Sprint Customers Terminated For Complaining Too Much Were Scamming Sprint For Free Service

Sprint announced Monday it was canceling the accounts of around 1,000 people who called customer service too much. At first blush, it might sound like a pretty jerk thing to do, have bad service and then punish people who complain, but we spoke with one of our most reliable Sprint insiders, who had a different side to the story: the terminated customers were scamming Sprint, calling in again and again, just to get free service credits.

CONSUMERIST: How frequently did someone have to call to get terminated for calling customer service too much?

SPRINT INSIDER: 90 times in a 6 month period was the standard I think.

CONSUMERIST: Were they calling about the same service problem?

SPRINT INSIDER: These were the customers that had nothing to do but call us every single day demanding credit. And they were getting it because customer care was getting exhausted from arguing with them. So a nickel at a time these customers were collecting literally thousands of dollars in credit balances.

We were targeting people that were just outright defrauding the company. These customers will probably eventually force their future service providers to take similar action if they do not change their ways.

CONSUMERIST: One reader said he got canceled because he kept calling you because you were charging him for text messages he shouldn’t have been charged for.

SPRINT INSIDER: I can’t really get into specifics on an account, BUT… I will re-direct to what I mentioned earlier…These customers were for the most part literally defrauding our company. Not just a courtesy credit or two… We’re talking customers that haven’t made a payment since 2005 and still have active service. Customers who were getting better deals than our own employees get for their own personal accounts. These weren’t the customer care horror stories we’ve heard where a billing issue drags on for 8 months. This was just unrealistic amounts of credits and at the end of the year we were LITERALLY paying these customers to use our service.

CONSUMERIST: That’s pretty amazing, considering people have been emailing us this story all week saying, “Don’t complain too much to Sprint about their crappy service or they’ll cancel you.” PR wise, it spins very badly, very quickly.

SPRINT INSIDER: Most of these customers are just looking to make a scene and want their excessive credit balances sent in a check. And that’s just not going to happen. We are considering every request on a case by case basis. We absolutely will not terminate a customer who had a reasonable claim for calling in. But the ones with the $5k credit balances… they’re going to hear us say no. It’s a harsh decision but it really makes sense to almost anyone who knows both sides of the situation.

CONSUMERIST: Of the 1,000 or so that were terminated, how many are calling in?

SPRINT INSIDER: Haven’t seen any reporting data yet but by the end of the week I anticipate most of them.

CONSUMERIST: They’re sad the video game is broken.

SPRINT INSIDER: Ten months of calling customer care and telling us how badly they hated us and threatening to cancel to get more credits… And one day we say, “Okay. We’ll credit your balance, waive your contracts and you’re free to be happy.” And then they don’t like the ink the letter was written with. Kills me. I’d be devastated if I got a letter like that from a company I do business with. But if I hated them I’d gladly walk away in a situation like that.

PREVIOUSLY: Sprint Drops You Because You Call Customer Service Too Much

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. SRSco says:

    Kudos to Sprint for doing this. PR wise it didn’t look bad at all to me. I assumed it was for excessive asshat whiners like the Sprint Insider pointed out.

  2. goodkitty says:

    Yes, kudos for them actually giving an interactive human response instead of the impersonal form letters that so often make up corporate replies these days. Still, I remember my own days of bugging Sprint CSRs about calls being dropped… I’d never be able to finish a proper support call before the line went dead. :)

  3. raybury says:

    Somewhere in the mainstream media — yes, they’re still useful if they dig when they write their stories — I read that these folks had called 25 times in a month. That, or the 90 times in six months cited above, is enough for me to determine that this was not just bad customer service. The credit balance anecdote floors me.

  4. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    What do you call the various “fees” that sprint and other carriers charge? It’s amazing how corporate america thinks that it can scam its customers but scream bloody murder if the customers scam them back.

  5. Thrust says:

    Ok. I can totally see people being asshats and demanding free service. That happens ALL the time with EVERY industry. So 999 of their 1000 were legitimately canceled. But what about the guy with the defective phone that was downgraded and still didn’t work?

  6. tentimesodds says:

    how the hell do you rack up a $5,000 credit balance?

  7. elforesto says:

    Good for them. It’s jerks who manipulate the system that drive up costs (and hold times) for all the rest of us. They’re probably also trying their hand at insurance fraud or scamming the local Wendy’s out of several times as much food as they purchased. Boo on bad consumers!

    • Carmeysays... says:

      But then jerk corporations punish the 99% honest consumers falsely claiming all of us are the 1% jerks and trying to “cheat” them when they cheat ALL of us in a myriad of ways to begin with. Generally speaking it is almost always the corps doing the cheating, NOT the customers.

  8. BillyMumphry says:

    i see this as a non-issue. This isn’t the government shutting out the sun, it is a corporate entity doing what’s in their best interest. Kudos to them if their stock bounces, tough luck if the opposite is true.

  9. endless says:

    When sprint messed up my bill it took about 5 phone calls to get it fixed properly.


    this was because unlike what the salesman told me when i got my 6th phone, you CANNOT share minutes onto that 6th line.

    sprint was very generous with the deal they finally struck with me.

    If a person really was calling in that much, I cannot see them actually having a problem other than wanting free service.

  10. pine22 says:

    90 calls in half a year!? good god! I’ve been with t-mobile for about 5 years now, and i don’t think I’ve called them more than 15 times total. I’ve only had a few bills that had some incorrect charges, but other than that everything has been fine. if they are so dissatisfied, they should have terminated service and went to another carrier.

    its despicable when a big corporation takes advantage of consumers, but its equally disgusting for people to be extremely unreasonable and try to rip off companies by constantly complaining about nothing.

