College Student Goes To Cancun For A Week, Comes Back To $11,667 Sprint Bill

Stacey says while she was on vacation with her family in Cancun for a week recently, she checked her Facebook page from her Evo phone “maybe 5 minutes a day,” but never uploaded or sent any photos, “only a handful of texts.” Sprint says she managed to burn through either 600 MB or 4.7 GB of data during that period, and now owes them $11,667.73. (Note: Stacey doesn’ t specify whether the 4,918,228 kb of data is in kilobits or kilobytes, so I don’t know which number is accurate.)

My name is Stacey and I am a college student, obviously on a shoe-string budget. I recently went on a family vacation to Mexico and came back to receive an $11,667.73 cell phone bill, from Sprint. $9,836.46 of this was international data charges. We were only in Cancun for one week and I managed to rack up 4918228.00 kb of data.

I have an Evo and the rest of my family had other phones for the trip (a BlackBerry, a simple Sanyo flip-phone, and the LG Lotus). The rest of my family now has Evos and I have a replacement Evo (mine was dropped and had a cracked screen at the time of the vacation, insurance sent me a new one).

Since I was on vacation at the time, I obviously didn’t want to be on my phone 24/7, so I wasn’t. I was on Facebook maybe 5 minutes a day. No pictures were sent or uploaded. Only a handful of texts were sent. There is no way in hell that I could have managed to rack up this much data.

Unfortunately, Sprint has been completely unhelpful in getting the charges dropped, or at least reduced. Their Fraud department has said there is no fraudulent activity and the phone was not cloned, their High Billings department said that since my parents had activated their phones for international calling (mine and my sister’s were NOT) we were aware of the rates. That’s the problem: we weren’t, nor was I able to rack up the amount they are claiming I did. My phone (which the $9,836.46 is coming from) was NOT activated for international service.

Stacey, have you seen a breakdown of the data plan usage for that week? Obviously you should start there, and try to piece together what happened. You can also search our site for “Sprint contact info” or check out this number to see if you can find someone who will investigate further.

The FCC is currently looking into whether carriers should have to notify customers when they begin to rack up huge bills, and this looks like a perfect example of the sort of bill shock under discussion. You might want to submit a comment directly to the FCC (see instructions at bottom of post) concerning this issue. Whether the charges turn out to be fraudulent or not, your story is exactly the sort of thing a warning alert would help prevent.


Edit Your Comment

  1. digital0verdose says:

    More proof that cell phone companies need to notify customers when their typical spending pattern is disrupted to ensure the consumer is not digging themselves into a hole and the cell company into a potential PR disaster.

    • common_sense84 says:

      No, the solution is to force them to make it so data can be completely disabled on the phone itself. Icing on the cake would be to make it so you can set it to automatically turn off data if you are roaming. Sadly these features technically should have been standard for years, there is no reason why a simple setting cannot disable data or disable data for roaming.

      If they don’t provide this setting, it is not the customers fault when things like this happen.

      They purposely removed settings like this so people won’t be able to easily avoid using data. Verizon phones are designs so a simple button press charges you data, and you cannot stop it no matter what. Rather than make it so you can stop it, they forced everyone onto a 10 dollar basic data plan.

      • digital0verdose says:

        What are you saying “No” to? Your solution covers only phones that are webcapable and assumes that all overages are due to unexpected data connections whereas my solution covers the entire customer spectrum.

      • hmburgers says:

        “the solution is to force them to make it so data can be completely disabled on the phone itself. Icing on the cake would be to make it so you can set it to automatically turn off data if you are roaming. Sadly these features technically should have been standard for years, there is no reason why a simple setting cannot disable data or disable data for roaming.”

        Those features are both available on my two phones–one an iPhone 3GS (personal) and the other a Blackberry Curve (work) … both are with AT&T…

      • mistashizzle says:

        On the iPhone there is an option to turn off data roaming. It even describes it as “Turn off data roaming when abroad to avoid running up substantial data charges… etc etc.” I’m sure this feature is present on other phones.

      • Noir says:

        it’s on my Nokia X6 and most of my prior nokia smart and dumbphones.

        Sorry, she’s an idiot for not understanding the terms of her contract.

    • BuyerOfGoods3 says:

      “More proof that cell phone companies need to notify customers when their typical spending pattern is disrupted”

      Are you SERIOUS!??!? THINK FOR YOURSELF!! Oh My God, America….Do you wonder why we’re in a hell hole?

      You take NO RESPONSIBILITY for your ACTIONS!!!

      • digital0verdose says:

        It’s not a matter of taking responsibility, its a matter of knowing how every aspect in your life works down to the letter.

        You are asking people to be way more intelligent than what the average person is and are essentially wanting that person to get steamrolled because they aren’t fully aware of how something works. In this case that something is advertised as a pick up and go product that is simple to use and understand when in reality all the stuff going on behind the scenes that the companies gloss over is where all the traps are.

        People need help when companies do their best to trap their customers.

      • Marshmelly says:

        Is it really necessary to post comments ridden with CAPSLOCK and exclamation points? Makes you sound immature, crazy, and ill-informed.

        I hope your credit card information gets stolen and used to make large and expensive purchases and that your credit card company doesn’t inform you about it at all and you discover it too late. (do you track your expenses every minute of the day?…I’m pretty sure the average person doesn’t have time for that, but maybe you do.)

    • BuyerOfGoods3 says:

      I do NOT believe a COMPANY should be Responsible for TRACKING MY SPENDING HABITS.

      Not in any form or fashion. It is MY responsibility to check MY credit, MY bills, and MY coverage plans on any and all electronics I own. Including, but not limited to, writing down ALL serial numbers for when the junk is stolen.

      Christ, Digital0—think a bit more about the subject..

      • c!tizen says:

        This would be a great argument IF cell phones were billed weekly instead of monthly. If the OP didn’t use her phone except to check Facebook updates a few times during the week she was on vacation then she had no reason to suspect that the charges were being accumulated so quickly. No one checks their balances on their phones weekly if they’re not using them excessively, even you, I’m pretty sure.

        Most credit cards do this for you automatically, if they see unusual buying activity. This isn’t a human or consumer right they’re infringing on, this is a fraud protection act. There isn’t some dude in a cubicle crunching numbers and looking over your phone habits/spending habits, it’s a general computerized algorithm that constantly runs to pick up on unusual trends in number generation. No one cares that you spend all day getting your jollies off on a 976 number, but a little call or text message to indicate that you may be spending the equivalent of a down payment for a home on next months cell phone bill would be a welcome communication to anyone.

        Perhaps having a way to opt out of these types of notifications, which should be a standard practice for any variable reoccurring monthly bill would be the best of both worlds, no?

        In the end, she did check HER bill, but it was too late. Just like if you check YOUR credit card statement and notice a $10,000.00 charge for something you had nothing to do with. The bill is already there, she’s just doing what anyone would do AFTER they found the charges… contest.

        I truly hope you end your day in a far better mood, you seem like you’ve had a rough day.

      • digital0verdose says:

        You do realize that all major credit card companies and banks track your spending habits and regularly let their customers know when there are oddities.

        Why are you telling me to think a bit more about this? It is a customer service issue that is easily resolved.

      • Fair&Balanced says:

        There is no way to track usage on a cell phone until after you have the usage.

        There needs to be a law preventing charging by the byte for data.
        or a law requiring them to scan the link or url you use and prompt you saying how much data is on that site and prompt you to accept the charges if you procede to that link.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      Ignore BuyerOfGoods3 – he/she seems to be a corporate shill.

      It most definitely should be required of all cell phone companies that they notify users if the usage goes up to above the amount that is included in the contract.

