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Sprint Drops Customers Over Excessive Inquiries

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the just-a-bit-harsh dept.

The Almighty Buck 386

theodp writes "The WSJ confirms earlier reports that Sprint Nextel is terminating the contracts of subscribers who call customer service too much (registration required). The 1,000 or so terminated subscribers called an average of 25 times a month — 40x times higher than average — according to a company spokeswoman, who also noted that a large number of calls from these customers were related to billing issues."

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386 comments

wow (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19777733)

guess its one way to get out of a crappy contract with a crappy company...

wait... am i first to post! hell yes sppp

Re:wow (1)

__NR_kill (1018116) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777925)

having a marriage (to a phone company) could be a tricky thing.
getting a divorce seems to be more and more easy, so it sounds more like good news to me.

Re:wow (3, Interesting)

pionzypher (886253) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778309)

If only I'd know that a month ago... I'd have saved $200. Still worth the money though. Text messages taking over a day to arrive? Most incoming calls sent direct to voice mail? No thanks.

Disclaimer: Yes, I'm aware my experience may not be typical. But it WAS my experience.

Re:wow (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19778463)

Is this the first time "First post" has been modded to +5? This company must really suck.

Hmmm... How could we sink the company? (3, Funny)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778535)

Before you laugh, this action was the result of intense research by the managers of Sprint. They thought, "How can we get ourselves on Reddit and Digg and Slashdot as a mean, ugly company, without paying advertising costs?" And they found an answer!

Honestly (1, Insightful)

icthus13 (972796) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777737)

25 calls a month? Good riddance.

What is wrong with calling if it is justified? (4, Insightful)

janrinok (846318) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778005)

...related to billing issues.

Are you suggesting that, if they were being overcharged or billed incorrectly, they shouldn't take the issue up? If they made a reasonable query about their bill and were fobbed-off or ignored I would also be calling until I got satisfaction.

Re:What is wrong with calling if it is justified? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19778031)

Aren't you only billed once a month? 25 calls for one bill? That seems ridiculous to me!

Re:What is wrong with calling if it is justified? (3, Insightful)

gathond (236744) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778059)

It would be, then again if the company you called did nothing about your inquiries what would you do but keep calling about the issue?

Re:What is wrong with calling if it is justified? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19778177)

It would be, then again if the company you called did nothing about your inquiries what would you do but keep calling about the issue?


Cancel the subscription / contract. And if they didn't cancel it, next call wouldn't be to the company. I wouldn't waste my time banging head on a wall if it didn't change anything anyway.

Re:What is wrong with calling if it is justified? (3, Funny)

modecx (130548) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778061)

If you've ever had to deal with a phone company, you'd of course realize that even 25 calls a month will be completely ineffectual, from a problems solving standpoint. The process is, however, very effective therapy for hypotension.

Let me tell you a story (5, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778323)

1. So at one point I decided to change my password for my email account. Their web-site had a brain-fart and changed my internet login password too, and, here's the fun part: neither the old one nor the new one worked. But, ok, let's say I somehow screwed up myself, that's not the issue. Read on.

So I call tech support. The guy makes me try both passwords, with and without caps lock, etc, none works. Asks for my invoice number. I receive the invoice together with the phone invoice, he assures me that's the number he needs. I read it to him. "Ok, all's right, you'll receive the new password by post in 1-2 days." Ok, I wait for a week, nothing happens.

I try again. I get asked for the invoice number. "Sure, we'll send you the new password by post. You'll get it in 1-2 days." Nothing happens. Some 3 days later, I try again. "Sure, we'll send you the new password by post. You'll get it in 1-2 days." Repeat.

At some point I get majorly annoyed and start calling daily. "Ah, oops, it wasn't changed, you'll get the new one by post." The circus repeated verbatim for one and a half months. By then I had dug out an old ISDN card and was using a call-by-call paid-by-minute provider just to, you know, be able to read emails on my other account.

