T-Mobile Pressures Employees to Add Services Not Ordered: Report

A growing trend in major companies’ attempts to go to any lengths to boost their bottom lines has apparently become rampant across numerous industries. Often these attempts have taken the shape of pressure on employees to strong-arm customers, or to deceive them, or to outright falsify records and/or orders from customers.

From Wells Fargo’s recent admission that sales goals had caused thousands of employees to create phony accounts for non-existent customers to Washington state’s lawsuit against Comcast for allegedly signing up customers for what it terms “near-worthless” Service Protection Plans (see the Jan. 3 blog here, “Comcast Lawsuit May Proceed, Per Washington Judge”), the list of giant firms’ apparent abuses against their customers in the name of profits is growing.

Most recently, Change to Win, a union federation based in Washington, D.C., has filed a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) against Wireless carrier T-Mobile. They claim that T-Mobile’s “unrealistic” and “punishing sales targets” result in employees’ adding services to their customers’ lines without the customers’ knowledge or approval.

The group based its report on an analysis of “thousands” of complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and on interviews with approximately 500 current or recently separated T-Mobile employees. The employees claim that they were subject to what they termed “crazy” and “unrealistic” high-pressure sales goals, as well as threats of retaliation if they failed to meet their assigned targets.

Change to Win also conducted online polls of over 2,200 T-Mobile customers in five states, and found that nearly 56% of survey respondents said their monthly bill was higher than they were told it would be when they signed on with T-Mobile.

The report from Change to Win said their research revealed that employees’ quotas caused them to “feel pushed to add unrequested services, phone lines or equipment to customers’ accounts in order to hit the company’s demanding targets.”

Eighty-three percent of the low-paid employees, the report said, believed they were in an untenable position in which they had to choose between “doing what is right for customers and meeting the strictly enforced sales metrics needed to safeguard their job and their own financial survival.” The report states that, as a result, consumers suffer from widespread fraudulent enrollment at the nation’s fastest-growing cell phone carrier, thereby costing them hundreds of dollars a year.

One T-Mobile worker had this to say: “The fact that there is such extraordinary pressure makes it so you can’t do what’s ethically required. . . . There’s so much stress and internalized anguish because we can’t meet our goals. And we know we’re smart and capable, but are made to feel inadequate on a daily basis.”

One particular tactic—pressuring employees to sign up customers for device insurance—was singled out by nearly every employee interviewed. They reported that T-Mobile requires its sales staff to include its $9-$12 per month device insurance on 80% of new accounts, and when customers balked, the employees secretly added the insurance (and related upgrade program) anyway, then removed it a few days later before the customers caught on.

These egregious practices can literally drive people crazy, like this Florida woman who drove her SUV into T-Mobile store! And these are precisely the sort of things that Billshark wants to help you avoid. We will ferret out and alert you to such tactics as we monitor your bills, as well as keeping you informed here of such practices within various industries as a whole.

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