    • El_Red says:

      If you need a passport… It’s a different country! Dumb@ss! (although, if this is 1st time, I agree charges should be reduced)

    • El_Red says:

      If you need a passport… It’s a different country! Dumb@ss college student (although, if this is 1st time, I agree charges should be reduced)

  2. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Moral of the Story: Facebook Sux!

    Just kidding. Does an Evo have a data-usage monitor on the phone? Some phones tell you how much you’ve used on the phone. She could at least compare Sprint’s number with her phone’s to see if they match.

    • dbeahn says:

      Except that she how has a new phone replaced by insurance for the cracked screen.

      I wonder if she was having email pushed to the phone or something that ran the data up.

      • IssaGoodDay says:

        Not 4gb worth…. Even on a 200mb/mo data plan for most iPhone owners I know, they can use push e-mail without any difficulties.

    • deejmer says:

      No, you were right the first time. Facebook sux

  3. Thyme for an edit button says:

    I don’t understand how 600MB of data is worth that kind of money. Is Sprint delivering unicorns and rainbows with each download?

    • eddikat says:

      Double rainbows!

      • MeCatLikesMeHamSanwich says:

        It’s Beauuuuutifull……Oh MY GOOOOD!!!! It’s a double rainbow, man….I mean wow….

    • benh999 says:

      With International roaming, it is. Her phone even has an option to disable international roaming.

      • Anonymously says:

        wow, an option! (which is probably harder to find than unicorn). How about “a default” instead?

        • Powerlurker says:

          I don’t know how the Evo is set up, but my Droid has data roaming turned off by default.

          • MarkSweat says:

            Default EVO setup is to allow data roaming. If you turn it off then turn it back on, you get a warning that you “may incur significant roaming charges.” But, there is never a popup warning that it is already on.

        • BuyerOfGoods3 says:

          …wow…You’re too lazy to check your phone for an option, and need it Idiot-Proofed?
          Ok then.

          • myCatCracksMeUp says:

            oh good grief.

            Most people wouldn’t even think to check for the disable international roaming before going on a trip.

            Phone companies know that a lot of people will not think about it and will incur large charges; that’s why they don’t make it the default for international roaming to be off, so they can makes tons of money on unsuspecting consumers.

            I know some think it’s a totally radical idea that service providers should treat their customers decently, but I think it’s a good idea.

            • JediJohn82 says:

              A normal person would turn their phone off when leaving the country if they weren’t prepared to accept the international roaming rates.

              • myCatCracksMeUp says:

                As it is now, a normal person might not know that there are going to be international roaming charges.

                How well do the cell phone companies publicize this? Not well at all.

                The cell phone companies know that many people aren’t aware, and they keep it this way as it’s a huge cash cow for them. They should be ashamed.

                • Gail says:

                  How do you not know? Before I went to India a few years ago, the first thing I checked was whether or not my phone had coverage there (it did), and how much it cost per call and text. I then told everyone I knew I would not be answering my phone, but would send texts while I traveled. (Which was reasonably priced.)

          • Anonymously says:

            Do you remember all of the people in the world with “12:00” flashing perpetually on their VCRs because they couldn’t figure out how to set the time?

            The world is full of people who don’t want to know about options, which is exactly why Apples devices that “just work” are so popular.

    • Scurvythepirate says:

      Only Neil Patrick Harris delivers those…

    • Sian says:
    • RayanneGraff says:

      Sprint charges per-kilobyte if you don’t have a data plan, and I dunno about international roaming because I never roamed internationally when I had sprint, but I’m sure its ridiculously expensive even with a data plan. Several years ago my ex downloaded a couple of ringtones equaling about 1mb of data when he didn’t have a data plan, and it cost him $80. EIGHTY DOLLARS. Yes, he was at fault, but that kind of pricing is just absurd. IMO, it’s a way for the phone companies to bully people into buying data plans.

    • CookiePuss says:

      Isn’t almost 5 million kb’s closer to 5 Gb’s?

  4. Tallanvor says:

    She may not have disabled automatic updates… If the phone was checking Facebook and other sites several times a day, that could add up. Not necessarily to 600 megs, but more than she might think.

    • ARP says:

      This is my thinking. Her phone may have been checking her email, facebook, etc. multiple times per day, which added up to the 600MB. So even though she only downloaded a few emails per day, the checking used up a lot of data.

      • jurupa says:

        Not only that US cell phone companies may have a different rates when you are in another country. Which can add up fast seeing that a lot of the time these out of country rates are a bit higher than that in the US.

    • HunterJoules says:

      Exactly. Smartphones are always sending data back and forth to get push notifications and whatnot. Over the course of 7 days that adds up quickly.

    • The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

      I have an EVO. I hardly use it to for browsing or whatever. I still manage to accumulate 100-200 megabytes of data usage per day. Sprint provides a data usage history online (day by day). If she bothered to look online before she left, she’d see that the EVO uses a tremendous amount of data. There are widgets that come preinstalled that allow you to toggle 3G, 4G, and WiFi data. 3G and 4G should have been turned off on an international trip.

      • Frank The Tank says:

        This. Somehow the EVO uses incredible amounts of data.

        The same browsing habits on my iPhone resulted in around 200MB. The EVO was like 1.8 GB for the month. I also have plenty of widgets and other items….

        • coffeeculture says:

          I know this is really weird, I have an iphone and jailbroke it to tether….with heavy usage, I only topped out at about 1.5GB for the month. This thing must use heroic amounts of data.

    • thisistobehelpful says:

      Stuff like this makes me so glad my phone is a dinosaur that can’t even get pictures.

  5. Dutchess says:

    People need to learn that they must dissable data services when traveling internationally.

    She may have only accessed Facebook for “5 minutes a day” but if she gets push notifications or has her email on the phone or any other kind of services that send updates her phone was constantly connecting to wireless data and sending and receiving data.

    I do agree with the first poster, wireless phone companies need to send you an alert when you’re bill goes over your normal useage. I would say anything over 150% of your normal bill would be a good measure.

    • Polish Engineer says:

      Even that doesn’t always help. I’ve disabled data and internet services on my phone three times now to avoid the $4 I bumped the internet button charge, yet Verizon has failed to actually do anything about it.

      There are no simple solutions when dealing with companies that are out for cash and are either unwilling or unable to execute on simple tasks.

    • Alvis says:

      Forget the data – that adds up to $1800 of what I presume are voice calls. You HAVE to know that voice rates are expensive when calling from abroad.

    • apple420 says:

      I also agree that notifications need to be sent when a user is roaming and generating a large bill.
      I put some blame on the parents as well. They only added the international plan to their phones, and not the kids. They obviously knew the risks, and they should have added it to all of the lines. I hope they can work out something with Sprint.

    • Hoot says:

      That would be a nice thought but are the companies really going to do that when idiots think they can go wherever they want in the world and everything will still quaintly be the same as it was at home? That’s an awfully nice payday for the companies.

      Whenever I’ve gone abroad, I either bought an international cell phone (for a 6 month stay) or I just used a damn pay phone or an internet cafe because… DUH… I have a United States plan and they’ll charge me an arm and a leg elsewhere.

    • Illusio26 says:

      iphone has an option to disable data roaming which I leaved set too off (the default i think)

  6. DewBerry says:

    This is exactly what Verizon Wireless hopes your kids will do when you are required to add a $10/mo 25MB plan to their “feature phones”.

    • MDSasquatch says:

      You are 100% correct, I even had one of their reps tell me that it would be my responsibility to make sure my kids didn’t exceed the limit.

      I have 5 phones and none of them have data plans and all data services are blocked. I pay $150 a month and cannot imagine how much it would be if my kids were given access to the internet through their phone….

      • DewBerry says:

        Yes, same here.

        And you can’t protect yourself by being careful either. When I had a Windows Mobile phone without a data plan, a Verizon Wireless rep told me that if I had downloaded 1 single 500MB audio book using my audible,com client, it would cost me $9,500 at 1.9 cents per kilobyte. Thats all it takes. You can imagine what video files cost.

