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ATT vs. T-Mobile

For the last 10+ years Jen and I have been customers of ATT. We do not upgrade phones annually like some people. My phone upgrades went from the amazing Nokia Bar phone to an iPhone 3. From that 3 series I went to an iPhone 7 and got one for Jen at that same time. Every time we upgrade or make a change, things happen.

nokia phone
Image from Ebay. Greatest Phone EVER

I feel like I would be more open to upgrading my phone if I didn’t always dread the billing issues or other overly complicated issues ATT has thrown our way. In 2022 Jen and I decided to upgrade our phones to the 13 series. Lets explore what happened –

Setting Things in Motion

Jen and I went to take a look at the latest iPhone 13 at Target one day. We had decided it was time to upgrade our phones because the cameras were just not up to standards for the day. Am I the only one that finds it odd that an upgrade for my phone is prompted by a failing camera?? Either way, we spoke to the Target employee and decided to make the purchase.

The deal was I could trade in our existing phones, apply the credit to our monthly bill and purchase 2 new phones. I handed over one of our current phones while he processed the new order. There was no mention of any activation fees or issues with paying cash for the phone instead of using their financing plan. Jen and I paid the balance for two brand new iPhone 13s, and were told that our current bill would be unchanged since we didn’t want to change our actual service plan.

Buyers Remorse

The next day I received an email detailing the recent changes to my plan. This email also stated that I now needed to pay $300 dollars for phone activation fees, service line fees, and also noted that my bill was going from $88 per month to $128 per month. Again, nothing changed on our service. We were not told there as any activation fees either. I was under the impression I paid for the phones and put SIM cards in them so we could go on our way with our $88 monthly bill.

I spent several hours on the phone with customer service at that time. They informed me that the discount that was applied to my bill previously was no longer valid because I was not using their monthly installment plan to purchase the phones. I would also not recieve the trade-in value of the phone Target had taken from me because that too was only valid if I was making payments on the devices. After a very heated discussion and multiple threats to cancel my service outright, the rep was able to adjust my bill and waive the activation fees. It magically went from the $300 one time fee to $0 and my monthly bill was now $103. I wasn’t happy but I was okay with the outcome because the rep did end up changing our service plan to the maxed out one that included HBO max.

Shaking Things Up Again

Over the last year I had been exploring the alternative options of finding a new cell service provider. Verizon was just as convoluted as ATT in their pricing model and didn’t seem to have the customer reviews to justify the price tag. I had previously never thought about T-mobile because a decade ago when I was last shopping for a wireless provider, their network had minimal coverage.

Based on todays coverage maps, most cell phone companies have adequate service pretty much everywhere that people live. This became a non-issue. T-mobile popped up on the map after speaking to people about my ATT experience. I still had not made the decision to change because everything had been functioning smoothly without having to invest any effort to maintain my phone.

Growing Pains

Recently Jen and I decided to add a third phone line for the kids. Our thought process was that this would prevent them from constantly taking our phones to watch videos or play games. They could also face time their friends and other family members. I discussed with a few other physicians to get their take on the best age to get a phone for your kids. The consensus seemed to be around 10 depending on maturity and your personal relationship with your kids.

Jen and I had previously given our oldest daughter an old phone to use on the home wifi. She of course destroyed the screen within a few weeks and I decided we should replace it for her. I had originally decided to upgrade my phone this year because I wanted the telephoto camera for our road trips. The 13 and 14 series offers this as an option on the pro models. Our daughter however, did not want my phone because it would not fit her current phone case.

Identity Crisis

Phone cases are apparently a huge deal. My wife has made that abundantly clear. Your case is an extension of your personality and has rapidly become an identifying characteristic of who you are. Replacing your phone now means you are replacing a part of your identity. This essentially limited my options to replacing her phone with an older model. Luckily the apple store still had the iPhone SE in stock and this fit the cases for the 7 and 8 models. Our daughter was able to get an adequate replacement phone and I was able to still upgrade the technology to the SE.

unicorn phone case

Best Intentions

We purchased the phone and proceeded to take it to the ATT store. Our intention was to simply add a phone line to the account. I specifically asked the rep that if it was going to be an issue, I would rather not do it. The rep pulled up my account and said “this is straight forward” and assured me I would be done in no time.

