Sprint: $2.50 For The Ringtone, $11.85 In Data Transfer Charges

Whoops. Eric switched to Sprint where apparently he has the “For the Love Of God Don’t Use The Internet” data plan. Eric writes:

I downloaded a single ring tone for my new phone, and paid $2.50 for it.

When my bill arrived, it included a $11.85 charge for “data transfer,” at $.03/kb. It took me 5 hours of calls to reach someone in the Philippines call center who explained that Sprint charges this overage on every data transaction; that a single photo upload could cost up to $5 in data fees.

The testy CSR eventually credited my account, but not without a stern and mocking lecture first.

Yikes! Make sure you’ve got some sort of data plan before you start downloading ringtones! Or before your kids do. We can see this happening to a lot of parents who wouldn’t ordinarily care about stuff like ringtones. This, of course, begs the question: If $2.50 plus data charges, is it really $2.50? — MEGHANN MARCO

(Photo: Maulleigh)


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  1. Coder4Life says:

    Sounds like a mistake on sprints side… Because I remember when I was with them I never got any extra charges for downloading ring tones.

    You’d figure for $2.50 they would throw in the data download for free or that price is included.

  2. snazz says:

    they also have to tax your purchase of the ringtone! granted this is all outlined for you when you make the purchase on their website. there is actually a specific step that you have to agree to the extra fees you may incur from data transfer and taxes.

    i paid an extra $1.30 i think for the download and 50 cents or so in taxes. i will not be doing that again anytime soon.

    about $5 so my phone will play the super mario brothers theme for 90 days…. not worth it.

  3. Bob says:

    Was the ringtone from Sprint, or somebody else? I have Verizon, and I’ve downloaded a couple games and ringtones, and just been charged the quoted price.

  4. raycarroll70 says:

    In response to Jaideepg’s comment, No, it wasn’t a mistake on Sprint Nextel Inc.’s part. I work in a corporate retail store in GA as a Retail Communications Specialist/RCC and everytime we sell a customer a Vision(1xRTT) or Power Vision(1xEV-DO Rev 0) wireless handset, the customer is informed and educated about the $0.03/Kb for casual rate usage for accessing the wireless web via the handset’s browser which is why we always recommend at least subscribing to one of our data packages starting at $15.00/month or removing the IP from the account so the internet is disabled in case a customer became tempted to access the mobile web. We do the same thing for Text Message/SMS capable handsets too so the customer can’t say their weren’t informed that unless the customer signed up for at least the $5.00/300 message per month package, they would be charged $0.15/message for incoming as well as outgoing text messages.

  5. ShadeWalker says:

    this is why i find free ringtones online and then transfer them via usb with bitpim to the phone. takes a little computer knowledge but i ain’t paying no data transfer fee.

  6. mopar_man says:


    This is what I do as well. I paid $4 for a used cable and it’s paid for itself many times over in the 2 weeks I’ve had my phone.

  7. oldhat says:

    I have Sprint and they have the worst customer service I’ve seen. Consistently terrible. Anything I need to call them about is an hour plus and even then still usually unresolved. Just absolutely terrible.

    The cell service and price is pretty good though. Just pray you never have to call them for anything.

    I’ve used Cingular and T-Mobile, in comparison. T-Mobile was damn good (well, normal…what should be expected) but the service sucked in my area.

  8. NekoFever says:

    I just find the audio that I want, convert it to MP3 on my computer, and then transfer it across to the phone via Bluetooth. Costs me precisely $0.00 in data charges, and almost as much to buy the ringtone.

  9. healthdog says:

    That’s a good idea, Shade and mopar. Do you have any suggested websites? I fear the spyware.

  10. snazz says:

    @ShadeWalker: is this a mac compatible solution?

  11. crayonshinobi says:

    For the love of god! Why are you wasting money downloading ringtones!!!

    Consumerist has already had an article about making your own ringtones.

    I would also point people to HowardForums and Audacity, which incidentally is also useful for recording telephone conversations.

    Most importantly, it’s all FREE! You don’t have to pay $2.50 for 20 seconds of a low bitrate sample of a song you’ve already bought.

  12. ShadeWalker says:

    @healthdog: here’s a lifehacker link i found on it


    @crayonshinobi: link above

  13. bluemeep says:

    I had a similar experience with my new Cingular phone. A month or two ago they mailed my family a box of new phones as apparently our old ones were no longer going to be in service (not surprising; they were bricks from the late 90s). I’m not overly familiar with the details of the plan as it was my father that signed us up and I’ve only used my previous one as an emergency phone.

    While playing around with my new toy, I discovered it had AIM built in. For yucks, I sent a few messages with it to my roommate. After that it went into my glove compartment where the old phone had spent its life. Three weeks later the bill arrives. For five sentances and one incident of checking the weather, it cost $40.

    I haven’t used the thing since and the notion I have about cellphones being elaborate scams keeps on truckin’.

