A Google Search Costs $93!: judgmental customer service edition


    Ahh, this post is really just more of a rant, because I really need to get this off my chest. I have been a T-Mobile customer for years, and up until this point I've had nothing but good experiences with the telecommunications service and representatives. I would happily refer anyone to switch to T-Mobile, because I truly think T-Mobile is the best company in the US that prioritizes data over voice, which more and more smartphone users are trending towards.


    When they said my data plan was unlimited, it truly is unlimited (with no throttling). When someone stole my phone a year ago, I remember the rep on the other line being kind and sympathetic, and actually did some number crunching for me to let me know that upgrading the phone would cost me less money than cashing in the insurance for my existing model. Had he not told me this, I wouldn't have known! When my dad passed and we wanted to disconnect one of the lines on our family plan, it was done without any hassle (and a lot of kindness, considering the circumstances).


    So when I found out before my trip to Japan, that my data roaming in that country would actually be 100% free, and that actually I have basically free data roaming worldwide, I was beyond ecstatic. I didn't bother to check the fine print; I walked away with the (false) assumption that I can travel ANYWHERE in the world and my data would be taken care of. While most of my friends had to buy internet, I was totally set! Of course, calling people and texting people still would cost money, but that doesn't cause any inconvenience for me. All that mattered was having internet, even though it would be on the slower side. An internet connection was the most important thing to keep me from being lost.


    Fast forward to my recent trip to Mongolia. Upon landing, I remembered (from my trip to Japan) that my data was probably free, but a paranoid streak in me told me I should at least double-check. I fired up Chrome on my phone, and searched for the customer service number, forgetting that it was just "611". I have very little issues with T-Mobile, it's not like I call in regularly, so I don't have that little factoid memorized.


    Little did I know, this Google search would end up costing me $93. I REALLY, REALLY hate past-me for being so naive, for being totally dazzled by all of T-Mobiles advertisements of "free data in 140+ countries !!!111". Mongolia is NOT a popular destination; T-Mobile doesn't cover it AT ALL. Each megabyte would be $15, said the rep who answered my call. I thanked her and told her I was very grateful to know this information, because now I knew to turn everything off and NEVER use my phone during this trip unless I had a WiFi connection. I was extremely careful about this the whole trip -- my boyfriend can attest, that even when we got stranded briefly, I still refused to use my phone to search for a way out...


    I come back safely a week or two ago, and then get hit with a bill: $256, a hefty $90ish more than my usual bill of $166/mo. I only know about this discrepancy because an automated text message said my bill was "ready to pay". I just call in today to ask exactly HOW I could have racked up $93 from a simple Google search, which is the only time I knowingly used mobile data.


    I stressed that after the T-Mobile rep told me Mongolia was out of coverage, I IMMEDIATELY switched to "airplane mode" and was very careful to not use my phone for anything that wasn't GPS. I wasn't going to risk anything -- for example, if an app decided to update automatically, I didn't want my phone to be spending data for that without my knowledge. And the irony was, I was using Google in order to find out if I was covered in the first place!! He said that searches apparently go beyond just giving you links, and that if other things loaded (adverts, etc.) and depending on the amount of information loaded on the page, I could have accrued a small number of MBs just by that alone. I apparently used ~6 MB on the plane while it was taxiing to our gate. At $15/MB, that translates to $90. F*** ME


    Again: no social media, no emails, no downloads, no music, no media. A GOOGLE SEARCH TO DOUBLE CHECK IF I WAS COVERED. (I'm still asking myself how?! I'm not a computer whiz but from my preliminary searches, a search return should only be about half a megabyte.) I asked if there was any way to prove I wasn't using it for anything except finding information about my plan. He said the exact nature of my usage was not able to be retrieved, only the official MB amounts.


    And here's where things go a little downhill. I know these reps aren't paid tons of money. And I know that even if I personally tried my best to be patient, polite, and thorough, he probably had to answer tons of other customers before me, some of whom probably had crappy attitudes. But I also wasn't really in the headspace to have this empathy that I'm having now, after I've taken a moment to collect myself.


    His replies and tone throughout the whole exchange initially implied that he thought I was lying (that I was just trying to get money back despite knowing the consequences), and then, when it was clear I was being as honest as I could, essentially ... judgmental? Mocking? His whole line was: "Well, customer service can't do much for you, because you should have researched this beforehand. You should have just looked up Mongolia to see if it was covered BEFORE traveling", leaving out "...you idiot".


    I felt like total s***. Yeah, he's right. I should have looked up Mongolia before traveling. But I was operating under this idea that I had worldwide coverage -- a false one, because apparently that's the plan T-Mobile ONE and not what I currently had (T-Mobile Global Connect?). It was only my paranoia that even saved me. When I learned it would actually cost me a ton of money, I was actually surprised (then relieved/grateful I found out before I started heavily using internet). I thought I had caught myself before I used too much data to begin with, and my extreme carefulness during the entire trip is plenty evidence that I wasn't trying to get stuff for free. There was only one other time mobile data roaming showed up, on July 11th for 0.11 MB. A size that small probably just meant the phone went out of airplane mode in my pocket briefly, and connected the way apps do in the background.


    I have a very young voice, despite being 26. I probably sounded like a squeaky piglet, who was using her mother's dime and not having a care in the world. What he doesn't know is that I actually pay my mom for my phone bill every month (including her share, actually!), and that she's only listed as the primary accountholder because she wanted to have easy access / control over my dad's line, back when he was sick with cancer. He doesn't know that I've been financially independent for five years, and that my trip to Mongolia wasn't some parent-fueled free-for-all, but totally covered by my own labor. He also doesn't know that I spent one week in advance putting together a whole binder on checking in, checking out, itinerary, customs, hospital/medical care, common Mongolian phrases, currency exchange, etc. -- that I'm not some stupid child who went to a country without any fore-planning or responsibility.


    The bored, judgmental tone of his voice drove me nuts. I ended the call by saying I'd like to do more research and thanked him for his time. I really wanted to chew him out, but I had self-restraint. His hands probably were truly tied, since he wasn't able to make any decisions about my account beyond what he was trained to do -- but his attitude was so unpleasant. He was around my age, too (or sounded like it) -- I thought he'd have more empathy about having an unexpected bill that you actually did EVERYTHING you could avoid.


    My one mistake was thinking searching for a T-Mobile customer service number on Google would only cost about $5 or so at most... and my mistake was being taken in with all the advertisements of "free data roaming for 140+ countries!" leaving out the asterisk that... it's 140+ "NORMAL" countries like France or Canada or Italy, not Mongolia, which I guess just isn't normal enough for T-Mobile!


    Thanks for reading my rant. To be honest just writing this out has made me feel better.