Sherry E at T-Mobile wants more of your money after your phone is stolen (don’t worry, it’s for your protection)

Ah, red tape! There’s no worse time to run into it — bunches and bunches of it, in this case — than when your property is stolen and you’re just trying to do the right thing.

Such is Bruce Scotton’s dilemma. After his T-Mobile cell phone was swiped from his checked luggage on a flight from Panama City to Los Angeles, he immediately reported it to the company — but not before the thief ran up $103 in charges. T-Mobile agreed to spilt the difference with him, but Scotton believes he shouldn’t be liable for any of it, since he reported the theft as soon as it happened.

Who’s right? Scotton’s obligations are outlined in paragraph 13 of T-Mobile’s terms and conditions.

Your Right to Dispute Charges. If you have a dispute regarding your bill or charges to your account, you agree to notify us of the dispute within 60 days (20 days for Puerto Rico customers) after the date you first receive the disputed bill or charge (“Dispute Period”), unless otherwise provided by law. If you do not notify us of your dispute in writing within this time period, you may not pursue a claim in arbitration or in court.

My advice was to try to recover the balance by sending a brief, polite email to T-Mobile. Problem is, T-Mobile doesn’t want your emails. It does, however, offer a chat option with customer service.

So Scotton struck one up with a T-Mobile employee named Sherry E.

Here’s an edited version of the conversation:

Sherry E: We can definitely submit a request to have the full amount credited to your account.

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Bruce Scotton: How abut crediting it now? I have been requesting long enough.

Sherry E: While the investigation is going on, we will need to adjust the credit of $50.60 that you have been credited already.

Bruce Scotton: What does that mean?

Sherry E: If you want to continue with this it has to be forwarded to another department for investigation. If they investigate and determine that the credit is due, they will credit you for the full amount including the taxes.

Bruce Scotton: What is there to investigate? And what do you mean “While the investigation is going on, we will need to adjust the credit of $50.60 that you have been credited already.”

Sherry E: We have a process that we have to do when a California customer claims that their phone has been lost or stolen. It has to be forwarded to our Risk Assessment Department.

Bruce Scotton: Please answer my second question above about the meaning of what you wrote. I do not understand it.

Sherry E: We have to remove the credit that was already applied to the account. The reason for this is because we will need to file a claim for the whole amount to the other department.

Bruce Scotton: That is no help! You want to make the situation worse? Make the claim for the remaining part.

Sherry E: I am sorry, I can not do that.

Bruce Scotton: You certainly do not have my authorization to remove any credits or funds in my account.

Sherry E: I am sorry then we can not file a request for the rest of the refund then. You will have to be satisfied with the agreement that you already accepted, or we can follow the proper channels and hopefully get the full refund.

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Bruce Scotton: I am sorry that your service has been so poor. It has now been 50 minutes since I started this process. You have not helped me but taken quite a bit of my time and contributed nothing. The misuse of my time piled atop the poor service is not acceptable service.

Sherry E: I am sorry, I am following our policies and procedures that are set in place for your protection.

Bruce Scotton: These policies are clearly to benefit the company and not the customer.

Sherry E: Sorry you feel that way. Is there anything else we can assist you with today?

Bruce Scotton: No thank you.

Sherry E: Thank you for contacting T-Mobile Chat, and thanks for being part of our family since 2002. Have a great weekend.

I contacted T-Mobile on Scotton’s behalf and forwarded the correspondence. It didn’t respond.

I don’t really see how policies that would remove money from your account would be there “for your protection” and I’m troubled that T-Mobile would simply throw the book in a customer’s face.

Scotton deserves a straight answer from the company.

(Photo: Pack matt/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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