  14. Peekoos says:

    I think Cingular does the same thing, that is if you download the ringtone/game from the phone’s “internet.” Now, if you go to their website via your computer and get your ringtone, you don’t have to worry about the “bytes transferred” thing.

    I used to work for T-Mobile, and their system was a little better. Their WAP internet – T-Zones – was free, or at least the first level that allowed you to download ringtones, games, etc. was. If you wanted to do more, then you could pay extra, but you never had to worry about paying for data transmission from downloading ringtones from your phone. The one thing people did do a lot was try to “preview” the ringtone from their phone (which you CAN’T do unless you purchase it) – people would call all the time wanting a refund for a ringtone they purchased but didn’t like. If you want to preview it, go to the website!!!

    I agree though, the best thing to do is just make your own.

    Oh, and another thing that is ridiculous – wallpapers for cell phones! Why do people pay for these? You can easily have a nice wallpaper by just taking a picture with your camera phone and setting it as the wallpaper. Another thing you can do with some phones is find a pic online (or that you already have saved) and EMAIL it to your phone (if you don’t know your phone’s email address, you can find out from your carrier – it’s usually yourphonenumber@someaddress.com.) You may be charged for MMS (picture messaging), but usually that’s around $0.25 (depending on your carrier) . . . still cheaper than the $2 or $3 they charge for stupid pictures.

  15. infinitysnake says:

    @raycarroll70: That’s basically a polite way of saying you extort your customers…not nice.

  16. Wargazm says:

    any idiot that pays for a ringtone deserves anything he/she gets.

  17. grouse says:

    I agree with Wargazm.

  18. lonelymaytagguy says:

    Even third class prepaid customers (T-Mobile) don’t have any data charges when purchasing ring tones.

    There’s even a way to get pictures from your computer to the phone over the air for free. (yeah, but they charge .25 to send one)

  19. kerry says:

    @crayonshinobi: Yeah, I only buy ringtones of crap I don’t already own, because they crack me up. I’m not going to buy the whole damned version of sexy/back, but I’ll pay $2 for the privilege of assigning it to my boyfriend’s phone number. I’m a sucker like that. Actually, that’s a bad example because he *insisted* I assign that song to him.
    Peekoos is right, btw. Cingular does charge data for ringtones if you don’t have a data plan. Except, they charge $0.002 (that’s 0.2 cents) per kb, not 3 cents, so at most you’re looking at a dollar or so extra. Still not really “worth it,” but not a total ream, either.

  20. Brie says:

    I tried to get the $15 data plan from Sprint’s website. Couldn’t do it.

    A friend of mine said “Just call them!” but I’ve had enough service calls that lasted too damn long to bother. So now I just use the web on this computer, at home, and save money and the health of my wrist as well.

    Then Sprint triple-billed this same friend for the “Power Vision Pack.” WTF? How would you think that’d even be possible?

  21. grkgus says:

    Bastards. Thats what happened to me. I had 3 different people tell me the same thing. I downloaded a song because the price was 2.50. Nowhere on there does it tell you it costs money to download the song too. Not only that, they charge you while your browse through their song selection. They are horrible. I will be going to cingular soon. Hopefully they are a little better.

  22. Buran says:

    @snazz: Depends on the phone you have. I can transfer stuff to my Razr (non-crippled) with Bluetooth from my Powerbook.

  23. Justinh6 says:

    Here’s an idea.

    If you don’t have a data transfer plan, than don’t use data transfer.

    Its like going into a car dealership to get your car worked on, and telling them “oh just fix it, charge me what you want”.

    Its a lose situation for you.

    Thankly, I have the sprint employee referral plan, and have referred a bunch of my friends to it. 30 bucks for 500 minutes, free nights and weekends, and a free data transfer plan.

  24. wobiii says:

    Sprint should be famous for this type of thing. I had to change my plan 2 times before they finally got it right. Every time I called to change it they said I had entered the next billing cycle so they could not change it until the next. The first time it happened I gave them the benefit of the doubt and said ok. The second time I was on hold for an hour then spent an hour argueing with the csr about it. They finally transferred me to a supervisor who said it should have been corrected before and reduced the charges. They really are ridiculous about what they charge for. They charge you a flat 30 dollars or so just for going over your minutes plus the overage charge. I would never use them again. Every time you call them you hold for at least 45 minutes to get to speak with someone.

  25. diminished says:

    Getting upset because you bought a product and (without checking) used a service that was an addition to basic service and got charged for it. Does that mean you should be able to go to the movies and get the popcorn free. Buying a house and not getting charged utilities. Going to University and never having to buy paper.
    Give me a break! I was a csr for 3 years and had to leave because I was unable to stand anymore abuse. The logic is staggering. You bought something that is a basic phone, and want it to transport you to Spain for free? Internet isn’t free anywhere, why would it be free on your phone? Calling csr’s and starting the call by saying you have a bomb in your truck and intend to blow me up with it (actual call) isn’t the way. We understand mistakes happen. Our policy was that for the first time, give the cust a break and credit the account then explain how it works. That is the intent but it’s hard when the call starts with “You mo#$%# fu&*%$ bi$%#”.
    Which is what I suspect this person did.

