T-mobile’s Deceptive Business Practice

My family switched to T-mobile in June 2015. We switched to it because they offer free international data roaming. We were happy. Then in October, new iPhone 6s came out. Ever since then, it was nothing but a disaster and it all had to do with T-mobile’s deceptive business practices. I have had three separate instances. They all have the same kernel of the story.

1. Did I send my iPhone 6 for only $7 per month?

My younger son wanted to upgrade his iPhone 6 to iPhone 6S when it came out. So I called t-mobile. The person told me that t-mobile has a new program called, Jump! On Demand, under which they will send me a new phone and remove the balance of our old phone (his phone was financed through t-mobile) once I send our old phone to them. They told me that I will not be making any more payment for the old phone once they receive his old iPhone 6. So I agreed to upgrade. They told me that the new phone will come with a return label. But the label was never sent to me. So, I had to call t-mobile to get an RMA code to retrieve a return label. To my surprise, the return label did not include any tracking information as it was a plain USPS parcel service. That was mid-October. Since I had no tracking number, I had no way of checking if they indeed receive the phone. I spoke to T-mobile representatives several times since then. All of them told me not to worry and they would eventually find the phone. They assured me that once the phone is recovered, they would remove all the monthly charges for the old phone and the balance of the phone. That has not happened yet. Instead, t-mobile just sent me an email that they cannot the locate the phone. Furthermore, they are now saying that they never promised that they would remove the balance of the old phone. Instead, they were going to give me $7 promotional discount on the new phone. Essentially, they switched their program after luring me into giving up my old phone which I could have sold through eBay. I would have never agreed to upgrade the phone if that was the deal. So, essentially, they made me to get a new phone and I am paying for two phones at the moment. And, they took my old phone and giving me essentially about $156 ($7 discount for a year). I feel this is totally deceptive, bate and switch!

2. We cannot locate your iPhone again

Shortly after my son got his new iPhone, my wife wanted to get rid of her Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. We went to the t-mobile store. The guy there told us that we could upgrade to Jump! On Demand. The only problem was that her Galaxy had a hairline crack on the screen. So, they could not swap her old phone with a new one (which would have not worked out anyway, given what I know now), he told me that I should trade in “any working phone” to get trade-in credit which can be applied toward the balance of her Galaxy phone. Since I had an iPhone 6 that I was not using any more, I showed them the phone. They told me that they would give us $317 for it. So, we did upgrade. Again, the return label did not come. So, I called t-mobile to RMA code and retrieve the return label. Using the same USPS non-traceable parcel service, I sent my old iPhone 6. Once again, I never received any acknowledgement of the receipt of the phone. I started calling t-mobile for this phone as well. They could not again locate the phone. But their web site clearly says that they received the phone and changed the quote to $309 (citing that it was a different model), which suggests that the phone was actually received. Yet, no credit was given as of today. Furthermore, they say that they would never give us the full credit anyway. By giving up my old iPhone, i would be receiving $7 monthly discount (which I do not think I ever received for my wife’s phone). 

3. We thought you are trading in two phones

Few weeks ago, my older son called me to complain about the call quality. He said he wanted to call t-mobile to see if they would do anything. I told him that they would not do anything. He called anyway, and I was wrong. They suggested that he should upgrade his phone (iPhone 6+) to iPhone 6S. Again, they promised him that there will be no out of pocket cost since if he sends his old phone, that will cover the downpayment and they would remove the balance of the equipment charge that we still owe. My son told me that no purchase was made and he only inquired about the deal and asked me to call them. To my surprise, when I called them two hours later, the person told me that the purchase was done and all the money was charged to my account. And, she repeated the same deal – no extra charge and old phone charge will be removed. So, he received the new phone. Again, no return label was provided (at least they are very consistently poor in terms of providing the return label. I would fire the guy who is in charge of the return label operation!). So, I called t-mobile to get the RMA number. However, the t-mobile person said that there is no RMA number because no trade-in can be made and we still owe $560 on the old phone and another $900 on the new phone. What?!!! They told me return his new iPhone if we do not want to make two payments. So, this time I insisted that we were given UPS label for return which they did. We rerun the phone. UPS said the phone was received. It was last Wednesday. As of today, they have not given any refund. Instead, they charged the full price to my account and took money from my credit card. 

