At Sprint, Nothing's SIMple

Allison and her husband wanted to reduce the amount of minutes they’re signed up for on their Sprint-Nextel cellphone plan. While that was a hassle in of itself and Allison ended up getting a phone with another company, the fun really begins once “”Insert SIM” started flashing on her husband’s phone (which is on the Nextel network, which uses SIM cards). Sprint seemed convinced that the SIM card had been reported as lost or stolen and couldn’t be activated. This was very bad as it was her husband’s business line. What followed were a series of 45+ minute call time waits, disconnected customer service calls, fruitless visits to the store, conflicting and confusing information given by different customer service reps and tech support personnel. During the fracas, her husband lost one customer who hadn’t been able to reach him during the outage. Over 100 days into the reign of new Sprint CEO Dan Hesse and shennanigans like the following story are still happening. Oh Danny-boy, are one of the “nukes” you have planned for revamping Sprint aimed at customer service?

My husband and I share a cell phone plan through Nextel (Sprint). My contract expired in July 2007, but my husband’s contract remains through July 2008. In early February, I called to reduce our plan because we were not taking advantage of all we were paying for. I was told by a customer service agent that because I was out of contract that I would need to sign a new, 2 year contract just to reduce our plan, even though my husband is the primary account holder and was still under contract.

Frustrated with their lack of service on numerous counts, I decided to cancel my phone altogether and then reduce my husband’s plan (all within my rights, according to customer service). Upon calling to cancel in late February, I was told that the information I was given about not being able to reduce my plan was wrong and that I could make changes at any time. However, at this point, I had already obtained service elsewhere. So, my phone was disconnected as of March 11, as I requested.

Fast forward to March 20 . My husband’s phone “magically” appeared with a message saying “Insert SIM.” After calling technical support, we were instructed to take the phone to the local service dealer for further instruction. At the local Nextel store, I was told that we had a bad SIM card and we would need to purchase one for $35, since we did not have insurance. (By the way – no one ever told me insurance was needed for the SIM card.) I had the idea of using the SIM card tied to my recently disconnected account since I no longer had any need for it. The technicians in the store told me that “Sure, you can do that.” They instructed me to call the technical support line to get assistance in re-activating the SIM for my husband’s phone.

And so begins the nightmare. I called tech support, where I explained my story and was put on hold numerous times, only to finally be told that my SIM card had been placed in “lost or stolen” and couldn’t be activated. This was impossible, as I had been using this card through March 11, at which time my phone was disconnected by Nextel (Sprint). When I disputed the “lost or stolen” status, I was placed on hold again, where I actually got disconnected from the call after almost 45 minutes.

I called tech support again, where I explained my story for a second time. After an hour or so of being put on hold and answering more questions, I was finally told that the SIM card was tied to my old account and they would have to put in a request for a release in order to activate it on my husbands phone. The technician put in this request and instructed me to call back on [Easter] Sunday, as it would take 48 hours for the release to happen.

On Sunday, I called back, using the 800 number given to me by the technician. To my dismay, we had to go through the entire story again, where we were once again told that my SIM was in “lost or stolen.” Even after explaining what we were told Friday, it seemed as if the technician was just giving me “canned” answers and wasn’t really listening to what I was saying. We were shuffled through their system, where we spent more time on hold than we did pleading our case.

At one point, the technician asked me if I had ever filed a claim on my old phone, which I had. I told him that I had filed an insurance claim over two years ago, but only on the phone, not the SIM. I explained that I had been using this SIM card successfully from the time I opened my account in April 2003 until it’s disconnection on March 11, 2008. At no point had there ever been a claim of “lost or stolen” on my SIM card. He put me on hold again, to return to tell me that since I had filed a claim on this SIM that it had been permanently put in “lost or stolen.” I was VERY frustrated at this point, since it was obvious I wasn’t being listened to. I complained to him and expressed my frustration at not being listened to. At this point, the conversation had been going on for almost two hours – on Easter Sunday. I was put on hold again where, you guessed it, I was magically disconnected again.

After being disconnected again, and after spending nearly five hours on the phone with Nextel (Sprint), I decided to take my phone into the retail store the next day, where maybe someone else would have better luck.

Thankfully, the individuals in the store were sympathetic to my situation and they actually listened to what I had to say. They took my information with instructions to call me as soon as something was solved. At 4pm, I received a call from the local store telling me that they were just not going to release this SIM from lost or stolen and there was nothing they could do. Extremely frustrated, I explained that it was completely unfair for me to have to buy another SIM when I had one that could work. I felt like they were preventing this from working to profit from this situation by making me purchase another card. The CSR offered to try “one more” supervisor before she gave up, and I insisted that she exhaust every effort to make this right.

After an hour, she called me back to tell me that the SIM card was NOT in “lost or stolen,” but was tied to my old account and would have to be released from my old account in order to be activated on my husband’s account and that it would take 3-5 days for this process to complete. THIS IS THE SAME THING THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO DO ON FRIDAY! Now we were looking at being without our phone for up to 5 more days, which would have been more than a week total. This is my husband’s business line, and we had already lost one customer who had been unable to reach us due to the downtime of the phone. The CSR let me know that the only way to eliminate this downtime was by – get this – purchasing a new SIM card ($35 + tax) or purchasing a new phone (and signing a 2 year contract).

To shorten the story, I ended up purchasing a SIM card. I came very close to getting a new phone, but I decided to put my frustrations aside and make the right decision as a consumer, which was to NOT reward a company with such CRAPPY customer service. I said all along that I wouldn’t buy another SIM card, and I still think they should have given me one for all I went through, but at least I only have to wait until July to be rid of the Nextel by Sprint nightmare. Never, at any time, did I hear an apology or a “What can we do to make you happy?” It’s so obvious that the consumer does not matter.

To put the “icing-on-the-cake,” when my husband checked his long overdue voice mails, there was a message from Sprint, letting us know that the SIM card had been released and we were now free to use it. Oh, the irony!

-Allison, Disgruntled Sprint Customer until July 2008

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