Sprint Helps You Deal With Your Deadbeat Brother

Reader B. probably shouldn’t have used her credit to help her less-than-creditworthy brother get a cellphone, but this story has a happy ending thanks to some helpful customer service from Sprint.

B. says:

As a loyal Consumerist reader I have read horror stories about Sprint’s customer service. I’ve been with Sprint for years without incident, but I was never an apologist. I assumed I hadn’t had an issue with customer service because I’d never had to contact customer service.

That being said, I wanted to share a positive Sprint experience I had today. I have a brother who has bad credit, is unemployed, and has been (unfortunately) on my Sprint plan ever since I foolishly agreed to help him get a cell phone. At the time he asked for it, he was working, so I wasn’t being a complete idiot when I agreed to put my credit on the line for him. However, for the past six months he hasn’t worked and has made me become a bill collector in order to get his portion of the cell phone bill paid.

I finally decided I was fed up with the situation and would just eat the $200 early termination fee. I called Sprint this morning and advised the phone representative of the situation. She asked if I knew about the ETF, and I told her I did and was fine with it. She looked at my account history and commented on the length of time I’ve been with Sprint and asked me to wait on hold while she figured out what she could do. Mind you, I was fully prepared to pay the fee. I signed a contract and would have fulfilled my end of it. I simply answered her question when she asked why I wanted to cancel his line with my sincere, truthful response.

I waited on hold for about five minutes. When she returned, she advised me that she would place my brother’s phone on a suspension until the contract is up in June. At that time, I can cancel his line without being charged an ETF. She also advised me that the phone won’t be usable at all to my brother, so it will appear to be shut off, not just suspended.

This solution was above and beyond what I was expecting when I contacted them. I would have gladly paid the $200 fee in order to wash my hands of this entire mess. I’d have just chalked it up to another life lesson learned. However, this Sprint representative was awesome. I appreciated her empathizing with my situation and proposing a solution that is likely to keep me as a Sprint customer for years to come.

We certainly read a lot about things a company does wrong, and I wanted to give Sprint kudos for doing something right.

It was kind of you to help your brother that way, and we’re glad you didn’t suffer any consequences as a result of it. Using your credit to help family members can be a risky undertaking and can have emotional consequences as well as financial ones.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t do it — but you should make sure to protect yourself in the event that things don’t work out. In your case, being able and willing to pay the $200 fee (rather than getting stuck paying an extra cellphone bill, or having your credit affected if you couldn’t afford to pay) was smart. It’s wonderful that it didn’t come to that.

If you’ve got a customer service issue with Sprint, why not try the Sprint Consumerist Hotline: 703-433-4401

(Photo:smcgee)

Comments

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  1. humphrmi says:

    LOL that’s great. And the best part is that the deadbeat brother now has to go beg from someone else, besides family.

  2. Anonymous says:

    your contract will probably not be up in June. normally when lines are on suspend the contract term does not elapse during suspension. so it will come off suspension and still have 3 months to go. just another example of sprint not knowing what they are talking about

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      @ZaneNiobe: well hopefully by that time he will have given up on trying to make the phone work anyway and she at least won’t have to pay for his usage of it.

    • Aisley says:

      @ZaneNiobe:

      Oh boy! You had to ruin the party didn’t you? Who cares about three more months? Didn’t she say

      “this Sprint representative was awesome. I appreciated her empathizing with my situation and proposing a solution that is likely to keep me as a Sprint customer for years to come.” With the accent on “keep me”. So let her enjoy this nice gesture from Sprint.

      Now to you my dear “B”, take it from me, a brother does not become a deabeat overnight. There were signs that he has problems holding his end of deals and that he’s not good with money. Yes, I know, he’s your brother and you wanted to help him; and that’s very commendable. But dear is not a good idea to do business with him, as it can really “cost” you (pun totally intended). Nonetheless, I’m very happy for you that the solution to your situation was better than you expected. One last thing; somebody told me once that “friends are God’s apology for the family He gave you”. I cannot say this is a truism in each a every case; but it applies to quite a few of my relatives.