      • Sparty999 says:

        you’d be surprised how much you might save if you let them have data and reduced their minutes! I only have 3 phones, but we use less than 700 minutes a month… data and unlimited text on all three… our bill (with company discount) is less than $130

  7. andyg8180 says:

    Credit card companies shut down your card and call you if theres a bunch of crazy activity going on… why wouldnt a cell phone company do the same thing? or send you a text or a quick call to say hey youre out of the country and your bill is reaching $1000 in charges right now…

    • craptastico says:

      b/c it doesn’t cost the phone company anything to provide that service. theyll let yo run up charges, knowing that even if you settle for 25%, it’s still practically free money for them. if a credit card is used fraudulently, it could cost the cc company something.

  8. DewBerry says:

    I don’t understand – 4918228.00 kb is NOT 600MB – its almost 5 Gigs.

    • Griking says:

      A lot of things in this story doesn’t add up.

    • Limewater says:

      You’re confusing mixing up kilobits with kilobytes. The huge number given is in kilobits. It does come out to about 600 MB.

      • thompson says:

        Sprint bills in kilobits? Seriously? I hate AT&T for the innumerable ways they screw me, but at least my iPhone is billed in kilobytes.

        • Dyscord says:

          Sprint bills in kilobytes. They might report in kilobits but it’s billed in kilobytes.

          I never understood why it costs an arm and a leg. You mean your networks are so primitive these days that they have to charge astronomical prices compared to ISPs?

      • bsh0544 says:

        Why would they specify bits? I understand that the lower case ‘b’ is bits, but most of the time people (including myself on occasion) either don’t know or don’t care about the distinction and use lower case regardless. Sprint bills by the byte. There’s no reason to expect that they would have sent this particular bill in bits rather than bytes.

        • Limewater says:

          They probably specify kilobits because that’s how network traffic is historically measured. Don’t you remember 56K modems? Also, if they rounded, I’m guessing people would complain.

          • thompson says:

            Try the following google searches:

            1. kilobits
            2. kilobytes

            I’m pretty sure they’re billing in kilobytes.

            • Limewater says:

              That may be, or they could be reporting in kilobits while billing in kilobytes. I don’t know. I was just going off of the numbers given in the article and the standard abbreviations for kilobit and kilobyte. It looks like the article has been amended and is now more ambiguous.

              • thompson says:

                See my above post, there’s no ambiguity once you do the math. She used 4.7GB, as this is the only number that works mathematically.

      • thompson says:

        “Data: Services are not available with all Sprint phones. The amount of data transmitted over our network is measured in kilobytes (KB), megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB). Unless specified otherwise. 1024KB equal 1MB. 1024MB equal 1GB. Usage is calculated on a per kilobyte, megabyte or gigabyte (depending on your plan) basis and is rounded up to the next whole kilobyte, megabyte or gigabyte.”

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:
    • thompson says:

      Definitely kilobytes. Sprint PCS charges $0.002/kb for international data use in Mexico. Divide 9836.46 (dollars) by 4918228.00 (kilobytes) and you get .002 dollars/kilobyte.

    • BartleyR7 says:

      Yeah, typically you’ll see “KB” for kilobytes and “kb” for kilobits. Although, if you go with the IEC 60027 specification, you should use “bit” instead of just the single letter. So I guess if you want to get technical, “kb” could (and I suppose should, if you go by the adopted standards/specification) refer to kilobytes.

      Either way, it seems like a lot of data if she was just doing what she said, even through the Evo (like most smart phones) checks data frequently.

  9. Silent128 says:

    This is why when I took my phone to Canada I shut it off 10 miles from the border. So many application on your phone can transmit data without your knowledge these days it’s just easier to leave it off. Facebook may not have transfered 600mb worth of data, but there are other applications which can. Many of the applications I’ve downloaded on my Droid X talk to the internet in the background, the app tells me it’s going to do this, I just have to keep track of them.

    My recommendation: Turns your smart phone off when going on a trip and buy a pay-as-you go phone when you reach your destination. Coasts about a hundred for phone and minutes, but you have a phone when you get where you’re going.

    • Thyme for an edit button says:

      Do you like the Droid X? I am thinking of getting one. Also, I am a total smart phone newbie.

      • Silent128 says:

        I’m enjoying it very much. It’s a big phone, I highly recommend hitting a local VZW store to make sure you’re happy with it prior to buying as it’s larger than typical phones, so you need to make sure you’re comfy with it’s size.

        Otherwise I love it. I got the car dock so I can use it as a GPS in my car. Debating whether or not to jettison my Tomtom now. Google Maps means no more map update. :D

        • Thyme for an edit button says:

          Yeah, I have small hands, but I think I would love that big screen. I figure bluetooth would help with holding it and making calls.

          One of the things I want really bad is GPS!

          I’ll have to go play with one when stores get them back in stock.

        • DewBerry says:

          It also means no maps where there’s no reception – not good if you live somewhere like Colorado but good enough here in Florida.

    • zmnatz says:

      You can also just take out the SIM card. Your phone has one if its an international phone since no one else uses CDMA. Take out the SIM card and there’s no way it can make phone calls or use data.

    • kc2idf says:

      Yep, and it’s why I use a dumb phone, despite Sprint’s best efforts to get me to upgrade.

    • shamowfski says:

      You can just turn off “mobile network”. You’ll still recieve/be able to make calls, but no data will be transferred.

    • Amy Alkon says:

      “This is why when I took my phone to Canada I shut it off 10 miles from the border.”

      I did the same. The moment my plane took off, I put my phone on “airplane mode” — for Wifi use only — and left it that way until we touched down back in Dulles after my trip. My boyfriend and I talked over Skype when I was in the hotel and able to use their Wifi. (He got me an iPhone a while back — we have a “family plan” to save money, even though we don’t live together…suggest that for frugal types who trust each other. I only call him — not part of the shouting into cell phones in public culture — so I don’t use too much.)

  10. PunditGuy says:

    The 600 MB thing is probably bogus. She should request IP logs, or have a lawyer request the IP logs if she’s not getting anywhere.

    I’m guessing that she didn’t let Sprint know that she was headed out of the country. I’ve done that, and they can temporarily add an international data plan that can keep stuff like this from happening — depending on where you’re going, of course. With some phones, you can slip a pre-paid SIM card in your phone for the duration of your vacation as another way of avoiding this sort of thing. I know none of this helps Stacey, but I really thought more people knew about this stuff.

  11. jonmason1977 says:

    Yes, she maybe signed a contract that says she is responsible for any charges, but there needs to be some common sense here. If I go into a restaurant and get offered a chicken wings special that I order without checking the price, is it OK if they say it is $500? There is no way that the cost to Sprint of providing that 600MB was anywhere near $11,000 and she should not be forced to pay for it.

    • jackbishop says:

      If I go into a restaurant and get offered a chicken wings special that I order without checking the price, is it OK if they say it is $500?

      This is a pretty popular practice for fleecing tourists in some places with poor consumer-protection laws. The one place where I’ve particularly heard about it happening is Hungary, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s practiced elsewhere as well.

      Even though this is lamentably legal, those of us used to civilized billing practices would call this, and rightly, a “scam”. I’d consider the phone companies’ blithe willingness to let people run up huge charges as halfway between a scam and mere laziness in dealing with exceptional circumstances.

    • jurupa says:

      I am willing to bet that most US cell phone users are unaware about the charges in using their phones outside of the US. I also bet most Americans think they can use their phones anywhere in the world with no problems at all and just be billed at their regular US rates.

    • Gnillish says:

      Actually, Sprint may be charged significantly more from the telco that the data charges were actually incured through (but obviously less than they are trying to charge their customer). This results in archaic agreements, often several years old between the american telco and the various foreign providers — agreements that typically are negiotiated individually and thus are a pain to update.

