I purchased two Nokkia phones for $199 each in January 2000. All my colleagues were using Sprint, and the Office Depot rep advised that Sprint was known for outstanding customer service (yes, outstandingly BAD, I know now).
It took more than a month to iron out all the problems with activation and product defects, so it was February before I could use my phone. Somehow the high bills were rolling in already.
Being a trusting person, and too busy to micromanage my phone company, I let it go until April, when the PCS service quality slipped to almost non-existent in the Denver area.
At this time, nearly every single call I made or received was dropped every few seconds. Furious, my boyfriend sweetly called Sprint, and the nice lady explained that when we got our bill we could mark all the calls that had been dropped and would be credited for them. We did so, several weeks later when the relevant bill arrived. He called and again, and was instructed (after 40 minutes on hold) to fax the marked bill in. He asked what we should do about the $450 bill for all the over-minute charges while the dispute was being reviewed, and was told reassuringly that we only needed to pay the flat rate per month.
It was ambigous what that should be anyway, though, because we'd switched the plan to a cheaper promo one they'd let us have when we heard our friends got it. The new plan allowed 1000 minutes for $94, instead of the 700 for $79, I think it was, we'd been getting before. I figured they'd send a bill or reminder, or call me, and I was outraged at the service that continued to be unreliable at best.
(For example, I live in downtown Denver, and can't get a signal within two blocks of my house, except on a rare occasion - OK, either you HAVE service here or you don't. I also can't get service in the busiest freeway interchange downtown, or within a one mile radius of it's center. And there are many other places, besides)
So, I never got a revised statement, and asked my boyfriend to call again. He talked to someone about our billing dispute and was told there was no record of it (about 4 weeks after we faxed it in). So he patiently explained the whole story, and was told that a)billing disputes are never reported in one's account until they are settled, and b)the (new) way to get credit for a dropped call was to dial (as SOON as you're dropped) #2, wait to be connected to the automated system, then dial 3, wait, 2, wait, 2. (Oooh, that's simple, hope you're not driving or missing an important business conference call). They said they wanted $180 on a credit card, so I gave him my account number. They took $120 (OK, whatever).
Another week went by and I received a voice message from Sprint on my cell phone on evening, leaving an 800 number. I was reluctant to answer, so I waited until the next day (at this point it's early July). I called the number, and it was a PAGER! I left my home number, and never got a reply. about four days later, I got another message, this time leaving another 800 number. I waited two days, having lost all respect and patience.
Last Tuesday (7/11), I called back, and actually got a person, fairly quickly. He told me I owed $500. I explained that we had filed a claim for dropped calls, and disputed the bill. He said that isn't Sprint's policy. I explained that another rep advised us to fax in our bill with the dropped calls marked, and onl after it was settled would it show up on my account. He said that wasn't Sprint's policy. (Thanks, I heard you the first time, but why don't all of you get your stories straight!) He explained in detail the system that was explained to Robert (that CLEARLY was conceived by their marketing department to prevent people from reporting dropped calls, and was clearly in response to the multitude of angry Coloradans who experienced unprecedented poor service in April and requested billing adjustments) - that #2-3-2-2-shake-the-box-of-bones. Robert tried it and the system wouldn't even connect. I couldn't try it because I was in a service hole (DUH! - that's why the call got dropped in the first place!)
My service rep then said that the only thing Sprint would do to improve a customer service issue (specifically over-billing) was offer a one-time $25 credit, and he would do that for me (thanks, how kind - as if I'll EVER see that!) I suggested I talk to an authority because I had nothing nice left to say to him, and he said he was the authority. So I told him what I thought of his service and his decisions and his arrogant attitude. He basically agreed that Sprint had changed the policies to get out of reimbursing customers for the extraordinary rate of dropped calls that probably netted Sprint BILLIONS in over-minute charges (I alone generated about $400 in charges for conversations that never happened because they were dropped too soon). I told the rep we'd leave Sprint, and he said that was fine, (with relief).
July 19, 2000 (yesterday) Sprint terminated my service, and the message claims I owe $499, $494 of which is past due. I must pay in full or service will not be reconnected.
My boyfriend, on the other hand, was told when HE called that no money was owed, and no minutes had been used, but the account had been closed. Then the call was dropped. He called back, and was told that we could make all the payments we wanted and never get service back until the $499 was paid off, and she was the authority, thank you very much, so don't even bother asking for anyone else. On the third call, he was reminded of that sneaky gimmick to "report calls" by dialing a string of numbers into a sluggish automated system. I don't doubt I get charged for airtime for making that reporting call.
So I'm relieved to have the service terminated, but I fully dispute the charges. Even if the policy has changed for how they deal with reporting dropped calls, at the time we had the worst problem, that solution was not in place, so I feel that we should be credited. Their issue, as I see it, is that we never would have gone over on our minutes if all those calls hadn't been dropped, and that's where all their profit lies. I bet they were able to report record earnings for Q2, even though they probably lost as many as 50% of their customers due to lousy phone service and customer service (everyone I know left Sprint in Q2 of this year, for those reasons). I stayed only because of the two $199 phones. (they did report record earnings in 2Q2000 - see: Here's another new P/R regarding Sprint's & SPCS's 2nd quarterly report.
There are clearly broad-reaching policy decisions that lead to these problems, and anyone else in Denver who still has Sprint must be affected by this. I am seeking others to participate in a class action lawsuit against Sprint for changing policies and using the change to limit liability for actions that occurred in the past. I would have pitched my phone out the window and cancelled service if they hadn't told me we'd be reimbursed for dropped calls, but I continued to use my phone because I felt that they were doing all they could to remedy the situation of lousy service.
After reading testimonials about other cellular phone companies, I think I'm better off without a phone, though! I used to have a GTE phone in 1995, and they billed me for months after I had terminated my account and returned the phone (at $88.88 per month). When I finally wrote to them about it, they refunded the two months I'd been gullible enough to over pay, so I forgave them, but would not do business with them again.