What to do about a “customer service nightmare” with Sprint

Sprint offers to lower Kenneth Lynch’s phone bill but then pulls a fast one when his wife tries to upgrade her phone. Will the carrier go back on its word?

Question: About three weeks ago, I called the Sprint customer service line and complained that my bills were too high. I was tired of bills over $300.

The representative I talked to tried to help me and told me she could put me on a plan where my bill would be around $185 with 40GB of data. I was satisfied and hoped it would go well.

A couple days later my wife stopped into a Sprint store just to upgrade her phone and get a new one. The overly aggressive sales staff convinced her to switch plans to some “freedom” plan with unlimited data and it would only be $160 a month.

They tried to switch the plan but the computer wouldn’t let them so they tried to put in a ticket to get the help desk to change the plan. After three days of them messing with my plan, my plan was reverted back to the plan I was on before the original call.

The store never tried to resolve the issue. I called back into the customer support line and asked them to fix my plan and after many minutes of messing with it the representative could not figure out how to do it and told me that I would need an escalation to management.

She put in the escalation and told me someone would call me within three days. Ten days later, no one had called me and my plan is still the same. I called back in today and the person transferred me to another department, and that person put me on hold for 20 min and then hung up on me.
I have been a loyal Sprint customer since 2007 and this is how they treat me? I will see what AT&T or T-Mobile have to offer. Maybe they know what customer service is. — Kenneth Lynch, Austin, Texas

Answer: Sprint should have kept its word and lowered your bill as promised. When the somewhat coerced “upgrade” was discovered, it should have quickly allowed you to revert to your old plan.

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By the way, I agree with you that cell phone bills are way too high. If you’re on one of the Big Four wireless companies (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless) your average bill is more than $90 per month. That’s ridiculous.

I can’t fault a salesperson for trying to persuade your wife to add more services — after all, that’s what they’re supposed to do. But to me, this looks like a trap designed to squeeze more money out of you. And a clumsy one, at that.

Sprint’s terms and conditions stipulate that you can cancel your service within 30 days and avoid any additional charges, such as its early termination fee. In this case, it appears Sprint would allow you to cancel, but wouldn’t agree to roll back the charges, as it had initially told you it would.

The trick is to get this kind of agreement in writing, and a review of the paper trail — the correspondence between you and the company — suggests there wasn’t much of it. All of the negotiating had been done by phone. That’s not your fault. Carriers like Sprint prefer to talk (well, they’re a phone company, so of course they would), but that puts you at a disadvantage. How do you prove a representative made the offer? You can’t.

I love the resolution on this case. You found the Sprint customer service contacts on my consumer advocacy site and sent a brief, polite email to them. You heard back from them within a few hours and the company quickly agreed to honor your original agreement.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • Jeff W.

    I think some of the headaches could have been solved if the switch in phone plan AND the new phone upgrade occurred at the same time. Usually when one goes into the phone store to change/upgrade a phone, there is always a push to switch to a “better” plan. From the tone of the article, it seems as if the wife did not know the plan was recently changed. If she did, it would have been quite easy to say “we just changed plans a few days ago.

    With all of that, I am glad it worked out for them and were able to get back to the original agreement. Shouldn’t have been that hard, but it is a victory for the consumer.

  • Mel65

    Glad it worked out! My Verizon bill always hovers around $300, even after one of my adult children left the plan and got his own. Everytime we switch to “save money” it never saves us more than $10 a month and often seems to cost more!

  • cscasi

    It seems ever more obvious with these sort of thngs; it takes more persistence and getting to the right person(s) to make the correction happen. Once again, the companies listings that Chris provides seems to help lots of folks resolve issues that should have been resolved at the lowest level. We are learning customer service, in many cases, just isn’t what it once was.
    Glad it all finally worked out to what it should have been at the outset.

  • AAGK

    The husband must have flipped when he heard his wife went in 2 days later and changed the plan. Spirit should have changed it right back. This seems like a basic customer service request and it’s disappointing it took an executive to fix the prob.

  • Rebecca

    So everyone knows. When something like this happens, the department you need to speak to is (almost always) “retention”. That’s where the put the US based agents that know what they’re doing and have authority to make decisions or direct access to someone that does.

  • jim6555

    One way to avoid all of this foolishness and agrevation is to switch to a prepaid carrier. I did so over a year ago and am extremely pleased with my decision. The carrier that I chose is MetroPCS, a subsidiary of T-Mobile. I pay $70 per month for two lines including all taxes and fees. My plan includes unlimited domestic talk and texting along with 3 gigabytes of data per phone. When I signed up for service, I purchased two LG G Stylo phones at $129 each. Thanks

  • CycleAZLindyB

    $300!!?? YIKES!! We have TMobile, four lines, data, all the usual stuff for $118/month which seems reasonable to me. I had no idea cell phone service costs so much.

  • Don Spilky

    $300? For how many lines and add on products? That seems terribly high…. I’d go back and see what can be done to reduce your charges.

  • pdxmom

    My new plan with Sprint is less than $30. Much much less than the Verizon plan I was on. A whole lot less.

  • pdxmom

    my Sprint plan (just signed up) — is less than $30 a month.

  • pdxmom

    and I just left MetroPCS after less than a month because they were so awful it was unbelievable. It just seems that the large companies just get larger and it is luck as to whether or not you get good customer service.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    In line with Cycle below, I have a T-mobile family plan with 10 gb data for the 5 of us where it is 50/30/10/10/10, so with taxes, etc. we pay $140 for five lines. If you need lots of data, I understand, but if not, look around.

  • jim6555

    My experience with MetroPCS has been far different than yours. Their signal strength in my home market is excellent – every bit as good as Verizon and much better than AT&T. They are convenient to deal with since there are about 10 Metro stores within five miles of my home. A weakness is that their customer care leaves something to be desired as the agents all seem to be in the Philippine Islands. Most speak good English, but there are cultural differences that need to be navigated.

    Perhaps Metro is not the ideal prepaid provider for everyone depending on local signal strength and other factors. There is Cricket (owned by AT&T) and Boost and Virgin which are both owned by Sprint. Also, Net10 is a reseller of everyone’s network including Verizon. The bottom line is that someone is thinking of changing carriers and wants to cut down on their phone expense, a prepaid carrier could be the way to go.

  • Mel65

    4 lines. 15gb data. The monthly unlimited talk and text phone plan is $100 and the shared data plan is $160. Taxes and fees bring if to almost $300.

  • Mel65

    We both travel fur work and a few of the remote sites we go–proving grounds, ranges, etc– only Verizon seems to get signal…I’d switch to T mobile in s greatest if it worked as well :(

  • Fishplate

    My Verizon bill with three lines and 6GB is $125 a month. And yes, I go weird places, and Verizon works (almost) every time.

  • Mel65

    Interesting. Sounds like you’re only paying for a data plan. We were told that was not an option…

  • Fishplate

    Unlimited voice and text, plus 6GB shared data. I do get a discount due to my employer, so the actual cost is more like $147.

  • joycexyz

    You’re right! They’re the only ones who seem to be willing and able to wade through the morass and come up with a satisfactory plan.

  • pauletteb

    I was told exactly that by an AT&T rep: ask for Customer Retention, in my case right in New Haven, CT!

  • pauletteb

    I stopped reading after “subsidiary of TMobile,” worst customer service in the industry, and that’s saying something. Plus, I don’t do business with any company affiliated with Walmart.

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