Sprint Sends You Bill For $32,669

Jessie opened his Sprint bill and nearly had a heart attack. Staring back at him was in big bold letters: COLLECTION AGENCY ALERT. After recovering, Jessie looked at his bill and nearly had a second heart attack. It said the amount due was $32,669.00. Huh? Had his cellphone been hacked? Used as a call-home payphone for a neighborhood of Tajikistan émigrés? Used by NASA as a Space Station communications channel? Take a guess and then see the answer inside…

After calling The Consumerist Sprint Executive Customer Service number (703-433-4401), it turns out that Sprint misprinted the bill for lots of people, accidentally moving the decimal two places to the right. The error has now been fixed and Jessie only owes $326.69. “One question remains though,” asks Jessie, “will debt collectors be knocking at my door for this mistake?”32669sprintbill.jpg

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  1. timmus says:

    Uh, no, because the error is fixed?

  2. bonzombiekitty says:

    Debt collectors would only be knocking on your door if Sprint hired them to collect your debt. Since the notice seems to be a warning that it will be sent to collections if you don’t pay up, and the error seems to have been noted and corrected, then I doubt you have much to worry about.

  3. Kajj says:

    But the letter implies that they already turned Jessie’s information over to a collection agency. Those folks aren’t known for letting little things like “facts” get in the way of harrassing consumers.

  4. What The Geek says:

    @timmus:

    It’s not always as simple as “uh no, because the error was fixed”. If the erroneous bill was passed on to a collection agency, it could take some time to get it corrected in their system as well as sprint’s. That’s if someone at sprint was proactive enough to contact the collections agency and explain the problem. of course, if it never got passed on to a collections agency, then there’s nothing to worry about.

  5. pmathews says:

    My question is why is his bill for $326 anyways? Is that how much a family plan costs these days? My wife and I pay about $100 a month.

  6. Scotus says:

    $326.69 for a cell phone bill would still give me a heart attack. Time to switch plans, dude.

  7. Buran says:

    @Kajj: Then you send them a drop dead letter, and sue them (and win big) if they ignore it.

  8. Grandjester says:

    This is happening alot, got mine for $10,637.00 yesterday, one of my co-workers suggested I put it up at Consumerist!

  9. tcp100 says:

    @pmathews:

    Interesting. My cell bill is about $120 for myself, but I have a large minute allotment as I use it in business and have a data plan.

    I don’t think $326 is that unheard of for a family of four or five when one of the person uses the phone a lot or travels on business.. (Or you have a few txting kids.)

  10. Ihaveasmartpuppy says:

    $326 would give me a heart attack too. We’re a family of 4 with 5 cell phones, all on pay-as-you-go plans. Combined I don’t think we’ve gone over $60 in a month (yes, that’s COMBINED). And that’s with 2 teens.

  11. nuggett76 says:

    Actually, the bill wasn’t even $326– that was due to a billing error that has since been corrected. Took me weeks via regular customer service. In their defense, Sprint Executive Customer Service did an amazing job getting the whole thing corrected in just a matter of minutes. Kudos Shane!

  12. Shappie says:

    But look, it didn’t get sent to a collection agency. The first picture still has Sprint’s logo on it. They are sending the bill saying it will be sent to a collection agency if he doesn’t pay.

    Not that I wouldn’t have a heart attack or two if this happened to me…

  13. Frank_Trapasso says:

    SERO. every time there’s a sprint thread, someone’s gotta say it.

    326 would make sense for three unlimited plans with taxes.

  14. justbychance says:

    One word. Four Letters.

    S.E.R.O ….say it with me people…S.E.R.O

    You’d think we weren’t in the middle of a recession or something.

  15. Frank_Trapasso says:

    Whoops. Thanks nuggett76.

  16. justbychance says:

    @Frank_Trapasso: Darnit, confounded again! You beat me to it Frank.

  17. Saboth says:

    Good lord, $350 cell phone bill? My Sprint bill is $35 a month AFTER taxes. Do you really NEED to talk to people/text THAT much? Hell, I could have a nice new car for that much per month.

