[Editor’s note: Dwight Silverman switched from AT&T to T-Mobile for his family’s wireless plans in April 2018 and has been writing updates about the experience. ]

In early September, I wrote about upgrading to a new version of the T-Mobile wireless plan for customers 55 years and older. The new plan would give me 4G hotspot speeds instead of 3G, and I was told that I’d be paying the same price as before.

Well, scratch that. I logged onto my T-Mobile account page on Sunday to discover that my rate had gone up by a whopping $60 a month.

It turns out the agent who had promised no increase made a mistake because we had a third line on our account for one of our adult kids. That line was added under a promotion for just $20 a month, and I’d been told it would not be affected by the switch.

Unfortunately, that was wrong. Because the Magenta 55 plan I switched to couldn’t accommodate a third line, the account was bumped up to the pricier Magenta Plus 55 plan without my approval, and all three lines went to full price. My $110 monthly payment was suddenly $170 a month. (I was actually looking at $190 bill on Sunday, but only because my wife had texted a donate $20 to a charity, which is billed through the carrier.)

AFTER 8 MONTHS: So far, so good with the T-Mobile switch

When I saw the higher bill, I was shocked because clearly a promise made to me had not been kept. To make matters worse, I’d received no notification that my monthly rate had increased, or that I’d been placed on a plan I had not requested.


And initially I was incensed because wireless carriers have a long history of pulling rate-hike shenanigans. I didn’t know what had happened yet, but I had flashbacks to the bad old days of cell-service “slamming and cramming”.

I hopped onto a chat session on T-Mobile’s website and spent some quality time with an agent named Keith. And it was a LOT of quality time. Our chat session began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 12:34 p.m. Keith spent a good chunk of time away from the chat, apparently checking on things, and at one point warned he’d be away for 25-30 minutes. This was not an issue for me at the time, because I was working at my computer anyway. But if I’d had somewhere to be on a sunny Sunday morning, it might have been very annoying.

Eventually, he figured out the problem.

ROAD TRIP!: Taking our new wireless service to San Antonio

Keith couldn’t give me what I’d signed up for originally, so I requested to be rolled back to my original plan. But that was no longer offered, so he couldn’t just click a few checkboxes on a computer form and revert. He was going to have to kick this to another office that had the power to reinstate my old plan — and he promised he’d make sure this would happen.

Given the situation, I was feeling a little skeptical.

Keith was able to manually remove the additional $60 from my bill for this billing cycle, and assured me I’d get back to my monthly $110 rate.

Keith was not, however, able to explain to me why there’d been no notification. By the way, I ordered the updated plan on Sept. 5, but it was not to take effect until Sept. 28. So T-Mobile’s operatives had 23 days to discover the issue and contact me about it before it kicked in.

I reached out to T-Mobile spokesman Steven Carlson and asked what the carrier’s policy was on letting customers know about changes to their plans. He promised to get back to me.


Shortly afterwards, I got a phone call from Martin Gonzales, a senior specialist on T-Mobile’s executive response team. Like a lot companies, T-Mobile has a group that specializes in dealing with customer service issues that bubble up to the C-suite level. He was calling, he said, from the office of the president.

Gonzales said that I should have received a text message telling me that my plan had changed. He said this incident will serve as a “teachable moment” to improve T-Mobile’s system.

But he also said that T-Mobile has no formal process for letting a customer know when a service request change cannot be made. Gonzales said it would be up to the individual agent’s initiative, when he or she discovered an error, to reach out to the customer.

“We will have to get with the agent and see exactly what happened,” Gonzales said.

RELEASE NOTES: Subscribe to Dwight Silverman’s weekly tech newsletter. It’s free!

Before he hung up, Gonzales also said he’d make sure I’d get back to my old wireless plan, as Keith had promised. After we talked, I checked my account and, sure enough, I’m back to my original plan with its dog-slow 3G tethering.

In a later email, T-Mobile spokesman Carlson said the carrier sends out more than two dozen kinds of text notifications related to different types of account changes — but they don’t include the kind of notification needed in my case.

“Our system can’t flag discrepancies between what was discussed between the rep and our customer, and what’s actually feasible in the system,” Carlson wrote. “My best guess is the rep thought they were making the right changes on your behalf but was mistaken.”

I don’t believe the “Un-carrier” did something underhanded. This was a mistake made by an agent that was compounded by a lack of communication. T-Mobile generally has very good customer service, but all it takes is one bad experience to change that perception.

And the moral of the story: Check your wireless bill, particularly after you’ve made a change in your service, regardless of who the carrier is. You never know what surprises may await you.

dwight.silverman@chron.com

twitter.com/dsilverman

houstonchronicle.com/techburger

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