  12. nbs2 says:

    Had this been the first time or second time or the thousandth time this has happened, she might have incurred more sympathy. But, at this point, it is pretty clear that: a) any phone capable of operating on a foreign network is going to continue to do so, b) the charges are sky high and any data used is going to be expensive, c) Facebook isn’t the old Google front page, d) have you checked your data logs to ensure that you were only on the site for “5 minutes” a day, e) if you are on the same plan as your parents I understand that Sprint would consider notice to one party notice to all, f) you say that the bill was 9.8k of data on an 11.7k bill – was this 11.7k bill all your or part of the combined family?

    Point f is the one that has me the most curious. The bill was the whole family – if your phone was utilized the same amount (which may be hard to prove, but possible to convince Sprint) as your sisters, and her charges were significantly lower, you could argue that the phone was defective. It may help, it may not. The bill is all yours – the 9.8k charge for data is only a minimal concern if the rest of your bill is 1.9k.

  13. thompson says:

    My guess is push updates of some sort, perhaps email in the background.

    Also, “4918228.00 kb” is not 600mb. It’s actually about 4.7 gigabytes. Something here doesn’t add up. Maybe that’s her total monthly usage? If that’s the case, then she definitely has some sort of data sucking applications on her phone.

  14. Engine-B says:

    “,,,and came back to receive an $11,667.73 cell phone bill, from Sprint. $9,836.46 of this was international data charges”

    What was the other $1,831.27 for?

    • eli says:

      International roaming charges for calls, I would imagine.

    • bbf says:

      Exactly what I thought. The OP doesn’t seem to be complaining about the 1000ish dollars worth of charges, just the 9K data charges. So the 1K charges are fine? Something sounds fishy.

  15. dolemite says:

    Cancun? Whole family has Evos? I think they can afford the 11k bill.

    And I’m sure the facebook updates were more than 5 min, and consisted of “Cancun is awsom! Bet u guyz wish u were here! LOLZ!”

    Shouldn’t have even taken the phone, or should have disabled everything and only used it for emergencies.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      First, what’s up with the snooty attitude? So what if they went to Cancun? My family went to Cancun when I was 10. It doesn’t mean you’re filthy rich and should just suck up a $11,000 bill you don’t think was deserved. Secondly, there are only four EVos and you’re making the assumption that they were all purchased by one person. In my family, we have two BlackBerrys and two iPhones – that must mean we’re rich! Or, ya know, maybe all of us had to pay for our own phones individually, or are on a family plan, or got discounts.

      • dolemite says:

        It’s partially because of the fact she felt the need to update facebook from Cancun. So punishment for flaunting it in her friends’ faces. I don’t disagree the rates are insane however.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          I don’t think keeping in touch with people on Facebook is flaunting. Vacations are a normal activity. I tweeted from my vacation last year, and posted photos – some of my friends just sent me photos from Hawaii. “Here’s a photo of the beach we went to” shouldn’t be interpreted as “Here’s the beach you’re too poor to go to!”

        • KatieNeptune says:

          Why all the nastiness about facebook? I use facebook on a vacation to see what’s going on, find out about my pets and other family members, and let people know I’m safe but having a good time. I’ve never encountered a friend who posted pictures and bragged about how great it was that they were on vacation, and that the rest of us suck cos we’re not. Are you really that immature that you would react that way to someone’s vacation pictures? I personally like friends updates with what they’re up to while they’re gone…and I marvel at the ability to do it these days.

        • Chmeeee says:

          Your friends must love you!

      • BuyerOfGoods3 says:

        “So what if they went to Cancun? My family went to Cancun when I was 10. It doesn’t mean you’re filthy “

        Well—For the millions of Americans living in Poverty who can’t even have running water -=– A vacation to Cancun is comparably – FILTHY RICH.

        (No running water comment includes the Navajo NATIVE Americans stuck in ‘reservations’ with no legal access to the millions of gallons of water UNDER the land we ‘gave’ them)

    • ThinkerTDM says:

      I’m with you! If she’s grown up enough to have a phone, then she should be responsible to use it properly. It’s not Sprints fault that she didn’t know how it worked.

  16. ZJM says:

    I called AT&T before I went to Jamaica because I knew about crazy stories like this. It was 25 dollars for 20mb… so I passed and just went on my way and turned the phones off because….it was vacation. If you go out of the country you should definitely find out beforehand what happens if you use your phone.

    The phones were off and when we did turn them on the only texts we got were from AT&T telling me that I was going to get charged if I used data and mysteriously I was hit with 2 international texts for $2.40…

    But really I think its something to look into before you leave if you are planning on using your phone in another country.

  17. vastrightwing says:

    This scenario is exactly why I do not have a phone which has a data plan: I simply don’t trust any cell carrier to not rip me off. They certainly won’t notify me if I go over my plan’s data cap. However, I do use Virgin Mobile’s (pay as you go MyFi). Once I use up my data, it’s done. no surprises. No credit card and no surprise bill.

  18. Griking says:

    I like how she claims that the phone wasn’t activated for International use but yet she still claims that she was only on Facebook a few minutes a day. The first moment that she was able to log on should have notified her that something was wrong.

    • Link_Shinigami says:

      She probably didn’t think anything of it. Most people don’t. You get told your phone will work in other countries, you only think “Oh, so phone calls are roaming” you don’t equate data to be because sending text messages isn’t (For Telus in Canada at least, we can border hop and text with no punishment… But Telus is also the best for texts period. Unlimited means unlimited. You can send/receive from NA to NA)

      Sprint is really going at this the wrong way. Hopefully she exec bombs them and they wipe this. But even if they do, they are going to play it like it’s a huge hit to them and that they are only doing it once and all those other guilt-inducing phrases

      • WagTheDog says:

        I’d like to think the average college student is smart enough to figure out that data plans are roaming along with phone calls.

        • woahmelly says:

          You haven’t met many college students lately have you? Anecdotally, the absolute lack of common sense and knowledge about the world is astounding. I had to explain to a few different roommates that just because you use a debit card as credit does not mean you have a credit card.

          • WagTheDog says:


            I’ve been told by more than a few younglings that technology is in their DNA, you know, from playing computer games and texting their whole lives. This while they are on the phone with me getting tech support.

        • myCatCracksMeUp says:

          my husband and I both are college grads, and if I didn’t frequent this site I’d probably not think about roaming charges either. Seriously – it’s not like in the normal course of using our cell phones here in the US that we need to think about roaming. So – unless they are fervent Consumerists, or they know people who’ve been through this – how exactly would they know that using their phone internationally would be more expensive?

          You know who does know that international usage is expensive? And who knows that many people don'[t know or understand this well?

          Cell phone companies!

          They know this, yet do nothing to educate their customers to this fact, because they are rotten entities, and like to rip off their customers.

          • WagTheDog says:

            If you really think cell phone companies are evil, then vote with your wallet and get rid of your cell phone. Trust me, you won’t die or anything. You probably won’t even get sick! There is this thing where you write something and drop it in these blue boxes…..okay I’m being mean now.

            The bottom line is, there is a service contract. If there is a point in the contract you don’t understand, don’t sign it. Walk away. Roaming fees, voice and data, are in my Verizon contract. I absolutely would think about roaming charges before I traveled, and I absolutely would check my contract before I left. Or, if I was really on vacation, I’d leave the thing at home. Maybe I might write a letter instead?

      • El_Red says:

        I have to second it. Not all plans allow testing in USA, but for new generation of phones, includind iPhone, international roaming data is blocked automatically. ( I suppose less headaches with Facebook clients ;) you have to call in to unblock.