  18. tkerugger says:

    Personally, I dig the 7 digits ahead of the decimal point in the “amount enclosed” area…

    There’s nothin’ like a million dollar cell phone bill to make you think about switching carriers.

  19. PunditGuy says:

    I just paid a bill for about $320 because it included hardware (a new Blackberry). The bill shown here doesn’t have to be just for service.

  20. tcp100 says:

    @nuggett76: My my, their service might actually be getting better.

    I was with Sprint (formerly Sprint PCS, formerly Sprint Spectrum) from 1997 to 2006.

    After being with them for NINE years, including an early-access program when I actually tested their system before public access in ’97, I drop-kicked them in ’06 due to absolutely horrendous, abysmal, disgusting, ignorant, offensive service.

    (Example: Had trouble making calls in Philadelphia. Called 611. Got a rep (not in a third world, was clearly US based). Was completely confused. Asked what state this “Philadelphia” was in. Could I spell it? Was it near a bigger city – as he couldn’t find it in his system. Conclusion of phone call: Sprint didn’t offer service in this little podunk town of “Philadelphia, PA”, so they refused to troubleshoot the problem.)

    Unfortunately I just had to go back to them for my EVDO-A card, as I’m not cool with VZW mobile broadband’s motherly access policies. (You may not view videos! You may not use it to play games! 5GB then 10-fold overages kick in!)

    Here’s to hoping Sprint is getting better with their service. God knows it can’t get much worse.

  21. johnva says:

    @tcp100: Even the unlimited texting plans would be way cheaper than that. Still seems VERY expensive unless there were many lines, all of which had numerous unlimited features.

  22. tcp100 says:

    @johnva: Well, probably for a residential user, you’re right. I’m coming from a business perspective – we’ve got five lines with T-Mobile, which comes to $230. Three of them have the mobile internet plans, which adds $60. So we’re about there with taxes even with no surcharges.

    My personal plan is $50, and then the sprint EVDO card plan is $60, with taxes it’s around $120 – so I figure if he’s using more than voice you could easily get up there.

    I do wish some of the carriers gave a discount on multiple data plans.. Unfortunately they don’t. (Albeit, T-Mo is only $19.99 for unlimited, but that’s for their lousy EDGE network.)

  23. nuggett76 says:

    Love the comments and insight from everyone on Consumerist– always a daily must read.

    Just a few things to clarify though:

    1. The $326 bill was already an error

    2. The $32600 bill was a billing system error that most probably won’t even see– it will prolly only show for those who had billing cycles end that day.

    3. Sprint Executive Customer Service group handled this promptly and professionally. I have to give them the utmost credit for taking care of this issue in the manner that they did. (Can someone teach Dell that?)

  24. BlyGilmore says:

    you ever notice these kinds of mistakes are never made when you get your paycheck?

  25. Buran says:

    @loogee: One problem. Four words.

    Really Horrific Customer Service.

    I gues the concept of “I’ll pay more to avoid a bad company” escapes some.

    And some of us don’t want CDMA for various reasons.

  26. Buran says:

    @BlyGilmore: I’ve heard of it happening… but usually they demand a payback, and if you ignore the demands, they just dock your next check… or just yank the money at a bad time, causing things to bounce.

    Errors in your favor nearly never work out.

  27. brianala says:

    Between Skype and my Virgin Mobile pay-as-you-go I rarely pay more than $25 a month for calls.

  28. ret3 says:

    Back in 2000, my ex got a similar notice from some service provider (I can’t recall which one) that her account was very high and that it was about to be referred to a collection agency. The bill was enormous, in the hundreds of millions! Upon closer inspection, the supposed amount owed looked suspiciously familiar: it was her social security number. Some data-entry goober had entered it into the wrong field, nearly causing a heart attack on our end. It took a while to explain to the disbelieving soul on the other end of the support line, but after paying the correct balance, we canceled the account.

  29. ManiacDan says:

    Listen, you guys are getting 32,669 CENTS confused with 32,669 DOLLARS. It’s really just a matter of opinion.