Eventually I get _really_ annoyed and escalate it to hell and back. That was a lot of phone calls in a burst. Turns out that when I moved, both the isp department and the telco gave me new invoice numbers. Different ones. The phone bill only contained the telco one. So the retarded ech support monkeys saw that the number doesn't match, and lied to me. For a whole fucking month and a half, none of them could just tell me "oi, it doesn't match, come with some ID at one of our offices". Nah, they fucking lied to me.

2. My brother buys a house and moves, gives the same retarded telco and ISP the new address, is assured he'll have the new connection within a week. Let me also add that we found out at some point that he's flagged as a sort of VIP customer in their database. (No idea why, maybe because both he and his wife are addicted to their mobile phones, and get a bigger phone bill than some small-ish companies.) So, you know, you'd expect some better treatment than Joe Average.

At any rate, nothing happens. He calls again, get told, "oops, true, nothing was started, we'll send someone ASAP." Nothing happens. Calls again, gets told the same story. I advised him to escalate ASAP, but he too is the kind of idiot who believes that everyone is nice and will actually do what they assured him they'll do. Just like I am. So he too gets to call increasingly often for a month and a half, until he gets in a burst asking to escalate.

The problem? Let's say his house number is 42B. (Not the actual number, but the B is the right one.) So some call centre monkey mis-typed it as 42S. You know, finger slipped. Of course, S doesn't exist there, so they did nothing. But from there noone actually told him what the bloody hell is wrong there, and why they don't activate his connection. They lied to him, again and again, for a whole freaking month and a half. "Oh, yes, we'll send someone tomorrow."

Idiots.

So, you know, sometimes you have to call more than 25 times in a month, because the guys at the other end are simply complete lying cretins, or are required to work by some retarded rules that require them to be complete lying cretins. Sometimes if you just call once and give it a rest, the problem doesn't even _start_ to be solved.

So before demonizing someone for calling 25 times in a month, based on that awful experience, I'll at least give them the benefit of the doubt.

Re:Let me tell you a story (1)

prockcore (543967) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778367)

So before demonizing someone for calling 25 times in a month, based on that awful experience, I'll at least give them the benefit of the doubt.


Yes, but Sprint is a cell phone company.. you can go to the store and get things worked out much easier in person.

Re:Let me tell you a story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19778551)

or are required to work by some retarded rules that require them to be complete lying cretins

They have call quotas to fill -- who are you to be so inconsiderate as to actually expect them to provide customer service as well?

Just as a clarification (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778347)

Just to make it clear: my awful experience wasn't with Sprint, but with a different telco and isp.

Re:What is wrong with calling if it is justified? (1)

loraksus (171574) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778467)

If Sprint fucks up and bills you several hundred dollars extra in magical bullshit charges, yeah, you're liable to make calls until that gets fixed.
Every couple of months I had to call in, spend a bunch of time on the phone talking to mentally defective CSRs who can't do math and finally wait a few days for the refund to post
I can understand a mistake once or twice - but Sprint had a pattern of "mistakes". Seriously folks, incompetence as an excuse goes only so far. Funny how the mistakes were always in their favor too...

Sprint is one of those companies that really needs someone to go on a killing spree at their offices.

Re:What is wrong with calling if it is justified? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19778071)

If they made a reasonable query about their bill and were fobbed-off or ignored I would also be calling until I got satisfaction.

As someone who has worked in a high-price/low-margin retail company (service, computers) for at least a year, I can tell you right now; some people are simply unimaginably incomprehensibly unreasonable.

We've had customers try and argue with us and negotiate price with us when we had FIXED RATE pricing. We've had cases where customers threaten to sue before they even tell us they even had a problem. There are such things as bad customers, customers who intentionally waste time and cause aggravation to get what they want.

ANY (residential) customer who makes over 25 calls on average, per month, for more than one month is either a bad customer or chemically imbalanced. Notice, that's about 1 call PER DAY for and likely about THE SAME ISSUE (probably billing).

If you're having an issue with your phone company that requires you to call once a day about, you don't need a contract with them, you either need a lawyer, or a therapist.

