Poor Reception? "Go To The Hilltop" Sprint Tells Customer

“Go outside, or to hilltop to make calls from your cell phone. Sprint does not guarantee call quality in buildings or homes,” a Sprint customer service rep told reader Nathan shortly before he canceled service. Sprint had told a long series of lies with various reasons and solutions that never materialized for why Nathan and his family couldn’t get any reception in their home. After wrangling for many months, Nathan told them to stuff it.

He canceled the account and canceled the credit card on the account, early termination fee be damned. He vows, “I will never use Sprint again. I will deal with the collector they send after me, but Sprint will no longer receive payment from this point onward.” His tale, below.

Nathan writes:

Nine months ago my family moved into a new home, in a development at the top of a foothill in Issaquah, WA. While we had perfect cell reception in our old house, calls in our new house are consistently dropped, and reception ranges between 0-1 bars of service. Being loyal customers for over six years, we decided to work with Sprint to resolve this problem.

In October 2007 we contacted the local Sprint store about our service issues. The representative at the store in Issaquah assured us that they were aware of the issue and improvements would be made in the next six months. Busy with furnishing the house and sending our teen to college, we did not have more time to press the issue with Sprint.

In May 2008, we contacted Sprint again with the issue. It was impossible to communicate and putting a strain on our patience. Once again, the Sprint employee, eager to keep our business, offered another solution; get new phones. In June 2008 we purchased two brand new Blackberry Curve phones, and resigned our contract under the assurance that we would have better reception. Reception was worse than ever. We once again gave the service time to improve. It did not.

On July 24th, 2008 I contacted Sprint Customer Service directly and explained the issue, wishing to cancel Sprint service and a waive of the ETF, given the only reason we re-signed our contract was because better service was assured. The representative “Toni” (Employee #703170319) explained to us that our area shows good coverage on her chart. This is clearly not true. Even outside of our house calls are dropped and scratchy/distorted. I offered to allow a Sprint representative to come out to our house to test our service. She refused and instead tried to push a $300 device that plugs into our internet to boost signal. At this point, I don’t want any more gizmos or false promises from Sprint, so I refused. Sprint clearly tells its employees to give the customer as many problems as possible before cancelling. Toni was very apologetic about the situation, but claimed she could do nothing to resolve it.

After another 45 minutes of going back and forth with Toni, she told me to fax in my account information and the situation to James at Sprint . His fax number was 404-948-9064. I sent the following fax, along with my account information and a graph I made measuring service in different areas of my home.

Fax sent July 24th, 2008

ATTN: James at Sprint


c/o with Toni- employee # 703170319

Customer: Timothy *******

Message: I contacted customer service regarding being out of coverage at my new home We have attempted to work with Sprint for nearly 9 months on this problem. We were first told that changes would be made to the cell towers to improve the coverage, but nothing changed. Next we were told that our phones were inadequate and that if we purchased new phones from Sprint that would solve the problem. We still have cell phone reception that falls from -120 to -150. I was given this number by the representative Toni and told to contact regarding the waver of early termination fees given the unique circumstances of living outside of reliable Sprint coverage. I have included my most recent Sprint bill as per Toni’s instructions.

The numbers correspond to:

-79 dBm and higher: 5 Bars

-80 dbM to -84 dBm: 4 bars

85 dBm to -89 dBm: 3 bars

-90 dBm to -99 dBm: 2 bars

-100 dBm and lower: 0-1 bar

After not hearing back from James, I decided to give Sprint another call. While I didn’t catch the employee’s name, it is surely still listed on the record. He listened to my problem, listened to how I had tried to work with Sprint, and how I wished to cancel my account. His solution was to “Go outside, or to hilltop to make calls from your cell phone. Sprint does not guarantee call quality in buildings or homes.” This would be a valid argument as it does state this in our contract. However, we do not have adequate service outside either, rendering his point useless. Furthermore, what if my son had to call 911 from the house and was given a “call was lost” message? Sprint truly does not view or respect the customer highly.

He also claimed that “if we cannot provide cell reception in your home, no carrier will be able to.” This is blatantly untrue. We have asked friends with AT&T and Verizon to test call quality in our home. They have absolutely no problems with reception, and a consistent 3-4 bars of service.

After another 25 minutes of arguing, I asked to have James, the man I sent the fax to contact me. After being thanked for choosing Sprint, I was hung up on.

I have cancelled automatic bank payments to Sprint and cancelled the credit card on the account. I will never use Sprint again. I will deal with the collector they send after me, but Sprint will no longer receive payment from this point onward. While I understand that all wireless carriers have problems, these dealings with Sprint have been exceptionally bad. Think twice before signing with Sprint until they improve customer care.

If we had gotten Nathan earlier because we would have told him to save himself the hassle and call the Sprint Batphone they set up especially for Consumerist readers: 703-433-4401.

Looks like despite Dan Hesse’s promise to turn around the company, the same problems persist. Too bad. Those new ads are so pretty.