Last June, I wrote a post called “Yes, You Can Spend $750 in International Data Roaming in One Minute on AT&T” which quickly went viral. In it, I mentioned my plan to switch to T-Mobile which led to this tweet by T-Mobile CEO John Legere to his 250,000+ followers:

It turned out that AT&T was rolling up data traffic in time-based intervals that frequently combined U.S. and International usage. Then, they fraudulently demanded that customers pay for an international pass to have their data plan reactivated.

My Struggle with T-Mobile

Unfortunately, now it’s TMobile that’s having trouble tracking data; it seems to be related to the rollout of their new DataStash promotion. Just like AT&T, they’re blaming the customer. Here’s what happened.

data by monthIn January, I noticed that I’d exceeded my 3 GB data plan for the first time after five months of using less than 3 GB of data. I called in to learn of my options and had one of the best customer service experiences I’d had in a while. The tech acknowledged that T-Mobile had a bug affecting some accounts that failed to reset the data usage. He said the only way to fix it was to set my phone to unlimited usage in January. He told me to use as much data as I wanted in January and he set an account note to switch it back to 3 GB for February.

But just two weeks into my February plan, my phone went over 3 GB again and data usage began to slow. I was a bit suspicious and finally called in again today. I was greeted with one of the worst customer experiences I’ve had in many years.

I had to speak to three different customer support representatives: the first overseas, the second a U.S.-based tech specialist and the third his supervisor.

The Ten Lies T-Mobile Told Me About My Data Plan

Here are the ten lies they told me during the course of the more than hour long call:

1. The first two reps told me that there was never a bug affecting data usage. Eventually, the supervisor acknowledged that yes there had been (as I’d been told in January) but that it had been fixed.

2. They said maybe it was my fault – that I just didn’t realize how much data the iPhone 6 uses despite having had it on my account since September 2014 with four consecutive months under 3 GB.

3. They told me my phone had slowed because I’d already used my 3 GB plan data and 3.5GB of my 10 GB data stash (which activated at the end of January). But their website showed this was clearly not the case.


What the T-Mobile Website Showed

Perhaps he mistakenly was combining the plan data and data stash usage (3.45 GB) but he continued to repeat that it was 3.5 GB from my data stash. Still later, he told me I had used up 6.5 GB of my data stash.

4. Then, they told me their website usage data was up to 3 days behind. When I told them that the website was already including most all of the data from today (2/20), my call was at noon, he said it was up to 24 hrs behind.


Data usage on 2/20 from T-Mobile Website during the call

Here’s what it says tonight:




5. Then, they told me that my entire data stash was gone because when I switched plans from Unlimited to 3 GB, I lost my data stash – ignoring my pleas that their January account tech had made the plan switch to fix the bug with billing in January.

6. They told me there might be a problem with my iPhone which they would help me troubleshoot. I told him I was hesitant to begin troubleshooting with someone who was quoting me statistics that didn’t reflect the reality shown on their website.

7. Then, the supervisor told me that perhaps I didn’t need to worry about this because the plan would reset tomorrow on the 21st because it’s a short month, not on the 26th as it always has. Here’s what the website showed:


What The T-Mobile Website Showed

8. Then, the supervisor told me my phone has only been using my DataStash (not my plan data). Again, the website:


9. They told me that my phone has been using up my entire DataStash over the past several months. The DataStash didn’t begin until late January.

10. And perhaps the last lie came at the beginning of the call, a voice said the call would be recorded for quality assurance. The jury’s still out on that one.

The Issue Remains Unresolved

data-unavailThe issue remains unresolved. I have an open ticket with T-Mobile. One example of my downgraded data access showed up during the call – simultaneous phone and data usage was atypically blocked (see right). Even if I am over my plan data and into my DataStash, my data access shouldn’t be slowed or have reduced functionality. T-Mobile describes the DataStash as “10GB of Free 4G LTE data.”

There is a possibility that my data usage naturally increased in January and February but given what the January technician and the supervisor today said about the bug with data tracking, I’m still skeptical. And, of course my data increased in January because I knew I had unlimited data. Here’s a chart of my data by day from July to February for reference.

data by day

It also remains a bit frustrating to me that the carriers are allowed to bill you for data amounts without actually having to show you the URL endpoints related to each data packet. They say it’s for privacy – but perhaps it would be more clear for them to say, “We don’t think we can secure that data well enough to keep it private.”

Update: T-Mobile Help says, “We do need to allow for some time for this ticket to be worked before we can take the next steps. In reviewing the account, I did see that your usage is not yet over 3 GB for this month, and that your data stash was added on 1/26. It does seem very odd that we’d show you being throttled without the usage to support that, and it’s my hope that this ticket will help provide us with more insight into what’s causing this. I’m going to follow up in your account on the morning of the 25th.

Posted by Jeff Reifman

Jeff is a technology consultant based in the Pacific Northwest. Check out Portland Wild, a visual map-driven guide to Portland's public art, its Heritage Trees and its Little Free Libraries.