Re:What is wrong with calling if it is justified? (1)

ericartman (955413) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778249)

Sorry I spent 1 hour and 5 phone calls getting my parents off my family plan. Kept getting sent to wrong extension and then cut off so do these 5 calls count against me? Stupidity can exist on bothsides of the call. Sometimes at the same time. EC

Re:What is wrong with calling if it is justified? (3, Insightful)

janrinok (846318) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778307)

And I wasn't taking the side of the customer or the company. There can be problems on both sides and they can usually be resolved, as you and several others have pointed out, by a reasonable amount of effort and a few phone calls. But if someone had been incorrectly billed for a large sum of money that they could not afford to pay, particularly if it was taken from their account by direct debit (as is not uncommon, at least in Europe), then I would accept them making numerous phone calls to resolve it. They could be seriously overdrawn at the bank and faced with genuine debts that they now could not pay despite having correctly budgeted for them, and all because the telco had made a mistake. One phone call per day letting the company know that they hadn't credited my account with the money that they had erroneously withdrawn does not seem excessive to me. Without all of the facts we cannot make that judgment but we shouldn't dismiss it out of hand as the post that I originally replied to seemed to be suggesting.

Re:What is wrong with calling if it is justified? (2, Insightful)

loraksus (171574) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778497)

ANY (residential) customer who makes over 25 calls on average, per month, for more than one month is either a bad customer or chemically imbalanced. Notice, that's about 1 call PER DAY for and likely about THE SAME ISSUE (probably billing).

Yeah, people should just stop calling and pay their erroneous bills. What's an extra couple hundred dollars in bullshit charges in the long run, eh?

If you're having an issue with your phone company that requires you to call once a day about, you don't need a contract with them, you either need a lawyer,

Good luck with that... oh.. what? Mandatory arbitration clause? Motion to dismiss because of that?
Have fun dealing with the "arbitrators" who were chosen by the company you're filing a complaint against.

Re:What is wrong with calling if it is justified? (1, Interesting)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778111)

I got the sense there were people who called 25+ times a month for multiple months. I had a $4000 pile of 30+ false charges show up on a credit card once- someone fucker somewhere got the number. It took two calls to resolve it.

Re:What is wrong with calling if it is justified? (4, Insightful)

Tim Browse (9263) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778299)

It took two calls to resolve it.

And if it didn't get resolved any time soon? Would you have just sucked up the $4000 charges? I mean, anyone who calls Customer Service a lot is just being difficult, right?

Re:What is wrong with calling if it is justified? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19778381)

Yes,

They could wait till the end of a billing cycle, and post all 5K gripes at the same time.

Unless they changed your service level, why bug them?

Hmm, maybe they called each time about a dropped call, and wanted their account credited for the air time, i'm not sure, do most carriers place a time limit on when you can call about such and receive a credit.

Later

Re:What is wrong with calling if it is justified? (1)

janrinok (846318) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778505)

Why bug them? Imagine they had incorrectly billed me for, say $5000, and debited my account. How long would you wait before you wanted, indeed, needed that $5000 back in your account? If the debit had caused you to be overdrawn at the bank, who would be paying the bank charges? What other bills can you no longer afford to pay? What happens to the bills that you default on? How many times have they made this mistake? We do NOT know the details of the accounts in question, but I can think of several valid reasons why 25 phone calls in one month - that less than 1 per day - would be entirely justified. Perhaps this is simply the telcos way of getting rid of those customer accounts where they have made a mistake and do not like the grief that they are now getting?

Automatic Bank Withdrawls (1)

sauge (930823) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778589)

If I have do not HAVE to pay by automatic bank withdrawals, I don't. (Burned by Paypal.)

If I do, I have a separate bank account set up to handle these fools so my other money is safely tucked away out of their reach.

One has to take precautions these days when interacting with powerful corporations.

Credit Hounds (1)

sm4096 (1104499) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778487)

Some people are just good at complaining and getting credit.
I worked for customer care for 4 years and spot those accounts in 10 seconds by looking at payment history/credit history at the
start of a call. But the turnover for care representatives was between 6 months and a year. So if they call back there is a good chance they get someone more lax or inexperienced. There are a lot of valid reasons for credit. Every now and then I found a person who called me who had received so much credit they don't pay for service for months on end and called us a lot. I submit it under social engineering. I am taking programming so I know it would be trivial to write a database query if the billing system to identify all customers costing the company money.

