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My Marathon With Sprint

Posted by aquaman on February 03, 2007.


How the 108-year-old telcom giant stole my money, ruined my weekend, and drove me insane.

[Update: Satisfaction Granted.]

My Friday night was ruined before it had begun. Between 7:45pm and 1:15am, I would talk to seven different Sprint customer service representatives. My bill, which was $630 higher than expected, would be deemed both "an obvious computer error" and "completely valid." I would be transferred and hung-up on and stranded on hold. One time I'd even be called back. I would be told I was the victim of a scam; I would be accused of concocting one.

I would be told nothing could be done and I would be lobbied to upgrade my text-messaging plan. I would strangely bring up the Saddam Hussein hanging, just making conversation.

And I would keep a running diary to document the madness.

6:52pm: While watching a documentary about the 1999 St. Louis Rams on my iPod, I receive this email from my wife: "Sprint has charged you another $600 for the BlackBerry you are now reading this on." This kills the good feelings born from Kurt Warner's improbable rise.

7:30pm: Now off the bus, I practice verbally jousting with Sprint Customer Care. I play all roles. Talking to yourself in your car is not crazy, I decide.

7:39pm: At home I see the mess that is my Sprint bill. But at least I can read it. Our first three bills were printed in Spanish.

7:45pm: Dialing Customer Care.

7:46pm: I am told all customer service representatives are busy assisting other customers.

7:48pm: I am told all customer service representatives are busy assisting other customers.

7:50pm: (Again.)

7:51pm: I am now talking to Anna, who is most likely from Canada. (I will later learn that everyone I spoke to was in Canada. They're probably all in the same room, cackling with glee.)

My Opening Statement: "Before we begin, I want you to know how angry I am. I've been yelling and I'm shaking. My eyes are tearing up. But I know this isn't your fault. So I'm not going to yell or swear or give you a hard time."

Her Rebuttal: "What is your phone number?"

My measured eloquence is lost on all-business Anna.

7:56pm: I make my case, going back to December 29th. That night I called the Sprint 800 number to inquire about upgrading to a BlackBerry. My sales rep put me on hold for fifteen minutes, during which I watched the run-up to Saddam Hussein's execution. He returned – "he" being the sales rep, not Saddam – and offered me a great deal, similar to the deal new customers would receive. The BlackBerry 8703e for $139.08. He even threw in a headset and protective case, provided I sign a new two-year agreement (effective that day). I supplied my AmEx number; he shipped my phone. Transaction complete.

7:58pm: Anna tells me it sounds like telesales fraud. These reps work on commission, she said. On occasion, a rep will "invent" a deal, accept payment, but never enter any notes about the sale. Sprint knows I ordered a BlackBerry on December 29th and knows they received $139.08, but does not connect the two events. Thus the $600+ in charges a month later.

She says she will contact her supervisor to delete the charges. This is the last I hear from Anna.

8:05pm: "Hello, tech support. How can I help you?" Ugh. I repeat my story. She, in fact, cannot help me at all.

8:29pm: Sprint has two types of hold music. Classic rock hits, like "Penny Lane" and "Glory Days," and mindless looping elevator music designed to drive you crazy. The last twenty minutes were scored by the latter. Now it's Beth who gets my spiel. "I'm sorry sir, but the deal you were offered was not approved. These charges are completely valid." The insinuation is that I was trying to pull some sort of fast one.

8:45pm: I'm waiting for Beth's supervisor. It's an understandably busy night at Sprint, since today's the day most customers received their monthly statement. Since these statements have a pliable relationship with reality, people are pissed.

8:58pm: Beth's supervisor John asks me to start over.

9:12pm: I introduce the term "bait & switch" to our discussion. I know this not from legal training, but from an episode of Growing Pains, where Mike Seaver is taught the practice by Jerry (Andrew) Delish while working at an electronics store. I believe Perfect Strangers once had a similar plot.

9:14pm: John asks me to give him a minute while he reads the notes on my account.

9:23pm: He should have asked for nine minutes. John promises to sort everything out and call me back. ("Give me an hour or two.")

10:15pm: At my wife's urging, I drink three glasses of champagne. It's all we had in the fridge. I drink while watching the latest episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Am I the only fan left?

10:38pm: While I am zoning out before the TV, my wife is diving headlong into research. This is one of the things I really love about her. Whenever we're wronged, she immediately gets busy creating our case. She tells me about companies that will buy out my Sprint contract. About complaint-filing procedures of the Better Business Bureau (we'll have to file with the Kansas chapter). About "Ask Asa," one of those shame-on-you local news segments. I'm glad she's on my side.

