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17Jun/12Off

Can Sprint do anything else to drive me away as a customer

I write this in the off chance it shows up in one of those Google alert searches that someone over at Sprint may be reading.

I'll keep it pretty short.

I've been a customer of Sprint for 12 years now, for the most part I had been a happy customer. The only problems I had with Sprint was when I had to deal with customer service, the last time I had a customer service issue was in 2005.

I dropped Sprint last year for AT&T in order to use the GSM HP Pre 3 which I ordered at high cost from Europe. My Sprint Pre basically died early last year and I sat with a feature phone to fill the gap. Sprint charged me something like $100 or so to change to AT&T even though I was no longer in contract(paid full price for that feature phone). I think that was wrong but whatever I didn't care.

Fast forward to late last year/early this year - I'm still a Sprint customer - not a phone customer but a Mifi 3G/4G customer. I bought the Mifi almost two years ago primarily for on call type stuff. I hardly ever use it. I'd be surprised if I did 15GB of data transfer over the past 2 years.

Sprint sent me my usual bill, and it had some note about e-billing in it. Whatever, I paid my bill and didn't think about it. I don't like e-billing, I don't want e-billing.

Given I don't use the Mifi much it was about a month later that I tried to use it to find my service disconnected. Whatever, it wasn't that important at the time.

Later I got some letter saying Hey pay your bill to reconnect your service! I still didn't care since I wasn't using it anyways.

Later I got some collection notices from some collection agency (first time I've ever gotten one of those). So I figured I should pay. So I called Sprint - paid the bill and the first rep I talked to swore I was on paper bills and it must be a problem with the post office. I could see perhaps the post office missing one bill (I don't recall them ever missing any in the past 15 years), but not more than one. She swore it was set right on their side. So I hung up, not really knowing what to do next.

I logged onto their site and it clearly said I was signed up for e-billing. So without changing it back to paper I called back and got another rep. This rep said I was signed up for e-billing. I asked her why - she said it only would of happened if I had requested it. I told her I did not and she looked at the call logs going back SEVEN YEARS and confirmed I never requested it. I asked did Sprint do some kind of bulk change to e-billing she said no. I asked how it got set she didn't know.

I asked first I want to change it to paper billing, then I want some kind of notification whenever it changes. She said notification goes out via SMS. Well I am on a MIFI - no SMS here. She updated the system to send me notifications via the mail(I would hope their system would detect the only device they have for me doesn't support SMS and automatically use another method but No it doesn't). There wasn't more she could do, I was transferred to another rep who said about the same thing. They assured me it was fixed.

Shortly thereafter I got a paper bill, and I paid it like I always do, yay no more problems.

Fast forward more time (a month or two who knows) to today - I get another bill-like thing in the mail from Sprint. But it's not a bill - it's another one of those Hey pay your bill so you can get your service back things. Here I was thinking it felt like too much time had elapsed since my last bill.

Ok now I'm F$##$ pissed. WTF.  I would hope that their system would say this guy stopped paying his bills once he was switched to e-billing so there is probably not a coincidence here. Obviously they have no such system.

So I logged onto Sprint again, and could not find the 'billing preferences' part of the site that I found earlier in the year, the only link was 'switch to e-billing to be green'. I didn't want to click it as I wasn't sure what it would do - I did not want to click it and have it sign me up for e-billing I wanted the transaction to be logged in a different way - I didn't want them to be able to say HEY you asked our system today to switch you.

So I called again, and sort of like my experience in 2005 I had a hard time getting to a customer service rep. But I managed to by telling their system I wanted to be a new customer and then asking that rep to transfer me to billing dept. On one of my attempts I hit zero so many times (sometimes works to get to an operator) that their system just stopped responding, sat there for a a good two minutes in silence before I hung up and tried again.

THAT rep then confirmed that I HAD requested to be set to PAPER BILLS earlier in the year but apparently the other reps forgot a little hidden feature that says "PAPER BILLS ALL THE TIME" or "PAPER BILL ON DEMAND". They didn't have ALL THE TIME SET. Despite my continuous questions of the original reps.