A consumer even if acting legally can act in a manner where providing service looses the company money. All carriers put in the contract the ability for them to change the terms of service. There are also government and court imposed mandates that force the provider to do something and override this(mergers and court rulings ). Notwithstanding exceptions, if the changes are not favorable to the customer they can cancel without early termination fee. So if the company wishes to drop customers or raise costs of plans and features they may be able to do so legally in a lot of cases. For instance AT&T added a 5.00 surcharge to plans of people still using TDMA phones.

Re:Honestly (1, Insightful)

ktappe (747125) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778289)

If you read the original article (which admittedly is hard to do if you're not a WSJ subscriber), Sprint apparently counts each transfer to another agent or department as a "call". So every time they mis-transferred someone, the victim^M^M^M^M^M^Mcustomer got screwed by having another negative strike put against them in Sprint's "Is this someone we want to drop?" database. Good lord, what a horrible company.

Re:Honestly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19778383)

You don't know the half of it. The only way to win with Sprint is to sign up and pay the maximum rat e possible for their services, for two years. Even then, they might jack up the rate on you, no notice rquired, and you'd spend hours of your life with customer service trying to figure out why. Whatcha gonna do -- sue them?

In my relatively short life I've come to realize that a few things just aren't worth it monetarily, and one of them is arguing with lowly agents of giant corporate bureaucracies. If they pay attention at all, they will pay attention when you leave. If not, you'd better hope there are other options.

Wrong! (4, Informative)

MrWGW (964175) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778493)

Nowhere in the WSJ article does it say that Sprint counts transfers between departments as "calls" !!! I'd rather wish that people would refrain from posting inaccurate statements about articles linked to from /., especially in cases where the article is not publically accessible...

no choice in the matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19778609)

i just switched to sprint and got a family plan. they didn't port our three numbers and i had to call so they could try again. they just switched numbers, didnt port them.

somehow my bill wound up as six individual plans instead of one family plan. a phone bill that should have been less than 100 dollars was nearly six. it took two months and many phone calls to fix it.

if they could do their jobs right, you wouldn't have to call them so much.

by the way, they still call me trying to port numbers.

What rights exactly do consumers have? (2, Interesting)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777747)

It's pretty clear that US cooperations have quite a bit of rights, and can take many forms of legal actions to their own benefit. But what about the consumers?

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (2, Insightful)

DogDude (805747) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777771)

There's no such thing as "consumer rights". It's a meaningless phrase, anyway,

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (3, Insightful)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777793)

Here in the U.S., customers can choose whether they want to get screwed by Sprint, Verizon, Cingular, T-Mobile, AT&T, or Comcast. Isn't unregulated capitalism great?!

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (1, Insightful)

DogDude (805747) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777885)

Here in the U.S., customers can choose whether they want to get screwed by Sprint, Verizon, Cingular, T-Mobile, AT&T, or Comcast. Isn't unregulated capitalism great?!

OK, here's a free clue for ya'... you don't have to buy anything you don't want to.

Now hold on to your pants here. Are you sitting down? You sure? This one will wow ya'... You don't HAVE to even have a cell phone!
Ohh, I know. That will take you a few minutes to wrap your head around. But it's true. You don't actually have to purchase a cell phone, a cell phone contract, or even those stupid Star Trek things that people wear on, around, and in their ears. You can choose to purchase nothing if you want!

I've heard that there is a group of Pacific Islanders ( I don't remember which one... there are so many) that have actually survived for many thousands of years with no telephone service at all. Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking. I thought the same thing too. It's gotta be fake, like an article from The Onion.

But actually, it's real. I shit you not. There are people who have lived and continue to live without a telephone of any kind. You should look it up... maybe you can learn what their secret trick is to surviving without a telephone.

