Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How To Lose A Loyal Customer: T-Mobile Edition

I've been a T-Mobile customer for about three years. Mostly, I've been very happy with them. In August, however, I'll be going elsewhere.

Fourteen months ago, I asked them for a new monthly tariff because my original contract had been up for a few months, and so I'd paid off the original handset, and shouldn't be paying any extra every month for it.

Technically this a new contract, so I would be tied in for 18 months, which takes me to mid-August this year. I don't mind this all that much. Them's the rules. I agreed to 18 months at the outset.

Also, as most of the people who read this probably already know, in three and a half weeks I will be going to Tanzania to volunteer for the Hoja Project, and I'll be there for three months (taking me to mid-August).

I thought it would make sense that I ask T-Mobile to suspend my contract for three months. I was sure they wouldn't mind if I simply moved the last three months of my contract. After all, I'm a loyal customer, surely they'd want to keep me happy and paying them money.

I spoke to a lovely girl whose name I didn't catch, who tried her best to help me, but was unable to. She told me that unless I was going away with the Armed Forces (who can suspend their contracts for £3 a month), I couldn't suspend my contract within the initial 18 months.

I explained that I would be back, and I'd be only too happy to still complete 18 months, and that I'd like to remain their customer beyond this period. I didn't want to just suspend my contract indefinitely. She understood. She said it was a perfectly reasonable request, but that there was no way she could do that on the system.

I'd just have to keep paying for my phone while I was in Africa.

So I told her that was ridiculous (not her fault of course, I never had a go at her personally), so I'd end my contract with them when the time came in mid-August. She obligingly followed this through, and my business with T-Mobile will end there. I'll find another network upon my return to the UK.

And then I thought, no.

No, that's ridiculous.

There must be a way.

Surely they don't want to lose a customer. That can't be right. I'll email them.

And so I emailed them. And I played the "unpaid-charity-work" card quite heavily:


I called earlier today with a problem you couldn't help me with. As a result of this I will be leaving T Mobile when my contract ends in August. Which is a shame, because I've been with you for 3 years, and I hadn't had any serious problems until now.

I'm going to volunteer on this project - - and will be out of the country from 18 May until 14 August.

This is an extremely important part of my life and I plan to go out there regularly in the future.

However, you will not suspend my account for 3 months for the period I will be away, because I am within my 18 month contract (which did not include a new phone when it started).

I'm happy to see out 18 months with you, and more, I only ask that it is temporarily postponed while I go and do something important to me. If you are unable to comply with this reasonable request, then I won’t be able to be your customer any longer, for I am extremely likely to find myself in the same position within another 18 months (it's a project I helped set up in my friend's village, and so I have a very strong attachment to it and shall certainly return again).

It’s such a huge disappointment to find you so inflexible. I do hope we can work something out.


I asked them to respond by phone.

I received this response by email:

Thanks for letting me know you'd like to cancel your account Phil.

I appreciate the time you have taken to email me, however, we do not have any way of suspending your line without you paying for it.

I'm sorry to see that you wish to leave T-Mobile Phil, though I do understand its because we cannot suspend you line for the 3 months you need.

There are two ways to close down your T-Mobile phone which I will explain for you Phil.

Although we hope you don't, the first option is to give us one months notice to cancel your account. The phone will run as normal for one month then at the end of this period, your T-Mobile number will be lost and then we'll send you a final bill confirming this.

The second method, is to request you PAC. This is a code which once given to your new network, will transfer your T-Mobile number to your new provider in 2 working days, and by doing this it will also close your line the very same day.

You can get in touch by calling 150 from your T-Mobile phone or 0845 412 5000 from a landline (calls are charged at local rates if you're a BT customer, but if you're with another provider it may cost a bit more so do check). We're here every day from 8.30am to 10pm.

Thanks again for contacting me Phil, and I'm pleased I've been able to help, I do hope you'll reconsider your decision to leave us.

If you have any further questions please feel free to contact me again.

Kind regards.

Brian Gillan

I was confused and shocked for two reasons.

The first is that they really don't seem to care that they're going to lose my business. They have given me step-by-step instructions of how to get lost. They have made no attempt whatsoever to persuade me to stay. Surely there must be some trick they can play to keep me, even if I have to pay for those three months? New phone at a cheaper rate, discount for the three months after I return, something, anything.

Yet, they haven't lifted a finger.

The second reason is the bit that I've highlighted in bold. It's actually quite insulting: I'm pleased I've been able to help.

No, Brian, you have not helped. Perhaps you want to look the word "help" up in the dictionary and see what it really means. What you have done is "replied" or "responded". It's not the same thing.

I think I might ring them again and see if they can offer me some alternative to the suspension of my account. They're not actually trying to get rid of me, surely?


  1. Just called them again.

    They have "no policy in place" that can help me.

    But they do 30-day rolling contracts that are better than the deal I'm on at the moment. So I might go on one of those when I get back. But I'll probably go with something similar somewhere else.

  2. perhaps port your number to tesco or asda prepaid as they have long gaps allowed between topups, if you're after somewhere to park your number? asda very cheap calls, or you could just port it back to some other network when you return...


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