    • Anonymous says:

      @ZaneNiobe: @ZaneNiobe: Since it’s only one line of a multi line plan (assuming I’m reading correctly), that may not apply here. I’m mostly guessing here, but the brother probably had a secondary line, and the contract is probably connected to the primary line.

    • cac67 says:

      @ZaneNiobe: I used to do cs for att, and you’re right, an account suspension stops the contract from running. But if you read a little closer, it looks like what the rep did was suspend it as a lost/stolen phone, which continues the normal monthly service charges but keeps the user from running up the bill. I used to do this all the time for customers.

  3. ViperBorg says:

    Wow… they hired someone with a brain there? Holy crap!

    Good to hear it turned out okay. Sorry about your brother being a dead-beat.

    • Flame says:

      @ViperBorg – Facebook is the new AOL.: Hey. I used to work for them, for a bit, thank you very much. lol. I almost got fired once though when, right after Katrina, I credited an aid worker’s account for the whole of her overage. She was letting people use her phone to tell their family that they were alive.

      • ViperBorg says:

        @Flame: And they almost fired you for that? See? Very few people with a brain there, but good to know you have one. Too bad I never ran into you when I was with them. Might not have had to put the Executive Customer Service line on speed dial.

  4. Rob Weddle says:

    If I’ve learned anything from years of watching Judge Judy, it’s “Never put anyone on your cell phone plan.” That shit NEVER works out well.

    • edwardso says:

      @Rob Weddle: So true. Why don’t people who can’t get a cell phone go with the prepay option?

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        @edwardso: Because they’re not smart enough to make good financial decisions.

      • jamar0303 says:

        @edwardso: Prepay either doesn’t give you full internet (T-Mobile) or charges you extortionate rates for it (AT&T and most everyone else). Once I moved to China I became a prepay user because the options there are so much better for prepay users- I get to use everything the postpay users do and it’s all cheaper than it costs in America (my monthly usage fees are a quarter of what it was in the US despite my usage patterns not changing). And international roaming is cheaper than a local prepay card for IDD calls, internet and texting when I return to the States- why pay AT&T for excessive fees or T-Mobile for restrictive usage limits when I can roam and get access to both networks?

    • jc364 says:

      @Rob Weddle: Lol, if the only watch the outcomes that appear on Judge Judy, of course they never end well.

    • chris_d says:

      @Rob Weddle:
      I would say never put anyone IRRESPONSIBLE on your plan.

  5. PLATTWORX says:

    This is a good outcome. I left Sprint early last year after realizing I was the only person I knew still with them so I wasn’t benefiting from free calls to others “In-network” any longer.

    I assume Sprint bleeding customers left and right for years has caused them to have to pause and rethink their Customer Service approach. Glad to hear they embraced that for this caller.

  6. oopewan says:

    Your contract is going to extend by 3 months. Contract terms do not elapse when on suspension. This is actually another case of a Sprint rep not knowing their policies and procedures.

  7. Admiral_John says:

    Yeah, I’ve never had anything but bad luck with Sprint… I just tried to use my Sprint phone and it’s acting like it’s been shut off. When I called Sprint they told me the account holder had deactivated my phone and I would have to talk to my sister to find out why.

    And I don’t even have a sister.

  8. ZukeZuke says:

    Great story, glad it worked out for “B.”!

  9. Sam Wille says:

    Couple of questions I have after reading this:

    1) Did the brother and sister have their own individual plans or were they on a family share?

    2) If they were on individual plans, I’m curious to know what the plan rate was.

    If you are talking about a mere $35 a month on a basic package, keeping the line open but suspended at that rate until the contract is up is a good option. In the long run, it will mitigate the cost of paying $200 out of pocket right away and in the end save the consumer around $25 before taxes, fees & surcharges.

