Not going to let a few bad emails stop me from fixing this T-Mobile case!

By | December 29th, 2016

When Angelika Blendstrup and her daughter arrived in France recently, they were certain that they wouldn’t be cut off from their friends and family back in the U.S. After all, they’d carefully selected a pricey T-Mobile plan that they were assured would work in Europe.

But when they deplaned, they found that their mobile phones didn’t work — and they had to pay extra for inadequate service.

The Blendstrups’ story is one of politeness and perseverance when pursuing a customer service claim — especially when it involves international service.

T-Mobile promised both Blendstrup and her daughter unlimited 3G data international service for $70 per month before they departed for France. On the basis of this promise, Blendstrup’s daughter switched providers from AT&T to T-Mobile, and both upgraded their plans to a total rate of $120 per month.

But when the Blendstrups deplaned in France, they found that they did not have even 2G service. Their phone data speeds did not allow them to use their Google Maps apps to navigate their way through France. Nor could they launch their T-Mobile apps for help. According to their phones, there was “no Internet connection.”

The Blendstrups spent five hours on international calls to T-Mobile customer support, but T-Mobile’s agents argued with the Blendstrups rather than offering assistance. Adding insult to injury, T-Mobile billed the Blendstrups $220 instead of $120. Its agents refused to discuss the increased charges with the Blendstrups but merely instructed them to pay the higher rate. Blendstrup was forced to pay an extra $25 per month for a “one plus” plan, which she claims was “minimally better” than the service she and her daughter had.

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Blendstrup then sent a “very polite” email to T-Mobile’s CEO and head of customer care, neither of whom responded to Blendstrup’s email. The only response she received was from another T-Mobile agent who gave Blendstrup “the same canned answers, not any help at all.”

Ultimately, Blendstrup and her daughter said “Adieu!” to T-Mobile and switched to a French mobile service provider. They asked our advocates for assistance after attempting to use the contact information for T-Mobile on our website to escalate their complaint.


T-Mobile’s terms and conditions acknowledge both that T-Mobile may provide reduced or no international service, for which it may charge higher rates:

International Roaming & Dialing: Availability and features offered for international roaming and dialing vary depending on your Rate Plan and Device. All countries may not be available for roaming and available countries may change from time to time…. Whether roaming internationally … you may be charged international rates (including for voicemails left for you and for data usage). This includes per minute rates for calls and per minute rates for calls transferred to your voicemail and the relevant data rates for data usage. You may be charged for more than one call for unanswered calls that are forwarded to voicemail regardless of whether the calls result in an actual voicemail message being left for you and regardless of whether your Device is on or off. Different rates and rounding increments apply in different countries. … While roaming internationally, your data throughput may be reduced and your Service may be otherwise limited or terminated at any time without notice.

So the Blendstrups’ issues with both the reduced service and higher rates are, unfortunately, consistent with T-Mobile’s terms and conditions. Even so, its agents not only failed to deliver on their promises but responded with defensiveness and pushback. That’s not appropriate customer service – even in an industry that isn’t known for treating its customers well.

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Luckily for Blendstrup, she received an email from a T-Mobile agent, who contacted her at the request of its CEO. This agent, whom Blendstrup describes as “very nice,” agreed that T-Mobile would refund her the extra $100 she had to pay for service as well as the $25 she paid to switch mobile services in France.

We have since learned that T-Mobile has reversed and refunded the extra charges to Blendstrup.  Her bad T-Mobile customer experience ended with a cordial “Au revoir!” and a positive resolution of her issues.



  • Dutchess

    Sounds like the problem wasn’t with their data plan but their equipment. European cellular networks operate on different frequencies than US networks. We traveled to France over the summer and my iPhone 6+ worked without a problem but my partner’s iPhone 5s got zero service and refused to connect. He was stuck with an AT&T international data plan he paid for but couldn’t use. Thankfully AT&T refunded the cost of the international plan.
    Always do you research before you go and make sure your device will work in your destination!

  • Bill___A

    Exactly what phone models were they carrying? It is very difficult to find a phone model that “doesn’t work in France” nowadays. Without knowing the model of phones used, I have a very difficult time picturing this scenario. I might even be curious enough to look on T-Mobile’s site to see if I can find a phone like this, but I’m not sure I would be successful. I am starting to wonder if it is a waste of time reading these articles when they are missing very pertinent pieces of information. Quite honestly, if I can’t “picture something” it becomes a frustration. I can’t imagine someone advocating a case like this without learning the phone model, and unless I missed it, I don’t see it here.

  • AAGK

    This never happened at all. Why were they roaming anyway? Roaming is extremely expensive. That button should be switched off. The unlimited data works on wifi so confused about 2g relevance and also, why on earth would she switch from ATT to T mobile.