  11. IsLNdbOi says:

    That guy was me and I can tell you now that I’ve never called Sprint to ask for credits or freebies. I simply want them to fix whatever issues they have that keep causing the billing errors every month. That big downgrade thing has been resolved I think. They finally sent me a new working unit. It’s not a Windows Mobile unit like I had, but they did send me what appears to be their equivalent PalmOS unit.

    I don’t expect free service or extras. All I expect to receive is service that I pay for and the features on the plan I signed up for without paying over what I agreed to pay when I signed my contract. It’s a good thing Sprint is dropping the problematic customers, but the way they executed this policy was botched. This Roni woman that keeps saying that Sprint wasn’t using some computer to audit accounts and that they spent months going over these customers’ acconts, it is just a move to save face. If they really did go over each account individually, then they would have noticed those out of this 1000 that had legitimate reasons to call.

    I called that number listed at the bottom of my letter yesterday and spoke to a woman in the “HFC” department (that’s what she told me they call it) and told her that I had received one of these letters. I told her that had it not been for the recurring monthly billing error, I wouldn’t have had any reason to call CS. She put me on hold to look over my account and after a short hold, told me that she had looked over my account (billing and notes) and that I did have a legitimate problem to be calling and that there was some erroneous glitch ‘causing this recurring billing problem. She took me off the list, but didn’t tell me if the billing problem would be fixed.

    Her going my account right there and then checking my notes tells me that they really go in depth into these accounts like Sprint’s PR woman said they did. It seems more like they had some automated process that determined who would be dropped.

  12. IsLNdbOi says:

    Her going over my account right there and then checking my notes tells me that they really didn’t go in depth into these accounts like Sprint’s PR woman said they did. It seems more like they had some automated process that determined who would be dropped.

  13. IsLNdbOi says:

    And for those that are actually calling 40 or 50 times a month or however many times Sprint says they’re calling, that’s just insane. There’s no way I’ve called customer service that many times.

  14. AT203 says:

    Using anonymous “well-placed sources” has all of the ethical and integrity issues in blogs as it does in conventional journalism. “Insiders” often use these interviews and leaks to both push a message or agenda and maintain arms-length distance. Deniability if you will.

    Use of these sources should (and is) always be a last resort of journalists. And readers need to treat such sources with suspicion. Sprint can comment officially on this matter if they’d like.

  15. Nick says:

    I can see that it is possible to rack up a good number of customer service calls, but 90 in 6 months is definitely excessive…

    As my contract with T-Mobile comes to a close, I estimate that the absolute most I could have ever called them would be around 50 times during the 1-year period (using a very liberal average of once a week) and that would definitely be pushing it. I estimate I usually called Customer Care perhaps twice a month, and I’m thinking my actual number of calls would be around 30. I never had billing issues, but I did have various technical problems (towers going offline for maintenance that supposedly wasn’t supposed to happen, picture messages never being sent, one-way audio during my last month of service, I found two separate N-11 shortcodes that T-Mobile didn’t support in my area, etc.) I guess because customer’s reports of routing problems or requests to talk with the network engineers are usually bogus, I can see why it took so many calls to get some of these particular issues resolved. Even with all this, though, there is no way I could have called them 50 times, let alone 180 times during the 1-year contract period.

    As a side note, T-Mobile never gave me any credits to my bill during my entire 1-year contract, even when technical problems were admittedly their fault. They offered me extra minutes instead (which was useless to me… I wanted to talk now, so how would extra minutes help that situation? Plus, I already had 1500, so what would I possibly so with 50 more?). They refused to offer me any sort of discounts or credits when I cancelled, even. While it may be inconvenient for T-Mobile to have customers call them with any sort of frequency, it is not costing them near as much as Sprint, since T-Mobile never issues any sort of bill credits…

  16. mind says:

    I have sprint. When I hook my phone up to my computer and use it as a modem, they charge me 70 cents a minute. It should be using my normal minutes (the phone is acting as a modem so its using a voice circuit. since they’re a common carrier, and they’re not supposed to be listening in on my calls, they shouldn’t even notice anything “different”).

    I’ve tried to get them to fix this. Their customer service people just do not understand anything beyond their scripts. I’ve found the best way to fix it is just to call up when I get these extra charges, and complain until I find someone that just credits me. Most of the time it’s $10 or so, but one time I got a $300 credit.

    So, it does seem like sprint will just willingly hand out credit. If they didn’t, I don’t know, I guess I’d finally talk to someone who could fix the problem (although the few I’ve gotten someone mildly technical, they tell me that what I’m doing is “unsupported” – apparently they think this is the 1970s when MA bell limited what you could hook up to your phone line).

    Failing that, I’d just pay them what I actually owe them each month. If they want to shut my account off and turn it over to collection agency, I can laugh in their face. Just because someone prints it on an invoice doesn’t mean that I owe it.

    But I guess my general point is they readily give out credit to make up for a crappy billing system.

  17. OnceWasCool says:

    Although I a NOT a fan Sprint / Nextel, I kind of have an idea where they messed up.

    Picture this..
    A board room or meeting room with executives. They have to address this problem of the scammers ripping them off. Then, someone with more authority than brains says “Drop them all” and it gets done.

    The smarter way would have been to drop 10 to 20 a week and no one would ever have noticed.

