Tuesday, February 5, 2008

February 5, 2008 - Lisa gets a job and really hates T-Mobile!

There is a lot of good news to report today. Violence in Kenya seems to be calming down since the rough weekend we had. Between yesterday and today we haven't heard any reports of political or ethnic violence. I think that the situation is still very volatile in the Rift Valley but certainly around Nairobi people are of the opinion that the situation is on the mend, although there is a lot of work that the mediators have left to do. I neglected to mention in my last blog that when Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General, visited Kenya last week, Kristoffer stood two feet away from him when he was greeting people before addressing UN staff. I don't know that Ki Moon's visit had a direct effect on the situation here or if it is the combination of his appearance as well as the other mediation efforts between the opposing sides. Whatever it is - keep it coming!

I also start to work tomorrow! My back is doing well enough that I turned in all of my paperwork today and they were begging for me to start right away. UNICEF has a lot of work to do, charged with protecting and educating all of the displaced children in the country. I look forward to becoming involved in the organization and hopefully helping the healing process.

The bad news is that I have been the victim of a crime. My American sim card was stolen out of my cell phone almost a month ago and, naively, I did not know this happened until yesterday. It is a long story which, if I wrote it all out, indicates that I am guilty of being too trusting. It is something that over here, especially, I have to work on. The bottom line is that we paid a guy to repair my cell phone and in the process he stole my sim card.

I didn't know my cell phone was stolen and so did not report it to T-Mobile, so T-Mobile is holding me responsible for thousands...I repeat thousands...of dollars in phone charges in the last month. You see, T-Mobile's roaming charges in Kenya are $5 a minute. Riiight...so when someone steals your sim card and doesn't know this...and he or she talks for over 13 hours...it leaves you with a pretty hefty bill. The real kicker is that T-Mobile didn't even contact me to tell me that they finally suspended my account after several thousand dollars or that there was suspicious activity on my account. I accidentally found this information when I called T-Mobile to get their fax number for sending proof of our address in Kenya so that we could finally cancel our contracts without penalty. If I hadn't called, I would still not know!

What I am going to do about this, you ask? Today Kristoffer and I visited the Diplomatic Police Office here in Nairobi. We explained our situation which, of course, sounds ludicrous at first. Until the police heard the dollar amount, I know they thought we were crazy for complaining about a stolen sim card. They did take us seriously though and mobilized to action right away. I went with two diplomatic police officers to the place where the man worked on my phone. After his co-worker caused some delay and tried to alert him to the police's presence, he did show up and confess to "accidentally" keeping my sim card. He made one attempt to contact me, by calling my parents in the middle of the night, but the situation was very unclear at the time and I did not end up getting the message that he had my card. So he kept it and used it for a few days, and then supposedly "lost it”. The police and I took him back to the police office for further questioning and scrutiny of his cell phone. They seem to think that he probably sold the card to someone else after he used it, but he had not confessed to that when Kristoffer and I finally left.

While they are collecting evidence on their end, the police asked us to get a call list from T-Mobile because the serial number of the handset used to make a call is attached to each phone number it calls. This would help them determine if the guy is lying or if they can identify other users. Sadly, T-Mobile refuses to cooperate. They will not release my call list because my account is suspended and because it is not the end of my billing cycle. Even when it is the end of my billing cycle, they will no longer allow me to access my account online because of the outstanding charges, so I will have to wait for my parents to receive the bill at their home and then send it to us here (which takes at least one month). It is so frustrating! T-Mobile will basically not help me in any way, except to keep reminding me that I am responsible for paying the bill because I did not report the sim card lost or stolen. I have spoken with 4 different representatives at T-Mobile, at various levels of their hierarchy, and they have the worst customer service I have ever experienced, without a doubt.

Their best advice was to give me the legal department's address if I wish to take legal action for T-Mobile to credit my account for the thousands of dollars that I owe, but they refuse to give me a phone number or fax number: snail mail only. Too bad that snail mail from Kenya to the States can take weeks or months! There is no way that my actual level of frustration can be conveyed in words, but if there is one message I hope you will get loud and clear it is that T-Mobile does not care about its customers at all and I do not recommend that you use the company as your cell phone service provider.

I will say this: the Diplomatic Police really impressed us! There is so much crime in Nairobi and very rarely are the perpetrators ever caught, especially those stealing something as insignificant as a sim card. They didn't seem to have any other diplomatic crime to be taking care of and we have their two best agents on the case, which is both a relief and a surprise to us. The problem we face now is that even if the guy is guilty or the police find others involved, none of them will have the amount of money that I owe because the amount is more than they probably make in several years! I can't sue them for money they don't have, can I? AH!

Ok...enough of that story. Share it with your friends...down with T-Mobile!

And I will happily go to work tomorrow and try to forget about it, until we speak to the Diplomatic Police again. When my instincts are to be an open-minded and fair person, it is a very expensive lesson to learn that I have to assume people here are trying to rip me off before I allow them to prove otherwise.



Joanna said...

That is disgusting! My T-Mobile contract is up in April, and when I do not renew it, I will make sure to tell them that your situation is a contributing factor. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

Kris - I wanted to touch base with you to catch up. How is the situation now? It must have been very disturbing. Were you ever at risk?

Send an email at some point... I can fill you in on Toastmasters, life in the concrete jungle, and preparing for the Cherry Blossom 10 mile run.

Nic Kotschoubey

Omar said...

You can't blame T-mobile. They want their money. Pay up. Plus, they sponsored cycling for like a decade, okay?