We spoke about prices and ultimately settled on the same plane Jen and I had. This effectively increased our bill from $103 to $119 per month. No mention of any other fees or expectations. Once I agreed to the change and off he went to make it happen. I had to log in multiple times on various screens as he tried to access the areas needed to make the changes. I again explained to the rep that I was one bad experience away from dropping my account entirely.

The rep set to work across the table on his tablet. I could see his face experience multiple different emotions all at once. The confusion quickly turned to frustration as he decided to move from the tablet to a desktop. Perplexed by what he was seeing on his side, he opted to retrieve his manager. The manager then came over and visibly experienced the same series of emotions before asking additional questions.

The Ticking Clock

Every action movie has the infamous ticking clock. There is always some type of critical deadline to meet or the world will end in a ball of fire. In every parents case, that ticking clock is their children. I began checking the clock because Jen and I still had to pick up the kids from school. 2 hours had already passed. I explained to Jen that she could leave me here and go get the kids and then come back for me. The rep and manager assured us that we would be done in a few moments. Jen stayed for another 30 minutes but then had to leave.

She called me about 45 minutes later to see what the status was. I updated her that the rep was now on the phone with ATT customer service. They were still unable to sort out the issue with my account. They decided to delete parts of the account and re-enter them. I had now invested a total of 4 hours into this “straight forward” line addition.

Empty Promises or Error of Omission?

They got the new line set up and were able to get my phone functional again. I left the store with a new phone line and under the impression my bill would be $119. There was no mention of any service activations fees or other charges. My sole understanding was that I added a line to my plan and the next billing cycle would be $119. I was frustrated at the experience but content with that outcome.

The next morning I awoke and checked my email. There was a receipt from AATT indicating the changes to my account. I obviously wanted to see what they had done. What I found was a bill for $435 and that my next monthly payment would be $307. I literally went in to the store to add a single line to an existing plan with a phone that was already paid for and in my possession. This resulted in a one time charge of $435 (more than the cost of the new phone) and a $200 increase on my existing bill.

phone bill

The Time Commitment

The store didn’t open until 10am so I had a few hours to ruminate over this. I went online and started chatting with a rep from T-mobile. I explained the situation and was met with the option to move my numbers over to T-mobile for no activation fees and a monthly cost of $112. The rep explicitly told me the activation fee would be waived. The ATT reps didn’t even bring that stuff up and just decided to charge me.

I had agreed to make the switch. Even after agreeing to the switch, the rep continued to hammer me with discounts. T-mobile would give me 3 lines for $112, free Netflix, free appletv+, and I would also get $200 cash for every phone line I brought over from ATT. 3 lines from ATT became a $600 rebate from T-mobile. Insane how this was happening.

I called over to ATT once they opened. I asked them about the charges but got some political answer with no definitive response on what to do about it. They asked me to come back down to the store so they could go over my account with me. I politely told them that I was not blaming them for their efforts but their corporate overlord was not doing them any favors. I advised them to leave my account alone because I will be cancelling it once I get the numbers ported over to T-mobile.

Its a Changing World

We ultimately made the switch that day. It took T-mobile an hour to set up the account and mail out the SIM cards to me. I received them on a Tuesday and was Abel to port the numbers over that night. I now have 3 phone lines for $112 like I had originally intended. No hassles, no hidden fees, and got $600 in return for bringing my own numbers over. This change also lowered my monthly expenses due to my other streaming bills of Netflix and appletv+. This is a huge annual savings.

This is not a sponsored post. No one has paid me to make these statements. This is the actual story of why I made the change from ATT and moved to T-mobile. The moral of the story is don’t let your loyalty blind you. If there is a better way to do something, you should explore the options. ATT is not inherently bad. This is typical behavior from a company that grew so large, individual customers are no longer important to them.


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