  19. dreamfish says:

    This is why the EU has introduced new regulations on roaming charges across Europe:

    “Operators will have to impose a monthly default cut-off for data roaming of €50. Consumers can also select a different cut-off limit if offered by the operator or opt out of this bill shock safeguard entirely.

    Operators are obliged to send users a warning whey they reach 80% of their data-roaming bill limit. The operator will have to cut off the mobile internet connection once the limit has been reached, unless the customer has indicated they want to continue data roaming.”

    • azntg says:

      That’s exactly what they should be doing in the United States (or at least the carriers voluntarily perform some kind of self-regulation as some industries in the US have historically), but you know how things will go over here nowadays.

      The people who have the power to impose and enforce are unwilling to side with the consumers because they have already been bought out by the corporations (providing cellular communications services). Of course, who can forget the individuals either on their stratospheric high horse (or even better – those that probably need the regulatory help more than anyone else) screaming “SOCIALISM! OMG! US IS BECOMING A NANNY STATE!”

  20. rickatnight11 says:

    I had my first opportunity last week to see how my phone (Droid) handled roaming: wonderfully. As soon as I lost Verizon signal, the phone immediately disabled 3G and data and notified me of the change. I could have turned it on, but I love knowing that my phone automatically takes care of this for me. I’d be pissed if I happened to “drop” into roaming and my automatic backup ran up some insane charges without me even knowing.

  21. qbubbles says:

    It specifically BECAUSE you didnt enable your phone for international that you’re getting ass raped. Quit whining. You screwed up.

    • Span_Wolf says:

      Yes how dare she not know everything about everything!

      • Project_J187 says:

        It’s unfortunate that she has to learn the lesson of responsibility at such a costly price. It’s also unfortunate that her parents didn’t teach her about things like this (spoiler alert Stacey: assumptions can be costly) and also didn’t prevent her from bringing her phone. It’s also unfortunate that she didn’t use a regular computer, or her hotel (which probably offers internet/wifi) to access facebook without incurring these charges.

        The blame is all hers, but the ridiculous cost of Data outside the country is also ridiculous. I sure hope she can get the charges reduced and learn a very important lesson at the same time.

        • myCatCracksMeUp says:

          Nonsense – it’s entirely the cell phone companies fault. Their very business model is based on charging ridiculous amounts to people who are unaware of the roaming rates. If they – the cell phone companies – know that many of their customers make this mistake, and they deliberatley choose to not help their customers more aware, then their behavior is reprehensible.

      • Michaela says:

        Yeah! How dare she be held to her contractual obligations! I mean, who the hell should expect her to read that silly contract she signed for the phone so that she would know about international fees?! /s/

  22. shadow67 says:

    i may be wrong, but even when u dont upload pics, when you go to facebook, it will download pics posted on the wall. all those pics that others post that you see will add up to a good chunk of data.

    • jessjj347 says:

      You’re not exactly “downloading” them…it’s more like “loading” to the web browser. I have no idea if FB compresses any of the pictures that are served, but the pictures are probably 40k at least. I would imagine more…

  23. newfenoix says:

    Welcome to the reality of Sprint. I made four calls for less than 45 seconds total time from Cancun in 2007. I had what Sprint called an “international calling plan.” The total cost of those four calls….$157.00!

  24. Nodren says:

    the real question is, doesnt sprint automatically enroll every customer in a program that shuts off your service the minute you pass a certain dollar mark(something like 150 bucks per line on your account).

    so how did this happen? shouldn’t sprint have shut off their accounts the moment it reached 600 or so dollars?

    • frank64 says:

      It does that only if it deems you a credit risk, and if they don’t think you are you can’t ask them to do it. I had my account hacked into a sprint phone and someone ran up about 5K in charges. Sprint took the bill down, as they knew it was fraud, but I asked theme to give my account an limit so it wouldn’t happen again. They wouldn’t. They said my account wasn’t “eligible” for a spending limit!!!!!!!!!!!

      The simple answer of having a certain limit would have saved them the fraud on my account, and save us all from headaches like this. I am sure they make much more on this though, that it happens every month to thousands in much smaller amounts. The next times I need to get a new phone I am thinking of a pay as you go to avoid things like this.

  25. skylar.sutton says:

    This is me not feeling bad for her. Android phones (like all smartphones) are constantly sending/receiving data in the background. Why do you think the weather is always current on the front screen of your EVO?

    As a smartphone owner, you should know that.

    • dolemite says:

      Yup. There are features/apps that are constantly updating. She should have researched her phone and disabled all of that.

    • Anonymously says:

      Really, should you *have* to know that? In the world of always connected, ubiquitous data consuming devices, the fact devices consume data shouldn’t be important. This is the vision of our world being crafted by the likes of Apple, Microsoft, et al. Devices should just work and we shouldn’t have to know how or why, or worry about bankruptcy-inducing bill for leaving a device turned on.

      • WagTheDog says:

        Yes, you really should have to know that. If you don’t care, get a simple phone. Or go phoneless.

        • Anonymously says:

          My point was an ideal user experience shouldn’t.

          Which website costs more to visit: Facebook or MySpace? Yahoo or Google? Hotmail or Gmail? What costs more to view: A YouTube video or an animated gif? Why? How much does each cost?

          Which of two identical looking images with different compression formats costs more to download? Is an aspx file bigger than a php file?

          How do I know this before I attempt to access any of it?

          • WagTheDog says:

            A contract for services is a legal document and doesn’t have anything to do with ease of use. Smartphones are easy and fun to use, but it is in the end a service you contracted for.

            A college student should be literate enough to have read the news in the last few years. There have been plenty of well publicized cases previously. Additionally, when I got my smart phone, I had to sign a contract and I assume she did as well. Why on earth would you sign something you did not read? If her parents got her the phone, and asked her to just pay the bill when it comes, then they should have counseled her more about being a good consumer.

            Everyone makes mistakes when they are young, she’s no different. With any luck, she can negotiate the bill down a little, and go forth in life remembering this lesson on adult responsibility. It sucks, it really does, but life can be like that.

            • Anonymously says:

              You’re absolutely right on every count, which is exactly why cell phones are so disappointing.

              There is a stark contrast between a smart phone that is so simple and intuitive to use, that your grandmother can use it and a cell phone plan that requires a lawyer for the contract, a college degree to understand the rules, a comprehensive knowledge of current technical news for current trends in screwing you over, and punishing life lessons.

              It’s like a cheesy good cop / bad cop routine that ends up costing people thousands of dollars.

    • EllenRose says:

      ‘Should’ is one of the most dangerous words in the language. It always involves person A telling person B that they’re stupid.

      • WagTheDog says:

        Yes. Exactly. I should know the interest rate on my credit card. I should know the terms on my home loan. I should understand the limitations and potential charges on services I’ve contracted for. If you don’t want to make the effort to do these things that you should do to be a smart consumer, then either don’t buy those things, or figure that you will be paying a lot more than you have to.

        I’m sorry a college student got trapped by this, but she should consider it a good lesson in life. If she can get the bill reduced by 50%, she should consider herself beyond fortunate.

  26. Link_Shinigami says:

    Anyone here who actually has e-mails pushed to their phones will be correct everyone crying “She probably had e-mails being pushed”, I have 500mb a month (Yay Canada, it costs the amount of t-mo’s unlimited), I use, at best, 25 of that a month for e-mails. And that was before I streamlined everything into labels and only got normal stuff. Now it’s lower because I only get my yahoo and non-labled gmails There is no way she could rack up 6gigs of e-mail pushes.

    • therealchriss says:

      Oh… you know… 600 megabytes.

      Bits… bytes… What’s the difference!? A lot.

    • LastError says:

      LOL my Android phone hit over 4 gigs last month, and I don’t even have an Evo.

      The more a phone can do, the more it will do. It’s more like a mini laptop than a phone.

  27. Anonymously says:

    It doesn’t even make sense that a phone could cost ~$15 for a week to use in one location and 100 times as much in another.

