My T-Mobile plan is eligible for an upgrade. No, wait — it’s not

T-Mobile reneges on Nicolas Cragnolino’s iPhone upgrade offer. Can this consumer advocate persuade the company to fix this misunderstanding?

Question: I called T-Mobile last year to see if I qualified for the Black Friday iPhone 7 Trade-in promotion. They told me my plan qualified, so I traded in two iPhone 6 devices, which I owned and were fully paid off, for two iPhone 7s.

A representative told me I was only going to pay $99 per device over 24 months, or roughly $4 per device per month, and a down payment of $339 for both devices for the taxes, activation and memory upgrade. The promotion would be applied three billing cycles later.

But when the promotion wasn’t applied, I called T-Mobile to ask why I was still paying $27 per device per month and, to my surprise, they told me my plan wasn’t eligible for the promotion.

From there on, I spoke to several representatives from different departments without any good explanation or solution for my problem. One representative from the “loyalty” department told me she was going to ask for the original call to be pulled where the representative said my plan was eligible for the promotion. If the representative told me my plan was eligible, she said, they were going to honor the promotion and apply it.

She said she was going to call me back on a specific time and day, but she didn’t. So I tried calling back, but every time I called I had to re-explain everything and could never talk to the same person.

In my last conversation with T-Mobile, after speaking to various representatives, one told me there was nothing they could do. She said it didn’t matter what the representative told me about my plan being eligible for the Black Friday promotion. That even if that’s what she said, they wouldn’t honor the deal because my plan isn’t eligible.

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She also told me that as I “voluntarily” traded-in my two iPhone 6 devices, they were not going to send them back to me, even if they didn’t apply the promotion they told me they would. They were not even going to pay me for the phones either.

I feel scammed and mistreated by T-Mobile. They obviously don’t have any consideration for their clients. They didn’t respect the promotion they offered, stole two iPhone 6s from me, and made me buy two iPhone 7s which I now have to pay for in full. Can you help me? — Nicolas Cragnolino, Hollywood, Fla.

Answer: Wow, this was a failure on so many levels, it’s hard to keep track. Misrepresenting an offer? Check. Reneging on a deal? Check. Promising to fix the problem but then doing an about-face? Check.

It’s the perfect case. And by perfect, I mean perfectly awful.

The terms of your trade-in offer certainly look appealing, but as always, the devil’s in the details. And this offer has definitely been naughty, because part of it was conveyed by phone instead of in writing — meaning there’s no record of it.

The paper trail you showed us suggests T-Mobile’s version of the story is right. Your phones didn’t qualify for the upgrade. You signed a contract.

That’s right, it’s T-Mobile’s word against yours. Can you guess who is going to win? Maybe not.

You could have escalated your complaint to someone higher up at T-Mobile. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of T-Mobile’s executives on my consumer advocacy website.

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Then again, you could have turned to me for help in unraveling this spaghetti bowl of twisted and broken promises. I contacted T-Mobile on your behalf, and it offered to credit you the rest of the phones’ installment plan balance, which comes to $1,083. That’s a resolution you’ve indicated you’re happy with.

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

  • Jeff W.

    I have Verizon and not T-Mobile. but when I switch plans/trade phones, I get a very long receipt — probably too long. I assume T-Mobile provides some paperwork that might indicate “Black Friday” on it somewhere. Because that would be at least some proof that you were taking advantage of the promotion.

    But good job to Team Elliott for a successful resolution.

  • cscasi

    Problem is, when you do this over the phone and not in person, you do not get this very long receipt.

  • Jeff W.

    You can’t trade in phones over the phone. There still is a hands-on element to the transaction. Even if it was all done by mail, I would expect a packing slip with a receipt when the new phone was issued. Whether you mail in your old phone first and wait to receive new one or the reverse.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    While I’ve been happy with T-mobile, my local store is staffed with teen experts (i.e. geeks/nerds/whatever) who are very knowledgeable. I once went to a different store and found the staff wanting in ability and concern.

  • joycexyz

    Problems arise when speaking to a sales rep–they’re either ignorant or lying. And without a paper trail…So, always get an offer in writing, and if they’re not willing to do that, hang up.

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