  18. Helvetian says:

    The REAL problem is allowing customer accounts to attain a level of unprofitability and so many adjustments. After so many credits, just restrict them to legitimate billing credits for review. I blame Sprint for allowing people to take advantage or milk the system for so long. Sprint also has horrible customer service, long hold times, hang-ups and a myriad more problems, so I wonder. While the Insider is reliable, I doubt they have seen all 1200 accounts to properly say incontrovertibly that they were all abusive accounts.

  19. Karmakin says:

    I’ve worked technical support for several ISPs, so I can tell you that in that field this is a common problem. People would literally break their own connection, complain that it’s down, and get a free month or two.

    Helvetian is right, it really is Sprint’s own fault for allowing people to game the system like that in the first place. Moreso, the problem isn’t so much the front level agent, but the supervisor/manager/whatever that just wants to get the customer off the phone once they ask for them.

  20. emax4 says:

    Kudos to Sprint. Sure it sucks for everyone else, but this is a good lesson to those who enjoy working the system in order to get freebies. It’s the same wy for retail stores who have to jack up prices in order to make up for shoplifted goods. Perhaps the people who called repeatedly also felt that they didn’t want to face any ETF if they were within their contract, but that doesn’t give them the authority to demand anything they want. Those disconnected people should be thankful that Sprint didn’t request their refunds back.

    I’ve heard stories about a few ISPs who have disconnected customer accounts if the customer simply lashed out repeatedly at the CSR after being warned multiple times to watch their language. It’s not abuse of power. It’s doing business in a professional manner.

    And Mind, you stated “Just because someone prints it on an invoice deosn’t mean that I owe it”. I’d hate to see waht would happen if you could get billed for gasoline after you’ve pumped it. Probably jail time.

  21. Eran9000 says:

    A really gutsy move to cancel 1000 customers at the same time. As the old cliche said that ‘the customer is always right’, I guess Sprint was sick and tired of that motto, and took care of it. Based on the stats, it was simply a smart business move. It should be applauded.

    Although I do not have Sprint anymore, since I am out of the country, I had great experience with them. Throughout my years as a customer, they always helped and remedied actual problems. Besides the long wait times (either on the phone, or the service centers), they took care of business, and did not overcharge and take advantage of me.
    In fact, I actually noticed that they have did make an effort to come towards me with assistance. For example, when I had to leave the country for education and business, they determined it a worthy cause for early service termination, without charging a fee.

    If the stats are true, then it was definitely the right move.

  22. scoobydoo says:

    I call shenanigans.

    This guy is probably speaking on behalf of Sprint PR and is trying to slow down the backlash they got from their little stunt.

    They probably thought they could fire these 1000 customers without anyone noticing, but forgot about the Internet.

    The story he’s telling may apply to a couple of customers, but the previous poster proves that not everyone was a scammer, and Sprint should be ashamed of itself for trying to pin the blame on their customers when it is evident that THEY are also to blame in some cases.

    Lets face it: Sprint thought they found a way to save a few bucks, but in the end it has turned into a massive PR disaster.

    Good move as well, right during the iPhone introduction month.

  23. WebmasterX says:

    “Somewhere in the mainstream media — yes, they’re still useful if they dig when they write their stories — I read that these folks had called 25 times in a month. That, or the 90 times in six months cited above, is enough for me to determine that this was not just bad customer service. The credit balance anecdote floors me.”

    This just isn’t true at all. I know for a fact my dad has made multiple calls regarding dropped calls and no coverage in areas he was promised coverage. He has had more credit than bills more than once and 25 calls in a month isn’t a stretch.

    My dad is the absolute last person to try to get something he doesn’t deserve or lie for any reason to a customer service rep. Of course Sprint is going to spin this in their favor, exactly like they are saying the rogue customers are doing. I trust them not.

  24. kcskater says:

    @mind: It’s good that you got credit, but unfortunately, when a phone acts like a modem it’s NOT using the standard voice connection. That is, assuming you’re using your phone to call a dial-up internet service. When a phone acts like a modem, it uses a special box called an IWF that isn’t involved in normal voice traffic.

  25. Why does it take knowing an insider to find this out? Wouldn’t Sprint want people to know that they were getting rid of people who were fraudsters not customers with legitimate problems? If I were them I’d want that information made loud and clear.

    I’ll take this with (at least) a grain of salt. Even if they only meant to get scammers, how many of the 1000 are like Islndboi?

  26. Kornkob says:

    Or they thought it might be a good idea to drop the 1000 people now to use as a way to scare off some of the other marginal folks. If they can get some of the people who are calling 30 times a quarter (as opposed to 45 times like the people they did drop) to stop calling as often so as not to ‘lose’ any of the things that they’ve wormed out of sprint then sprint wins.

    *shrug* Even before this little ‘insider’ thing, I thought this was a non-issue.

  27. dethl says:

    Sprint most likely did use an automated process to “weed” out the “problem” customers, but that means that innocent people get caught in the mix. The way that Sprint treated Islndboi and MissDiva (on SU) to me was unacceptable. They had contact billing/service problems that Sprint attempted to “patch” by putting a one-time credit on the account. Of course we all know what happens the next month – the overcharge appears again. Sprint has every right to boot fraudulent customers but to treat people with honest problems like fraudsters is just wrong. I just can’t see paying anymore money to a company who treats honest customers like this.

