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I’m a pretty easy-going guy, but I just got off the phone with Helio, and I’m pissed. On May 11, I bought a Helio Ocean to replace my beloved Sidekick 3. After trying out the Ocean’s terrible interface, I decided to return it and get my money back. Returning it was easy, but after two months, I still haven’t gotten my money back.

Helio promises a “Total Happiness Guarantee”. So far, it’s an empty promise:

1. Helio receives device, but forgets the refund

I returned my Helio Ocean via FedEx on June 20, 2007. Helio receives it two days later on June 22. After two months without seeing a refund on my credit card account, I call to see what’s going on. The operator tells me that for some reason, a refund request was not put in. She then puts in a refund request for $295 and tells me I should be getting a refund in about a week.

2. Helio tries to avoid refunding sales tax

Great, but wait, what about a refund for the sales tax? The operator tells me Helio can’t refund the sales tax, because they have to give the money to the state. Huh?

Here’s how the conversation goes.

Operator: The sales tax has to go the state, so unfortunately we can’t refund that to you.

Chanpory: I’m confused. When I return something to a store, I get a refund for the merchandise AND the sales tax. So I don’t understand why you can’t refund it to me.

Operator: You’re right, now that you mention it, that does seem strange. Let me talk to a supervisor and find out more. Can you please hold?

Chanpory: Okay, thank you.

Operator: Sir, thank you for holding. I spoke with someone and I do apologize for the inconvenience, but unfortunately, the sales tax goes to the state, and we can’t refund it to you.

Chanpory: That really doesn’t make much sense to me, is there someone else I can talk to?

Operator: Yes, I can get a supervisor for you, please hold.

While I’m on hold, I quickly go online and find Helio’s own Terms and Conditions. It says:

If you purchased a product from us directly or through another agent or third party retailer, you may cancel your service and return your product for a refund of charges for the product and taxes (less any rebates and shipping and handling charges), for any reason within the first 30 days of purchase.

I explain my situation to a supervisor named Travis. He tells me the previous operator was mistaken about sales tax being nonrefundable. He puts in an additional refund request for $92 dollars, which includes the Ocean’s sales tax and some money for all my trouble. I thought that the extra money was a nice gesture, and the call ends with me feeling positive about getting my money back.

3. A week later, and still no full refund

After a week, I check my credit card account online and see a $92 dollar refund. The $295 for the device, however, is still no where to be found.

4. It’ll take up to another 59 days!

So today, I call Helio again. I speak with a supervisor, Tarika. She tells me it will take up to 59 days after the initial refund request is put in. That means it could be a total of 4 months before I receive my refund. She says the refund might go through sooner, but that they’re telling everyone 59 days.

5. Why? Because they’re backlogged

I ask Tarika if there’s anything she can do to speed it up, since I’ve already waited two months. Tarika says it’s out of her hands because refunds are processed by a corporate department. She can put in a “note” on my account, but says it won’t guarantee the refund will go through.

I ask Tarika if I can talk to someone in the corporate refunds department. Tarika says no, because that department is closed on Sundays. She also tells me refunds are taking this long because Helio is receiving a large amount of refunds to process. Gee, I wonder why.

I now have an iPhone.

Update (Sept 19): A representative from Helio, Matt White, just called me personally. They are finally going to refund my money. Matt says it should be returned to my credit card in about a day. Let’s hope it’s true.

Could today’s personal phone call be the result of me filing a dispute with Bank of America weeks ago? Or is it because this post got picked up on Consumerist and Wired Magazine’s Gadget Lab in the last couple of days. The timing suggests it’s the blog coverage. It just goes to show: blogs do make a difference.

Has anyone tried returning a Helio device? How was your experience? Any advice on dealing with customer service hell?

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66 Comments

  • Michael

    gravatarMay 12, 2008
    10:56 pm

    Oh, here’s the best one of all – in addition to having most of the problems voiced by everyone here (service termination even when I’m using their automated payment that works automatically every months and still generates warning emails/SMS, missing bills, broken phones, lying member-care reps, etc.) we had one doozy that still takes my breath away: There were MATH ERRORS on the bill. Yes, 51+10 does not equal 79. We walked through the bill with the supervisor (and his supervisor) and they were mystified and stunned too. Their billing system is just plain broken. Now I’ve got an account that was shut down even when I always paid on time because they took the money right off my credit card automatically and of course they sent my account off to a slimey collection agency even before the postmarked date on the warning note arrived.

