if there was anything else Freier could do to help fix the problem. I’ve included Nancy’s chronology.
I sent this email around noon on September 16th. Three hours later I got an email from Nancy.
All I can say is ‘Wow, wow, wow! “You are a magician!” she wrote.
Minutes earlier, another T-Mobile “John” had called Bill Lands, vehemently apologized for the couple’s less than satisfactory experience and promised to cancel the bill collectors.
T-Mobile’s John told Bill that “while the Better Business Bureau complaint we filed on 9/14 got their attention, it wasn’t until they heard from you that they got it started!” Nancy wrote.
She said she learned five lessons from the experience:
“1. Document, document, document!
2. If the product does not work as expected and promoted, do not accept it!
3. Be persistent and don’t just accept the “nos” you get from countless company representatives.
4. Involve consumer protection agencies such as the BBB.
5. But most of all, when all else fails – you better call Dan! “
“My husband and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You shouldn’t have helped us but you did.” “You rock, Dan Casey!”
I also heard from someone at T-Mobile. (Unfortunately, I deleted this email by mistake.)
But she was extraordinarily generous. And he thanked me for bringing the Landeses’ plight to the company’s attention, and for giving T-Mobile a chance to make it right.