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

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By | June 17th, 2016

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.

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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  • LDVinVA

    I feel for her, but I don’t understand. My bills with another carrier are $142/mo for two lines, so to get to $1700 arrears I’d have to have not paid for a year or so. What is she paying per month and is she going way over whatever her plan covers? Sometimes you just have to cut back.

  • Jeff W.

    Personally, I think you should stay away from the case. Or steer the case in another direction. Rather than help her renegotiate with T-Mobile, get her onto a pay-as-you-go carrier instead. Something she can afford.

    It sounds like she was certainly trying to do the right thing. And T-Mobile was willing to work with her. But when she missed the deadline in the alternate arrangement, T-Mobile wanted the rest of the monies due.

  • Don Spilky

    I don’t think the OP is arguing that she doesn’t owe the money. T-Mobile did work with her to come up with alternative payment arrangements, but she admittedly didn’t hold to her side of those arrangements.

    Even if you did advocate for some sort of new payment arrangement, OP is going to be right back where she started if she is late on payments again.

  • Ben

    This is a blessing in disguise for Dacia. She should take the opportunity to switch to a prepaid service which will be much less expensive and leave no opportunity for getting further into debt with the carrier.

    Then figure out a payment plan with T-Moble (if they refuse, let it go to collections and work out a payment plan with the debt collector).

  • Annie M

    When finances have changes, most people will adapt their bills to their finances. She could have dropped to a basic service or a pay as you go plan, which might be her only option now.

    People need to live within their means, which means having to cut back to basics when something like this happens. If she can’t maintain the payment plan she agreed to, how on earth would TMobile be expected to work any further with her?

    It is time for her to get a pa as you go phone until she can repay the carrier.

    Don’t take the case.

  • Barthel

    It seems the bill is extraordinarily high. She should find another provider and pay T-Mobile what she can when she can. It would be to the advantage of T-Mobile to work with her rather than involving a collection agency since they will charge T-Mobile for their services.

  • Regina Litman

    I did not vote or even look at the results (yet). Of course, this case is tearing at my heartstrings, but I don’t think this is the proper place to search for assistance on these matters. When I saw the headline, I thought it was going to be an incorrect billing case. But nothing appears to be wrong with the billing here.

    If they have only stayed with this T-Mobile plan so that their 11-year-old daughter is able to have at least as good of a phone as her friends, then they did the right thing in keeping this plan. (JUST KIDDING!)

  • sirwired

    I’m guessing her bill is this high because she’s paying off multiple phones, in addition to the monthly service charges.

    In any case, the likelihood that she’ll NOW be able to make the payments for some new arrangement on-time is pretty low. (I mean, she hasn’t been late just once or twice; she’s habitually not paying on-time.)

    She needs to:
    A) Realize she can’t afford her current cell-phone service.
    B) Ask T-Mobile if turning in the phones (all of them) when cancelling will reduce the amount owed.
    C) Buy some no-contract phones (you can get a perfectly usable phone for $100-ish without trying hard) and port the numbers over to a pre-paid provider (T-mobile cannot prevent her from taking her number(s)). There are oodles of providers out there for cheap, and you don’t need any credit at all to pick up another renewal card a the drugstore.
    D) Let the remaining T-Mobile debt go into collections. Normally this would be a terrible idea, but I have a feeling her credit rating is already shot to heck, so this would just be another debt on the pile.

  • sirwired

    Heck, I have pristine finances, and I’M on a pre-paid plan (Google Fi.) If you don’t need hand-holding from customer service, they are simply SO much cheaper than a post-paid plan.

  • Chris Johnson

    What can you possibly do for her? Also, that sounds like a very expensive plan she is on. My wife and I have two cell phones with Verizon and we don’t pay anywhere near what she is paying unless she hasn’t paid in over a year.

  • Alan Gore

    You should take the case only if the bill itself is fishy.