    If the plan is more than that, around $45 or higher, this does nothing to benefit the consumer. Obviously, though, if the line is on a family share and paying around $10 a month it’s simply foolish not to keep the line suspended until June.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      @Sam Wille: The OP stated that her brother has been “on my Sprint plan” since she got him a phone, so it suggests a family plan to me. If she has a reasonably-sized plan to cover both their anytime minutes, she might be wasting a little if she cuts out his actual usage, but it shouldn’t be a big deal. It might also be that she has a kid with a phone on her plan who’s the one who uses up most of the available minutes or something… all sorts of possibilities that weren’t spelled out.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @Sam Wille: If they were on individual plans, he could’ve definitely gotten his own phone and his own plan. The point was that he couldn’t get is own phone and plan, so piggybacked off his sister on a family plan, and she started to have to chase after him to get his part of the split for sharing a plan, which is at least $9.99 for the second line, and however much it is for them to split the cost.

  10. m4ximusprim3 says:

    We’ve never had a serious problem with sprint, but one time they messed up an order for our new phones (samsung instincts, which are great, btw.)

    we called the consumerist hotline when normal cs failed and they were awesome. They called a local store, told them to pull two from stock and hold them for us, and took care of all the billing. we just walked in, got the phones, transferred our contacts, and left. took all of 15 minutes.

  11. soundreasoning says:

    um but you still have to pay for his line while its in suspension. That great for sprint they get the money they charge for providing a service without having to provide the service. I think they still win. You should see if someone responsible wants the phone so you can actually get the service you pay them for.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @soundreasoning: If she still has to pay for his line, it’s just better to pay the $40 or so for the extra line until June than to chase after him every month for his cut of service he isn’t willing to pay for.

      It’s not about Sprint and the OP, it’s about the OP not having to suffer through the excuses and the issues with her deadbeat brother. She’s tired of chasing after him, she wants him to understand consequences, he has to be punished for reneging on his agreements with her, and this is what it’s going to take.

      Saving money is NOT her intention, obviously, since she was ready to pay the ETF. Her objective was to rid herself of having her deadbeat brother on her cell phone plan.

      • samurailynn says:

        @pecan pi: It’s also possible that she’s saving a few dollars this way in the long run. Plus, now she doesn’t have to pay $200 RIGHT NOW. She just keeps paying the regular phone bill without having to chase down her brother for money and without having to worry about him using up any minutes (meaning she could possibly downgrade to less minutes and a cheaper plan).

    • Sys Admn says:

      @soundreasoning: On my family plan, the additional lines are $9.99, plus $4.99 for unlimited text. I’d rather pay $30-45 for three months than $200.

  12. GearheadGeek says:

    If you want to help a deadbeat family member or friend who needs help getting a cell phone, buy them a prepaid… if you want to continue helping from time to time, you could buy them some minutes.

    $20 at Target for a prepaid phone with a few minutes, another few bucks for a bucket of minutes if you want to start them off with a better-sized chunk of prepaid airtime, and you’ve helped them out without entangling yourself in their future credit difficulties.

  13. cmdrsass says:

    It makes sense. They’ll earn more money in he long run by retaining her than taking her $200 now.

  14. Patrick Henry says:

    WARNING WARNING DANGER DANGER DANGER!!!

    Former Sprint nextel worker here, and there’s a problem with the scenario above.

    There are two ways to turn a phone off: Suspension, and restriction. Restrictions involve putting a code on the account so the phone can’t make calls (For nextel the code is NOIO, No incoming or Outgoing). The contract will still run, and you’ll still be charged for the phone’s price plan.

    The other method, which is for sprint phones, is suspension. It puts the phone in a hibernating state that freezes everything–including the contract and price plan. You don’t get charged anything for the phone each month then. This works fine now, but months later when you want to cancel it, you are going to get an ETF anyway.

    Then you’re going to need to call back and fight with customer service. It will be easy if the last person left notes as to why it was done, because we verify. But 9x out of 10, a bad customer service rep will NOT leave notes, and then we’re left with believing the customer. I would usually look at the history and in this case would refund the ETF, but if there was a huge history of credits I would think twice and get my supervisor.