11:34pm: Realizing John is not calling back, I try again and reach Javier. The champagne has loosened me up, and I notice a rise in casual swearing ("I'm getting fucked here," not "You're a fucking ass hole.") Javier does not seem to mind. He "appreciates my situation," which I find mildly insulting.

11:53pm: After a lengthy conversation with his supervisor, Javier informs me there's nobody around who can erase the fraudulent charges. I'm transferred to BlackBerry sales.

12:08am: I learn it's against Sprint company policy for customer care operators to reveal their last name.

12:20am: Linda tells me this is obviously a computer error, expresses amazement at their collective inability to help, and says there's nothing she can do. So she transfers me.

12:26am: Another operator, another explanation, another waste of time, another trip to the on-hold queue.

12:48am: I've been on hold for forever when call waiting clicks. It's John, who promised to call back hours ago. He has good news, he tells me. He can give me $129.99 off the $630, plus an additional $150 rebate. This is a nice gesture. But it's like a thief leaving behind your driver's license after stealing your wallet.

12:59am: I am seething. I wildly inflate the readership of this website, my friends' law credentials, and my ability to influence public opinion.

1:14am: I make one final offer – an offer to end this. I'll send back the phone, I propose, if they waive the $400 early termination fee (me plus my wife). Let's all move on. John says one thing has nothing to do with the other. I hate him and his narrow mind. I start yelling before just hanging up.

[I do not sleep well.]

8:34am: Awake and ready for one more try. I reach a very nice woman whose name I forget. She offers me the same deal John did last night, plus a $75 service credit (for the six hours of nonsense) and a $100 mail-in rebate deal I'm sure won't work.

I'm still getting screwed, but I'm also ready to concede. Sprint wins. Great job guys. They didn't earn $44 billion in revenue in 2006 by admitting errors – or worse, fraud. I fought the lawless and the lawless won.

8:45am: "Was I able to resolve your issues 100%?" What a great way to end my ordeal.

My only hope is that someone who works for Sprint will read this and feel ashamed and embarrassed. Maybe try to make it right.

If you've been screwed by Sprint -- or by any cell phone provider -- use the comments section to vent. It's cathartic.

Isn't there room in this market for a responsible company? One to position itself as the carrier not out to screw you? If you know of one, email me.

Reader Comments

After reading this, I am now 100% convinced that my earlier hunches about Sprint are correct. Does anybody have any recommendations for selling, trading, or getting out of my contract?

Posted by Brandon.

I have Nextel and they drop way too many calls. I thought about Sprint but will shy away even though my company gets me 15% off each bill. I think I will lean towards Verizon which consumer reports rates higher.
Great story of how companies don't care about the little people who work for a living. Just like the cable companies they have you by the cohones!

Posted by clemm.

I have Nextel, and I've never had a problem with dropped calls, but the texting is RIDICULOUS.

I send a text, like, "Hey come pick me up" and I don't receive the "ok" reply, until I'm already in my friends car on the way. Why it takes 2 hours to receive a text message, I don't know.

Their software on the phones is stupid. They should fire every programmer and engineer that works there.

Posted by Awol.

Outstanding recap. I feel your pain, and would be fully in favor of starting some kind of online petition/site/something to get back at companies like this. My worst headaches come from Cingular and Citibank.

Also, inflating the readership of this blog AND watching Studio 60 are two things I wholeheartedly approve of.

Posted by Jellio.

I really can't even believe you were treated so badly by Sprint. We also use them and I can't even understand their bills half the time. I usually just pay it because its easier then having to deal with them on the phone.
I wonder if there is interest in some kind of class-action lawsuit out there. There have got to be other people who've had a similar experience to yours.
I worked as a Customer Service Team Leader for the best paper in the country ;) before having kids and we really tried to please our customers. Our goal was not to lose any customers. In one case, a woman had one missed paper, but called up and made such a pain of herself (she was a wacko), that the company ended up giving her a free subscription for as long as she wanted it.
I'd keep calling Sprint and bugging the hell out of them.
I also love Studio 60!

Posted by Cindy.

There's this website out there called dothrightthing that is all about letting people sound off on corporate douchbaggerry. Worth putting this story up there to get the word out further.

Posted by Evil Richard.

I would never ever use Sprint, but for a different reason. I used to live in Kansas City where they are based and I know (from the almost daily stories in the paper) that Sprint has two main businesses: telecommunications and...firing people. They spent billions building a campus (and it looks like a campus) of dozens of buildings. Then they started firing people. To pay for it, I guess. The CEO was fired for something he did with his taxes (not because it was illegal, it just looked bad...unlike weekly layoffs). Since then, they have hired one moron after another for ridiculous amounts of money and then, 6 months later, paid said moron even more money to go away. Layoff 10,000 people and repeat cycle.

