Sunday, September 09, 2007

Other things that suck: Sprint customer service

Amp'd. I ranted about Amp’d Mobile at the end of July. The company shut down and left me without mobile phone service. Then they had the balls to send me a final bill a month later with the notation that I could only pay by check, and if I didn’t pay, my name would be turned over to a collections agency. AND, no customer service number is available if I have any questions. I called the law firm representing them in their bankruptcy proceedings and was told I’d get a call back. I never did. I hope their chief executive gets an undiagnosed case of giardia. In the billing envelope, I sent Amp’d back a note that said I would willingly pay if I could talk to someone. I also said I’m not sending them a check. I’ll let you know what happens.

Anyway, after a month on a pay-as-you go plan from Verizon -- easily able to make my Amp’d phone work on their network -- I jumped ship to Sprint. I used to have Sprint and had no problems, but in my never ending quest to get the best possible deal and the most unique product on the market, I switched to Amp’d. We know where that got me.

With much Web searching, I stumbled upon an impossible deal: $30 for unlimited mobile web access/text messaging/downloads, 500 anytime minutes, free calls to other Sprint customers and unlimited evenings beginning at 7:00 PM. All you had to do, according to one sneaky website I discovered, was go to the Sprint employee referral website and give the referring employee’s email address as

I did just that. Even ordered a semi-cool Mogul phone, typing in an additional $50-off coupon code I found elsewhere on the web. I submitted another $100 rebate for the phone. No, it’s no iPhone. But for Sprint it’s one of better choices for a web-enabled PDA phone with a pop-out keyboard.

Of course things got screwed up. Verizon refused to port over my number from Amp’d (Amp’d ran their network on Verizon). To deal with the porting issue alone, I spent about four hours, maybe five, on the phone with polite but untrained customer service staff in the Philippines and somewhere in the Caribbean. They kept transferring me to other untrained people in other locations. Actually some of them weren’t only untrained, but were just stupid and incompetent (perhaps that’s a cruel thing to say, but it’s true). And they kept giving the standard international call center answer: “The computer says everything is still in process, so please be patient.” One employee told me I’d already accumulated $200 in download charges, which made no sense and infuriated me even more than I already was. I also got disconnected by a very flustered and quite inept man in a Philippines call center, after spending 48 minutes on the phone.

One customer service agent mistyped my social security number when I was first registering the account, which also screwed everything up. She transposed a couple of the numbers in the last four digits (She also changed my plan to the wrong plan). Another representative told me I had to go to Sprint store to correct the Social Security number typo, so I went to the local Sprint store and was told by the high school student working there that they couldn’t change it. After my second visit to the store, when I demanded that they “get the right person on the phone” who could change it, they did, and it was changed in a matter of minutes.

I also took advantage of a promotion on the Sprint website to download a free ringer. When I went to purchase the ringer and entered in promotion code to make it free, it went ahead and charged my account $24.99. After eight emails to someone named Pearlie S., the charge was eventually reversed.

At one point in the whole debacle, I was transferred to a woman whose voice I recognized as 'Black American.' A person on US soil. Perhaps my questions would finally be resolved. When I told her my account number, she said, “Aw, damn. I can’t do anything about that. I work in long distance. That’s a cell phone number.”

At last. One person I spoke with knew what I was talking about and said, “That’s an employee referral account. You need to speak to the Sprint Employee customer service department.” I can't tell you how many times I told the customer service reps exactly this. Can you believe it? After about seven hours on the phone and in the Sprint store, someone supposedly knew what to do to secure my phone number, correct the plan, remove incorrect charges, confirm the adjusted Social Security number, confirm my coupon, and fix other things that I can’t even remember. I still haven’t received the bill yet, and I’m sure problems will surface, but at least I finally know the correct toll-free number.

So my advice, if the plan is still available (and I’ve confirmed that it is as of this posting), get a deal on the Sprint SERO plan. And then don’t dial any of the numbers in any of the printed information they send you. Don’t even dial the number taped to your phone to activate it. Dial only the Sprint employee customer service number. And then we can enjoy unlimited Sprint-to-Sprint free calling. Talk to you soon.

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