T-Mobile US is now even more "Comcastic" [telecom]

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It used to be that cable companies were known for poor customer service.  
Mobile carriers were more sensitive to competition. Cable hasn't really  
improved. But T-Mobile this year has gone from top-shelf to subterranean  
in service quality. Hence this tale of woe.

I recently moved my office, and I need to keep the phone number. Last  
time I needed to move phone numbers to a neighboring rate center, this  
past summer, I switched them to Google Voice, which forwards them to  
wherever I want, including "invisible" numbers in the new physical rate  
center. But you can't move a wireline number to Google Voice directly.  
They just don't allow it. So the trick is to port the number to a mobile  
carrier, then to Google. And everybody says T-Mobile is the easiest  
mobile carrier to work with -- no contracts, no minimums, and easy SIMs  
for sale. Last summer, it worked perfectly. I got a cheap unlocked  
phone, got a SIM from T-M, ported in the number, forwarded the phone to  
the proper destination, then a few days later let Google Voice port it  
over. I had a little confusion with T-M over the no-data rate plan  
price, but it got fixed.

I tried again last week and it was an entirely different situation. I  
made one mistake, asking for prepaid. Turns out you can't forward calls  
from a prepaid phone, though  you can port it out again. However, T-M  
made a HUGE error. The number they put on the shiny new SIM was one that  
was in collection -- the previous owner was behind on a postpaid bill,  
so whenever I tried to enter the number into T-M's phone jail, it got  
diverted to a recording giving the collection agency's address! I spent  
FOUR HOURS on the phone trying to get past that, but finally gave up,  
went back to the store, and swapped the SIM for another, with a clean  
number on it. And yes, Ms. Jackson, they did reveal the (CPNI) name of  
the previous number holder.

Problem two is that T-M's support for prepaid is execrable. They have  
two prepaid programs, "Legacy" and "Rebellion". New cards are in the  
latter class. And they presumably think that prepaid customers are all  
deadbeats anyway, so talking to a rep takes 45 minutes on hold if you  
get through at all.

But with a clean number, I initiated a number port. I showed the old  
phone bill, with address and account number, to the store clerk. That  
was a Thursday. Ports from cable to mobile usually take one day (as did  
my last two ports). But by this morning (Sunday), no response. So I call  
in. Oh, the port was REJECTED by the old carrier, because the ZIP code  
was wrong. Instead of my (old) ZIP code, they had put down the one for  
Dorchester Center, where I'm guessing one of the store clerks lived. And  
if there are ANY mismatches, the port fails. I asked them to resubmit  
with the right ZIP; I have to wait for a response.

So after a couple of hours of no feedback, I have the store replace my  
Rebellion SIM with a postpay one (credit check, ID check, etc.). And I  
ask for the port to be restarted to the postpaid account. It takes a  
while, but eventually it goes in to the system and I'm supposed to hear  
back within a couple of hours.

Hearing nothing, I call in to the T-M porting center (1 877 789 3106).  
The person there tells me that he will be the LAST one I'll need to  
speak to, he'll get it all fixed. And waddayaknow, the port that I had  
reinitiated this afternoon, to the postpaid account, had a DIFFERENT  
wrong ZIP code on it! They replaced the "from" ZIP code with my new T-M  
bill-to ZIP code. So he thinks he fixed it.

As night wears on, I call in again. Now the number is "stuck". The  
original Rebellion port, rejected, is hanging up the number. And the  
first guy on the phone sees yet another, nonexistent, ZIP code, which  
that "last" guy might have left there. It takes two transfers and again  
over an hour on the phone to Porting to get to someone who thinks he can  
override that. And it takes him a while to get the right ZIP code. So  
he's initiating yet another new request for a port.

At this point it's just waiting... and hoping that I can get RCN to keep  
the number alive after I've left the site where the EMTA is. I will  
leave it in place, the line forwarded, and hope that the landlord hasn't  
got a new tenant coming right in. I've spent many hours on the phone  
with T-M this week and it convinces me that the company has really  
jumped the shark. They used to be the easiest to work with. None of  
their phone employees are in the US (all in Guatemala and Phillipines)  
and most just don't seem to care. They will "stay on the line" with you  
while transferring you to endless hold, taking more calls to keep up  
their scores. It's a mess. John Legere should be ashamed. He should be  
paying attention to his company, not writing cookbooks.

Ironically, this all pointed to a bug in my VZW service. Someone from  
T-M porting called me back and I just missed getting my Verizon  
Blackberry to answer on time. I did not see a voice mail, though they  
later told me they left one. Turns out that Verizon VM to the Blackberry  
KeyONE doesn't work any more! A security fix broke the message waiting  
indicator. I found the fix on Crackberry. It required a call to VZ and a  
level of escalation to second-level support, to change the VM to "basic  
IMS", not "visual IMS", which no longer works on that model. But the  
second-level support person in the midwestern US knew how to do that,  
fixed it, and made a test call, I got the message, and all's well with  
VZ after a 15-minute call. That's support, and one reason (beside the  
fact that the signal is much better!) why I stick with VZW even though I  
don't touch VZ wireline.

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