I’ve been in the market for a couple of smartphones. Specifically, one iPhone 6 Plus for myself and one iPhone 6 for my wife (and fellow GNC contributor) Jen. I was all set to purchase the new phones from T-Mobile earlier this week. But the utter failure of T-Mobile’s website lead me to buying from a competitor instead.
When I logged on to the T-Mobile site, I was immediately greeted with this message:
I was using the latest version of Safari on an iMac running the latest version of OS X. And yeah, I get it. Safari is often a bit of a thorn in the side of web developers. But, come on. It’s 2015. Macs are everywhere and many Mac users (including me) prefer to use Safari. Upon seeing this message, I knew I was in for trouble. But I carried on, anyway. I closed the browser warning message and clicked the “Shop” link at the top of the T-Mobile site.
From there, I selected a silver iPhone 6 Plus and continued on thru the rate-plan selection process, which went OK. Then, I went to add the second phone and that’s when the process started to fail. When the iPhone 6 screen loaded, it never gave me an option to buy the phone. I was stuck. I went back to my shopping cart to try and resume the process, and after much lag I was eventually given a “Processing Error” page that told me something had gone wrong, to wait a few minutes and try again.
So, I waited a few minutes and tried again with no luck. I waited a few more minutes and made another attempt. Still nothing. I’m not sure how many times I repeated this process before I started getting frustrated. I imagine at this point, most people would’ve given up. I guess I’m stricken with some sort of weird combination of patience and stubbornness. But, the thing is, I really wanted to buy these iPhones from T-Mobile.
Let’s go back to a little over a year ago. That’s when I bought a cellular iPad Mini Retina. I specifically chose the T-Mobile version because the company offers a free 200 MB monthly data plan. And while I know 200 MB/month wouldn’t seem like much to a lot of people, I knew it’d work well for my needs. And of course, if I burned thru my 200 MB monthly allotment (something I’ve only done a few times), I could always buy some extra data to get me thru to the end of the month.
I figured if T-Mobile was kind enough to give me all of that free data, it only makes sense for me to become a paying customer now that I’m looking to get back into the smartphone game. Also, I really like T-Mobile’s exclusive services like wi-fi calling and bandwidth-free music streaming. I was really ready to give T-Mobile my money!
I was ready to try again to order my iPhones thru the T-Mobile site. I figured I’d respect the web browser warning so I downloaded and installed Google Chrome. Once again, I went to the T-Mobile site and began shopping. I was still running into all kinds of weird errors but it seemed like I was making progress.
And finally, it happened! I got to a real confirmation screen with a real checkout button. I verified my order and signed an electronic payment agreement. I hit the checkout button and… nothing. I was taken to a blank page with a T-Mobile logo at the top and a phone number. I double checked to make sure the page wasn’t still loading. Nope. I refreshed the browser, just in case, Nothing. I checked my e-mail but there was nothing from T-Mobile. I checked to see if my credit card had been charged for the order but it hadn’t.
Not knowing what had happened to my order, I was fearful of repeating the process. I called the customer service number at the top of that page where my order confirmation should’ve been. After being on hold for a few minutes, I spoke with a nice customer service rep who verified that the order had made it into the system but that it didn’t finish processing and that, unfortunately, when orders get stuck in the system like that, they’re not accessible by humans. All that can be done with these orders is cancel them, so I asked the rep to go ahead and kill the order. She did that and said I could try again online or she could transfer me to a sales agent. I said I’d just try again on the web. She also said that I might have better luck by visiting a T-Mobile store but alas, there are no T-Mobile stores in my area.
I waited a bit and decided to give it one more try. But once again, I was confronted with a series of weird errors and unexplainable timeouts during the order process. I seriously considered calling the T-Mobile sales department and just placing the order over the phone. But I didn’t want to deal with that. I knew what I wanted and I was ready to commit. But T-Mobile’s website, for whatever reason, wasn’t up to the task.
And that led me over to the AT&T website where I did eventually order the two iPhones. I even saved some money because I was able to get refurbished models.
I realize that we’re ultimately talking about two multi-billion dollar telco’s here. I don’t really owe either one of them any kind of loyalty. But I do like T-Mobile’s attitude and it seems like, at times, they’re the only one of these companies that’s trying even remotely to be different or do something disruptive. But when it comes down to it, if they can’t even successfully complete an online order, how can they hope to compete in a world where the competition is only a few mouse clicks away?