I just dumped US Mobile after less than four months, setting a new speed record for hitting my tolerance-for-b.s. ceiling. Based on reviews, I’d had high hopes for this relatively new mobile virtual network operator, but it turns out I chose poorly.
Switching wireless service providers is one of those things I don’t relish doing, but every few years I find that I’m in a one-way relationship with my carrier: I’m a loyal customer who’s taken for granted. When I see my monthly fees creeping up, and my provider isn’t willing to offer me the same deal it’s extending to new customers, my loyalty soon vanishes. That’s what led me from Sprint to US Mobile.
Switching to a new carrier is almost laughably predictable. In the beginning, everything is rosy. The company really wants me on board — so much so that it offers a deal that seems too good to be true. I’m skeptical but willing to learn more. Invariably I find that underneath the shiny wrapping paper, the deal is not awesome.
Still, the more time I invest into learning about a plan, the more likely I am to accept it. It’s not that I’m swayed by the sales pitch — it’s just that I really don’t enjoy this process at all. I don’t want to go through the whole thing again with another provider that will lure me with a big come-on, only to methodically wear me down. Although the US Mobile deal was far from spectacular, it seemed good enough. I signed on the dotted line.
After enduring all the annoyances of making the switch — porting the numbers (I have a plan with three lines), buying new phones, configuring the phones, and then coming to terms with the inevitable feature-and-functionality compromises I was forced to make — I settled in with my new provider. My plan cost more than I initially expected it would, and the service was not as great as I’d hoped, but I thought I could live with it. Until I couldn’t.
Countdown to Cutoff
In US Mobile’s case, the cycle lasted only a few months instead of a few years. There wasn’t time for me to muster any loyalty, because I was disappointed almost from the start.
US Mobile promises that 99 percent of devices will work with its service. If that’s true, I fall squarely into the 1 percent. The iPhone on my plan worked fine, but the two Samsung Galaxy S6 phones had issues. I purchased three different unlocked devices — a Samsung S7 and two different Xiaomi models — and none were sufficiently compatible. I finally got good results with a Nokia 7.1 (which is a really nice phone, by the way) and bought two to replace our old S6s.
I’d still be a US Mobile customer, despite the phone hassle, if not for what happened last week. One of the users on my plan received a notification that her data was about to expire. That was puzzling, since I had selected unlimited data for that line.
What I soon learned was that when 20 GB of data are used, US Mobile disconnects the subscriber. Full stop. Yes, you read that right. Built into US Mobile’s “unlimited” data plan is the need for a “manual refresh” after 20 GB of data are used. The disconnected subscriber needs to contact the company to get data access restored.
It’s not possible to trigger the “manual refresh” prior to being cut off, either. The subscriber is obliged to lose access first. After going through that unpleasantness, the “unlimited” subscriber who has chosen to pay extra for US Mobile’s top-tier “ludicrous” speed level (4g) once again will have a data connection — but it will be “restored” at the poky 2g level.
All of this was news to me, but Customer Success Manager Samina assured me that I would find the deets in the company’s terms and conditions. Well, pretty much anyone who is not homesteading in Alaska knows that the terms and conditions customers are compelled to sign before receiving a service are a bad joke. The truth is that very few people read them, and of those who do, only a fraction fully understand them. I am not one of those exceptional few.
Top Brass Intervenes, Kinda
It occurred to me to write a column, offering my experience to our readers as a cautionary tale about US Mobile’s policies. I asked Samina to transfer me to a supervisor so that I could ask a few questions. She directed me to firstname.lastname@example.org, which I found annoying. I doubted that I would connect with a supervisor by directing a query to a general help address. I wrote anyway.
I was pleasantly surprised to receive a response from none other than US Mobile CEO Ahmed Khattak, who said he had asked the team “to extend the data so that there are no interruptions in service.”
I immediately wondered why it had required a directive from the CEO to manage that — and if the team could avoid interrupting my service at his behest, then why was it necessary to interrupt it in the first place?
Khattak also told me that I could spend more money to bump up the “restored” 2g data to full speed. I found that offensive, since I had already signed up for the highest level of service — but more to the point, it wasn’t clear to me how to select that option.
I asked Khattak to point me to it on the US Mobile site, but I got no reply.
According to Khattak, “the speed slow down after 20 GB is in-fact made obvious when you are buying the plan — if you select the unlimited plan on our website you will see it.”
OK, I admit I can be dense at times. I had bought the plan, and I hadn’t seen it, so I asked Khattak to point me to the information I had missed. I got no reply.
I also asked Khattak to point me to where customers with an unlimited plan are advised of the need for a manual refresh after 20 GB of data are used. You guessed it — no reply.
In his initial friendly email, Khattak said that US Mobile had “put systems in places within the organization that increases transparency. Even at scale with unique sign ups of over 100,000 lines — customer complaints and concerns or feedback gets escalated very quickly within the org — i.e. your case.”
It’s true that I received attention quickly after sending my initial query, but it’s worth mentioning that I had CC’d the company’s press email address.
However, when it came to responding to the follow-up questions I sent to Khattak the same day, that responsive attitude had evaporated. A week later, even though I’d sent a follow-up to my follow-up, US Mobile’s “transparency” had turned into a brick wall. I can only assume that Khattak did not direct me to the requested information on the US Mobile site because it isn’t there.
In the meantime, my “unlimited data” line was disconnected after all, in spite of Khattak’s promise to the contrary, and I had to contact the company to have it restored at the 2g speed, which ironically does fulfill US Mobile’s “ludicrous” claim — but in a bad way.
I won’t have to deal with it for long, though, as I’ve nearly completed my transition to T-Mobile’s Metro PCS, which now has the opportunity to prove its mettle.
Farewell, US Mobile, I hardly knew ye — and good riddance.