    The only way a price increase could possibly be justified is if the phone went into an alarm state with a flashing light and siren letting you know that “this is fscking expensive”, with the only way to disable it being a call to customer service.

    • jurupa says:

      I don’t think Sprint has any towers in Cancun for one, and two your dealing with international landlines which some one has to pay to use.

      • Anonymously says:

        Quite frankly, I don’t give a damn. The correct solution is never “bill the custom into oblivion”.

  28. blackalabama says:

    If you travel internationally, the easiest and smartest thing to do is to leave your phone at home. You will survive a week without it, trust me.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      If you want to avoid the huge phone bill couldn’t you just buy an iPod touch and use wifi from it, that would allow you to check facebook or keep up without having to incur the huge phone bill. If you are going on vacation internationally, most places have wifi, and some have more wifi than places in the US. Considering what the cost of a phone bill could run up from using your phone overseas the price of an iPod touch seems like a drop in the bucket (or you could borrow the iPod touch if you have a friend with one who would be willing to lend it).

    • ElleAnn says:

      I agree!! Her parents were also on the trip and had their phones activated for international travel- which means they had contact back home in case there was an issue. There was no reason for every person in the party to have a phone with them.

  29. zachinthedark says:

    There is no way this girl used 5GB in a week. Considering that ATT’s new highest-tier data plan is for 2GB/month it is extremely unlikely — barring some bored maid streaming 20 hours of Youtube videos per day — that this is a real bill.

  30. Mike says:

    In all seriousness, how many of these stories are we going to have to read before before people stop roaming with their phones?

    The problem with the Evo is that it comes with roaming turned on by default. You need to go into your settings and change it to Sprint Only. That said, this girl knew she was roaming. Sucks for her.

  31. pax says:

    I recently went to the Caribbean with my husband and had international data and dialing added to both of our phones, mostly because we had a housesitter with our pets and wanted to be able to check in. Verizon pro-rates international data plans, I imagine for precisely this reason: people can use it while they’re on vacation and disable it when they come home, which is what I did. I’m expecting a phone bill maybe $50-$60 more next month. But even with the international data plan added, I kept my Droid in “airplane mode” most of the time–you can use the PDA features and games, but not the phone or the data sending/receiving.

    Although I do feel bad for any family facing that kind of a bill, they really should have called up Sprint before they left and talked to them about what kind of plan they might offer. Even a well-off family is going to balk at an $11K bill. But the phone companies can help you deal with this. If you haven’t made arrangements in advance, turn off your phone!

  32. Straspey says:

    Every, around the end of June, I travel to a small workshop retreat in the mountains for a week.

    When we arrive at our destination, we park the car, unload our gear, and then are ferried across a lake to the retreat area.

    There is no radio or television. No telephones, no newspapers, no computers of any kind – and – we are out of cell phone connectivity. There is an emergency contact number, but that’s back on the mainland.

    We have plumbing and electricity, but that’s about it. I don’t think anybody even speaks the words “email” or “facebook” or “twitter” or “online”.

    We’re much too busy enjoying our vacation.

    And yes – really important events can and do occur while we are there and we don’t hear about them until days later.

    So what ?

    Imagine not checking your facebook page for a whole entire week and then finding out that your best friends broke up while you were away.


  33. chiieddy says:

    I’ve been monitoring my usage on my G1 using 3G watchdog. In the past month, I’ve used 16.6 MB. There’s no way checking Facebook for 5 minutes each day would result in 600 MB of data usage. Even so, if she has an Evo, that’s an Android phone, right? There’s an option in the settings to turn off international data roaming and you can avoid all international charges.

    If it’s also an android phone, she can also download 3G watchdog and keep track of data usage.

  34. bhr says:

    The problem is when someone racks these charges up in roaming the company might not know about it until a week/month after the fact, when the actual provider presents them the bill. I once worked for a now defunct rural cell provider, and the thing we had to warn customers was that we couldnt give them up to the minute usage when they were out of network, and at the same time we only communicated our charges to our roaming partner (ATT) on a bi monthly basis.

  35. sardonumspa says:

    I think that Sprint is pulling a fast one; at the very least their system is not reporting the correct information.

    I have a Nexus One on T-Mobile, and I use data intensively. I have all of my email accounts set to check for new messages every 6 hours, Facebook is set to update frequently, and my Gmail and Exchange accounts are all set to instant push notifications.

    I have unlimited domestic data, but my monthly bill RARELY exceeds 250MB for all of this.

    I do not see how this is possible unless Sprint or the roaming partner has made a mistake.

    • thompson says:

      You’re clearly not an 18 year old girl… this amount of data use doesn’t surprise me in the least.

  36. SkuldChan says:

    One thing users may not be aware of either is that – unless you turn this off the phone is syncing with the google could every 15 minutes, and can at any time receive notifications from applications running in the background.

    Still – 600 megs for 12,000 dollars – who charges that much for data – even if she was roaming.

  37. Draygonia says:

    And if you got the unlmiited data, you would only pay 30 dollars! I’m not sure how Sprint could expect her to pay all that money especially since it cost them no more than 30 dollars to provide. SCAM! I’m ashamed!

    International data is not much different, so don’t start with me.

  38. BadgerPudding says:

    I don’t know if she has much of a case if the usage corresponded with her location.

    P.S. I wish I were on a “shoe-string budget” in college that allowed me to vacation in Cancun and have the newest smart phone. :)

    • pax says:

      Yup. Her personal budget may be small, but it appears her family is not without comfortable financial resources.

      • KatieNeptune says:

        Agreed. I’m going on a 5 day caribbean cruise in two weeks with my family (+ my mom’s 7 brothers & sisters, their kids, and my grandparents). I may not be able to afford it, but it’s more important to my folks that we’re there and can see everyone than whether or not I can pony up my own airfare and tickets.

  39. absherlock says:

    I think Stacey’s family would be better off trying to get their money back for the college education wasted on this moron.

    People need to start taking some responsibility for finding out what they’re entitled to, rather than just assuming they’re entitled to everything and then crying about it when they’re wrong.

  40. Wang_Chung_Tonight says:

    moving data only costs upkeep on lines that are in place.

    I understand you have to add to the equation the cost of laying those “lines”, be they physical wires or towers/satellites.

    these costs are just stupid. there should be a federally mandated message if you are doing anything to make your bill go up more than 50% of the standard price. how the hell do they, within any reasonable conscience, have you a bill that is 1000% of the normal amount and have never contacted you to tell you some weird $hit was going on for your account.

    I hope they don’t get any sleep at night.

  41. eli says:

    What could possibly be the argument for not warning customers — aside from the fact that it makes a lot of money for carriers?

  42. SpamMeNot says:

    A similar thing happened with my boss a few years back. He sent me off to the AT&T store to purchase a “USBConnect Mercury” so that he could work on his vacation (in a remote part of Europe) and still be able to access our online portals and get his email. At the time of the purchase, I made it clear to the in-store salesperson that we were looking for something unlimited, or as close to unlimited as possible, as he would be working quite a bit and the company would be footing the bill. I, of course, was assured that the plan they offered would be perfect.

    When we finally got the bill, he had racked up over $24K in charges for the two days he ended up using the service. The “best plan” the salesperson signed us up for was not even close to unlimited, nor was it the plan specifically designed for short-term, overseas unlimited use with the Mercury device. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for the company, the bill was reduced to just around $9K, calculated as though we had the unlimited plan all along.

    There was NO WAY we ever thought the charges could be so high, but the moral of the story, and clearly the one for the OP is, check, double check, and triple check any service plan you have with a cell/wireless carrier before you use your device out of the US, even if you think you already have the right plan. There’s not a lot of bargaining power when you use the service you signed up for, even if you obviously misunderstood the policy.