  • AAGK

    She should tell T Mobil to get lost- 6mo late and $1200? Her plan sounds predatory. Advocate for her bc if she gets a better rate with a diff provider, T-M isn’t getting that 1200 anyway. It should review her needs, get her on a competitive and affordable plan and apply that 1200 as 25/mo until paid off or whatever. Help her make a reasonable arrangement with T-M. She may be too stressed about this to advocate for herself.

  • mbods2002

    Hate to say it, but sometimes a bill HAS to go to collections. It’s not the end of the world. So you work with them to pay the bill and it probably won’t be an astronomical amount each month either. It’s happened to us a few times (medical, broken lease) because of layoffs and medical problems. Most people have at least a ding or two on their credit report. The main thing is to work with the collection agency and try to live within your budget. Though it pains me to say, we share a car and cell phone (!), only have basic cable etc. etc. Is it ideal? No, but no phone calls asking for payment and not much debt anymore.

  • sirwired

    I expect that everybody in the family has high-end phones on a payment plan; that runs up the bill in a hurry. It’s not “predatory” to sell high-end phones and a high-end plan to go with them.

  • Zod

    She claims that she’s a “valued customer” and as such, she deserves a break. Unfortunately, she hasn’t behaved like a valued customer by not paying her bills, and she has shown that when given “a break” she fails time and time again to meet deadlines she has agreed to. At this point it’s cheaper to no longer have her as a customer and turn her debt to collections.

  • Mark

    You can get a cheap smartphone for $50 at T-Mobile and a cheap plan that includes unlimited calling for $25/month. Of course that doesn’t solve her back-debt problem but these kinds of changes could help her avoid future problems. I wish she had seen this coming when the financial storm hit her family one year ago, and made that kind of change in her phone plan. I wonder what her credit card bills look like? She needs financial counseling more than she needs relief from this bill.

  • FQTVLR

    T-Mobile has done nothing wrong period. They have given the OP several opportunities to bring her account up-to-date and she has admitted to missing those payments she agreed to. She did not tell us how many phones she is paying for. Nor did she mention what steps she has taken to curtail the amount she spends on her mobile phone account. Ms. Bertrand seems to expect t-Mobile to bend over backward to help her but apparently makes no effort to help herself. As a number of people have said, she needs to go to a pre-paid phone account to help bring her cell spending under control. T-Mobile has done a lot for her. Now she needs to do something herself.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I pulled the plug on the plan game myself. In the old days, going on a plan got you a free phone (similar to a “loyalty program”) but now, you just pay extra to be on a plan and get the “free” phone so why bother?

    I went with a third party provider which piggybacks on the AT&T network and dropped their chip into an AT&T phone. We pay 32 bucks a month, total, for unlimited data at 3G speeds and text/talk.

    No bill surprises. Comes out to about $370 a year (for one phone).

    I can see how having a family could cause the bills to get outrageous but at that point, it begs the question as to why everyone should have a data plan. I could get a text/talk only phone prepaid for $30 for 3 months per phone (sometimes even less).

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I wonder how her bill got that large and if there are fees and penalties they’re tacking on. Like some of the issues that I’ve read on Elliott, a lot of great facts that we could use to understand the situation are missing. What was the size of the plan? Did they increase the cost of the plan (I think that’s implied?)

    First off, she needs to get control of her phone number. I transferred mine to google voice (free) and it forwards to my main phone. If I have a problem with the service of my carrier, I can transfer service to another phone in minutes.

    All the major carriers are masters at milking delinquent customers because they’ve been doing it so long. Remember when some kid would call their friend on the other coast, chat for hours a night, and the parents would get a thousand dollar phone bill? That was about 20 years ago but I remember it happening all the time. Now, I call nearly anywhere in the world for about 10 cents a minute but I see the major carriers have “gotchas” to get major long distance rates if someone goes through their network. I disabled international calling on my mobile phones and went through calling cards exclusively.

  • Altosk

    Sounds like they sent it to a third party collection agency…?

