T-Mobile just sent me a $1,200 bill — but I can’t pay

Should we help Dacia Bertrand with her T-Mobile bill?

The company has done nothing wrong, technically. Bertrand and her husband have been loyal T-Mobile customers for the last decade. But last summer, her husband lost his job as an IT manager, and in order to make ends meet, she launched a photography business.

“Since last June, it’s been anxiety and stress,” she explains. “He had two short-term contract jobs, and we have gotten behind in bills but are staying afloat in addition to raising two daughters, ages 8 and 11.”

I know what you’re thinking. That’s at least two cards in the Elliott deck of misfortune. Stay with me, friends.

I know what it’s like to be in debt. I know what it feels like to not have enough money for groceries. Sometimes, the truth isn’t a sympathy card. It’s just … the truth.

“To T-Mobile’s credit, they have been working with me with a series of payment arrangements,” Bertrand explains. “But about a week and half ago, my service was suspended. The bill has mushroomed to $1,700 (prior to this year it hasn’t been more than $250).”

Whoah. Did she just say $1,700? Yes, she did.

She continues,

T-Mobile reps kept insisting that I had to pay the past due balance of $1,200 because I was 122 days behind, or something like that. Some of those arrangements I did not meet by the deadline but nonetheless paid.

After pleading profusely with various customer service people and many phone calls, I was connected to a lady who was nice enough to allow me to make a $500 payment and restore service. I was then to make a $300 payment by a certain date which I missed by a day or two. So, my service was suspended again.

Here’s the main problem. Now they are telling me that all options are off the table and I need to come up with $1,200 minimum, which I do not have. I asked them if I could make a $300 payment and if I can pay every week in increments until I get to that $1,200. Now that’s like $800 in a span of 2 weeks. They said no.

But I’m thinking, wouldn’t T-Mobile want to work with a valued customer who is willing to fork over an indefinite revenue stream over an indefinite period of time or see that valued customer leave T-Mobile and then having to go through the process of sending this debt off to collections and not receiving any more money from this valued customer?

Bertrand wants T-Mobile to allow her to make a $300 or $350 payment now, restore her services and then allow her to make incremental payments of $250 to $300 on a weekly or biweekly basis until the $1,200 is paid off and under 60 days.

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That sounds reasonable.

If both Bertrand and T-Mobile agree that she owes the wireless carrier $1,200, then I’m sure she would also agree that no matter what happens, she’ll repay the debt. Collection agencies are messy. You don’t want to go there.

Here’s my question: Should we advocate for Bertrand to get one last chance from T-Mobile, or should we allow the wireless carrier to throw the book in her face?

If we jump in and help, it could set a precedent for future late-billing cases. I personally believe Bertrand is doing everything she can to pay her wireless bill on time. I’m deeply concerned that T-Mobile is charging her so much for her phone. With bills like that, you’re almost better off without a phone.

Then again, isn’t helping her the right thing to do? Isn’t that what we were put on Earth to do — help people like her?

It’s a hard decision. I welcome your comments.

Should we take Dacia Bertrand's case?

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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 chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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