  • FQTVLR

    T-Mobile does not charge for roaming in most countries. I switched from AT&T to T-Mobile for this reason. Has saved me a lot of money. The only problem I have encountered was on an old device where some sites would not load. Seldom use wifi abroad now.

  • AAGK

    Good info. It sounds like these people were connected to wifi and had the wrong devices. Couldn’t they have also purchased a French SIM card?

  • AAGK

    Are the Blendstrup’s aware maps predate smartphones by bit. Columbus discovered America but an American in Paris can’t check out an actual map?? There are maps everywhere, no data required. I traveled abroad extensively in high school without even a cell phone.

  • This does sound like an equipment problem. T mobile has 3G unlimited international data. It’s a great service.
    My problems were with Apple. They changed the protocols from IPv4 to IPv6 with no manual override. I found my phone didn’t work in several parts of South America because many systems were on the older protocol. The iOS wouldn’t allow me to connect while those with an older phone and iOS did so easily.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I have and like T-mobile service for my family, but the coverage map is spotty in the US, so I’d be cautious about overseas. I can be within sight of the Washington monument on the GW Parkway and not have service, while have four bars a 1/2 mile at sea from Maui.

  • Dutchess

    It’s not so difficult to find a phone that doesn’t work. You would be surprised. If they have new phones or a phone that was compatible the issue may have been that they had data roaming turned off.

  • John Keahey

    We need more information here. I have T-Mobile with unlimited international data and roaming. It’s part of the regular payment plan. No surprises. I go for weeks at a time, and only pay minimal amounts for phone calls, which I use sparingly and keep short. Can’t understand, based on what the advocate wrote, what caused the problem.

  • FQTVLR

    I cannot get a signal in Costco but had no problem in Ladakh India this year. I think cell phone signals are a sideline of the people in charge of airline math.

  • FQTVLR

    If they had an unlocked phone. I did the SIM card thing for years and spend less now.

  • PsyGuy

    My advice if you’re doing something like this is to ALWAYS get a local SIM for your mobile wherever you are going, and then use something like Skype to make your international calls home.

  • PsyGuy

    Suddenly it makes sense.

  • PsyGuy

    I have Softbank service here in Japan and T-Mobile in the US. Both have their problems. Softbank has great 4G service coverage all over Tokyo and Kyoto, except for a few popular holes where there is maybe 2G, the worst part is you pay for data as you use it, so you get free WiFi but the capacity is maybe 5-10 people, and in many spots that quickly overwhelms the capacity and your WiFi slows to a crawl that might as well be standing still.

    In regards to T-Mobile I either have 3-4 bars or I have no bars, and forget about anywhere inside like a shopping center, Costco, Target, etc. Once my service drops down to 1-2 bars it really means no service. I could send/receive SMS with 2 bars but 1 bar is no service.

  • PsyGuy

    Maps doesn’t have navigation. You are here, you want to go here, follow this route.

  • PsyGuy

    AT&T is very expensive on an international plan. My corporate phone uses AT&T and peeked at the line charges for a typical business trip and it was a little over $700/20days before discounting. At&T works, and works well wherever you are in the world, assuming there is some type of available service, but you pay for it.

  • PsyGuy

    Yes, they could have, or they could have rented equipment (SIM or SIM and mobile) and service at the airport.

  • PsyGuy

    I’d say in many countries, but the reliability and stability of the network can vary a lot. You should also understand that when roaming at a T-Mobile subscriber overseas you will be the first accounts to have throttled or diminished services when moving through a congested network area.

  • PsyGuy

    You realize how old the iPhone 5S is now right? It’s not even a current model, and the closest you can find is the iPhone SE, which would have worked in France.

  • Bill___A

    It is a bit difficult. Most every phone nowadays does. Particularly T-Mobile ones. P.S. I travel a lot including Europe and use mobiles as well as wireless hotspots.

  • Bill___A

    Not so bad anymore if you know what you are doing.

  • Bill___A

    iPhone 5’s work in Europe. Must have been a Verizon one

  • Bill___A

    It would have certainly saved a lot of discussion and trouble had the model of the phone been disclosed. Of course I guess it generates more sit traffic to have a discussion speculating what should be a known factor. Advocates, please give us the information that should be known

  • AAGK

    Because Maps are paper and not electronics. Still quite useful

  • PsyGuy

    You can download maps to your device in Google maps and still get point to point navigation.

  • AAGK

    Agreed. I do the 30 day global passport when I travel internationally so all the data is free and discounted texting/calls after you reach some minimum. They usually prorate any unused part if you ask. I’m still stuck on their inability to find their way around Paris without google maps when millions of folks have done it with a regular map just fine since the dawn of time. Apparently there is also one you can download now on your phone that doesn’t require any wireless or data.