  • AAGK

    I understand high end phone, I don’t understand high end plan. . I did say she needs to consult with them and get on a diff plan bc this one makes no sense. To the extent that her plan involves luxury phones, not in the budget, then you are right and she needs to downgrade. We all know that people in worse circumstances pay more for this stuff than everyone else. I agree with you, but I think this lady needs an advocate anyway bc there are many workable resolutions and for whatever reason, there is a disconnect.

  • FQTVLR

    I think she or Chris would have mentioned substantial penalties and late fees. That information is suspiciously missing. I do have T-Mobile with international activated as I travel so much for work. (no roaming charges in many countries. Has saved me a fortune.) Two phones runs me less than $120.00 per month. Our phones are 4 years old –we do not upgrade phones until our old ones are obsolete. I am very skeptical because of the information that is missing–number of phones on the plan, are they paying for phones or just the plan, are they unlimited data or have a limited plan. And Chris’ statement that T-Mobile has technically done nothing wrong tells me a lot too. There is just enough information to make us think T-Mobile is the problem but so much specific detail is missing that i wonder what the true story is.

  • Steven Reed Sr.

    I say, yes help her, this could happen to anyone of reading this at anytime, in this time of uncertainty, a company such as T-Mobile could try to help a long term customer a little bit, they should relize she is over her head in deb and either let her out of her contract and settle the final bill or settle this debt and allow her to move to a cheaper plan, she also needs to releaize companies enforce the deadlines they give customers. She amy also qualify for the LifeLine program for low incom individuals and get assistance in paying her bill

  • Rebecca

    Obviously she can’t afford the phone and service she has. It’s that simple. When you can’t afford something, you don’t have it. I’ve been there too, most of us have. Except most of us realize we can’t afford it and adjust our budget accordingly. Personally, for example, I didn’t have cable for quite a while. The difference is I didn’t allow the bill to mushroom and keep putting it off. I called and cancelled it before it got out of hand and paid the last month’s bill.

    Please don’t enable this OP. She wants the service turned back on so she can keep accumulating a balance. Yet she can’t pay the bill and keep it current? I’m just shaking my head. I understand needing a cell phone. But you don’t need what you can’t afford. Get an inexpensive, pay as you go phone if that’s all you can afford.

  • AAGK

    You are right. Perhaps that’s why she can’t work this out with the company directly. She doesn’t understand that while she may have been a valued customer once upon a time, she is now a liability.

  • Rebecca

    She said that she was 122 days past due in the amount of $1200 “or something like that”. Apparently she can’t be bothered to keep up with her bills enough to know how much the bill is each month and what day it’s due. That’s mind blowing, no wonder she’s in this predicament.

    Assuming she’s correct about the $1200, that means her bill is in the order of $250-275/month. (I’m assuming there are late fees.) Which would be about right if she, her husband, and one or both kids have smartphones. They almost certainly financed phones that were top of the line when they acquired them, normally $500-700 each. Then you add interest on top of that.

    If your bill for 2 phones is $142/month, it’s reasonable to assume her bill for 3 or 4 phones would be a little less than double that.

  • Rebecca

    And I guarantee she financed smartphones that were $500-700 each when she purchased them. I’m assuming it’s 3 or 4 phones, because her kids probably have them too. T-mobile is going to want those phones paid off, plus finance charges, even if she cancels the service.

  • AAGK

    This lady’s oversize bill suggests that she has become disconnected from her finances. Eliminating extraneous cell phone charges is a step in the right direction, but not everyone has the financial literacy to understand this. I think Elliott should advocate for her bc she is needs someone on her side right now, but that would be a band-aid. I don’t know if he’s down with this but maybe he could agree with the caveat that she meets with a free financial advisor to figure out how much she can actually afford to pay, so that she doesn’t default on the new payment arrangement.

  • Rebecca

    If she has 3 or 4 phones that were $600 each when she got them, that’s $150-$200/month right there, just for the phones. So I don’t think the plan itself is predatory. I think she got her whole family top of the line smartphones they couldn’t afford. I just had to get a new phone, and the newest models they had were $500-700.