  • Beck

    gravatarMay 23, 2008
    10:54 am

    After 9 years of frusturations with Sprint, we finally decided to look for another company. How in our research did we not find all the bad stuff about Helio? Whoa. With research and referrals, at the time we found good stuff and felt very positive about going with Helio. Whooops. We have 2 businesses and we got 3 lines with Helio – 2 Oceans and 1 Heat. During the 2 months that we were with Helio, all 3 of our devices had various troubles. I rely heavily on 3-way calling in my business. My phone’s 3-way calling never worked. After hours on the line with amazingly confusing Helio customer service, my simple problem seemed amazingly complicated to fix. I got a new Ocean finally to replace the one that didn’t work, and whaddya know, the 3-way calling still didn’t function. Then they tried to say that they couldn’t do anything about that minor problem. So much more happened than this, but we finally decided that our business couldn’t be put on hold anymore. We went back to Sprint. I am facing lots of lost time and working on recovering well over $2,000 in fees and fees and fees. At this point I feel a moral consumer obligation to take legal action. Lets not be lazy consumers, take your stories anywhere that may make Helio have to take responsibility for this continuous bad business.

  • Fred

    gravatarMay 24, 2008
    10:37 pm

    Try having them replace a defective Ocean phone after 14 days of usage, they will not believe that you actually have a bad phone. After hours of investing in customer service calls, they agreed to send a replacement. However, they neglected to tell me that the replacement will be a “used” phone. When I brought this to their attention as the replacement looked banged up, they invoked their waranty policy that they reserve the right to send refurbished phones as replacement. Can anyone tell me how this can be right when a consumer buys a brand new phone that does not work will get a “used” phone? If I wanted a used phone, I would’ve paid for one.

    Yes, customer service does not understand US Consumer Laws.

    ANY ATTORNEY INTERESTED IN A CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT AGAINST HELIO? This is ludicrous!!!

  • Nina-B

    gravatarMay 25, 2008
    9:58 pm

    And I thought I had issues. Here are a few things I’ve learned from situations like the ones posted:

    1. If you send something back such as a phone make sure you choose to certify it with delivery. A company tried to say that I didn’t return my item. I’m like BAM! The item was signed for and accepted on this date at this time. All they could do was give me my refund.

    2. I had an issue with Bank of America awhile ago. They allowed illegal charges and on top of that hit me up with overdraft fees. I was looking at over $300 in the red. I politely went to the Better Business Bureau site and called up a number given by my mom. When you hit up the BBB, it forces the company to notice the problem and to solve it. There’s a number (can’t remember right now) that will go after the bank and can shut them down or fine them as well.

    3. Keep all paperwork! Companies know that you will receive an item and service and not pay attention to paperwork. When there is a problem have it handy and fax it for proof. Throws them off every time.

    4. Get on their nerves! Go over there head and remember names, extensions, confirmations, etc.

    How do I know so much? My mom worked in collections and in other occupations where she had to know the law. Don’t let these companies take advantage of you. What you don’t know will hurt you.

    Was about to get the Helio Ocean, but now I’m back out shopping for a new phone.

  • India617

    gravatarJun 4, 2008
    10:54 am

    Oh hell! Had I of known all this I wouldnt of even bothered! I got a helio in february i returned it the next day phone was in my possesion a whole total of 24hrs and not only they charged me for 7 minutes of usage! Now first of all I got my Ocean from a third party vendor (wowgizmo.com I love them because they kept it real from Jump! Sean Kim the seller asked me if I was sure I wanted service I said hell yeah! He said well you have 30 days to return phone and after 7 days I am responsible for usage even if I return within 30 days.) Now I had to pay $97.00 for the phone itself and a $150 deposit. I got the phone and It was cute but it kinda sucked in a way to. Anyway I did the whole surfing, downloaded a ringtone and 7minutes of talk time. -I headed to fedex before noon the next day and got my refund for the phone maybe 2days after Back On My Credit Card. (Thank You Sean Kim) After receiving refund for phone he tells me to make sure I call Helio again myself because they play around! (Special Thanks Sean Kim) Now this is from February 29th that I called it is now June 9th I have been given the following crock of sh*t: 1. REP: Your refund hasn’t been approved. ME: What’s that mean this is passed two weeks what hasnt been approved? The phone is returned and I got my money and I do not need any approval because I had phone for 24hrs! It took Helio 5 minutes to decide I need a deposit and 5 minutes to get it from me. on top of that I wouldnt of got the phone in my possesion without giving you $150.00 so the phone is where its suppose to be where is my $150.00? REP: Its actually $119.00 for usage and it will take 15 days to be refunded.