So, I can only conclude that T-Mobile has a great business model. They tell people to upgrade their current phone with a promise that they will remove the balance of the old phone and start a new payment program. In reality, what they do is that they never remove the old payment. They make you pay for two phones. And, even worse, they take away your old phone which they never give credit for. And, I am pretty sure that they are profiting from the sales of the refurbished old phone that they collected from their customers. Also, they took all the information about my old iPhones serial numbers and IMEI numbers. Why can’t they locate the phone – if it is in their warehouse or if they have already sold? What a business model that they have! I will follow through this problem and will report how it ends. In the meantime, I strongly suggest that no one should upgrade their current phones through T-Mobile. 


Once I posted my story here, I was contacted by a member of T-Force. I guess they are some type of specialized group of people who can resolve problems. In about two hours, they resolved all the issues. So, thank you, T-mobile and those members of T-Force. I am still not sure why I had to go through this hassle. Given upgrade to a new iPhone model is one of the most critical business operations at T-Mobile, I am wondering how they can screw up the process this badly and this consistently. This will make me think twice when I want to upgrade my iPhone. This was a really bad customer experience. 

한 친구가 있다

나에게는 오래된 친구들이 몇 있다. 지금 생각해 보면, 국민학교 친구, 중학교 친구, 고등학교 친구, 그리고 대학교와 대학원 친구. 성격이 까칠해서 많은 친구를 사기지 못했지만, 그때 그때 마다 오랫동안 남아서 여운을 남기는 그런 친구들이 있다. 그런 친구들 중의 한명을 몇 년전에 어렵게 해서 다시 만난 적이 있다. 일본에서 근무를 마치고 마침 뉴욕에 있는 UN 본부로 근무지를 옮기는 차였다. 중학교를 졸업한 후에도 고등학교 대학교 시절 계속 함께 음악을 연주하면서 우정을 나누던 친구였는데, 대학을 졸업하고 나선 거의 20년을 만난 적이 없었던 친구였다. 뉴욕에 살면서도 바뻐서 겨우 3번 밖에 본 적이 없었다. 그러다가 이번에 아프리카로 대사로 임명을 받고 부임지에 떠났다. 오늘 그 친구의 개인 홈페이지를 통해서 그곳의 삶의 모습을 조금이나마 볼 수 있었다. 전화가 바뀌여서 카톡이 되질 않아서 오랫만에 이메일로 긴 안부편지를 썼다. 외교관의 바쁜 삶 속에서도 꾸준히 그림을 그리고, 음악을 하고, 책을 쓰고, 번역서를 내는 그 친구의 모습이 담겨있는 친구의 홈페이지를 보면서 언제나 처럼 삶의 모든 것을 누려보려고 하는 그의 모습을 볼 수 있었다. 살아잇는 삶은 참 아름답다. 그런 친구를 둔 것을 감사한다. 

new blog is needed

I realized that I still have the title of “in an iPod world” as the title of my blog. I started this title in 2002 when I first started a course at Case with the same title. A lot have changed since then. The iPod world has moved to iPhone world and then iPad world. Now Steve Jobs is gone and I am not sure if we will have yet another frame-breaking i-product that is worthy of the name of a blog. Back then, iPod was a revolution. I still remember the day when I first saw the physical iPod in Tokyo. I had never seen anything like that before. It was just a thing of beauty. Although iPhone has had much greater overall influence on the way I live, I think iPod was the one that inspired me more. It showed me for the first time that digital technology can change our everyday life, above and beyond mere computing. It was the first machine that I can truly love. 

Anyway, sadly, it is a time for me to change the title of my blog. The system that I use (Typepad) does not make it easy to change the title of a blog once it is created. So, I will have to archive my current blog and create a new one. When my radio show program went out, the link to my web site was not properly working and I decided that I must update my on-line presence. But today, I realized that what I need is a completely new blog. I will try to think about the design over the next few weeks and hope to start the new blog in the new year. In the mean time, if you have any suggestions for the title of the new blog, please let me know. 

글쓰기와 장인어른에 대한 생각

몇 일이 지나면 장인어른께서 세상을 떠나신지 벌써 일년이 되는 날이다. 장인어른은 평생 글쓰기로 삶을 보내신 분이다. 어려l1.jpeg서 북한의 함흥에서 태어나셔서 해방무렵 남한으로 오시고, 우리 아버님과 함께 보성고등학교를 졸업하시고, 지금의 연세대학교를 다니셨다. 한국전쟁이 끝나면서 부터 기자생활을 시작하셨다. 그리고 나서 1967년에는 아시아 재단에서 주는 장학금을 받아서 미국 콜롬비아 대학교에서 고급언론과정에서 과학 언론을 공부하시고, 귀국 이후에는 한번도 옆을 보지 않고 오로지 글로써 과학과 기술의 발전의 중요성을 일반인들에게 전하기 위해서 헌신을 하신 분이다.