Despite how pissed off I was in both occasions I was very polite to the reps. I didn't want to be one of those customers, this time around it was significantly more difficult to keep calm but I managed to do so. But Sprint sure is trying hard to lose me as a customer. There's really no reason for me to stay other than I'm locked into the contract until September. On a device I hardly ever use (maybe I've transferred 150 megabytes the entire year so far).

Sprint is ditching the WiMax network (which is obviously what the 4G portion of my Mifi uses), they've neutered their premier membership stuff (as a 12 year customer I was and still am a member), they've bet their future on the iPhone(a device I will never use), they've messed up my billing twice in less than six months and then think I'm the bad guy for not paying my bills (well the reps didn't say that but it certainly feels that way when collection agencies start contacting me).

On top of that I've committed a lot of money to GSM Palm phones which means I pretty much have to stick to AT&T for the foreseeable future, if I want to use those phones. I suppose T-mobile is technically an option but the frequency differences make for a degraded experience.

There are so many other ways the situations could of been handled better by technology - the most simple as I mention - I don't pay the bill unless I get a paper bill in the mail.  I don't like e-bills. Sprint did not make any attempt to contact me by mail or by phone (I'm not a voice customer anymore though I expect they should have my phone# as a contact number since it hasn't changed in 12 years) when they put me back on e-billing for a second time in six months.

I'm probably one of the well sought out customers - pretty low usage - but subscribe to unlimited plans because I don't like surprises in the mail and I don't want to have to worry about minutes in the event something comes up and I have a long phone call to make or something. I must be gold for their Mifi stuff since I almost never use the thing, but I still pay the $50/mo to keep the service up.

Will Sprint F*$@ up again between now and 9/5/2012 ? I'm counting the days until my contract is up, I really don't see what they could possibly do to keep me as a customer at this point.

I guess 1385 words is short for me.

TechOps Guy: Nate

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  1. The MiFi probably can receive SMS messages (it has a phone # after all), but you just can’t see them. My T-Mo USB stick can send/receive SMS messages, but only if you are using their software.

    I had Sprint for a long time, and didn’t have problems, but then again, I never had to call customer service. However, their plans just don’t match my needs…currently, I’m on NET10 pre-paid.

    I’d recommend checking out pre-paid (Virgin Mobile or T-Mo) or Ting if you’re just using MiFi occasionally. With VM prepaid, you just pay up when you want to use the device (one co-worker does this; he activates it every summer when he travels). Ting is $6/month + usage, so it’s not a good choice for high usage, but should be great for occasional usage.

    I think some of the newer phones may have some of the feel of the WebOS phones – at least some people say the Playbook interface is comparable to the HP Touchpad GUI. Since I don’t have a Touchpad I can’t say, but I really do like the Playbook, and the prices are pretty reasonable now. Of course, the Playbook might end up orphaned, too.

  2. Yeah it does have a phone# (something I didn’t know until this past weekend when I saw it on the site), though there is no SMS functionality at least on the web management side, maybe with special software and the device directly connected it could work. I haven’t tried to update the software in a while but back when I used it more the software didn’t get updated too often.

    The prepaid idea is excellent I will look into that for the next time around. The thought never crossed my mind before. My only concern I suppose would be the coverage/performance of those carriers. The Sprint 4G network(aka Clearwire) at least with this Mifi is sub par, Last few times I used it I found myself forcing the Mifi into 3G mode which gave better performance than 4G since 4G signal strength was so weak (maybe 10-15%). I’ll look into VM as well as T-mobile pre-paid plans soon.

    Yeah the Playbook has a similar multi tasking interface to WebOS. Others are adopting some of it’s better features. It was bound to happen. WebOS itself is far from perfect too. I only originally started using it because of the backwards compatibility with PalmOS via an application called Classic. While I haven’t owned any Palm-branded PalmOS devices I did have several Handspring Visors a while back. However Classic was discontinued when Palm or HP (forgot which) stopped helping them in some way(forgot how), and the Classic folks gave up and gave the source to Palm/HP though nothing ever came of it sadly.