    2.March 29th call for status- REP: It was denied. (I go off politely) she puts me on 10min hold (no exaggeration) only to tell me it will take two to three weeks. ME: I will NOT wait two to three weeks -I want chargers reversed.

    After speaking to fake supervisors and managers the best I could get was it will take 15 days

    1. May 9th- more than 15 days later. I call for status:

    REP: Ms XXX I dont know what happened it was never mailed out. (I am livid at this point) ME: Can I speak to Mr. Helio himself WTH! Why is it everytime I call I am getting the run around? I need to speak to someone who can tell me why I can not get my money or a reason why its held up?

    REP: I will investigate this. (A complete HOUR! Of back and forth putting me on hold repeating old information and reading from a script everytime I interrupther to tell her the last few reps I spoke to told me the same friggin thing she is telling me) she finally comes back with “I will get the chargers reversed for you I have to transfer you to Tier III and they will assist you from there.Is is it the same credit card ending in XXXX? ME: (excitedly and calmer) Yes it is (I am thinking this B*tch got my credit card info on file- why didnt they do that to begin with? (Transfer) TIER III REP: (verifys allll info again) Ok m’am you should receive your check in 15days. ME: (gasps and concentrates so hard I pooted) Um, excuse me M’AM I was told by previous rep this was going to be reversed?! I was told many times already about this 15 days- I never got my check. After she rudely repeated the same stuff over and over to me- I told her well what do I do if 15 days come Again and I still get nothing? REP: call back again. (Flatly) 4. It is now June 4th called again this time brian said he will call me to see if I get my check and to give it until June 9th or the beginning of next week. I asked Brian if a courtesy call was suppose to make me feel better and from then on it was me and entertaining Brian with colorful vocabulary and humoring him only to be left with- “its in the mail- june 9th or beginning of next week you should get your check- if not I will call you” I hate helio…it’s run by devils and the people who work for them are mingnons for working for them because they know we are getting ripped off them bastards! I hope there is a class action lawsuit pending so everyone who ever owned a helio happy or not get some change!

  • HelioSup

    gravatarJul 2, 2008
    9:13 pm

    I was a supervisor at Helio and let me just say that the company is horrible! Our training class was taught by a junkie who did not know anything about the company. The only things we really did during training was make posters and take breaks. (and thats why no one knows what they are doing) When the supervisors would be busy taking calls (The ones that actually worked), a manager would just point at some guy who didn’t know his job and tell him to pretend to be a supervisor. The employees are told not to call avoid but basically 75% of the calls they got during their shift, they hung up on. To be honest, it was a bunch of kids working there who just wanted the money–¦only problem is that they ripped us off, like they rip of the customers. Some of the supervisors will even tell an employee to hang up the call because there were more waiting. To make matters worse Helio opened up a call center in Philliphines. They messed up accounts, lied to them and stole everyone’s job. Also, another thing: many of the employees would steal your ss and cc #s. Most of them, if not all didn’t give a damn about anything except on how to best call avoid without getting caught, how to piss the customer off the most, and how to get the member to ask for a supervisor without saying the word supervisor. The only way you can probabaly count on getting ANY compensation for your account is to talk to help desk (supervisors), the saves department or someone that will just give you credit because they want you off the line.