    Hopefully none of that is going to happen. But when I hear the words “suspension” instead of “termination” with a credit of the ETF, then it usually means a CSR is overstepping their boundaries and you’re going to have MASSIVE problems later on in the year.

    If you want to cancel a phone and people are willing to work with you, its best to just ask them to cancel it immediatly and refund the 200$ ETF if they don’t want you to eat it. Then you have it done now, and don’t have to get your notes out later.

    I’d like a follow-up on this later to make sure she doesn’t have a hassle.

    • Anonymous says:

      @Hickepedia: Hoo boy, I was wondering if someone had already pricked their ears up over this story. Whenever I hear about someone “suspending” their Sprint account, I worry that they’re due for a trip down the painful path we’ve been treading for a year or so.
      My wife has/had a Sprint line that we suspended more than a year ago – the phone itself has been missing for about that long, and we figured that we’d suspend the line and wait for the contract to be up so that we could avoid the ETF. Well, the six months came and went, and she called to terminate the contract. Well and good, we’d had other problems with Sprint, especially with billing, so we were glad to be rid of the account.
      Fast forward two months…and a bill shows up from Sprint, past due, in danger of going to collections. For the line that was terminated. With no phone on it. Wife calls Sprint, and gets a credit put on the bill for the unused service, and the account terminated once more.
      Nope. It’s the Account That Would Not Die – two months later, and another bill shows up. By this point, I’m opening the mail because Wife starts frothing at the mouth at the merest hint of a Sprint logo. I’ve since become an avid Consumerist reader, so I’m having her document all this for the EECB I’m sure we’re eventually going to need to deploy. Same story as last time – another credit, another termination for the account.
      Well, I’m writing this, so you know that we’re not done yet – last week, another bill arrives, with a $0 balance. After fetching smelling salts for Wife, she calls Sprint up and is informed that this is a “closeout bill.” Do I believe it? No, but I figure that we’ve got to give them this last chance to get it right. At least the amount due was $0 this time, so it might be progress.

      So – to those of you getting an offer of a suspension from Sprint, I say: tread carefully. You might be in for more interactions with Sprint’s customer service than you think.

      • TaterTom says:

        @GideonGanadium: What are you waiting for? I’d say that situation deserves an EECB before now. You [we] already know not to trust Sprint’s words, why start believing them now?

        I was told [I have it recorded] that they would call me to let me know my two-month-ago terminated service incurred no additional fees, everything taken care of, and no further action or payment is required by me.

        “Oh, so all those other CSRs were just a few bad eggs, huh? Okie dokey. Thank goodness I got YOU this time. Whew!”

        So I’m simply waiting for the end of this billing cycle for them to call me, with my shaky hand hovering the mouse over the ‘send’ button.

  15. Blueskylaw says:

    I assumed I hadn’t had an issue with customer service because I’d never had to contact customer service.

    ??????

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      @Blueskylaw: I think the OP meant that she’d never had a problem with their customer service because she’s never had to ask them to fix something.

  16. Acolyte says:

    I had a similar situation and they helped me out. Lesson of the day, don’t use your credit to help out dead beat fam members!

  17. DrWebster says:

    I remember, years ago when I wanted to switch to T-Mobile, calling Sprint customer support with a few months left on my contract, ready to pay the ETF. I made up some bogus story about why I wanted out — I was “moving to a part of the country that didn’t have service” or something like that — and instead of paying the ETF, the rep switched my plan to some restricted $5/month plan. You’d only get like 10 minutes a month (just enough to check a couple voicemails), and the per-minute fee after that was ridiculous (like $1/minute IIRC), but it worked for me. Especially when the rep then credited my account enough so that I didn’t have to pay anything until my contract was up.

