Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,

T-Mobile: The Incommunication Company

Last Friday, my Internet service with T-Mobile stopped working. I knew this because of what koogrr refers to as the "two-dot dance", where the little icon that shows a G when you're connected shows a couple of cycling dots instead. This happens sometimes, when you're too far from a tower or you just got off the phone or you're in a thick-walled concrete basement or the stars are not aligned. It usually doesn't last for hours. I tried disconnecting and reconnecting a few times, and then rebooting, with no success. About midday, I went to the T-Mobile website to use their "Desktop Interface" to check my email. The DI is a web-based mirror of your Sidekick. When you're logged in to it, you can see everything your SK has -- notes, contacts, email, text messages, everything. It's got one of the crappiest UIs I've seen in the last 8 years, but it more or less works.

Well, used to work. I didn't get an error message when I clicked the link. The cursor turned to an hourglass for a moment, the browser pretended it was loading a new page, then told me it was done, while still on the same page.


I went to the support section of T-Mobile's webpage. There was nothing there, or on their front page, or on my login page, about an outage.

I gave up for a few hours.

My smartphone was still working as a stupidphone, and Friday evening I texted koogrr's Sidekick. "Is your phone's 'net out?"

"Yep. I called Customer Service, there's some kind of widespread outage."

I gave up again.

Saturday: still out. Sunday: still out. Sunday night, I called customer service. There was no automated announcement of an outage. After waiting twelve minutes for a person to answer, I gave up on talking to anyone and hung up. I checked the web again. Still nothing on the main page, still nothing on my login, Desktop Interface still cryptically not working, still nothing on the support page. I tried the forums.

Aha! The Sidekick forum had an announcement that there's a problem! O rly? It said that browser service has been restored, and they were working on the rest.

I checked, and yes, my SK's browser does work despite my SK thinking it can't connect. I texted John with the news.

Monday, still no service, not that it mattered since my SK hadn't charged properly overnight and died after twenty minutes of use. When I got home, I plugged it in. An hour later, John texted: "Did you get a text from T-Mobile with your username and password?"

"No," I texted back.

An hour after that, I got a text from T-Mobile apologizing for the disruption to service, and telling me my username and password. (T-Mobile does not believe in hashing. Or encryption.) "Buh? Why are you telling me this?"

Twenty minutes later, a box popped up asking me to login. To what? I don't know. Dutifully, I attempted to login. Dutilessly, the device failed to login. After ten minutes, I cancelled out so that I could at least web browse again.

Tuesday morning, my smartphone was still impersonating a stupidphone. I went to T-Mobile's website, which was still displaying the same lack-of-information it had since Friday. I checked the forums. The announcement of the outage was gone. I clicked one of three 'The Gargantuan Outage Thread' threads, which had approximately a bazillion replies. It opened with someone saying that we needed to login when the SMS login box popped up, and couldn't until then. I opened my phone, looked for an SMS login menu option, found one, and tried to login. A few minutes later, it stopped trying to login and returned to the main screen and the two-dot dance. Had it logged in?

I waited a few more minutes. Nothing but the browser showed any signs of life.

I called Customer Service, and halfway through talking to a very apologetic and utterly clueless CSR, I finally lost it.

"Jennifer," I told her, "I know this isn't your fault. You don't need to apologize. But I just want to tell you this, and I want you to pass it on to your boss and whoever else for me. What really bothers me, what's really driving me crazy, isn't that my phone doesn't work right now. It's that I can't get any information on what's wrong. I go to the webpage and there's nothing. I log in and there's nothing. I try to get to the Desktop Interface and it doesn't work with exactly the same failure message I'd get if I wasn't connected to a network at all. I call in and get over 10 minutes of hold time but no automated attendant telling me "oh yeah, there's an outage, we're working on it." I get a text message with my user name and password, but no explanation why. I had to go to the forum and get another user to tell me what to do. Because your users are providing me with better tech support than you are. With more communication."

She apologized anyway, and gave me a month's free SK service, which is less than 20% of what I pay T-Mobile each month.

Ten minutes after I got off the phone, my sidekick finally stopped the two-dot-dance and connected to the net.

Sort of. IM worked. Email did not.

When I checked on Thursday, the Desktop Interface still didn't work, but the link for it had been replaced with "An Important Message for Sidekick Users". That linked to the forum and an apology from the COO. Maybe Jennifer had passed my message along and maybe someone had actually listened. The COO threw Danger and Microsoft under the bus, saying Danger/MS were working to fix it and implying that the mess was therefore All Their Fault in the First Place. He reiterated that the phone and text services 'provided by T-Mobile' still worked and had worked all along. Which was true.

It's Friday now, and email still does not work properly. It sends and receives sporadically. I check gmail to see if I have any. Gmail has also worked all along, and I don't pay them anything.

I'm glad I didn't get a new contract with T-Mobile in August. I still love the Sidekick's design and utility, but I do not love T-Mobile any more. It's not the outage, or not just the outage. It's the way they handled it.
Tags: sidekick outage
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