    My new T-Mobile phone/service is coming today and I’ll be wishing Sprint well. Do I mind paying the ETF? No way. It’s the last $200 Sprint will ever see from me.

  28. Snarkysnake says:

    Wait ! Stop the music ! Why is everybody so righteous over this ? It seems to me that Sprint has done us all a massive favor. From now on, when you want out of Sprint’s unconscionable,one sided contract without paying the ETF,just start calling and calling over and over until they cut you loose.Find a better carrier (shouldn’t be hard- Sprint is the worst) and call it a day.We should be THANKING the suits at Sprint for revealing the secret.

  29. bonzombiekitty says:

    It wouldn’t at all surprise me that what your Sprint insider said is the case. In which case, I say kudos to Sprint. Unfortunately a tactic like that is bound to take a few people that had legit reasons for calling customer service so much with them.

  30. philbert says:

    Since a major gripe about Cell phone service is the “iron clad” cancellation fee if you cancel before your contract expires it seems to me this would be a plus for any subscriber wishing to get out of their contract. So why is everyone whining about how awful Sprint is for canceling a contract? Seems everyone should be thrilled there is a way to get out of the damn contracts.

  31. allstarecho says:

    Ahh, the infamous “courtesy credit”.. as if they are doing you a favor by issuing you a credit even though it’s their fuck up! And if they are cancelling the customers’ contracts, they should pay each customer an ETF! Why do ETF’s work one direction but not the other? I’d take ‘em to small claims court on this.

  32. Completely bizarre. I’m imagining something like:

    TUE
    SCAMMER: “Give me service credits.”
    CUSTOMER SERVICE: “No.”

    WED
    S: “Give me service credits.”
    CS: “No way.”

    THU
    S: “Give me service credits.”
    CS: “C’mon, I said no already! Quit calling!”

    FRI
    S: “Give me service credits.”
    CS: “What do I have to do to keep you from calling and asking me for service credits??”
    S: “Give me service credits.”
    CS: “Okay, I’ll do it just this once! And then no more calling!”

    MON
    S: “Give me service credits.”
    CS: “D’oh!”

    TUE
    (see above)

  33. jmuskratt says:

    Well, if someone who claims to be a “sprint insider” says so, it MUST be true. I guess we don’t really have any way to verify his claim. Convienient. I also heard those customers were working for Al Qaeda.

  34. Youthier says:

    I don’t even get what the big deal is about this. If you’re one of the asshats asking for credits, good on Sprint for dropping you. If you have legitimate issues where you have to call Sprint 20 times a month, they did you a favor to allow you to take your business somewhere else.

  35. Avery says:

    @AT203: “Sprint can comment officially on this matter if they’d like.”

    But they didn’t. Durrrrr. This story was last week, dude.

  36. Longhorn420 says:

    I moved to Breckenridge CO about 2 years ago, and the Sprint service in the mountains is an absolute joke. I had ~10 calls a day drop, and after calling MANY times and having multiple CSR’s tell me there was no way to give me a bulk credit for the dropped calls, I would simply have to call them every time I had a dropped call to receive credit. This was costing me 200+ minutes a month, and they acted like that was just normal for their service. I finally decided to just cut my losses, cancelled with the $175 fee and moved on. Not having to deal with the monkeys that answer their phones was worth every penny. I will never use Sprint for ANYTHING ever again. The company and the horrible service they provide has become what they are known for in the industry. It will come back to haunt them…

  37. Mojosan says:

    A company has every right to stop using a customer just like a customer has every right to stop patronizing a company.

  38. tcp100 says:

    @mind: Mind, I know you probably don’t know this, but when you say what you say below, you are wrong:

    “I have sprint. When I hook my phone up to my computer and use it as a modem, they charge me 70 cents a minute. It should be using my normal minutes (the phone is acting as a modem so its using a voice circuit. since they’re a common carrier, and they’re not supposed to be listening in on my calls, they shouldn’t even notice anything “different”).”


    That is not true. Please look into the concept of vocoders and CELP. The phone is NOT constantly transmitting when you’re speaking over a voice circuit; however a modem transmission uses a 100% duty cycle. When using your phone as a CSD (circuit-switched-data) modem, you’re bypassing all of the voice compression and bandwidth reduction methods used by Sprint. This is why they don’t like it, and why they charge you more – you’re eating up their single-cell capacity at that point.

    Think of it this way.. When you’re talking, there are periods of silence, and very predictable patterns of the human voice. Vocoders and CELP use these facts to cut the actual amount of data down to a fraction of what it would have been. Using the phone as a modem, you’re basically transmitting white noise – static – which causes these voice-encoding algorithms to fail and the audio-encoding system in the sprint system to fall back directly to something like PCM, which uses a huge amount of bandwidth.

    Very few phone services will let you use direct CSD anymore; with old analog AMPS phones it wasn’t a problem because voice wasn’t compressed this way – however with PCS systems using CDMA or TDMA/GSM, it is an issue.

  39. randalotto says:

    I really don’t understand all of the Sprint hate.

    For one, I certainly know of people that spend a great deal of time scamming Sprint for credits. The story seems credible, but I doubt it was anywhere near the full 1000.

    On the other hand, I love my SERO service. I get excellent reception, have had positive experiences calling in, and pay half what I would with any other service. Oh, and I got a great phone (Samsung M610) with enough rebates to pay for 6 months of service…

  40. randalotto says:

    And is that picture Aidan Gillen? It reminds me of Tommy Carcetti from The Wire for whatever reason…

  41. bnet41 says:

    @Jonathan Harford:

    If you’ve ever worked as a CSR you’d know how common this is. There seem to be people out there who have nothing better to do than try to get free stuff.