  18. aftiggerintel says:

    Why not just use the easy out Sprint provided their customers with not informing them that an administrative fee was being raised? You can terminate the contract for up to 30 days from the bill it originates on without paying the early termination fee. The wording you must use though is “Materially Adverse to the contract.” No hassle when I did this last night and no ETF charged at all.

  19. Anonymous says:

    One quick note, as I work for a competing company, a suspension typically doesn’t mean that you’re going to be getting that line for free, it just means exactly what the rep said- No usage in or out. Suspensions are usually used for out of control usage or stolen phones. Not to rain on the parade here, but I’ve seen too many upset customers that don’t understand how the suspensions work. Reps sugar-coat or don’t properly explain how those work. If you’re wanting the line gone for good, you need to have it disconnected all the way. Of course, this is a moot point if the rep said otherwise.

  20. morgasco says:

    So this Consumerist Sprint Hotline, I’m guessing that won’t work for those of us that are on a business line (My own business, not a corporate deal)?
    Seems like I usually have to roll the dice and call twice to get my problem resolves with those CSR’s at the “Business Center”. I’ve also tried their online support, and my advice there is don’t touch it, you’ll waste more time because you’ll end up calling in anyways….

  21. Anonymous says:

    Be careful, and make sure they send you a printed confirmation of that. I called for the same reason, with an ex-boyfriend on my plan who had moved out of the country. They told me that since he had moved out of their territory for cell service (Brazil) there would be no fee. I believed them, and at the end of my two years (about 4 months later) I switched to a different service. That was in 2003. I JUST paid off the collections department from sprint, as they reduced their original amount from $300 (2 ETF Fees) to $150. So even though I terminated on time, and they guaranteed me no fee on the ex’s phone, I got charged for both. I didn’t find out about it until well over 2 years after the plan, and it had shown up on my credit report. I no longer had the paperwork defending myself, and since I was no longer a customer, they claimed they could no longer look at my files to see where the ETF fee being written off was notated.
    Anywho, good luck!!!

  22. Imobjoas says:

    I’ve had nothing but problems with sprint, but their plan is so awesome its hard to leave. I had an issue recently, which I sent to the consumerist, where my BB would delete all my info, and freeze (2nd Time). After trying the store, and normal customer service I tried the consumerist hotline trying to get a new phone. The results are the same. The only difference is the accent of the person screwing you in an uncomfortable place (no not the back of a VW) It was only resolved after I sent an EECB, and I heard from the district manager

  23. Anonymous says:

    **SPRINT EMPLOYEE HERE**

    SUSPENDING AN ACCOUNT DOES NOT RUN OUT THE CONTRACT.

    Typically, after the suspension is lifted, the amount of time it was down is added to the end of the contract.

    This prevents people from putting phones on standby until the contract runs out, then cancelling the service.

    I can just about guarantee that when the OP calls in June to cancel, they will have no record of this…

    GET IT ON PAPER !!!!

  24. Preyfar says:

    I setup and configure Sprint-provided Blackberries for my company. I probably deal with Sprint’s customer service 3 to 4 times a month.

    About eight months ago I was spending anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes on the phone trying to get them through /the initial activation process/. Sprint would send the devices mis-configured, missing data plans, BES configuration, Enterprise services, etc. It was bad. I’d say one out of two CSRs I dealt with had no idea to resolve the issues, and it was takin 2 to 3 calls to get them resolved (playing the “find a good rep” lottery). After dealing with dozens of CSRs, we had become so used to the problems that I could tell the Sprint reps to look for in order to fix our devices. It was FRUSTRATING.

    Around December, I noticed a turn around in Sprint. I’m on and off the phone in minutes, calls are resolved first contact and the CSRs are polite, knowledgable and know exactly what to look for.

    There’s been a definite change, and one for the better. I used to cringe and delay having to call them because of frustrating experiences. Today, it’s markedly improved.

