May the Heavens Above Rain Down on Sprint

Okay, so maybe that is a little overboard, but I am none-to-happy with my favorite mobile phone provider. "Why," you ask? Well simply put.... for being so STUPID. Yep stupid. Here's the skinny.

I have had my current phone for just over 18 months. Not a long time to be sure and it still runs well and keeps a decent charge. Yet because of my current job I carry my phone, a pager and a PDA everywhere I go. To illustrate this point let me simply say that the other week when I was in Chicago on a tour boat out on Lake Michigan, my pager went off and I had to make a few phone calls and look up some information on the PDA as well as take notes. So "size" has become a bigger issue to me.

I prefer to carry a "bar-type" mobile phone, but they are bigger and don't fit quite as nicely in my pocket as a "clamshell" phone does. So I made the decision to change to a new phone, besides the screens have gotten better and the phones a little faster. A little over 18 months ago I changed to my current phone and used Sprint's "upgrade" program to do it. Nothing nice as saving $100 bucks for simply signing a year contract with a carrier you know you will be with in one year.

Knowing of their rebate program, the fact that I want a new phone and knowing I have had my current phone for over 18 months I headed to the Sprint PCS store to see the new models in action. I quickly found a few that I liked and decided to do a bit of research and ask a few questions. The store was busy, so I called Sprint PCS customer service. They confirmed that I was eligible for $150 or $100 off for a 2 or 1 year contract respectively. Then I received the "stupid" news.

As a current subscriber, if I want to take advantage of the "upgrade" program I have to pay full price for the phone at a Sprint PCS store. I don't mind that I can't go to Best Buy or another retailer, that makes sense; but ONLY a Sprint Store and I must PAY FULL PRICE? Considering I must pay full price for the phone, you would think I could buy the phone from anyone. NOPE. Apparently to get the rebate you have to go to a store and they have to confirm exactly what customer service "confirmed" over the telephone with me and what I am sure the website could do as well. Then I pay full price and within 6 to 8 weeks I get my rebated amount.

Does this sound like complete horse dung to you? Why make it so difficult? Why not allow a current subscriber to do this all on-line and get the rebate right then? If not, why not allow a subscriber buy the phone from any retailer and then do a rebate like any other rebate. It isn't like a human won't be confirming everything anyway since the web isn't an allowed option.

The whole thing just smells of stupidity. They make the subscriber go to a store meaning that someone that has already decided to be a Sprint customer is going to take up the valuable time away from customers that are thinking of being Sprint PCS customers or that are having various billing problems and looking for resolution. The person who just wants to buy a new phone and knows exactly what they want and have no questions could easily be served on the web and get an "instant" rebate. No humans directly involved, costs are reduced and everyone is happy.

As Sprint PCS is pushing to reduce costs everywhere they can I am totally mystified. Simple bad business decisions across the board and breaking every rule of common sense. Their current system upsets customers wanting a new phone, upsets customers who "want" to visit the Sprint Store, either increases the number of sales associates needed in each store or increases the wait time of customers visiting the Sprint stores and in the end costs Sprint PCS more money and most likely lose customers they wouldn't have lost had they not instituted the policy. By that I mean, upset customers because of the phone policy will research other carriers and upset customers who had to wait longer at the Store will look at other carriers hoping to find better customer service. All this made possible by the FCC and their "take your number with you" ruling.

Business can be difficult. Making good business decisions can be difficult. Yet it never ceases to surprise me that the easiest of decisions, the decisions that can increase profit and happy customers are the hardest ones to make for so many companies. I don't expect them to give away their phones but it is common knowledge that they lose money on them and it takes about 6 months to recoup the loss; but after 6 months they make money "if they have the customer."

Oh well. I will look at other carriers now and possibly break a good relationship that has lasted more than 5 years; all because Sprint decides to make things difficult and probably because they are hoping current subscribers won't want to jump through the hoops and they won't have to worry about that lost 6 months of revenue.

Maybe I am being unreasonable and asking for too much. Yet when I can move to the competition so easily and lose nothing in the process, why shouldn't I consider it?