  42. AskTheAdmin says:

    It looks to me like sprint did what it needed to do. And of course when people are unhappy they will complain or call Shinanigans!

    I personally left sprint after being with them for 7 years to go to nextel that turned back into sprint. I then canceled my contract to sign up for Cingular… And they are now ATT.

    If you are unhappy and they are giving you a way out take it!

    Karl Gechlik from [www.AskTheAdmim.com]

  43. telepod says:

    Let me tell you what can screw up an account, going from a Data Plan to no Data Plan, then selling you old Phone on Ebay, what happens is you might get Casual Data charges on your account since your old phone (now being used by someone else) still may have your Data Username attached to it. Has happened to me in the past with Sprint Vision (dont know if it can happen with Powervision EVDO) and it can be a bear to adjust with Customer Care.

  44. mermaidshoes says:

    @helvetian: i totally agree. this isn’t the customers’ fault, it’s sprint’s fault for not doing something earlier: either fixing legitimate problems or putting an end to customer exploitation of free credits. the mass cancellation proves only that sprint had been offering grossly incompetent “service” to the customers it ended up “firing.” comptetent service would have involved actually fixing any issues that would give people reason to call in so often, and denying excessive credits for cancellation threats.

  45. Celticlady says:

    Wait, let me get this straight……..

    1-It takes on average 5 or 6 phone calls that each take 30 min (if they don’t disconect you) to resolve even the smallest of problems

    2-Instead of SPRINT FIXXING that problem, they over do it on giving credits

    3- People have figured this out and scam the system

    4- So SPRINT, AGAIN instead of FIXXING THAT problem, dumps customers and

    BLAMES the CUSTOMERS????????

    What business school did the genius who thought of THAT plan attend???

    Can’t wait till my contract with the devil (oops sprint) is OVER!!!!!

  46. Mariallena says:

    A nickel at a time you get $5000 credit? That would require 100,000 calls.

    At 89 calls every 6 months (90 calls and Sprint will cancel your account) it would take you 561 years and a few months to get $5000.

    OK, let’s say the “nickel” part was a figure of speech and he meant $5, it sould still take you almost 6 years to get $5000 (and that if you get a $5 credit every time).

    Methinks this “insider” is lying. He must be doing some damage control for Sprint (i.e. lying for pay).

  47. spincycle0 says:

    They say they cancelled people who were scamming for free credits, but reality is they were probably ripping these people off. When I had Verizon, my plan included unlimited free mobile to mobile minutes. I specifically chose the service because almost everyone i knew was on verizon. Nevertheless, every month my account would show overages of 200-300 dollars and every single call would be a verizon mobile to mobile. I would have to make 5 or 6 calls to get the charges dropped, and then would get a new bill with the same charges on it. They would also cut my service off mid month for having high overages, that were their fault, even though i had no restrictions placed on my account. I finally dropped them and went to sprint. I purchased an unlimited text and data plan, had a new phone, and every month i would get billed for txt messages and for data usage. I would call multiple times, have them say the problem was fixed, then disconnect my service after i paid the correct balance. I would have to call again, get reconnected, fight over the reconnect fee, and then repeat the same cycle next month. I finally dropped them over the txt msg hike, which they tried to deny saying i had unlimited. I pointed out that again, that month they had charged me 125 dollars for txt msgs sent and received. They pretty much acknowledged that they were either committing fraud or that i wasnt under a txt plan and had to be let out of my contract. I probaby called them at least 90 times in 6 months, and i can promise you every call was legitimate. That being said, they for some reason fought like hell to keep me from leaving. I now have Tmobile and it has been awesome. I’ll never switch again.

  48. humphrmi says:

    Hmm. I’d buy this, except for one slip up – this “insider” says that these scammers are building up positive (to the scammers credit) balances, like $5K. The official Sprint communication says that these people’s debit balances will be zeroed out when they are dropped, and they will owe Sprint nothing.

    So if they’re scammers and building up thousands of dollars in credits, don’t they not owe Sprint nothing now? Or if they do owe Sprint money, doesn’t that somewhat discredit the insider’s position that they were scamming the company in order to pay nothing?

    I’m not saying it’s a smoking gun, it just seems to discredit this “insider” a bit in my mind.

  49. oldhat says:

    @tentimesodds: Exactly. This “Sprint Insider” sounds like a Sprint Marketing Snake talking some type of bullcorn.

    And so-called consumerists are eating that shit up? Come on people, try just a little not to be such idiots!

    Just keep telling yourself: don’t trust people in power, company or government, and you’ll do fine.

  50. elforesto says:

    @oncewascool: Maybe the idea is to send a message to the scammers that they can’t get away with it anymore to discourage the practice.

  51. oldhat says:

    @spincycle0: T-Mobile is great, but sparse coverage and slow data plans. But customer service rocks. I hope they do well with the latest spectrum auction!

  52. exkon says:

    There’s a moral to this story:

    Always listen to BOTH sides before making judgment.

  53. lucabrazi says:

    I wonder if part of the problem is people who expect the cellular service they want not the service they’re promised in the contract. Anger may come from dashed expectations that aren’t too real to begin with. Sort of an “I want my steak well done” then complain when it isn’t tender and juicy type attitude. I’ve actually heard of a senior executive in the mid 90s who kept his IT department in fits because he wanted a PC that would take “simple” voice commands “you know, like on Star Trek.”