  • Rebecca

    Personally, I am mind boggled that the bill is over 4 MONTHS PAST DUE and they just shut it off! If you’re 4 months behind on your bill, why in the world would you think you’ll be able to continue to afford it? This is just scary, someone living paycheck to paycheck with a bill 4 months behind worrying about keeping a phone turned on? What if there’s an emergency? You’ve paid literally thousands of dollars for your cell phone. Now you have to pay for an emergency and you can’t pay your mortgage or your electric bill? Then what?

  • technomage1

    I agree. I’m retiring next year and my pension is only 1/3 my current income. So I sat down and figured out what I could afford and made some tough choices to let some things I really liked go. I realize losing your job is unexpected vs knowing you’re going to retire, but the same principle applies. You sit down and pare everything down to the bare minimum at the outset. Does she need cell service or can she use a land line? Why didn’t she ask t-mobile for a less expensive plan at the outset before sinking so far into debt?

    Right now she’s in over her head and sinking fast. I agree with t-mobile suspending her until she pay off the majority of the debt. With her proposed payment plan, that’s in under 60 days so that’s only two months without a cell – which, while extremely useful, isn’t a necessity.

    If she wanted a cheap phone she could use the jitterbug – it’s under $20 per month as I recall. It’s marketed towards seniors but anyone can buy one.

  • Annie M

    The bill is high because she obviously didn’t curb her use of the phone even though no one had a job. No one manufactured the spending on her phone – her family used it.

  • Nathan Witt

    I completely understand what it’s like to lose an job and try to juggle everything, and second-guessing Ms. Bertrand’s choices or abilities here is counterproductive. I don’t know what arrangements had been made, or what additional charges and fees T-Mobile might have added to the customer’s account on top of her regular bill, but I do know in this situation how hard it is to predict how much money you’ll have and when you’ll be able to pay. So if Chris weighs in on this one, unless he can get T-Mobile to discount the balance due to an amount Ms. Bertrand can pay immediately, there’s a very real risk that whatever arrangements are made may not be realistic for her. My suggestion is that, if being without a cell phone for a few weeks is not possible, Ms. Bertrand go get the cheapest prepaid phone available to bridge the gap, and let T-Mobile leave her account suspended while she gets caught up. That way, new charges and fees don’t get piled on top of what’s already due, and as long as she’s sending money each week, they won’t turn her account over to collections. And if there’s a week where money is a little bit short, reducing or eliminating that week’s payment won’t start this whole process over again.

  • sam

    This is what I had a negative reaction to. Someone who is $1200 in arrears and still considers themselves to be a “valued” customer doesn’t really have a good grasp of the situation.

    She should convert to a prepaid/PAYGO plan which will force her to “use” within her means.

  • Rebecca

    T-mobile won’t release the phone number until the balance is paid in full. I ported a number from a T-mobile phone, and I had to call and pay whatever the balance was through the cut off date, then call the new provider. I remember that because I had literally just paid the bill like 3 days before and it hadn’t even cycled yet. So I had to pay a prorated amount.

  • The Cosmic Avenger

    I voted no. We have three lines and three equipment installment plans (hey, they are allowing us to pay it at 0% interest, why would I say no to that?), and our bill with taxes and everything comes to under $170 a month. I sympathize with the Bertrands, but it sounds like they haven’t learned how to be ruthlessly frugal, and they (like many people) may need to take some big hits before learning to change their spending habits.

  • Mel LeCompte Jr.

    If I negotiate anything, it would be:

    1/ That her contract is ripped up immediately.

    2/ A final payment, sans any ridiculous extra fees, be negotiated.

    Get her out of this hole, as huge companies with poor communications within departments could throw her finances even further down the abyss (been there, done that).

    After that, she should sign up with one of the myriad of pay-as-you-go plans. (FYI, my family is paying $100 for four lines through Boost Mobile). Much nicer on the wallet.

  • The Cosmic Avenger

    I meant to say, we have that plan with T-Mobile, so it does sound like they have not pared down their plan at all or sold their new phones and bought used ones. (Two of our three phones from T-Mobile are used phones.)