작년에 갑자기 돌아가신 이후에 장인어른이 그동안 써놓은 글들, 그리고 새롭게 출판을 위해서 준비하고 계시던 여러가지 글들을 읽어볼 수 있는 기회가 있었다. 노벨상 수상자들에게 관한 책을 쓰시려고 틈틈히 쓰신 글들, 그리고 자서전을 위해서 틈틈히 적어놓은 글들이었다. 평생 “글쟁이”로 살아간 장인어른의 모습에 도전을 받는다. 무려 38권이라는 책을 출판을 하시고, 아직도 버릇처럼 글을 써나가고 있다는 장인어른의 모습은 글쓰는 것이 아직도 힘들고 부담으로 느껴지는 나에게는 참 부러운 모습이다.

장인어른께서 돌아가시기전에 참 정성을 기울여 쓰신 책이 두권이 있다. 하나는 <대통령과 과학기술>이라는 책이다. 한국 과학기술원이 처음 생길 무렵 부터 대변인으로 계시면서, 한국 기술의 초창기 시절의 여러가지 뒷이야기를 자료로 가지고 계시던 장인어른께서는 그런 이야기들이 역사의 뒤안길로 그냥 사라지는 것이 무척 아쉬웠던 것 같다. 또 다른 책은 <우리과학, 그 백년을 빛낸 사람들>이라는 책이다. 지난 백년 동안 한국 사람으로 과학과 기술 발전에 기여를 한 모든 사람들의 인명을 정리해 놓은 책이다. 무려 네권의 방대한 분량인 이책을 쓰시기 위해서 장인어른은 온갖 국내 도서관과 대학교의 인명자료를 뒤져서, 우리가 익히 알고 있는 슈퍼스타들 뿐아니라, 우리는 한번도 들어보지 못한 그런 사람들에 대한 이야기를 모아 놓으셨다. 그들이 한 일이 구체적으로 무엇인지는 알 수 없어도, 최소한 그분들의 이름이라도 기록을 해야한다는 그런 생각에서 책을 쓰셨다고 한다. 과학과 기술의 발전이 마치 몇몇 슈퍼스타들의 몫인양, 그래서 ‘한명의 천재가 만명을 먹여살린다”는 일방적인 논리에 반해서, 한명의 천재가 천재로서의 재질을 충분히 발휘하기 위해서는 그 뒤에서 묵묵히 자신들의 연구실과 실험실에 “별 볼일 없는” 연구를 하는 99명의 과학자들이 필요하다는 것을 말씀하고 싶으셨던 것 같다.

글을 쓴다고 하는 것은 결국 이렇게 자신이 말하지 않으면 참을 수 없는 그런 이야기들을 쏟아 놓는 것이라는 생각이 든다. 구약성경에 나오는 예레미야 선지자는 “내가 다시는 여호와를 선포하지 아니하며 그의 이름으로 말하지 아니하리라 하면 나의 마음이 불붙는 것 같아서 골수에 사무치니 답답하여 견딜 수 없나이다 (렘20:9)”라고 적고 있다. 아마도 글쟁이들은 그런 답답함이 속에서 불일듯이 일어나야 하나보다. 평생을 글을 쓰신 장인어른도 그토록 하시고 싶었던 말씀이 있었던 것 같다. 그런 의미에서 글 쓰는 속에 답답함이 없는 글쟁이는 진정한 글쟁이가 될 수가 없다는 생각이 든다.

가끔 이런 생각을 해 본다. 교수라고 하는 직업이 뭔가? 왜 연구를 하나? 왜 글을 쓰나? 그리고 왜 강의를 하나? 내 속에 답답함이 있기 때문이다. 눈에 보이는 현실에 대한 답답함이 연구로 나의 마음을 이끌고, 그렇게 해서 한 연구가 또한 새로운 답답함을 내 속에 만들어 낸다. 연구전의 답답함은 보이는 현실에 대한 답답함이라면, 연구 이후의 답답함은 내가 발견한 것을 나누고 싶은 갈망에서 비롯하는 답답함이다. 그리고 그 답답함때문에 글을 쓰고 강의를 하는 것 같다. 그 답답함이 없다면, 아마도 붓을 꺽어야 할 것 같다. 아니, 요즘 표현으로 하면 컴퓨터를 꺼 버려야 할 것 같다. 평생 전하고 싶은 이야기 때문에 답답함을 가지고 사셨던 장인 어른을 다시 한번 기억을 해보면서, 글쟁이로서의 나의 삶의 모습을 점검해 본다. 나는 아직도 그 답답함이 있는가?