  54. tomesnyder says:

    This thread is about Sprint so there are many comments about how bad Sprint is. I read another blog about an AT&T problem and many posters talked about how bad AT&T is. If I found another blog post about T-Mobile, Verizon, or some other carrier there would be comments about how bad they are. Are there no good cell phone service providers in the USA?

  55. LAGirl says:

    Sprint still sucks. that’s why i got rid of them.

  56. mistaketv says:

    @tentimesodds: Yeah, something is not adding up here. CSRs memo accounts and it would quickly become clear when a frequent caller is credit-fishing. There is no way they would continue to issue credits, courtesy or otherwise, to a customer with a credit balance who has received numerous adjustments. If they do, it’s their own fault, and they should have to cut the customer a check. A 5K credit balance strikes me as a figment of your “insider’s” imagination. But boy, it did have me feeling sorry for poor Sprint. Those darned customers, such a bunch of loser scam artists.

  57. Not paying since 2005? Hell I would’ve canceled their serve back in 2006…

  58. mind says:


    @tcp100
    if the problem is simply that i’m eating up 100% of a voice circuit because there is more information in a modulated signal.. that is definitely not my problem. i’m being sold a circuit by the minute, and just because i don’t normally use all that bandwith, they can hardly complain when i do.

    @kcskater
    i can believe there is another box in there because of architecture problems due to ma bell culture. the phone should be able to function as a modem. if it requires an extra piece of equipment to do so, then i still blame sprint, for having sold me a defective/closed/locked phone, rather than having open networks, open phones, and thereby having the phone function as a modem being a no-brainer.

  59. Trick says:

    I call BS on this “Sprint Insider” story. The CSR’s have access to the persons account. They can see if they have a balance or not.

    So now we are to believe that Sprint will credit your account over and over until you get a $5000 credit?

    I don’t even believe anyone got a $5 credit balance. The CSR can see if multiple credits are being given and even the most stupid amongst them can see they are being played long before any real amount of credit builds up.

  60. brianmfc says:

    This is BS. The Sprint rep states “We’re talking customers that haven’t made a payment since 2005 and still have active service.”
    I bought 2 new phones through their service reps at 100 a pop and was 2 days late for my $50 bill. They cut off my service – total owed – $250.
    If someone hasn’t paid since 2005, I find it hard to believe they haven’t shut their service off.

  61. chili_dog says:

    Sprint Customer Service blows donkeys. If you actually can get thru theres a 20 min wait and then a transfer to someone else that “can” help you. I gladly paid the early termination fee to go back to tmobile.

    And I wasn’t even all that concerned with the spotty service either.

  62. apacho01 says:

    @mind

    First off, you agreed not do use your phone as a modem when you signed up for your service. See Terms and Conditions. [nextelonline.nextel.com]
    Control F modem and it will take you to the relavant info.

    Like tcp100 said, “You’re bypassing all of the voice compression and bandwidth reduction methods used by Sprint. This is why they don’t like it, and why they charge you more – you’re eating up their single-cell capacity at that point.”

    And if you still want to use these services they have data plans available that range from $39.99-$49.99 for unlimited access. That is still cheaper than trying to pirate the service.

    Secondly, if they were charging you for minutes then you were going about it the wrong way. There are several ways to get around Sprint “catching you” for doing something your not paying for. The reason your getting billed is because your making it obvious that your using the service and the way that you are connnecting just happens to be the most network intensive. Your eating more bandwith than your plan was designed to cover.

  63. MerryOtter says:

    I actually applaud The Consumerist for posting this story. Most other media outlets are just repeating the scammers’ complaint without any balance whatsoever. ZDNet’s Larry In-Dignan-t is calling for a BOYCOTT of Sprint, for chrissakes.

    In any population of hundreds of thousands of consumers you’re going to get a percentage of people who “game” the system. If it’s true that Sprint sent out 1000 letters then I’m sure they didn’t catch all of the scam artists.

    Did any innocent people get caught in the dragnet? Possibly. That’s why they had a number you could call and apparently (from ISLNDBOI’s post) they actually listened to him, took a look at his account, and reversed their decision.

    But if you think the bulk of these letter recipients are “poor, innocent customers” I suggest you look around on the web a little bit. There are dozens of sites and bulletin boards dedicated to “hacking” Sprint customer service. They tell you how to get employee pricing when you’re not an employee. They list the discount codes available to customer support reps. They provide “scripts” to follow when calling in. Direct lines to the retentions department.

    (How many of these people are finally getting their stated wish to have service cancelled?)

    All of the sites advise you to be persistent. Keep calling. Keep writing emails. Keep pestering them until you find the employee who will give you the service credit you want.

    And there’s plenty of people on them bragging about how they got this credit and that credit, free unlimited texting, free PowerVision, service discounts… it’s a SPORT to see who can get the best deal!

    So I’m having a REAL hard time finding where people are working up the righteous indignation over this. They reset your account to zero dollars. They waive the ETF. They give you 30 days to find a new victim (I mean, carrier). They provide a number you can call to talk to a human being about the issue. And they don’t stonewall; they’ll change their mind if you’re a legitimate user.

    I don’t see any foul here. I’m a lot more upset about AT&T facilitating warrantless wiretapping and handing private calling data over to the Bush administration. I’m a lot more upset about Verizon marketing “unlimited” data plans that are anything BUT. (And when Verizon terminates you for streaming TV on your Treo they make sure to bill you for it!)