  • AAGK

    Or just used a map! :)

  • PsyGuy

    It’s not separate from anything. You can simply download maps for Google maps in advance to your phone. Open Google maps, search for the area you want, such as Paris (you have to be connected to the internet for this), tap more (the 3 dots), tap download (the down pointing arrow). You can then use the maps and get directions and locations, when you’re not connected to the internet or your service is to slow. You can only get driving directions, and no real time updates. The largest area you are limited to is 120,000 sq. ft.

  • AAGK

    Thank you so much. While I advocate standing on corners unfolding maps for other people, I fully prefer google maps for myself.

  • The Original Joe S

    exactly! Get a local SIM card. I do.

  • The Original Joe S

    Fred Flintstone had maps of Paris?

  • The Original Joe S

    Where’s Columbus’ map?

  • The Original Joe S

    I got cellular service in the jungle in TOMFN, Thailand. They whole country has service.

  • The Original Joe S

    or LINE! Better than SKYPE in most instances. I video with my granddaughter in Thailand regularly.

  • cscasi

    My wife and I have T-Mobile and we have used our phones when we travel in Europe (which is about a week a year) over the past 6 years and have not had any real issues. Let’s face it, Deutsche Telekom still owns T-Mobile and is a big player in Europe, so one should have very few issues with making calls, receiving calls, using internet when out and about and certainly using WiFi in hotels (but, sometimes the hotel WiFi system leaves something to be desired). All in all, under our plan, we have unlimited calling, texting and unlimited data (although the data is throttled back to 2G after exceeding the monthly allotment of 3.5 GB for each phone).

  • There two courses of action that would have saved all the headaches . . .

    1 Get an unlocked smartphone that takes a SIM card. Buy a card when you arrive at your destination, and top up as needed.

    2 One doesn’t need data for a GPS. TomTom, Sygic and others have offline maps that you download before hitting the road. I’m a tour guide and rely on them often. Wonderful.

  • jim6555

    T-Mobile’s Simple Choice Plan offers unlimited 2G or 3G data, unlimited international texting and 20 cent per minute voice calls in over 120 countries. France is one of them. I most recently used the service while on a Caribbean cruise that stopped in five nations. Before departing, I checked the T-Mobile website and found that the plan was applicable in all five countries. Each time that the ship arrived in a different port, I had to go into settings/wireless carriers and bring up a list of local carriers. I then chose the carrier with the strongest signal and each time, the carrier allowed me to log on and I was able to use that network for data, texting and voice. Perhaps the user in this case didn’t realize that T-Mobile service in foreign countries isn’t automatic. You have to choose a foreign carrier to make it work.

    The plan that I had at that time cost $40 per month and gave me unlimited calling and texting within and between the US, Canada and Mexico plus 2 gigabytes of 4G-LTE data in the US in addition to the roaming arrangements described above. The phone that I had was locked to T-Mobile. That didn’t seem to matter.

  • AAGK

    Funny! My point is that people can find stuff without iPhones. You can ask for directions or just explore.

  • The Original Joe S

    ASK FOR DIRECTIONS? Only girlie-men ask for directions, right Uhnuld?

  • PsyGuy

    I love LINE it’s what everyone in Japan uses, but you could say that about a lot of the messenger apps like Kik, Wechat, etc.. but with Skype you can get an actual phone number and use it more or less like an actual phone. People can call you by typing in a number, voice mail, etc..

    If you want cheap, another option is to use Google Voice, it’s free you can choose a US based phone number. When you get a SMS it shows up in your Gmail, and when you get a voicemail Google transcribes it into text and you get a Gmail notification.

  • The Original Joe S

    I don’t have Gmail. but thanks for the info

  • Bill___A

    What are you talking about? They don’t use IPV6, they use what the carrier gives. I have iphone 7+ and I assure you it is on IPV4. I am also on the very latest version of IOS. Get some tech support and get your phone fixed so you can find out what the problem is and use it. IPV6 is hardly in use anywhere and no one locks to it only. Not for many years to come.

  • Bill___A

    Methinks the interface between the chair and the keyboard is the problem, since no one will say what the phone model is.

  • doug_jensen

    Yet another case of a well-meaning good-hearted advocate choosing to help rescue a totally clueless consumer. The irresponsible consumer made so many obvious mistakes that could easily have been avoided so many ways–as all the comments here demonstrate.

  • Nathan Witt

    I’m quite sure they’re aware of it. I’m also quite sure that they considered this and then opted for a more advanced solution, since they 1) switched providers and 2) paid for a higher level of service from T-Mobile that was meant to provide data internationally. While it’s always a good idea to do your own research, T-Mobile, who likely sold them the phones along with the service, has some responsibility for ensuring that everything works, especially once they’ve taken money for it. Sprint offers free 2G international roaming to any customer who wants it. No charge. Telling a Sprint customer to use a map if their free service doesn’t work is one thing. Telling the LW that she should be out $120 and then shrug it off and find a map is something else.

  • AAGK

    I didn’t tell the LW she should be out $120 or question the refund. I think you are imagining things. Of course she deserved the refund.

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