  • random_observation_source

    I’m saddened by the “don’t help her because I think she isn’t frugal enough”/”I could save a lot more, she doesn’t deserve your help”/”That’s what you get for living beyond your means” mob on this story.

    Let’s review the aspects of this case that makes her different from the legions of “I-demand-a-full-refund-plus-pain-and-suffering-plus-free-stuff” folks that also try to get help from the advocates:
    1 – She is not denying that she owes the debt
    2 – She is trying to pay the debt.
    3 – In order to make ends meet, she’s gone back to work while her husband is actively looking for work, which means that more money has to go out to cover childcare
    4 – She’s not talking about declaring bankruptcy and writing off the debt
    5 – She isn’t trying to negotiate a reduction of the bill (at least from what I’ve seen in the story).

    The story doesn’t detail the other cost-cutting measures the OP’s family took, but that doesn’t mean one should assume that she hasn’t cut expenses everywhere else that she could. 47% of respondents on a recent Fed survey indicated that they wouldn’t be able to cover a $400 emergency without borrowing or selling something.

    Yes, she does need to switch to a pre-paid phone, but switching to a pre-paid plan may be cost prohibitive – after all, she needs to pay down the debt to T-Mobile _and_ pay for a pre-paid phone. Furthermore, if the phones are her’s and her husband’s only means for communication for job interviews, photography session sales, etc., the last thing they need is to miss a paying gig because they ran out of funds for their prepaid phone. Less revenue for the family doesn’t help T-Mobile in getting paid.

    As long as the OP is making somewhat regular payments, there’s no harm to T-Mobile in continuing service. T-Mobile is getting paid (eventually) and as long as she keeps paying and keeps her debt from being written off, no other customers are paying for her debt either.

    There are people who ask for ridiculous things regularly on this site – “I’m on a fixed income therefore I deserve more for my pain and suffering” or “I felt scared to travel so I want a refund plus a public apology and a televised flogging of the CEO”. I don’t think Bertrand is one of them.

  • AAGK

    My phone isn’t included in the price of my wireless plan. If this involves actual hardware then she needs to pay for it for sure. I assumed this was just the phone bill. then again if the phones are 200, then that is probably a low end phone. I’m not sure why she needs so many. So much unknown here. You guys all make great points. I feel badly for her though.

  • AAGK

    I got my phone in college when I could open the Acct and pay for it. Then, right after my brother and sister have cell phones in 7th and 5th grade. The phone thing is getting ridic.

  • Mel65

    I feel for her, I do. But I used to work for a major credit card issuer, and trust me, sob stories like this due to job kid, medical bills, etc … abound. The OP made an agreement, twice at least, and failed to live up to the terms. There is a point where a business has to say, “no mas,” unfortunately. TM has apparently reached that point.

  • Mel65

    We have 4 smart phones with data plans on Verizon and I pay right about $265 a month.

  • Jim

    Sounds like this isn’t the only debt they are having issues with so that’s a great plan. Ditch them and if the bills are that bad maybe insolvency is going to catch up with them anyway…

  • Lee

    Ouch. Tough one. I feel for her too; people are struggling mightily these days with high costs for everything and mobile phone companies all seem to charge roughly the same price so it’s not like one can really “shop around” for this type of service. (Personally, I think the cost is ridiculous but it is what it is – they have all clearly decided, competition my tush).

    It would set a precedent if you intercede on her behalf and whether you wish to do so, ultimately, has to be your decision.

    I know it is difficult for some to remember – but there was a time – not so long ago! that mobile phones were the stuff of fantasy only and we all just had landlines and yet somehow managed to stay in touch when needed even with children. Maybe it’s time to put the mobile service aside, get a landline (some of which are still affordable), pay off the mobile service and when paid off, have service restored.

    With wifi and a tablet or computer, one can stay quickly in touch if need be.

    I know this seems like a dark ages sort of suggestion but it is doable. I know some people, including my sister, who doesn’t have a mobile phone – has her own business and uses the computer and landline to conduct business – ideal? Maybe not, but possible.

