T-Mobile. It’s like Kafka, but with hold music.

I recently switched from my beloved BlackBerry to a shiny T-Mobile MDA. I’m impressed by the new device, but the process of dealing with T-mobile to make the switch was a total nightname.

I won’t go into the details of the initial transfer, which involved porting my cellphone number from one account to another, but let’s just say that I spent at least 4 hours on the phone with T-mobile reps trying to get the mess they created sorted out, and lost much of my hair in the process. But it all got sorted out in the end, and I thought I’d put it all behind me.

I’ve had the phone for about 6 weeks now, so I’ve just seen the first bill for a full month’s service. Beyond the basic minutes plan, theres a $30/month charge on top so that I can access the Internet (and thereby my email) from the MDA. I love the way it syncs with my work’s Exchange server, much sweeter than the Blackberry, but $30 is pretty steep just for email, which is why I got the MDA in the first place. Anyway, that 30 charge is broken up two line items, cryptically described as “Discounted HotSpot Unlimited” ($14.99) and “VPN Total Int Addon”. Now, I don’t use a VPN for email, and I don’t use T-Mobile hotspots, so I thought I’d check if I could make things cheaper by eliminating one or both of these services.

No dice on that front: after calling T-mobile customer service the first rep I spoke with informed me they were bundled together (the “T-Mobile Total Internet” plan), and they were needed if I was going to get email on my device. Oh well.

Then I thought, well, at least if I can also use Wi-Fi on my laptop in Starbucks thanks to my T-mobile Hotspot subscription, it might be worth it. Let’s just check with the rep if that’s possible. She passed me onto another rep. He said I needed to transfer my SIM card into an Airphone card in my laptop, which I dont have. I said this seemed rather impractical, so passed me onto a third person who didn’t know if what I wanted to do was possible either. Finally I got transferred onto a Hotspot rep, who might have known but wouldn’t tell me, because the name on the account in their records wasn’t what she expected. (The phone account is in Jay’s name because we share minutes, but the Hotspot people only know about me, because Jay doesn’t have the Hotspot feature.) I was about an hour into the call by this point, and gave up. When I told that 4th rep I was out of time and about to hang up she casually mentioned all I needed to use my laptop in Starbucks was my phone number and the last 4 digits of the account holder’s social security number! At last! I haven’t actually tried it yet, but at least it sounds plausible.

I’m just not sure it was worth 60 minutes of my life, let alone $30 a month, though.

2 thoughts on “T-Mobile. It’s like Kafka, but with hold music.”

  1. i’ve found with any cell provider, simply calling back and getting a different rep makes all the difference. there seems to be zero consensus when it comes to the information provided to them and sometimes they will argue with you on principle…much like i will argue until that extra $2.50 charge i didn’t expect is eliminated.

  2. I’ve had T-Mobile Hotspot service on and off; its price is slightly less scandalous if one already has cell phone service from them as I do. It’s convenient when travelling, since almost every Starbucks (and Borders) has Hotspot service, and those are ubiquitous (but don’t expect it to work in the airports, because AT&T seems to have all of that business).

    The one good thing about having the service in Seattle is that — at those times when everyone wants to sit in a café and use the Internet — Starbucks locations aren’t as likely to be packed with campers. (Zoka should charge rent for their tables.)

    Some locations also have more secure WPA encryption, so if you want more security, look for it; however, I also have more trouble with dropped connections with the WPA and usually choose WEP instead.

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