    Bravo, Sprint!

  64. MerryOtter says:

    @humphrmi: We see one letter to a particular consumer. We don’t know to what extent the form letters were customized. Perhaps Mr. $5000 Credit received a different letter. (And he would have been an idiot for going to the media with it, as it would have been the ideal situation for Sprint to expose him for what he was.)

    Having been part of management at several ISP’s I can tell you there are people who game the customer service system and do indeed find ways to rack up substantial credit balances. I have to agree that it’s Sprint’s fault that they allowed anyone to get up to that level — they should have ended the relationship much sooner. But when you have thousands of customer support reps, some of them outsourced to foreign countries, verus a determined, savvy user who peristently calls in and has the resources of multiple web sites telling him the most effective techniques with direct phone numbers, I can easily see it happening.

  65. FromThisSoil says:

    Good thing I e-mail them with my problems.

    I feel that e-mail is always a better option when talking to CSRs. It’s just easier to get your point across with all the details.

    I have been a Sprint customer for about 6 years now and I have a ton of freebies that would otherwise cost extra. Free 500 text messages, free Sprint-to-Sprint, 20% discount for working where I work, 10% customer loyalty discount. After all my discounts, I pay $35 a month!

    I feel the service is pretty good, I get a dropped call maybe 2 or 3 times a month.

    This is why I stay with Sprint.

  66. ed45 says:

    I signed up for a 2yr contract in june. in july when i get my 2nd bill, i see that i am being billed month2month. [the first bill didnt show all the charges]. i call the Cust.service. put on hold for 20+ mins. then the sprint cust.rep said i wasnt on any contract!! and i could terminate without any ETF. but i am sure that if i do so, there will be a letter asking for ETF within 2 weeks.

    also when i signed up, a cust rep gave me 6pm nights+weekends for free. thats what i thought. not so. it showed up as 10$/month charge [prorated] on my 2nd bill.

    i had asked for the 7$ insurance [TEP]. the bill showed that i was being billed 7$, but the cust rep said she could not see it on her system. she put me thru to the insurance company[ sprint uses a 3rd party insurance company] the insurance cust.rep asked for my details and then said i was never enrolled in ANY insurance plan ever!!

    so here i was being billed for what i was told was free[6pm NW] + being billed for a service i wasnt given [insurance] + being billed for month to month inspite of being on a contract. in correcting all this, i have spent hours n hours on the phone [ more holding than talking ,though] . i have a total of $70+ of credits to my account, all in less that 35 days of signing up. then the cust.rep has the gall to say ” you already have so much credits”. I didnt ask for credits. Sprint made mistakes. To correct it, they HAD to give out credits. then they turn around and say this.

    so in total:
    Am on a 2yr contract, but i still get to pay month2month !
    they can bill u for a service but they dont have to give it to u !
    cust reps follow different versions of company policy, which changes every time i call?

    even yesterday i was on the phone for 2+ hours. still my bill is showing extra charges.
    but i will not give up. i will keep calling them every time there is a problem.
    if i get a termination letter, so be it. but i will not take this lying down.

  67. ed45 says:

    I signed up for a 2yr contract in june. in july when i get my 2nd bill, i see that i am being billed month2month. [the first bill didnt show all the charges]. i call the Cust.service. put on hold for 20+ mins. then the sprint cust.rep said i wasnt on any contract!! and i could terminate without any ETF. but i am sure that if i do so, there will be a letter asking for ETF within 2 weeks.

    also when i signed up, a cust rep gave me 6pm nights+weekends for free. thats what i thought. not so. it showed up as 10$/month charge [prorated] on my 2nd bill.

    i had asked for the 7$ insurance [TEP]. the bill showed that i was being billed 7$, but the cust rep said she could not see it on her system. she put me thru to the insurance company[ sprint uses a 3rd party insurance company] the insurance cust.rep asked for my details and then said i was never enrolled in ANY insurance plan ever!!

    so here i was being billed for what i was told was free[6pm NW] + being billed for a service i wasnt given [insurance] + being billed for month to month inspite of being on a contract. in correcting all this, i have spent hours n hours on the phone [ more holding than talking ,though] . i have a total of $70+ of credits to my account, all in less that 35 days of signing up. then the cust.rep has the gall to say ” you already have so much credits”. I didnt ask for credits. Sprint made mistakes. To correct it, they HAD to give out credits. then they turn around and say this.

    so in total:
    Am on a 2yr contract, but i still get to pay month2month !
    they can bill u for a service but they dont have to give it to u !
    cust reps follow different versions of company policy, which changes every time i call?

    even yesterday i was on the phone for 2+ hours. still my bill is showing extra charges.
    but i will not give up. i will keep calling them every time there is a problem.
    if i get a termination letter, so be it. but i will not take this lying down.

  68. ogman says:

    Sprint’s side of this would be a lot more believable if they were not dead last in customer service and #1 in churn rate. They’re a lousy company and they will very likely now have an even worse reputation.

  69. ogman says:

    ERAN9000 – “A really gutsy move to cancel 1000 customers at the same time. As the old cliche said that ‘the customer is always right’, I guess Sprint was sick and tired of that motto, and took care of it. Based on the stats, it was simply a smart business move. It should be applauded.”

    It’s not really a good move at all. Imagine the number of potential customers they will lose because of their now further tarnished reputation.