Sprint represents the very worst of corporate behavior.

Posted by Jeff.

Desperately wanting to get out of Sprint. They more than doubled my original monthly payments, all done by not providing me with services I requested.

Posted by M.ryman.

Find someone at a sprint retail store who will give you the "in-house" Sprint phone number for the retention department. Business is so bad, these folks will do handstands to retain you. I went through the process two weeks ago and the changes are to take affect 02-05-07. We'll see. Otherwise, it will be worth the $200 to switch.

Posted by spartan76.

ATT/Cingular wireless did something very similar to that. I went online and found the name of the CEO of Cingular. I wrote him a very pleasant and explanatory letter. (no email, no phone calls), a letter.

I had given up much like you did, when I received a call from the bosses aide. He asked me a few questions, apologized and my account was completely wiped out. I had changed carriers weeks ahead of that time and I explained that to the boss. Very nice, very well handled. Restored my faith in American business.

Posted by deriter.

In all fairness to Sprint on the whole "layoff everyone" thing, most of those layoffs took place while the company was under completely different leadership that was of the Ken Lay persuasion, hence the attempted merge with MCI-worldcom prior to their big meltdown; Sprint's CEO at the time got a 7-figure bonus just for attempting the merger based on how the deal was written.

they do have a giant campus though, which I lovingly refer to as "Fort Sprint".

That being said, I had a heck of a time when I stopped working for them (just an internship). I had an employee account, and as I ceased to be an employee and receive the discount, my account should have been switched over to normal people land. Well, I stopped getting the discount, but they still had it set up as an employee account, which means that most sprint employees aren't even allowed to look at it, let alone incompetently attempt to make me feel better. After many calls, they finally figured out how to switch it over. Then my voicemail stopped working. I couldn't check it, and if you called me, the line would go dead after 5 rings. When they fixed that, my phone stopped working for a week. Then my wife's VM got messed up, and I just about killed 6 people getting that fixed. Oh, then I was getting charged for taxes in KC, and in Omaha (where I live now). That took at least 5 attempts to be corrected.

Posted by Yurko.

I was with Sprint for a while and had a lot of issues with customer service (although nothing so costly) until I finally changed to verizon.

I did get hit pretty hard on my second bill...1600 dollars. It turns out that the 'unlimited' internet I had asked for was not what they gave me. I generally leave my phone online at all times...hence the huge charge. I called customer service and told them that I had asked for an unlimited plan. There were no notes taken when I purchased that plan (nothing that would have said I wasn't pulling a fast one), but they still handled it how you would expect them to. They asked me not to pay the bill and they would call me tomorrow. They asked me to go to where I bought my phone and talk to the salesman. I did, of course he didn't remember for sure (it had been 2 months)...but he made a note on my account that said it's likely that he gave me the wrong plan. I got a call back 2 days later letting me know that all charges had been removed. Yes, it was a pain and took a lot of time to get resolved. But, they did the right thing and never assumed I was lying to them. I've been very happy with verizon so far. I would definitely recommend switching there if you can get out of your contract.

Posted by Drew.

My brother is a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force who served overseas in China and Myanmar the last 6 years, and been in the service for 30 years. After an injury in Myanmar, he's now in the States and retiring later this year, and I have been helping him with our atrocious Amercian customer service (which is almost always outsourced). First it was Dell, who sold him a laptop with the audio turned off. Then it was Dish Network, who promised him packages that they weren't able to deliver. And the latest customer service snafu was AT&T.

After his first bill he called me to try and help him figure out what all the charges were, and mind you, this is a Military officer and I was Valedictorian, and neither of us could figure it out, let alone get an AT&T rep to be able to explain it to us. So then I finally told him, "Hey, welcome back to America", because unfortunately as a society this is what we have become accustomed to having to deal with.

PS. Don't even get me started on Direcway internet, they ripped me off for over a year before multiple BBB complaints, supervisors in foreign countries, and registered mail finally got me free of them.

Posted by Tracy.

That's what you get when you deal with Canadians!

Posted by miker430.

sorry but your "little" dance with Sprint takes a way back seat to my recent marathon with Comcast.
I was over 10 days without internet because of their internal screwup. I made beaucoup phone calls etc. Finally took out the recently installed phone modem and returned it to Comcast. The transaction put me back on line but with no land line phone service. since put in Embarq and sent running documentary to President of Comcast.
Have not hear anything yet. Would post my diary similar to yours but much longer.