  • R. Bruce Peters

    No account is necessary for 911 emergency service. Any phone with a US chip or dead acct can still be used for this. Cost: zero.

  • R. Bruce Peters

    Until her economic situation improves, it’s post-paid flip-phone city. The daughters have what they need to call Mom in need, and send a laborious text to friends. No Whatsapp? too bad. Probably more time for homework.
    If return credit is available, turn in the smartphones. If she’s still paying for them, they’ll be locked, and of no use elsewhere.

  • joycexyz

    Right. A “valued customer” doesn’t rack up unpaid bills. I also wonder how far behind she is on other obligations. Sounds like her financial management skills need honing. Definitely a case for consumer credit counseling, not Chris’ advocating.

  • joycexyz

    Doesn’t matter. She admits she owes the money. Even after being given payment options, she still was delinquent. T-Mobile is a business, not a charity, and cell phones are not among life’s necessities.

  • joycexyz

    Good advice!

  • joycexyz

    I predict that if she’s let off the hook for this, she’ll get herself in a similar situation with another creditor (if she hasn’t already). She needs consumer credit counseling!

  • Blamona

    I feel terrible for her but she’s already give 2 chances. She can get a pay as you go phone while she saves to pay off $1200 and restore then. The problem with reinstating before then is that bills will keep accruing! So catching up is always longer and harder when you keep spending

  • Fishplate

    I’m pretty sure they tried to use the “workable resolutions” when they allowed here at least two chances to pay late and restructure her payments.

  • Fishplate

    She’s trying to pay the debt, yes, but she keeps increasing it faster than she can pay it off. If she can’t even stay current while disregarding the amount owed, then a new solution must be found.

  • jim6555

    Most carriers will not allow the porting of phone numbers when the account has severe credit problems. The LW would have to get new phone numbers from her new prepaid carrier. If she likes the T-Mobile network, she could establish a prepaid account with Metro-PCS which is a subsidiary of T-Mobile and uses their network. Prepaid companies do not require a credit check. You must pay for the next month’s service before the due date or your phone gets shut off – no grace period. Her T-Mobile phones will work on Metro provided that she gets new SIM cards and has the Metro store do some minor reprogramming of the phones.

    Currently, I pay $70 for two lines on Metro-PCS. Unlimited talk, texting and 3 gigabytes of data are included. Also included are all taxes and fees. My cost is about $28 per month less than T-Mobile and $60 less than Verizon. In my city, Consumer Reports rates T-Mobile’s coverage and signal strength on par with Verizon.

  • redragtopstl

    I’m pretty sure I know which provider you’re using, PKUSA, because we use the one at our house that pitches to AARP members (even tho’ you don’t have to be 50+ to use them).

    Our bill is about $56/month, partly because of the $10/extra for hubby’s phone, and we probably have a bigger data plan. I’m actually considering cutting back the talk plan and possibly the data minutes as

    Since the OP already has T-Mobile-compatible phones, she could use them with Consumer Cellular, because T-Mobile & AT&T use the same type of network. (I know that wouldn’t settle her current problem with T-Mobile, but she would be paying a lot less for good, US-based cell service.)

  • AAGK

    I guess. It is hard to say without knowing more. If her ability to pay is zero, then I guess she’s out of luck. Obv a nonessential item like a cell phone isn’t free. I also don’t get why she needs more than one phone for her family. My dad didn’t even have a cell phone until a few years ago and it’s always off.

  • C Schwartz

    I feel bad for the OP but on the other hand “122 days or something like that” and missing agreed upon payment dates are warning flags. I have some recent experience with a similar issue as I have taken over the finances for a relative who has had a sudden health decline. Late fees on Tmobile are up to 1.5% of the outstanding overdue balance. When service is suspended for non payment is $20 per line to reactivate. If the OP was paying of a new top of the line smartphone on the 24 month installment plan the outstanding balance for those may have come due when the account went seriously past due. Tmobile is fairly flexible when it comes to changing plans and that should have been done asap after the job loss. I have had to reduce a number of the nonessential services of this relative as a home health aide is needed — I dealt with overdue cell phones, cable, and worked with each one. It is admirable that the OP has tried to open a photography business but the problem with that is the erratic nature of a new business or even an established business — I know I am self employed with a small business. Does the OP have income to actually make the installment payments on the past due after already missing dates? The company may just not believe the OP. I am sorry but after looking at the overall situation I voted no.