    • morgasco says:

      @Preyfar: I guess with the enterprise people it’s the lingering bad taste in my mouth from the last 6 years I’ve dealt with them I guess. I’m glad to hear you’re getting improvements with them, I’m just crossing my fingers hoping I’ll get that from them someday soon…

  25. HogwartsAlum says:

    That’s awesome. I echo the poster who cited Judge Judy’s show, however. Putting someone with bad credit on your phone plan or anything else is indeed taking a risk.

    My dad got me a car loan with an insanely low payment. My car died and he found me a newer one, but he had to cosign to do it. I have been RELIGIOUS about not missing a payment. He really trusted me when he did that, and I would rather eat beans out of a can in the dark with no utilities than mess up his credit.

  26. You hate your job but you're still working there? says:

    Let’s wait and see what happens when it comes time to cancel the phone for good. If she’s that eager to get rid of $200 I could use some grocery money. =)

  27. TaterTom says:

    They gave me that same garbage. It’s total BS. Suspended line means ‘seasonal plan’ as I found out the hard way. This means however long that line’s not activated, tack it on to the end of the agreement.

    I understand they just made a change to the contract, however, and that gives you an out on your ETF. I believe you have until sometime in March for this one.

  28. parad0x360 says:

    Chances are if you tried to cancel both lines you would have been stuck with both ETF’s but since you were still going to be a customer and Sprint is hemorrhaging customers they are going to do whatever they can to keep you happy so when your contract is up you decide to stay.

    So..yea its great but they arent doing it because they want good service. They are doing in the hope that you wont quit.

    I guess it doesnt really matter what their motivations are but IMO when providing good customer service you shouldnt have to be close to going out of business for it to happen because then the motives dont seem quite so pure and chances are if they pull themselves back from the brink they will go back to their old ways.

    Congrats though! Sprint tried to screw me out of almost $400 by charging me 2 ETF fee’s when I closed my account 3 months AFTER my contract had expired AND after I paid my bill in full. They sent it to collections where I fought it for 2 damn years before I got it removed from my credit report. Grrrr! I hate Sprint.

  29. baristabrawl says:

    Someone probably said this but: How much is the service a month? Would you save more than you spend having a more inexpensive plan? It might be working out to Sprint’s Advantage to have you paying for 2 lines with more minutes and the extra fees. I could be wrong…but I’d do the math.

    And I’ve had good and bad experiences with Sprint. I left them because I didn’t feel like I was their demographic…like T-Mobile. They seem to cater to a younger crowd.

  30. booleyhitt says:

    I’ve been with Sprint for over 10 years and have never had a problem with their customer service. The few times there have been glitches with my bill, I’ve fired off an email and the problem was resolved within 24 hours. Unless they get bought out, I won’t be leaving Sprint for a long time.

  31. Ninjanice says:

    Um.. another ex-Sprint Rep here. The OP may be better off changing the serial number on the phone to a dummy ESN or to one of an old phone she may have laying around. Suspending an account means that no one can use the phone and she’s not billed for it, but the time the phone is suspended will be added to the end of her contract, so there’s no real savings. I would suggest changing the number (which shouldn’t extend the contract) and using an old phone on the line until the account is up for renewal. That way her brother can’t use the phone, but her service won’t be suspended so she can actually cancel the line in June without an ETF. If she has a higher end rate plan on that line, she may want to just cancel it now because the $200 ETF would be cheaper than paying $50 a month until June.

  32. Ronis says:

    I would like to thank this customer for posting her story of a positive experience with Sprint’s customer service.

    Although we continue to have more work to do to improve our customers’ experiences, her story and others like it that we’ve been receiving substantiates our claim that we are working hard to improve customer service every day. It is our #1 priority.

    We also appreciate the Consumerist for posting the hotline number. We encourage our customers to contact us at that number or use our e-chat services at sprint.com should they have questions or need assistance.

    Roni Singleton
    Sprint PR

  33. Anonymous says:

    Actually, I believe the rep. Being in a retention position, she probably just didn’t want to take a hit for the contract being terminated, and used her knowledge of weird policies to her advantage, bending the rules but getting her save.