  30. Orv says:

    @Buran: One company I worked for overpayed me due to miscalculating my health insurance contribution. I didn’t catch it for about six months and neither did they. They were kind enough to take the missing money out of my next 24 paychecks instead of all at once, because otherwise I wouldn’t have had a paycheck at all for one period…

  31. Pro-Pain says:

    Sprint executive services are VERY compitent and professional. I still can’t believe so many people have problems with Sprint. I have such good luck with Sprint. Yeah, I get messed up bills once in a while but one call to CS and it’s always been fixed (sometimes even offered a perk for the hassle) I am really confused about all the Sprint hate.

  32. unklegwar says:

    “only” $329…

    well, that’s a bargain! i’ll take two!

  33. deepsprint says:

    This is a humorous example of the sad fact that Sprint’s backend billing systems are riddled with problems and some of the blame is the outsourced, offshore programmers Sprint uses to maintain these systems. The geniuses who have been running Sprint the last few years decided to move to from the old billing system (which worked fine) to the new billing system they got when they bought Nextel not because it works better, but because it’s cheaper. The move has been executed poorly with the help of the outsourced, offshore IT. Chaos has ensued and it’s driving away customers.

    Outsourcing done poorly is a primary root cause of Sprint’s predicament today. The other cellphone companies use outsourced IT and call centers, so why does Sprint get such a lower quality result? The managers responsible for IT and customer service at Sprint and the vendors they hired have some explaining to do.

  34. Triterion says:

    Notice how the line for Amount Enclosed has the blank squares to accommodate ONE MILLION DOLLARS!! Like a cell phone bill could ever go that high! Maybe the NSAs uses it?

    [cache.consumerist.com]

  35. razremytuxbuddy says:

    @Pro-Pain: I don’t consider “messed up bills once in awhile” to be acceptable, whether it takes one call to customer service or many calls to get the corrections made. Some of the most successful rip off artists are the ones that never repeat a mistake, but they make a lot of one-time “mistakes.”

    I stopped using Hertz for this same reason. After every rental I was on the phone for 30 minutes or more getting a billing “mistake” corrected. It’s amazing how none of these “mistakes” by Sprint or Hertz was ever in my favor.

  36. WannaBblonde says:

    @ManiacDan: There is a friend whose mother went to buy a car and was treated so poorly by the dealer because he didn’t think a single woman with children could pay cash for a car. His mother talked to her banker and told him what happened, she asked her banker to bring 850000 pennies to pay for the car. Shut the dealer up real fast.

  37. Falconfire says:

    @tcp100: yes it is

    I dont even use half my minutes (despite using it often at work) have unlimited texting on BOTH our phones and my wife and I STILL only pay 50 each.

    For a family of 4 if your bill is over 200 your paying way too much, or you need to be beating the shit out of your spawn for using the cellphone to call all of their dirtbag friends.

  38. highmodulus says:

    I think someone noted that Sprint was updating/moving billing systems in an earlier Sprint thread- this may be related. Karma bonus if someone has a link.

  39. Gorky says:

    I think it’s really funny in the picture of the remittance slip the amount enclosed boxes go to the Million dollar spot. Is it even possible to have a phone bill over $1,000,000.00?

  40. Lucky225 says:

    [www.phonelosers.org]

    Almost impressive as the $50,000 centurytel phone bill, The person who received it got a write off of $49,803, so sprint shouldn’t have a problem writing off the lower amount of $32,669

  41. clank-o-tron says:

    Sometimes I swear I’ve got a different Sprint than anyone else. I’ve got the SERO plan with unlimited text / data and a ton of minutes for like $35. Sprint even has a note on my bill that says they’ll cut my service if it goes over $500, so even if my phone is stolen and someone starts calling their buddies in Paraguay, I’m not that screwed.

    They do, however, send me an additional bill for $6.13 every month on the same day as my regular bill (which is always $6.13 less than it should be). I’ll put up with a few harmless eccentricities for cheap unlimited data. Being able to use google maps on your phone when you’re lost at 3am is worth it.

  42. dweebster says:

    Sprint has their own “collection agency” in Jamaica.

