T-Mobile screws up royally

Near the end of last week, T-Mobile offered the Linksys WRT54G-TM router for $19.99.

WRT54G-TM for $19.99

I ordered two on the 13th, with plans to upgrade my and my girlfriend’s routers.

Order confirmation

On the 17th, I received an email stating that the router I had ordered wasn’t available and that they were sending me a different router instead.

Subject: Your T-Mobile order
Date: Wed, 17 Dec 2008 12:44:12 -0800
From: Orders <Orders5@T-Mobile.com>

Dear T-Mobile Customer,

Thank you for ordering the T-Mobile @Home® Linksys router. Due to high demand, this router is currently out of stock.

We will be upgrading your order and shipping you the T-Mobile @Home® HiPort™ router instead. You should receive your order on or before Tuesday, December 23. We’ll send you an e-mail once your order has shipped, so you’ll know it’s on its way.

We thank you for your patience and apologize for any inconvenience.


T-Mobile Customer Care

When I got home from work a few hours later, I replied that I only wanted the specific router I ordered.

Subject: Re: Your T-Mobile order
Date: Wed, 17 Dec 2008 19:28:19 -0500
From: Bill XXXXXX <invisibill@invisibill.net>
To: Orders <Orders5@T-Mobile.com>

I was looking for that specific model of router. If the router I ordered (order XXXXXXXXX) is no longer available, please cancel my order rather than sending a different router in its place.


On the 18th, I received a shipping confirmation email for the substitute router.

Subject: T-Mobile Shipping Confirmation
Date: Thu, 18 Dec 2008 13:19:45 -0800 (CST)
To: William XXXXXX <invisibill@INVISIBILL.NET>

Dear William XXXXXX,

Your order from T-Mobile has been shipped.

Items Shipped
The following items from your order number XXXXXXXXX have been shipped.




If any items from your order are not listed above, please follow the link below to check the status
of your order number XXXXXXXXX for more information.

>> https://securecheckout.t-mobile.com/b2c_tmoc/tmoc/orderstatus.do

If this link doesn’t open in a new window, please copy and paste it into your browser.

The package tracking shows that it will be delivered on the 22nd. My card was charged on the 19th. Throughout the week, the order status page has shown a number of different totals for different people, including the full price of the substitute router and upgraded shipping charges. Mine showed only upgraded shipping charges and tax, with no actual product listed, making the total less than that of my original order. However, the charge on my card was for the originally stated total, and there was only one charge. Others have reported multiple charges, often with different amounts.

Here’s where it gets bad for T-Mobile.
A Business Guide to the Federal Trade Commission’s MAIL OR TELEPHONE ORDER MERCHANDISE RULE

When you learn that you cannot ship on time, you must decide whether you will ever be able to ship the order. If you decide that you cannot, you must promptly cancel the order and make a full refund.

Ok, they should’ve cancelled the order. But they’re sending me an “upgraded” router (which won’t actually do what I want it to)…

Q: If a customer orders an item which is backordered, can we substitute an item of similar or better quality without the customer’s consent?

A: For backorders, the Rule provides only two ways of responding to a properly completed order for mail or telephone order merchandise: obtain the customer’s agreement to delayed shipment or provide a full and prompt refund. Unless the customer expressly agrees to the substitution beforehand, you do not have the option of substituting merchandise that is materially different from your advertised merchandise. The term “materially different” means that the merchandise differs in some manner that is likely to affect the customer’s choice of, or conduct regarding, the merchandise. Any product feature would be deemed material if it is expressly mentioned or depicted in advertising. Differences in design, style, color, fabric, or promoted end use also would be deemed material.

Oh. Guess they can’t do that. Oops.

Some people have stated that T-Mobile reps have said that the packages will include return shipping labels, so that the substitute routers can be returned if you don’t want that one instead.

However, since the merchandise wasn’t actually ordered, it might be legally considered a gift.

Whether or not the Rule is involved, in any approval or other sale you must obtain the customer’s prior express agreement to receive the merchandise. Otherwise the merchandise may be treated as unordered merchandise. It is unlawful to:

1. Send any merchandise by any means without the express request of the recipient (unless the merchandise is clearly identified as a gift, free sample, or the like); or,
2. Try to obtain payment for or the return of the unordered merchandise.

Merchants who ship unordered merchandise with knowledge that it is unlawful to do so can be subject to civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation. Moreover, customers who receive unordered merchandise are legally entitled to treat the merchandise as a gift. Using the U.S. mails to ship unordered merchandise also violates the Postal laws.

How they treat me once I actually receive the package will determine how I handle this.

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