    Things to watch out for:

    1. DON’T GET YOUR NUMBER PORTED
    2. If you don’t want to wait on hold while waiting for tier 2, which we all know happens all the time, speak to a supervisor and ask them to call you back
    3. Ask nicely
    4. You CAN get that promotion deal
    5. billing cycle dates cant be paid
    6. it doesnt matter if they say they are taking the notes most of the time those notes are a sentence long
    7. dont expect a refund back
    8. your still paying for your phone even when its been suspended
    9. their name and agent id doesn’t help
    10. those nasty comments you make on surveys actually DO make a difference, they get back to the managers.
    11. its ‘hilarious’ to transfer you to korean

    And yes, I am writing all this because Helio fucked me over like they’ll fuck you over.

  • jesse

    gravatarJul 16, 2008
    4:36 am

    the reason helio’s refunds were taking so long is because every single check whether $20 or $200,000 had to be signed off on by the then controller mike zemetra. this included refunds, this included purchases, literally every check that went out. it was an odd policy that i’d never seen before in a company that size to have its entire cash flow held hostage and bottlenecked by one single person

  • Mobob

    gravatarAug 12, 2008
    2:54 pm

    Having the same problem with Helio as well. Some attorney would have a hey day on this company with a class action suit. I believe this company has caused so much pain in people’s lives that it simply can not go on any longer. It is beyond ridiculous.

    I have now been told three times that my refund check has been sent since May and here it is August and still no check. When I called this time (to corporate office) they now tell me it was not sent and that the spreadsheet was incorrect. I wish I had NEVER heard of Helio!!

  • Will

    gravatarNov 25, 2008
    1:17 pm

    I have a helio ocean, and as much as i liked the device for its features when i first got it, IM FED UP WITH HELIO. Lets start with the fact that my device broke within the first year of ownership. I returned it for a “new” one (knowing i was getting a refurb), and alas i got a new shiny helio in the mail. now i’m thinking to myself “wow, great customer service, they even included a new background,” but i thought wrong. The device was BROKEN on arrival. yeah that’s right, it didn’t work right: all the keys were messed up and the only thing i could get it to do was turn on…couldn’t turn it off without removing the battery. anyways this lead to a TON of bs from the customer service dept., needless to say now i own both a fin and an ocean, and i am counting down the days to Aug. 2009, when i can finally leave helio and get a blackberry.

    and even now, my ocean doesnt function properly

    btw- sorry for the lack of correct sentence structure and the like, i just am not in the mood :D

  • Nancy

    gravatarDec 9, 2008
    10:31 am

    It’s sad to say, but I’m glad I’m not the only one. I originally signed up in June (beginning) with the Ocean refund promo of $100. Well, I did exactly what they said on their refund form (3 days later). I received an email from their “refund” company that said it’s being processed and ready for final validation. They gave me a tracking number and their website to track it. They received the paperwork on June 17th. It is now December 9th and after SEVERAL emails and phone calls to Helio and the rebate company, all I get is the same response. Helio says they can’t help because they don’t process the refunds. The rebate company keeps telling me it will be another 6-9 weeks. No one will help. All I want is my $100 refund!!! I’m so frustrated at this point, now I want to cancel my contract. I absolutely refuse to pay the ETF because as far as I’m concerned, the fact that I never received my $100 rebate constitutes as a contract change and I should not be charged an ETF. I have since reported both companies to the BBB (still waiting on a response from them). I hope to get this resolved soon. Either way, I’m terminating the contract and moving on. I’ve wasted too much time, energy and money into a worthless company who doesn’t care about it’s customers.

  • HELIOSERVICE SUCKS

    gravatarDec 13, 2008
    11:28 am

    ANYONE KNOW OF CLASS ACTION SUITS AGAINST HELIO YEY ?

  • Ginger

    gravatarMar 5, 2009
    5:25 pm

    I too am interested in a class action suit against this bastard of a company. They have screwed my husband I over since day one. We both have ocean’s. Or as I like to call it the baked potato,since it is useless. It is the shittiest phone I have ever come across. It is only good for text. They said it is 3g. It’s not.It’s run off an analog tower! I have a poor connection at the beginnig of every phone call. Usually when the person is saying “Hi. This is so and so.” It breaks up right as they say their name. Now this does not work well for me, especially since this is my business phone. Almost every single time I check voicemail and hang up. It gets stuck in voicemail and the only way to get out of it is to turn the mother off. I am a busy hairstylist and don’t have the time to fiddle with the frickin baked potatoe’s idiosyncrasies. My husband has volumes of logged conversations with customer service trying to get some relief from our helio shackles. They all lie. They all tell you a different story. The bottom line, it is your fault you signed a contract with Helio. Now suck up the shittiest phone service ever for two years. We both have replaced our oceans within less than a year. We both are responsible adults that have not dropped or immersed these said phones in water. Why do they suck so bad? Right now as I type, my husband is on the phone with their customer service trying once again in vain to get us out of this contract. He has talked hours and hours to them. They always act like the have no recollection of past problems. Why are’nt these logged on their end? They also “accidentally erased my entire clientele phone list”. That cost me business and was embarrassing when people called. Customers were miffed I didn’t recognize their numbers. I had to explain that Helio is shady and to stay the hell away from them.

