When I last wrote about my problem collecting promised rebates from T-Mobile, the company had assured me that the correct paperwork had been processed and checks would be in the mail. Despite my skepticism, the phone representative confidently stated that all was in order. But this week, a month after that conversation, I spent more time on the phone trying again to coax the promised rebates.
Progress has been made but not easily. To re-cap, on January 5, 2008 I purchased four new phones for $50 each when I upgraded my family cell phone plan. I had been promised a $50 rebate on each once I submitted the rebate form, receipt, and bar codes from the box. In February I received one $50 check and three rejection letters. When I called in February to question the rejection, they reprocessed the paperwork and said the checks would soon be sent. Three more rejection letters came instead. When I called again in March, they repeated the reprocessing of the paperwork. It was the March phone call I last wrote about.
The result was two more $50 checks and one rejection letter. I called this week to recover the remaining $50. But now the story from T-Mobile had completely changed. They refused to issue a rebate on the fourth phone. The reason given is that prior to upgrading my phone plan, I had three phone numbers. Part of my upgrade included adding a fourth phone number. Now T-Mobile claims that the additional phone needed for the new number was not part of the upgrade and not eligible for the rebate offer.
I asked to speak to a supervisor. He listened as I stated the following facts:
• I had been promised a rebate at the time of purchase and the store had issued a rebate claim form.
• I had been told when I called in February that a rebate would be sent.
• I had been assured again in March that all the paperwork had been finalized and a rebate would be sent.
• Only now in April, three months after purchase had I been told that no rebate was available for the phone.
He did not dispute those facts; he just reiterated that no rebate was available.
I asked if I could return the phone and get my money back. He said no.
I asked if I could discontinue the additional telephone line and not have to pay the $200 early termination penalty. He said no.
I said that their business practices were incredibly dishonest. He disagreed by reading to me the fine print on the rebate form I had submitted. It reads:
“No employee, dealer or agent is authorized to make, and no customer is entitled to rely upon, any representation (other than described in this rebate request form) about a rebate or change in any terms of a rebate.”
The call ended, this time, with an absolute no from the supervisor on ever receiving a rebate for the fourth phone.
I find the T-Mobile definition of honesty fascinating. The fine print on the rebate agreement absolves all of their employees and agents of legal responsibility for misrepresenting the rebate agreement. When I submit a rebate claim I agree that no promise made to me will ever be binding. Because I’ve agreed to that condition, no misrepresentation made by T-Mobile can ever violate the agreement. So it is a completely honest agreement.
Of course, this license to misrepresent is only granted to T-Mobile. I am still bound by the conditions I agreed to when I decided to purchase the phone and add the new line, even though their misrepresentation influenced my decision.
Joseph Ganem is a physicist and author of The Two Headed Quarter: How to See Through Deceptive Numbers and Save Money on Everything You Buy