    They don’t take “this is an inaccurate amount” as an answer, and will continue to threaten to cut off all of your lines unless you pay the entire (wrong) “overdue” bill. And by beautiful design – once a bill reaches “Sprint Collections” there is no way to have Sprint Customer Service fix or even delay the cutoff other than putting in a fake credit temporarily to “zero it out.”

  43. @Falconfire: Ha! You sound like my mama talking about me back in the day…

  44. dragonfire81 says:

    I’m a former Sprint rep, earlier this year Sprint sent mailed letters and text messages to hundreds of customers saying their automatic bill payment had gone through and their account had been debited for…get this: FIVE MILLION DOLLARS. Yes I am not making that up, the notices said the accounts had been charges for 5 mil.

    Now in actuality only the real owing amount had been charged but due to the error I took hundreds of calls from upset customers, some threatening legal action, because of the error.

    How that could be allowed to happen escapes me, but as I learned at Sprint, these kind of things are pretty much the norm.

    Whether or not you get sent to collections depends on what the current balance on your account shows in Sprint’s system.

    As for the $326 bill, that could be a number of things. Maybe he has several lines on unlimited plans, maybe he just ordered a phone, maybe has 6 lines or maybe the number represents more than one month’s charges.

  45. Orv says:

    @razremytuxbuddy: I think there may be some confirmation bias here. If a mistake was in your favor would you even notice? I know if it was me I’d just think, “Oh, cheaper than I thought” and move on.

  46. Plankton420 says:

    I received the same kind of letter from Sprint, saying I owed $6,027 on an account I had just paid, so I knew it was down to zero dollars.

    One (relatively) short call to Sprint, and the helpful CSR told me about the known glitch (though she WAS surprised to hear that I got my notice via snail mail), and confirmed that I actually owed Sprint nothing…

  47. We’ve got 4 lines and 2 “unlimited” broadband cards (they getcha with the fees) and our bill is about $300 a month. Just the cost of doing business.

  48. razremytuxbuddy says:

    @Orv: Nope, no bias here. My current wireless provider gave me an erroneous $250 credit on my bill a few months ago. I did call and report it. I overheard the CSR talking to his supervisor about how to input the correction, and it went like, “you’re not going to believe this…are you serious, she’s actually telling us about it?” Etcetera.

    I’m sure I’m like most consumers, who aren’t out to screw the business any more than we want the business to screw us.

  49. StevieD says:

    The computer geeks among us all know that is possible to kick out the hugely wrong bills prior to the batch of bills being sent from the service provider.

    Considering these bills are 10x larger, one must wonder why the bills are not being hand evaluated prior to being mailed to the customer.

  50. dweebster says:

    @razremytuxbuddy: Agreed. In the case where that same business has previously wasted tens of hours of my time fixing errors exclusively in THEIR favor, I may decide that a relatively small compensation of $250 for that is a reasonable tradeoff and wouldn’t spend another 10-60 minutes trying to convince them to take their money back….

  51. razremytuxbuddy says:

    @dweebster: No argument from me. The 10-60 minutes it takes a consumer to correct the company’s errors is a cost to the consumer that goes uncompensated. I’d call it unconscionable and sometimes bad faith. My point was more about being fair than being a martyr.

  52. Northwood says:

    this guy needs to get that unltd plan

  53. ehannigan says:

    Got one of their very, bad decimal point insertion bills for $13 grand. Since this was the third stupid Sprint even this year (check fraud, being signed up to three different plans per phone at the same time, and no this), I told the nice (and I mean very nice) that I was kinda tired about having to work so hard to remain a Sprint customer and I needed some love…

    She took VERY good care of me and they upgraded our phones for our troubles.

    Use the exec customer service line but be nice – Sprint could take this away if people act like dicks.

    Thanks, Sprint ! And thanks Consumerist….!

  54. girlfromNY says:

    @ loogee & @ clank-o-tron

    I want to transfer to SERO – does anyone know if the savings sprint email still works. I hear that at times its ok and at times it is not :(

  55. Megatenist says:

    Sadly, a $326 phone bill is not that shocking to me.

    Having worked for one of their…competitors, it was common to see a bill over $500 on a regular basis.

    Now, whether the charges were legit or not…THAT’S another story:)