A Sprint Phone Upgrade Is Immutable, Never To Be Undone

If you upgrade your mobile phone, then return the new phone because software problems render it unusable, does this mean that you’ve used up your upgrade and cannot receive a new subsidized phone again for the term of your current contract? Based on reader Jason’s experience…yeah, that’s pretty much it.

I upgraded on the Sprint.com website to a Samsung Instinct HD; if you wonder why I returned it, feel free to browse any of the forum posts on the phone, it has so many inherent software problems, it is literally unusable by the average customer. I called to send it back the very next day. They did take a return on it without a restocking fee (which took calling customer care many times, a trip into the store, a call to tech support, several calls to online service, and basically a week of my life).

The end result of this experience is that I have the same phone I started with, only now I’m not able to upgrade for two more years. Yes, I fully understand they’re “supposed” to undo the upgrade when the phone is returned. The simple fact is that Sprint will not undo upgrades. Seriously. I confirmed this with many calls to online order support, customer care, and Executive Services (who really, really didn’t want to take my call). I was told that by calling Sprint.com they could force an order for an upgrade through somehow, but no other type of upgrade could be done.

I am not paraphrasing, Sprint actually told me they have no way of undoing an upgrade. Let me repeat that, because someone, somewhere will be saying to themselves “Oh, of course they can.” No. They. Can’t. They say you can? Ok then; try. You’ll forgive me if I do other things while I wait.

A bit of backstory here: I ported my number over to Sprint in 2005 and got a free (and rightfully so) LG 225 as part of my new activation. Since that phone in July of 2005, I have never, ever had a phone subsidized by Sprint. Not by choice, the issue was that in the old billing system, Sprint customer service reps could (and did) renew contracts with or without your consent, and those contracts extended your ability to upgrade. Many dozens of contacts to Sprint over the years led to absolutely no resolution on this issue. Many promises by Sprint corporate of “It’s been fixed, you can go the the store and upgrade your phone now” led to extreme failure. I will also add that during that time, I actually worked for a national retail chain and I sold Sprint to customers, all the while totally unable to buy the same phones total strangers could walk up and get (one thing I will add to this, when Sprint moved all their billing to the Nextel billing platform a couple of years ago, renewing contracts for plans no longer prevents you from upgrading equipment, it just lets them charge you money for no reason if you leave them).

So I continued to buy used phones on eBay or from friends and waited for the day when I could get what Sprint promised me was available. I have five lines on my Sprint account, so changing companies would be ridiculously cost-prohibitive in early termination fees. In addition to that, I think Sprint has the best network in my area as well as unlimited data plans.

So every article I read about new cellular phones, they mean nothing to me. Sprint has made it clear, I will never get a new phone unless I shell out full retail for one. I got to try upgrading one time after six years, and now I’ve blown that chance. I am now eligible to upgrade August 1, 2012…unless I can’t then, either. Upgrades (possibly) every eight years; just another unadvertised perk of being a “Sprint Premier Silver” customer, I suppose.

You know who might like to hear about this? The CEO’s office. There are two ways to reach them that we can recommend. First, try giving Sprint’s hotline for Consumerist readers that goes straight to the CEO’s office a call at 703-433-4401 866-561-0035.  You can also try to reach CEO Dan Hesse directly at dan@sprint.com.

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