  43. Outrun1986 says:

    Does anyone else find it odd that she is on a shoestring budget and has a smartphone? Seems to me the definition of a shoestring budget is clearly changing. That used to mean you could barely afford to feed yourself and had to go to extreme measures just to get enough food to eat.

    • dolemite says:

      Indeed. A smartphone contract for the EVO with sprint is going to be about $80+ after taxes, fees, etc. When I was single, that was 2 weeks of groceries for me.

      • Outrun1986 says:

        Even if I had a REALLY good job, I don’t think I could bring myself to pay $80 a month to the cell phone companies. There just isn’t anything that important to me on the net that can’t make it until I can get home to my computer with internet access. Unless I was making 6 figures, and had 6 months or more of emergency living expenses in the emergency fund and had all debt paid off and a decent amount stacked in the 401k or other retirement plan then maybe I would consider spending my money like that. But regardless, $80 a month is a lot of money for most people, I don’t know how people do it if they don’t have a decent job…. unless the bank of mom and dad is paying for it.

  44. trinidon2k says:

    airplane mode with wifi for the win… thats what I do with my Palm Pre when I travel internationally

  45. Voxxen says:

    Shoestring budget likely doesn’t mean the same thing to the OP as it does to real folks. Going to college and your family is taking you to Cancun? You’ve got an Evo with a data plan that you use constantly? I smell filthy rich brat lying to a publication about being responsible for racking up a huge bill to help their case against Sprint. One whose parents are going to tell her she’s paying the charges out of her giant allowance but will likely just pay it themselves and forget about it. Don’t worry sweetie, the binge-drinking fund is safe.

    • KatieNeptune says:

      HER budget is shoestring, not her parents. My folks paid for 1/3 of my college, helped me sort out loans and scholarships and things, bought me a car (which I am paying them back for), and let me pay the extra $30/mo for my iphone (I don’t have internet in my apartment and I use the wifi at school). I wouldn’t consider myself a spoiled brat. And hell yes my parents “remember” that I racked up that amount of money and would insist I figure something out to pay it off. Stop generalizing. The girl made a mistake.

  46. Destron says:

    You guys realize that smart phones are not that expensive now days right? There are some you can get for $50. I only paid $149 for my nexus one. Yes they cost more than an average phone but you guys act like they are out of price range for average people.

    BTW I also took a cruise to Cancun 2 years ago and paid $1300 for the whole thing which included everything but meals while we were there.

    That being said smart phones do transmit a lot of data behind your back and you get charged for both sending and receiving, and another thing that some people do not realize is that sometimes you are so far out of your own network that you may get bounced between 2 or 3 roaming partners before it gets back to your network – and you will be charged for each bounce.

    It’s just like going to an out of network ATM. All ATM’s charge you to use your card on their ATM but some banks ALSO charge you a fee for using an out of network ATM. So you might get charged $3 from the ATM itself, then another $2 from your bank.

    • pax says:

      Still, a shoestring budget wouldn’t include a brand-new smartphone (with insurance no less!) or a cruise to Cancun. They are more affordable than they used to be, for sure, but someone truly living close to the bone wouldn’t have either.

      I still think that an $11K bill is going to hurt even a family that is, say, upper-middle class.

      • Destron says:

        I agree, I think an $11,000 phone bill would probably hurt just about any average person regardless of income.

        I had an incident with T-Mobile where I did an online upgrade and somehow managed to remove my unlimited texting, I text a LOT and so does everyone else in my house, but BEFORE that billing cycle was over a T-Mobile rep called me and said hey – do you realize you have a $600 phone bill from texting charges? She put my unlimited texting back on before the billing cycle was over and it removed those charges.

  47. Sam2k says:

    Am I missing something or does she think that a $2000 cell phone bill is normal?

  48. hmburgers says:

    “Since I was on vacation at the time, I obviously didn’t want to be on my phone 24/7, so I wasn’t. I was on Facebook maybe 5 minutes a day.”

    I bet that’s a typo… I think she probably meant to write she “was on Facebook every 5 minutes”…

    I just came back from a vacation to the beach–at one point I was walking along the boardwalk, there were beautiful views of the ocean, and some even more beautiful views on the beach if you know what I mean… as I’m walking along I pass a stretch of about 10 kids aged 12-18 I’d say sitting on the benches that face the ocean… not one of them was looking at the beach or water, each one of them had their head down looking at their smartphone with their fingers busily typing and scrolling…

  49. perfectly_cromulent says:

    more than likely it’s all the automatic updating (like facebook, or any social feed) that the phone is doing…along with emails and any other program that uses data. most of these are auto set to refresh every 5 to 15 minutes….i can easily see how this would have added up if these features weren’t changed. i do agree that they should have a warning or cap when then happens….

  50. Taubin says:

    She stated on Sprintusers (where she had posted prior to this being posted on Consumerist) that the issue is resolved:

    • dolemite says:

      After dealing with Sprint for years, I’d wait until the next bill to confirm that. Week 1 “I want to see why my discount isn’t applied.” “It should show up next billing cycle sir”. Now that will continue for like 4 months, until someone says something like “sorry sir, you are not illegible for that discount”.

  51. Bean Town Guy says:

    I would ask them to show you a regular data use for a normal week or month to compare. That seems like a lot of data. Sprint said you knew because of your parents then they should have know that you were going with your parents and they should have changed the service to International.

  52. INsano says:

    If I were a carrier I’d open up a travel agency.

    /Big Gay Al

  53. C. Ogle says:

    I go to Cancun quite often, and have never gotten more than a single $5 data charge for when somebody sent me a text message not knowing I was out of the country. On the iPhone I get a text message from Telmex while I’m in the airport warning me of the $5 per MB data rate, and as long as I have data roaming off in settings, I never get charged more than that.

    True, the phone companies charge exorbitant rates for roaming data, but anybody who knows enough to post about it on Consumerist should have seen the many, many other stories here warning people not to enabling data roaming on their smart phones when out of the country.

  54. BuyerOfGoods3 says:

    My opinion before reading story: Tough Crap. You learned a lesson – pay your debt like every other American (or, most).
    After: Same.

  55. coym says:

    Isn’t EVO a CDMA phone? No carrier in Mexico uses CDMA that I’m aware of unless it’s changed recently….

  56. y2julio says:

    For someone who owns a smartphone, she’s not really doing much do adding the “smart” to “smartphone”. You own a device that sprint sells to you as a phone which is built around data and you don’t bother to learn enough about your device to know it uses up data in the background even if you’re not actively on the internet? When I went to Canada, I knew that my HTC Touch Pro likes to connect to data services in the background, so I disabled roaming on my phone so I wasn’t sending money down the drain. I don’t feel sorry for morons who don’t bother to check with their carriers for any “surprises” before the leave the country.

  57. y2julio says:

    Also, she needs to learn how to READ her bill correctly. Sprint has a key listed for Data usage.


    1MB = 1,024KB

    1GB = 1,024MB or 1,048,576KB

  58. Fenrisulfr says:

    One more reasons why smartphones are dumb.

  59. kouotsu says:

    college student
    shoe-string budget


  60. htowninsomniac says:

    I have a hard time deciding who to blame here, the naive girl or Sprint.

    On the one hand, it’s clearly Stacey’s responsibility to pay for the bill. When you’re traveling, it’s reasonable to expect a certain amount of thinking about what you’re doing. When I travel out of country, I first check if my phone works there. Usually at the same time the web page or service rep mentions something about cost.

    On the other hand, even though it is completely legal, it is a shabby tactic for cell phone companies to allow international usage or roaming at all, without asking for permission to enable these features. International data transfers should be disabled, and when you call to enable it, the customer service rep should say “you realize with your typical data usage, this will cost you a grand a day.”

    Cell phone companies should really start notifying their customers about large bills. I don’t think they really expect to collect $10k here. They just want to start high so they can meet at $5k.