  26. anitasouth says:

    My son asked permission to download a ringtone that would cost $6.00. When I got my Sprint bill, that one ringtone cost me $49.65! Their explaination was that the more kb’s needed(at $.03 per kb) to download via the internet, which we didn’t have a special plan for, resulted in this large PCS Data charge. My son cried because he felt so bad. The Sprint rep put an internet block on our phones so that there wouldn’t be any temptation to try this again. I feel like this is a case of “Cell phone service Gouging”
    South San Francisco

  27. marker64131 says:

    Sprint’s problems stem from the very inception of their PCS venture. My manager, Sandy Holthouse, was a high-school grad and bragged about how she left her last job (at Sprint North Supply) because “they wanted to promote her but just couldn’t find anyone to take her place so she quit”. I had temp’d at North Supply and found out she was fired there–she wanted to be promoted but they would NOT because she was just a high-school grad and they told her she was not promotable. She was truly incompetent to manage people and while at PCS promoted another high-school grad to ‘supervisor'(Trish Browne)who came to work smelling like she hadn’t bathed in days and had (at best) hillbilly redneck grammar (“ain’t seen no…”). But, she was just a high school grad and was not a threat to clueless Holthouse.
    Holthouse also told our department that “everyone ELSE was approved for overtime except our department” and then, once the KC market launched and she got her bonus, all of a sudden, overtime was finally approved. I went to HR with this, got paid for my OT, and got fired a month later for “excessive clerical errors” by VP Kevin Neuer–another clueless idiot.
    Why do you think former CEO Bill Esrey ‘took the money’ and ran? He wasn’t going down with the ship. Andy Sukawaty–PCS’s first Chairman ran quickly–lasted less than 2 years.
    HR is absolutely clueless. I got fired in 1997 and in 2006 Sprint actually sent me a cell phone bill for a pro-gratis phone that all employees rec’d and I had turned it in way back in 1997. Sprint is one of the most pathetic entities in the world, they care nothing about jobs, families or customers–only profits. Now, if you’re female, NOT degreed, and have big tits, go to Sprint-they’ll put you right to work–you can probably be a supervisor.

    Otherwise, run from Sprint and don’t look back.

  28. txwebman says:

    More of a rebuttal and not a comment, its definitely directed to the user “Diminished” the previous csr, who said, “Does that mean you should be able to go to the movies and get the popcorn free. Buying a house and not getting charged utilities. Going to University and never having to buy paper.” uhhhh, no it’s like paying to go into a movie and being told you need to pay an additional charge to open your eyes, like buying a house and being told you have to pay an extra fee to open the door, or going (paying tutition) to a University and being told it’ll cost you more to actually learn! Sorry you had a rough time as a csr but if the company you were working for was gouging it’s customers, then you got what you deserved!

  29. poughbear2 says:

    These are the facts:
    Prior to 7/25/2007, my wife and I had two Nextel phones. An i580 and an i850. We never downloaded any ring tones or incurred any data charges. On 7/25/2007 at 3:50pm, the UPS driver delivered our new phones; two ic902 phones. At 6pm, I called Sprint/Nextel and the phones were activated.
    When we received our bill in August, there was a $45.63 charge for “Casual Data Usage” for my line. My wife’s line did not have any data charges. I called Sprint/Nextel customer service. I asked the rep if she could explain what the data charges were for and she could not. She transferred me to hybrid technical support. The rep in tech support could not explain either and insisted that the bill was accurate and that I did use $45 (1521 KB) worth of data services. I told her again that I did not and that if I did, I would not want to accumulate such a high dollar amount; certainly not for just ring tones. The rep said she would remove Internet service from both our lines. When I asked for credit for the data usage she said she would not give me a credit.
    I called Sprint/Nextel back and spoke to another rep. Right away, she was able to tell me that the data usage occurred on 7/25/2007 at 11:59am. I explained that I didn’t use any data and she said she would give me credit. Ironically, the new ic902 phones were not activated until about 6:20pm, on 7/25/2007. So if Sprint is saying that the data usage occurred at 11:59am, then something is fishy.
    I thought that since our data services were disabled (which I did confirm last month by trying to use the Internet), that it was the end of the erroneous data billing. Well, when I got our September bill, I again was billed $5.82 for data usage and this time my wife’s line had $0.52 for data usage. I called Sprint/Nextel and the rep could not explain when the data usage occurred and what we supposedly did to incur those charges. She did credit my account and also said she would “cancel” the NAI functionality. She said the previous rep only “disabled” it. We haven’t received our October bill yet, so I won’t know if this fixed it our not.

    I wonder if there are other subscribers who also are getting billed for data charges which they did not truly or willfully incur. I wonder if Sprint/Nextel is dishonestly billing for data usage in the hopes that users don’t check their bill carefully. Think of all the corporate users who just pay their bill every month without scrutinizing every charge. Unless Sprint/Nextel can explain these data charges it cast doubt about their integrity.