Sprint Charges Customer For Calling His Own Voicemail

Everyone in America can call Chris’s Sprint voicemail for free, except for Chris. He gets charged for it, and in fact, doing so made him go over his airtime minutes.

After fussing with customer support, they issued him a credit and told him he was checking his voicemail wrong. Instead of calling himself, like one does on every other service, you’re supposed to “hit OK on the little envelope.”

And that’s it. No explanation or desire to report as a problem. Just punch the letter.

He says, “I hate when the only answer to my question is, “Oh, that’s easy, sir. It’s greed. And we’ll be blatantly greedy until you find a way to make us stop, thank you very much.”

Sprint users: don’t call yourself from your own phone. Hit OK on the little envelope. Somehow that phrase strikes us as funny. Say it out loud.

Full letter inside…


“For my favorite consumer advocates:

Having gone over my Sprint airtime minutes for the first time in what seems like forever, I took a close look at my online billing details. Sprint provides its customers with easy-to-interpret icons on their bills for calls of particular types; two little phones to represent PCS to PCS calls, for example, which are included in my plan, airtime free, for five dollars a month. There is another symbol, a “VM,” that indicates calls to voicemail.

Not a single “VM” appears on my bill though I had, quite obviously, called to check my own voicemail a number of times over the course of my billing cycle. Also, at the bottom of my bill, after the point in time at which I had exhausted my anytime minutes, I had been charged for calls to my own number. These were calls made to voicemail, with no indication that Sprint considered them such. I assumed there was an oversight, and called Customer Care, as it seemed impossible that I would be charged airtime minutes for calls to my own number, from my own number.

Customer Care informed me that I was improperly dialing my voicemail. I was told that I had to, ‘hit ok on the little envelope,’ to be connected to voicemail free-of-charge. Without going into too many inane details here, suffice it to say that I have called my voicemail in the same manner since the beginning of time and I have never taken notice of being charged for it. In an experiment after the call, my phone interprets the three possible manners of connecting to my voicemail in the identical fashion, unsurprisingly.

My representative was friendly and helpful, if not the most astute. I had re-directed the conversation from discussion of small envelopes to what I felt was the more applicable phenomenon, that of calls to my Sprint number not falling under the umbrella of PCS to PCS calling. He took the time to speak with his supervisor, informed me that neither he nor the supervisor had ever considered the PCS to PCS thing, gave me a service credit and passed me on to Technical Support, who swiftly told me that calls to voicemail are charged against anytime minutes, that she had no idea why, and that there was not only no explanation, but no solution.

To clarify: There are millions of people nationwide who can call my voicemail for free. I am not one of them.

This is Sprint, and this information is verified through my own experience. What follows is a bit of research.

From T-Mobile’s website:

“T-Mobile VoiceMail
We make it easy for you to check voice mail messages and manage your calls while you are on the go. Enhanced VoiceMail is included free on all plans $34.99 and higher. You will not be charged unless you go over the included minutes in your rate plan. The minute charge is the same as your rate plan minute charge.”

From Verizon’s website:

“12. Am I charged airtime when I check my wireless voicemail messages from my wireless phone?

If you check your messages from your wireless phone, normal airtime charges are incurred.”

From Cingular’s website:

“You will be charged airtime minutes for listening to your voicemail messages from your wireless phone. Airtime charges are based on your calling plan. When listening to your voicemail on your wireless phone while outside of your home calling area, you may also be charged for long distance and roaming, if applicable. “

Obviously, this is an industry-wide practice. My expectation that it will change is non-existent, as there is no existing motivation for any of the major wireless carriers to change it. This becomes, unfortunately, a consumer standing on a mountain yelling down into the valley that it’s simply not fair, that it’s unconscionable. Wireless CEO’s don’t live in this valley, though. And their underlings are deaf.

My point is this: The only number a wireless company can be assured their customers will call is those customers’ own numbers. And every single one of them is charging us for it and costing us overage fees or increasing the size of our bills by increasing the number of included minutes per month.

I believe that prior to the inception of PCS to PCS calling, or Verizon’s IN, or Cingular’s Mobile to Mobile, there was a valid argument to charging for any and all outgoing calls at the standard rate agreed to by the customer. Once we’re paying for free in-network calls, how can we logically, or fairly, be charged for calls to our own in-network numbers?

My apologies for the long-winded-ness of my email. I’m a bit worked up today, because I hate when the only answer to my question is, “Oh, that’s easy, sir. It’s greed. And we’ll be blatantly greedy until you find a way to make us stop, thank you very much.”

Anyway, thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far.

-Chris M.
Chronic Voicemail Caller”