매미: Cicada

Cicadas are fascinating. They live 7, 13 or 17 years under the ground until they become adults. In their final year, they come out of the ground and die only after 7 – 10 days. Its endurance, its transformation, and its short-lived “free life” make me continue to think about them. The thought about Cicadas has been with me since I saw an empty shell that a cicada had left on the ground during my visit to Osaka a week ago. A life of a cicada can be seen as a reminder of evanescent nature of life. But it is also a triumphant, victorious life, eventually fulfilling its dream after a long wait. No matter how short it may be, it’s worth the wait. Many people never get to do that. They never leave their ground. They never get to fly.
Below are few poems that I wrote, thinking about cicadas.

Continue reading “매미: Cicada”

A simple life in Japan

It has been about 10 days since I came to Tokyo. Now, I have an alien registration card, a bank card, a Suica card and a faculty ID card. With these four, I feel like I am settled here. Except that I can’t speak Japanese. I manage to do most daily things without any problem – I even managed to get my shirt dry cleaned at a local cleaner (the picture below).


I enjoy my new simple life here with small delightful indulgences that I allow myself into — like delicate local ice cream, very tiny canned beer, incredibly delicious fruit juice at train stations, etc. Other than that, it is a fairly simple routine. I wake up in the relatively early in the morning. After chatting with family back home, I go to office around 9 or 9:30. I write until 3PM or so. Then, I read books and articles. Recently, I read books and articles written by business historians, like Chandler and Langlois, which I found wonderfully insightful. Since I am working on a couple of papers on the industrial consequences on digitalization of products, these readings are very helpful. Particularly, the historical accounts of computer industry are not only useful, but really enjoyable, just for sheer pleasure.

When I come home, I usually continue to read or have conference calls with colleagues back in the US or Europe. Before going to bed, another chance to chat with my wife and boys. Skype is indispensable here. Then, I read newspapers on my iPad or some random stuffs that I saved on Instapaper. One big disappointment was that Netflix on iPad does not work outside of the US. I was hoping that I could watch some movies using iPad. Instead, I used iTunes movie rental last night. It took awhile to download the movie.

What I want the most here is a bicycle. It would make getting around the neighborhood a lot easier. Particularly when I am carrying bottled water and other stuffs that I bought at a local grocery store, I almost have an urge to steal one of many bicycles that are parked.

OMG, it’s complicated

It is about my Kindle — in fact, Kindles. I have three Kindles at home. One for my son, and a Kindle DX and a Kindle 2 for me. I use Kindle DX for mostly for papers and articles, and Kindle 2 for my pleasure reading.

Although both my son and I really enjoy Kindles, we had defective screen problems with them. My son’s Kindle showed black mark on the screen twice. Each time, Amazon sent a replacement immediately as a warranty service. However, the person who processed the second replacement made a mistake and charged for it. I called Amazon to ask them to cancel the charge. Instead of cancelling the charge, the person that I spoke to process it as a refund. The problem, however, that he refunded a wrong Kindle — my Kindle, not my son’s, which was bought using my school’s account. So, they charged to my personal card and refunded to my school. God knows why he did it, but eventually, we sorted out this mess. Another Amazon person apologized for the inconvenience and I thought all the problems have been resolved.

Continue reading “OMG, it’s complicated”

Sunday Posting

Each Sunday, I will post some texts that touch my heart and move my soul. Today, it is from the Book of Jeremiah — an ancient Jewish prophet who predicted the desolation of Jerusalem and Judah Kingdom.

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Yes, there are seasons of heat and drought. But, there is a hope beyond what we can see with our naked eyes. We just need to close our eyes.


first day school

No, it was not my first day of school, but, my kids’. As kids grow older, the first day of school is not anxious and exciting as it used to be. This morning, however, I was reminded how big a deal it used to be. As I was leaving my house to go to gym, I stopped my car as I saw a yellow school bus pulling off to load kids. Then, I saw a group parents with their digital camera and videocamera to capture the precious moment of the “first day” of school. They were parents who are sending off their kids to their 1st grade classroom. Waving, waving, and more waving. Dads were busy documenting the moment. By the time I realized I should have pulled out my iPhone to capture that lovely scene, the action was already over. So, picture the moment in your own mind. It is already a lovely morning.