NBC10 Boston Responds: A Costly Free Deal

A buy one, get one free smartphone deal turned into a big headache for one of our viewers. He had run out of options to get the problem resolved before turning to our NBC10 Boston Responds team for help.

Greg Sabatino bought his dad, who lives in New York, a new smartphone for his birthday last year.

"About a month later, he was struggling to set up his voicemail, so he called customer service at AT&T to get some help, and during that conversation, they let him know that they had been running a buy one, get one offer on Samsung Galaxy S8s, and offered to update my mother’s line," explained Sabatino.

So Sabatino's dad took advantage of the buy one, get one free offer, thinking he was getting a free phone for his wife. Sabatino's parents are on his mobile plan, and when he got his bill, he saw a $749 charge for the second phone.

"I naturally contacted customer support, and asked why there was a charge for the phone," said Sabatino.

They told him it usually takes two to three billing cycles before that kicks in, and he would be refunded for those payments. When he didn’t see a credit, he contacted customer service by chat and was reassured that it would appear on the next bill - but it didn’t.

"I called again, and this time the customer service agent did a little more digging, and said 'Your mother’s line was not a newly added line. It was an upgraded line, and didn’t qualify for the buy one, get one offer,'" Sabatino said.

He couldn’t get a refund, and says AT&T told his father he couldn’t return the phone either.

"If a rep offers you something from a company, you would expect that they understand what it is that they are offering," Sabatino said.

Angry, Sabatino closed his account and moved to another wireless carrier.

"I didn’t think it was right, and nobody likes to see their parents upset," he said.

His parents filed a complaint against AT&T with the New York Attorney General’s office. The office sent them a letter in January with a response from AT&T saying: "A new line activation is required for the BOGO promotion... a refund will not be provided for the cost of the devices."

So Sabatino contacted us. We got the matter escalated with AT&T, and a month later, they refunded his money. AT&T said, "We have apologized to the customer and credited them the cost of the device."

Sabatino says he’s glad he turned to NBC10 Boston Responds.

"I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised at the interaction I had with the team, and the way that they supported me without a doubt." he said. "It gives you some hope that the right thing can turn out in the end."

There are often a lot of specific requirements associated with these buy one, get one free deals, so be sure to read the fine print before you sign up.

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