    This is the strange thing about this whole company vs. customer control struggle; in the end the company loses. If you provide bad enough service, and the spiral always cycles downward, then you lose enough customers that the profits you made from bad service are eaten up. Suddenly the company realizes they have to change in order to make money again, but by then the positive reputation is gone. Meanwhile, the customer has moved on to a company that meets their needs.

  70. Trackback says:

    Sprint decided to pull the plug on 1200 of its customers who complained too much (including some soldiers, oops). Man. Did the company not realize the letters would end up on the web?

  71. Trackback says:

    When I heard that Spring was canceling the accounts of folks who constantly called customer service, I thought it was just another boneheaded company doing another boneheaded thing.

  72. NonYa says:

    well i am personally a sprint customer and i havent called and gotten the free service i actually deserve, i have had nothing but SH!T7 service since i started and personally i think they are getting setup for a giant lawsuit. personally i could su because of the fact that they lied about 5 times in the contracts.

    so what happens when they drop the people, do they still have to pay the cancelation fee??

  73. Quoteable says:

    After following the woes of current and cancelled Sprint customers, I’ve yet to see one issue addressed:
    If Sprint cancels a customer, what happens to (the customer’s) number?
    Federal law says that numbers must be portable to other services, but I’m uncertain if that covers “fired” customers.
    How about it?

  74. apacho01 says:

    @quoteable

    if you read the sprint letter it states that the customer has 30 to find service elsewhere and that they can take their number with them

  75. bungiecord says:

    @mind:
    you said
    “they readily give out credit to make up for a crappy billing system.”
    I would expand to “they give credit to make up for the crazy internal systems they have in general”

    I have been with sprint for a month, and probably made 20 calls, trying to straighten out details of my account. The first thing was that they were unable to activate my phone because they “could not find me in the system”. When they finally did activate it,(took 3 calls) it turns out they had erased my original plan, and added me to a new one which had no data plan.
    I had to email to get the erroneous data charges erased (credit). And then I found out they claimed my phone was active when It hadnt been. (credit)

    Then they offerred me a credit when I was going to throw in the towel because the phone they sold me was inadequate.

    I have stuck with them because their data coverage is better than any other provider in my region.

    I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would call my phone company 20 times in a month. That is until I met sprint. well – its one way to drive up minutes used…

  76. bobby.lashlee says:

    Most people who call Sprint need to make a payment or had a son/daughter who discovered text messaging. Or that child got the phone and got spongebob squarepants, the cell phone game. A minority are technical concerns.
    Therefore when the updates with the system take effect- like the ability to lock your phone, like the ability to stop the guy with your cell’s internet with only a button- Sprint will be happy.

    Untill then, we do not wonder why companies do not upgrade systems to better systems. We know they just prefer what works. And they save themselves development costs.

    Too many times I have seen someone from a different cell company transfer their service, and not keep their number.

    This happens when an error locks the number on an old device or when that company gives the number to another person. This can happen when the person has not been with them for 6 months. And the new carrier gets the blame, the person goes back to the old carrier, and justice fails.

    The worst thing is that if there is an error and the account is closed, apparently the fixing of the error is halted. And this occurs in nearly all carriers.

    So believe the technician who says it will be a while. It is better than never.

  77. adr5 says:

    I’ve read a lot of the comments and most are quick to condemn the complainers. I’m sure that some of them are people trying to scam Sprint. But I am also sure quite a few have legitimate complaints. That these people ended up with thousands of dollars in credit is Sprints fault. You have people who are tied into a contract that Sprint purposely makes difficult to break. The user may find that after they have had service for a while a dead spot appears. They let Spring know and Sprint does nothing. So the customer keeps complaining. Instead of fixing the dead spot, Sprint just keeps crediting the customer. What they should have done is offered the customer the opportunity to get out of the their contract at no cost. That would not have given them all the bad press they are getting.

  78. gladlisa says:

    I would have to disagree that about the comment about that Customers were getting better deals than employees get for their own personal accounts. because you an I know that employees get their services for free don pay anything cer,zip,nada!’how can ytou say that some of this customers where ghetting better services, employees get everything free excep their cell phone with they have to pay, but then agaim employees gett upgrade their devices every yearm unlike some comsumers get stuck with a contract and with devices that aren’t worth having sales, Sprint has some weir rules for customers but employees that dont pay for services have all benefits availble, im talking about unlimited web,employees dont pay tha $10 for the premium data that Sprint force customers to pay! its unfair dont you think and many employees take advantage of that and not only have one free line but they fins the way aroun to get a free lien for their spouse, mom.dad,sister,brother,son ro daughter so the ones that end up paying is the consumers last year,m sprint when after this employees that had more than one free line active, if they were over company compliance why were they not fired? many were aable to keed their jobs. for me it was like they were stealing money from the company. but Sprint makes the consumer pay, $10 for premium data, .45 cents a minute on overage, casual data charges if your not on a data plan,late fee if your payment is past due, I can go on and on.

  79. mbss says:

    Hmm. From my experience with Sprint, MCI, and AT&T–the consumer is probably justified in whining. All three companies made faulty charges on my account during the 90s (before I moved out of the US to Europe). AT&T still owes me over 900 dollars. MCI owed me 540 dollars, but because they were under FCC investigation in 2000 and 2001, I was able to get excellent cooperation from their VP of Finance who acknowledged their mistake and refunded the money. The other telecoms simply ignored me and I was so pleased to be rid of them that I never bothered pursuing the issue after I moved. I suspect that these companies still owe millions of consumers millions of dollars. How often do you all actually check every line item on your bills?