    But since then the OS has grown on me, I wouldn’t say I love it or anything but the best way I could put it is perhaps it is the least of all of the evils out there. You probably know I don’t trust Google’s data mining operations, not a fan of Apple’s general practices(Steve Jobs in particular, never liked what that guy did, always believed if Microsoft hadn’t succeeded in taking the PC industry by storm the world under Steve Jobs would of been far worse than under Gates), historically not a fan of Microsoft but those emotions are significantly less now, I could see myself buying more MS products (in fact I have over the past couple of years – the last Microsoft software product I recall buying before that was the original Win95) without making myself feel ill :)

    I don’t know what will happen to Playbook but the outlook doesn’t look good given they’ve slashed the price by 66% recently and written off a ton of inventory. I have 3 Touchpads (bought one on first day, bought 5 more during the fire sale, gave away 2 of them to family and sold one at cost to a friend at HP), one of them still in the shrink wrap plastic. They are OK devices for basic web browsing and some video or music. The “Apps” department has dried up quite a bit in the last six months, I think December was the last time I bought an App for it(a first person shooter game that was quite fun, was afraid I’d push my thumb through the LCD though). Though I had spent at least $2-300 I believe on WebOS apps, most of which I don’t bother to use anymore.

    The Touchpad was great for watching video on the airplanes given there’s never enough room for me to break out a laptop on board.

    But they make fantastic digital picture frames especially with the inductive charging technology. I set it down on the charger and it automatically turns to picture frame mode. I pick it up and it automatically returns to the typical tablet desktop.

    There’s where they spend most of their lives right now – sitting on the charger showing pictures, when I want to use one I just grab it (no cables) and use it. I normally spend 30-60mins/night browsing various stupid websites in bed before I go to sleep. 98% of my computing is done on my laptop though which is usually within reach.

    And for $99 (at least the 16GB ones on firesale – well about $150 if you include the inductive charging station) they make far better picture frames than you can get from anywhere else given the resolution and feature set.

    I even got OpenVPN setup on my 32GB touchpad and can connect to my co-lo server which then has another vpn to my home network. Has come in handy on a couple of occasions at least.

    thanks for the comment!

  3. You do need to do your homework on MiFi. Typically pre-paid doesn’t get roaming; for example, I’m pretty sure a Sprint MiFi will roam on Verizon, but a VM MiFi won’t. Also, Walmart often has better deals; e.g. if you bought a VM MiFi from Walmart, you can use a Walmart-only $20 1G/1 month card.

    And, yes, Clear’s coverage sucks. I have it at home, and it works fine – and has enabled me to dump AT&T (I had 3rd party DSL + landline, and the landline price was getting ridiculous) and stay off cable (cable internet w/o cable TV is pricey, and I don’t want cable TV). However, there isn’t coverage at work!

    T-Mobile I think had/has a $35 for 3G bytes pre-paid deal. T-Mo’s 3G coverage in smaller towns is much worse than Sprint’s: in the places I’ve checked they’ve only had EDGE. However, I don’t think that’s an issue for you.

    I refuse to buy Apple stuff, and while I can live with Android, I’m not impressed with it.

    Good tablets do make great picture frames, with their wonderful IPS screens. I checked out the TouchPads at Fry’s, but didn’t care for the hardware, including the size (I like 7″ for portability). And I like the Playbook’s underpinnings: the real time QNX OS plus Qt. So I’m hoping RIM will stay alive or get bought by someone who will do a good job (NOT HP!!!!). If RIM dies, I might look at WP 8 / Win 8 RT.

    I find the tablet to be a nice addition, but not a laptop replacement. They’re good for quick web browsing, Youtube, photo viewing, and apps that really use their sensors (e.g. astronomy apps).


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