  • JEFF

    gravatarApr 18, 2009
    1:48 am

    FOR AMANDA, OR ANYONE WITH KNOWLEDGE ON HELIOS BANKING. I HAD TO SUE HELIOS IN SMALL CLAIMS TO GET MY MONEY BACK (I WON). THE TROUBLE I HAVE NOW IS FINDING THEIR BANK. DOES ANYONE KNOW WHERE THEY BANK, OR PULL THEIR PAYROLL FROM? PLEASE EMAIL ME @ JEFFGROPPI@GMAIL.COM. IF YOU WANT TO GET YOUR MONEY BACK, SUE THEM IN SMALL CLAIMS COURT, AS THEY WILL NOT RESPOND. THEY ARE JUST COUNTING ON PEOPLE BEING LAZY, OR UNINFORMED ON THEIR OPTIONS. ITS EASY TO DO, SO GOOD LUCK TO ALL.

  • navarre

    gravatarJun 15, 2009
    11:51 am

    Has anyone noticed a change in the service or customer support since Helio was bought by Virgin Mobile. I speak English and I have a really difficult time understanding any of the Helio reps.

    Thank god I don’t have the problems some of these other people have had but hell I have only had it since december.

  • sd619

    gravatarOct 5, 2009
    12:52 pm

    it’s crazy to hear all these bad things about helio; i have had nothing but good experiences with their customer service when i’ve had to be in contact with them. the two times i’ve had to have my phone (ocean) replaced, everyone i’ve been in contact with has been a total peach and willing to help. the 2nd time i had to have it replaced i was even a couple weeks outside my warranty and after speaking to a manager, she graciously let me exchange anyways. got a brand new phone each time, not refurbed. i’ve had several techs spent countless minutes on the phone with me when the phones were breaking down each time (before i’ve had to send them in) and they’ve always been very helpful and patient. i’ve had great reception, and i love the ease of texting, calling, internet, and pics on the ocean. and no disrespect against anyone with limited english, but all the times i’ve called i’ve definitely never had trouble understanding the representatives. and that’s more i can say for when i used to have cingular. weird. guess i’ve been lucky but i’ve loved helio ever since i got it (2006). now i’m just nervous that now it’s actually virgin mobile that things will change.

  • Jonathan

    gravatarApr 8, 2010
    10:59 pm

    I’m truly shocked that people have had so many problems with Helio. Now I’ve never called their Customer Service Support but I’ve never had a reason too. Let me start off by saying I picked up my Helio from where I work, Fry’s Electronics back in 2008 and we had a contract deal that survived all the way up till now which also happens to be past Virgin Mobiles buy into Helio for ownership and though their merger with Sprint. Sprint is cutting all services for Helio phones 05/25/2010. Now the contract deal was as an employee I got 50% off my bill after taxes so I payed $38 and change a month which was really awesome. The only thing I didn’t like about their service as a whole was the fact I could stand in the same place and go from 3G sergice to 1X service. (1X being analog I would assume.) But that aside sometimes it would fail to send a text, not a surprise because all phones can do that including my now new Sprint Rumor2. But today my Helio Heat after 2+ years of great service died on me today, thankfully to PCLink Pro, a program I had to download to sync my Helio Heat to my PC to get pictures on/off it I was able to salvage my contact list. (It was saved still from the last time I hooked it up, I never synced it to the website.) All of this said I can’t believe people had so many problems with Helio but more over anyone I knew who had the Ocean except one person loved it. One Co-worker wishes he could still use it with Sprint but I checked while I was at their store today and you can’t.