Puerto Ricans Seeking Savings in T-Mobile@Home Find Short End of the Stick
Since VOIP calling began, Boricua have been on the cutting edge of it. Just placing simple calls to new friends and old family that once cost a fortune became virtually free almost overnight. The most popular method of calling the mainland early on was cell phones, specifically those with any number of assorted "free minutes". Now it's all about Skype, Vonage, and to the regret of some early adopters of it, the terribly mis-marketed T-Mobile@Home.
T-Mobile is a well established player in communications, having gone nationwide as VoiceStream back in the 90s. When number portability for cell phones came about, allowing users to take their numbers with them when changing carriers, T-Mobile was the biggest gainer in market share (as opposed to Cingular who lost so much their name is even gone.) It was customer care and friendly knowledgeable salespeople that set them apart, though the industry leading shortest call hold times helped too.
So when it comes to this T-Mobile at Home product and the experiences almost universally experienced by Puerto Ricans, the only conclusion I can come to is that they've come up with the world's most perfectly engineered screw-up system ever devised to destroy a product before it even has a chance to live.
Personally, I first saw an ad for T-Mobile@Home a couple years back, right when it first hit the market. The marketing was curiosity inspiring enough to make me call and find out if it was the next big thing I just had to have, and I couldn't have been given more inaccurate, inept information if I'd asked a homeless man to just guess at what it was.
I was told I'd need to buy a new dual mode cell/Wi-Fi phone which would connect me to cell towers or Wi-Fi (at Starbucks, or the nearby router of another @Home user, just as all of them would be getting on to make calls through my internet connection.) I don't recall what the price was, I just knew I didn't want any part of that system.
Turns out it was complete imagination on the part of the sales rep. That has to count as a big victory for the screw up machine.
Fast forward to last month when we decided to change our office line (the boss's old home Vonage line) over to T-Mobile. They've got enough kinks worked out to sell the product, but apparently not with any honesty, good faith or intent to support it.
With these mistakes and others we've heard reported, it's no wonder that T-Mobile has a product that costs half of what the competition charges, and yet they still lose ground by leaps, bounds, mounds and miles to companies like Vonage (zero customer support), Comcast (four-times the price) and Skype (still an inconvenient technology.)
It's a really great product, and the price is really great too, but again, they've apparently worked very hard to develop this screw-up machine specifically to kill it, and so far they're doing a bang-up job.
We were told upon order there would be no cancelation fee, and that the modem would be sent out for us to install, and the number would be ported over at that time… Instead they just randomly picked a day (they still swear somebody specifically authorized it, even though all of us knew there would be no one in the office to even receive it.)
So we don't know where the modem is (on the porch? Stolen? Returned to sender?) and our office line is disconnected. They asked if we could have a neighbor go install it, but we don't know any of our neighbors well enough to ask them to break in and attempt to connect a network device and test it.
But the screw-up machine isn't quite done. We called to get it fixed, and they not only told us it was our fault, but that the only option was to pay them to cancel the line… did I mention the line had a mysterious $35 fee just to set up we were never told about? Now we have to pay a cancellation fee plus the shipping to return the modem, and this is just for the luxury of having our phone shut off for a week or two.
When we get the number ported back to Vonage, it will never be quite the same. That's just how porting works. The more times you move a number, the more it degrades and encounters error. This problem cannot be undone.
Essentially what it came down to was my boss asking T-Mobile to give him an account credit of $5, and they said no. He really plead a good case, but whomever was on the other end just wasn't interested in hearing it… then when my boss asked him not to speak to him in such a condescending tone, he hung up on him.
Don't worry though, he called back and successfully disconnected the office line… and all six of our staff cell phones as well. Did I mention we run web accounts? T-Mobile gave up about $400 a month over a $5 disagreement.
So not only did the T-Mobile at home service ruin itself, it actually undid years of goodwill on the mobile side, and all they could do was just let it slide and watch it die without regret.
If you're looking for an international calling carrier, talk with your friends and neighbors and really dig deep to find out what they're paying and which services work out. Unfortunately we can't recommend one at this time, but we can say that Vonage has a history of refusing to pay commissions to their publishers, Comcast costs four-times what it should, and T-Mobile@Home is arguably the worst product of them all. They lie to make the sale, they don't support it afterwards, and we have yet to find a single consumer with a single success story.
The product may be a stroke of genius, but we can't know it yet because the people dealing with it are so incompetent… however, if you sign up for it in conjunction with your existing T-Mobile account between now and December 19th, 2008, you'll receive a free companion ticket good for travel without blackout dates between February 2009 and February 2010… that's got to count for something, right?