  • DepartureLevel

    What’s going to happen if she doesn’t pay it ? She goes to a collection agency and maybe you’ll never be able to pay up. Why are people so afraid of this ? If you’re on the skids to begin with, the least of your problems is a stupid phone bill. So send them what you can. My sister did this with Verizon and they actually, finally stopped collecting. She paid them incrementally, they never acknowledged the payment or sent regular billing even though she requested repeatedly that they just keep sending a bill as she paid it down. They simply ignored her. Her credit has not been affected by this. You want your money ? Bill me and I’ll pay what I can. I know it doesn’t work that way with utilities, credit cards, etc. but a phone company, c’mon.

  • taxed2themax

    I too can “feel” for her.. However, I start from the position that there appears to be no dispute over the legitimacy of the bill, nor the amount.. So, from there I go to the payment next.. Here too I can see, and the OP does not dispute, that TMobile has, apparently, already gone outside of their stated payment terms – contractually set forth – and offered alternative payment options to the OP… After the OP apparently agreed to one of these alternatives, they failed to uphold their end of that agreement..

    (from the above “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.”)

    So, while I can wholly empathize with the OP and a lack of funds, I cannot escape the reality that it seems TMobile has made what I can see to be “good faith” attempts to work with the customer, and once an alternative payment agreement was found, the OP failed to comply. Now, again, there may be good reason for that non-compliance.. but I also think that there does need to be some ‘end’ where a business has the right to expect that they be paid in a timely manner for services provided under contract and that there are limits to the number of, length of any discretionary payment plans.

    I also think it is misleading at minimum to state that ” … should we allow the wireless carrier to throw the book in her face?” in that I don’t think there is any “throwing” of anything here. In fact, I might say to the contrary, “.. should we allow the customer to continue to not pay timely for the services they’ve used — and apparently continue to use and enjoy — and contracted for, even after making alternative arrangements and failing to honor those too?”

    I am not at all unsympathetic to a lack-of-funds scenario… however, I can also say that a cell phone, while most definitely a modern convenience, does not, in my mind, rise to the level of what I might call an “essential service” like water, heat/electricity service would be. Therefore, I am more reluctant to see a fair scenario for the business in the case of what really is a non-paying customer, after offering alternatives.

  • stephen_nyc

    Ah, someone else who remembers the classics. Thanks for the grin.

  • DChamp56

    At this point (and it seems it’s been a while), she should just get a prepaid phone, and work to rebuild her credit. I think helping her might be a bad thing for all involved.

  • Tricia K

    I feel for her circumstances and know how much she needs a phone for business and emergency purposes, but she may have phones she can no longer afford. I would go for the pay as you go variety until she can afford more. I feel for people struggling after losing a job but you can’t live like you did before and you can’t expect the creditor to feel bad for you. There are phone services available for people with low finances. She needs to look at that option. And maybe, for a little while, her daughter’s could live without a phone while they get their finances together. We act like cell phones are a need rather than a want. Outside of one phone for the family, it’s a want.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I’m on H2O and happy with them. It’s not a “plan” so much as prepaid and flat rate per month. We can change anytime to something else. That reminds me: When my father in law visits next month, I want a phone for him. So I’ll take an old one out of the drawer and get a prepaid SIM card for 10 bucks for 90 days for 200 minutes of talk time.

    I remember a time when everyone still had landlines and only used mobile phones when they were, uh, mobile but now my wife talks on hers for hours so we don’t have a normal phone. One nasty side effect of this is my wfe doesn’t know my telephone number. I made her memorize at least that one.