Posted by al.

Keep fighting the good fight, Al. Keep us posted (if you have internet access, that is.)

Posted by aquaman.

Hilarious. I read this while listening to my wife try to activate a new sprint phone for her brother. See, the funny thing is, is that she works for Sprint (her position has nothing to do with CS or sales or even cell phones, so don't threaten her or me please). And apparently they treat their employees worse than their customers.

In order to keep it short, I'll just summarize that we only switched to sprint from verizon because, with the employee plan, my phone is free with unlimited everything, and hers is only 15 a month. And the phones were free. That's a hard deal to pass up.

Many, many screwups later, and after hours total on the phone with borderline retarded CS people, it's sad to say that I'd almost rather pay so many times more for verizon service than deal with Sprint's CS.

I try to keep a cool head but sometimes they just make me too mad.

One time, when they were supposed to transfer my wife's verizon number to her new sprint phone, instead they shut off my phone. After an hour on the phone with them, I was told that it would take 3 days before my phone would work. After three days, they told me 36 more hours. I, not so politely, asked, "are you fucking MAILING me a new phone number or what? NOTHING TAKES 3 DAYS" and was hung up on.


Keep the fight alive

Posted by Matt.

Jason wrote:
"This kills the good feelings born from Kurt Warner's improbable rise."

This crime would have been enough for me to hit the roof. You don't mess with my warm fuzzies at the hand of the GSOT and Super Bowl 34.

Posted by Rob in Denver.

Jason wrote:
"This kills the good feelings born from Kurt Warner's improbable rise."

This crime would have been enough for me to hit the roof. You don't mess with my warm fuzzies delivered by the hand of the GSOT and Super Bowl 34.

Posted by Rob in Denver.

I too can relate to your frustration with Sprint. Recently I switched to t-mobile. The difference is night and day. T-mobile offers better plans, great phones and the customer service is actually friendly AND helpful. Ultimately, I recommend anyone over Sprint.

Posted by Tana.

I was with T-Mobile for YEARS before switching to Verizon for a better phone upgrade. Incompetent Verizon customer service, and the nearly unnavigable web site, prompted me to switch well within my 14-day trial period. Unfortunately, I switched to Sprint. The customer service is even worse, but I didn't know until it was too late. Now I'm locked in to a two-year contract, and I'm pining for my time with my beloved T-Mobile. If you hear of a buyout plan, please do let me know.

Posted by Gillian.

Sprint is not the only company with a less than stellar customer service dept. You do understand the education and personal skill level required for the job right? Verizon, T-mobile and Cingular all have problems too, it's hit and miss for you unhappy people above. Big companies with a lot of customers will always have problems with customer service. Is there a list like this for getting my food order wrong at 2am in a jack-n-the-box drive through? Now that is criminal....

Posted by Brent.

To the guy who thought the Sprint retention department gave him a good deal, just wait on the bill! They will tell you anything on the phone to get you to sign up again, and then they hit you with the Bait and Switch again. They just recently did it to me. Told me they would give me service including roaming and nights at 7:00 for $29.99. Then I got the bill the first month and they had added a charge for the nights. The next month they added the roaming charge back. When I called to tell them I was lied to and wanted to cancel, they said I could cancel for a $200 early termination fee! What a bunch of skunks. I see one law firm is starting class action lawsuit on the Sprint Bait and Switch schemes. I think I will join.

Posted by Mike.

I do not have too much time to reply, but while waiting to resolve a minor charge to my account listed here:

Other Charges 1,349.97
Other Credits & Adjustments -187.37
Taxes, Surcharges & Fees 73.02

I saw that I was not the only one. Sprint TelaHell (aka telephone sales) had sold me not what I wanted - an upgrade to a moto Q from my treo 650, but had sold me a complete new line and plan in the wrong area code without my consent - bypassing my free upgrade - and noting that two phones were shipped instead of the one I received - etc etc etc. Then the Moto Q stopped working - got a replacement from sprint while being billed for it as an additional phone - and then sprint never receiving my returned or fraud based sale of the original order along with my non functional phone caused sprint to bill me for all unreported phones. I have all shipping labels, and confirmation of received phones to "the warehouse" via some 800 number representative from hell. In the end "it" is under investigation by the same trustworthy sprint representatives.

Good thing is I record all my phone calls at my office - so if anyone needs fuel for the fire - I have them in various recordings with abstract transfer to some Cow farmer in Nebraska. We maybe not that - but close ;-)

Cheers and I plan to revisit this topic on this site.


Posted by Mark.

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