  61. RayanneGraff says:

    I would never use my home service if I was gonna travel out of the country. I have an unlocked HTC Hd2, and the second I got to the other country my ass would be scooting to a phone store to buy a prepaid foreign sim.

    That said- I think the reason she racked up so much data is because she has an Android phone, and they’re basically connected to the internet at all times. They’re set up to auto-sync EVERYTHING in the background all the time unless you actively disable the syncing. From the way she described it, it sounds like she didn’t know about the auto-syncing, so her phone was probably sending & receiving data the entire time she was in Mexico. But still, I can’t believe the people that say it’s all this girl’s fault because she didn’t check her bill closely enough. Do YOU check your phone bill every day? I know I don’t. Checking Facebook once a day should not give way to $11K in charges, and people should not have to worry about getting 5-digit bills just for using a few megs of data in another country. Companies should absolutely warn you when you approach a certain usage level. slapping anyone with an $11,000 bill is absolutely absurd. If I was her I’d immediately cancel my service, move to another provider, and let Sprint shove their bill up their greedy asses.

    • JeremieNX says:

      So you advocate running out on a debt and not even taking responsibility for one’s actions. This is why America is down the toilet.

      As I said in another comment, I agree that the charges are high, but the fault still lies with her. It’s her phone, her plan, and it’s HER RESPONSIBILITY to take due-diligence and research these things before traveling internationally.

      Sprint’s job is the provide cell phone service. They are not in the business of nurse-maiding and holding hands.

  62. raycarroll70 says:

    Hi everyone, name’s Ray and I work for corporate Sprint in their direct sales channel. The 3G/4G wireless data usage is unlimited for a customer only while using it the US as well as in PR and the USVI. Once a customer starts using data services In Mexico, the rate is $0.002/KB. Based on Stacey’s usage, 4,918,228 x $.002 = $9,836.46 which is correct for the data charges. Depending on the setting of Stacey’s HTC EVO 4G, her device may have connected to the wireless network at specific time intervals for a particular function of the device such as e mail synchronization, weather, news, stock and even Facebook updates. Wireless streaming of multimedia items such as YouTube or online radio stations may be the source behind the data charges. When I travel abroad with my Palm Treo Pro, I utilize free WiFi access points for wireless data sessions and use Fring as well as Skype for voice calls via VoIP. I work in wireless sales and not network operations nor billing so I would suggest to Stacey to speak to someone in customer care so the data usage can be investigated and a resolution may discussed.

  63. locura79 says:

    Shortly after I got my Evo, I burned through 700 MG of data in less than 24 hours. I think it was something with my Facebook account constantly uploading. There are lots of reports online about this, so maybe the OP could argue that there’s a glitch with the phone.

  64. Carlee says:

    If she didn’t have international roaming turned on, why didn’t she just set her phone to airplane mode (or whatever the equivalent is for smartphones)? I spent a week in Taiwan and because I didn’t want to get any phone calls and have to pay for roaming, I set my dumbphone to airplane mode and just used the alarm and clock features.

    Clearly she didn’t realize that using data in Mexico is still considered “roaming”. I guess common sense is not so common.

    I think it’s funny that she mentions that she’s a college student so “obviously” on a shoe-string budget, yet her whole family goes to Mexico for vacation. There’s nothing wrong with going on vacation, but it’s pretty pathetic to claim to be on a shoe-string budget, yet have a smartphone (and probably not a cheap monthly cellphone plan), and go on vacation with her family who all have smartphones.

    It isn’t the cellphone companies’ job to track your usage. I’m sure they do (I guess) but whatever happened to personal responsibility? If she had done some searching on Google before her trip, I’m sure she could have found information about roaming data charges.

  65. leihei says:

    Sprint data roaming in Cancun is $0.0020/kb. However, if she was on a cruise, the data roaming charges are $0.020/kb.

  66. leihei says:

    Sprint data roaming in Cancun is $0.002/kb. However, if she was on a cruise, the data roaming charges are $0.020/kb.

  67. JeremieNX says:

    I’m going to be frank – I don’t believe the “maybe 5 minutes a day”. Besides, amount of time spent is hardly relevant. It’s all about quantity of data. In addition, sites like Facebook are rich in multimedia content. A typical Facebook session could easily suck down the data given the Flash ads, apps, updates, etc etc etc.

    The charges are indeed high and I don’t feel that it’s worth the $9,000 – but they are still her fault. She (her parents) agreed to the terms under which their service was governed. It is the customer’s responsibility to be aware of potential international charges when traveling with a phone. Unless actual fraud had taken place (phone being stolen, cloned, etc), I would see no reason to refund those charges. A small reduction for the purpose of goodwill, MAYBE, but that is something the cell carrier is under no obligation to do.

  68. mockingmylife says:

    She was streaming video to the phone in some fashion. 4.7 gigs is near impossible unless you’re pulling thousands of emails to your phone with attachments.

  69. coloradogray says:

    The EVO is an Android handset. If the data services are connecting, and if Facebook was working it was connected, then the services on the device (google, ect) are running in the background and updating/syncing on a regular basis if the phone is on.

  70. SpaceCadet says:

    I am planning an overseas vacation with my HTC Hero (Android) phone on Sprint. I don’t want to use it as a phone (I know CDMA doesn’t work there), but more like a very small netbook. So I called Sprint and asked “If I leave the phone in Airplane mode (which turns off the cell radio) from the minute I get on the plane, until I return, and just use Wifi – are there ANY additional charges I can be hit with?” Actually, I re-phrased it 3 different ways, just to be sure. And the answer was no. I just wish I totally trusted them…

  71. CFinWV says:

    This is why you do a quick google search on “taking XYZ_Brand Phone on international trips” *before* you leave the country, not after you get back and receive the bill. There are guides all over the place on how to enjoy your phone internationally and not get slammed with ridiculous bills.

  72. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    College students on “shoestring budgets” don’t go to Cancun for a week, so this is hardly the best way to begin a complaint letter about whether or not you can afford an outrageously high bill. I don’t care that her parents may have paid for her, it’s not the best way to start out a letter. “I was in Cancun for a week” is sufficient enough.

    In any event, to echo everyone else’s comments, caveat emptor. That kinda summarizes my thought.

  73. Segador says:

    I’m quickly losing sympathy for people who don’t realize that their smartphones most likely carry ASTRONOMICAL roaming and data charges when out of the country. Make sure you’ve bought international coverage, or don’t use your phone to surf the web.

  74. Azagthoth says:

    I am a college student, obviously on a shoe-string budget…. I have an Evo.

    Aren’t these things mutually exclusive? My shoe-string budget doesn’t include $600 phones.

  75. sunshinebaby says:

    The HTC Evo maintains a CONSTANT internet connection. People want the technology, therefore they must pay for the technology. Sooo many people complain about the $10 Data fee for the Evo.. and this is a prime example of why that charge was imposed. Even if the Evo is sitting on your coffee table in the living room, it’s connected to the Internet to constantly update apps, news feeds, weather widgets, etc. ALWAYS. I must agree that 4.6GB is a LOT of data and I’m not so sure that just having the phone on would rack that much up. I would suggest this Sprint customer call back into Customer Care and explain.. and explain.. and continue to explain until something is done. Obviously this poor soul didn’t intentionally rack up an $11,000 bill.

  76. sprintchickwv says:

    I haven’t seen a bill that bad before, but I’ll tell you this: international roaming charges get insane FAST. If Stacey had told Sprint that she was going out of the country, the Worldwide Dept. could have told her what she needed to do, added on any features she needed, etc. Evos are huge data hogs; they can easily go through 4GB in a week with only light usage.

    Considering the bad publicity this is causing, I would be surprised if Executive Escalations didn’t at least split the charges with this customer.