Now, I don't know if they're capitalists or socialists or communists, or Mormons, (I think they were cannibalistic scientologists living in a semi-rigid authoritarian commune... I can't remember exactly) but I do know that it's possible. So if they can do it, surely you can, too.

So, good luck, and farewell in your quest to not purchase a cell phone.

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (4, Insightful)

AoT (107216) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777899)

Right, I'll just move out to the pacific islands.

Get real, if you want a job and a place to live you need a phone. The companies you get regular phone service through are the same companies you get cell service from. And internet companies are either the same again or have the same levels of "service."

So all in all, not so much choice.

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778235)

Get real, if you want a job and a place to live you need a phone. The companies you get regular phone service through are the same companies you get cell service from. And internet companies are either the same again or have the same levels of "service."

Or you could get cable for 40 bucks plus VOIP (I use SunRocket) for $8/month. I know $48/month is a lot to pay for internet access and unlimited free nationwide calling (plus a little international thrown in) but hey, you gotta give a little to get a little.

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19778531)

Yeah VOIP is cool till the power goes out or there's a network outage. I work for a cable internet company in tech support so yeah... I see this stuff crapping out in the NE part of the country all the time.

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (1)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777971)

Har, har. Nice. Now back to the real world in which many times, employers expect to be able to contact their minions whenever and wherever they please. (And the same world where said Hippie-Mormon-Cannibal-Communists living on some island somewhere had their island taken away for not paying taxes. I hear its a very upscale resort now, with some colorful wait staff. They have the coolest cellphones too! You can reach them from the middle of the jungle for a refill of your daquiri!) That real world is where its impossible to get away from it all like that, unless you're already independently wealthy.

The Problem is this: lots of people want, and or are required by their employers to have, reliable cell service. That they can't get it in the USA because of inadequate telecommunications regulatory oversight is a legitimate problem in many peoples lives.

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (0, Troll)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778153)

Why not go all the way? They say you can live without food too; at least, quite a few Hindu yogis claim to be able to do that. If, for whatever reason, you can't seem to do that, then obviously you're not trying good enough, and will get just what slackers and whiners like you deserve, right?

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778301)

Grand parent essentially says: Phone companies in the US formed a cartel (same here in europe).
You say: but you are free not to own a cellphone.

Arguably true, but You are NOT free to BE your own phone company.

Today's tech would allow VOIP phones using privately owned hotspots connected to the Net and between themselves in a mesh fashion - unlike the crippled ones we get from ISPs. The contract would be a kind of peering with other people: you let x packets travel on your network, you get x packets to send when you are around. The biggest hurdle would be provide reliable accounting but google yahoo or others would likely jump at that opportunity, your account page which is a good spot for ads.

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (3, Informative)

purpledinoz (573045) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778087)

The US has it great. In Canada, you get to choose whether you want to get screwed by Bell, Telus, Virgin Mobile (which runs on the Bell network) or Rogers. Oh, and you want a GSM phone so you can use your phone everywhere in the world? Well, Rogers is the ONLY GSM provider in Canada (at least in Ontario). Bell and Telus are looking to merge too! And guess what, when they need more profits, they don't cut costs, they just raise prices. Canada has one of the lowest mobile phone penetration in the 1st world because of this.

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (1)

dabraun (626287) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778261)

Canada has one of the lowest mobile phone penetration in the 1st world because of this.

Which just goes to prove YOU DON'T NEED A CELL PHONE. Yes, I have a cell phone, but I didn't have one 10 years ago and if I really had that big of a problem with every single cell provider then I wouldn't have one now, if my employer felt I had to have one then they could pay for one - as it is I WANT one and I am fine with paying Cingular what amounts to a flat rate to get what I want. I fail to see how they are somehow not providing what I agreed to pay for.

Back to the actual article - anyone who calls their cell provider 25 times a month about their monthly bill (yes, that's ONE bill a month) has some problems them need to work through - and maybe less time spent using a cell phone will give them more time to go seek counseling.

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19778571)

Which just goes to prove YOU DON'T NEED A CELL PHONE.

That really depends on what country you are in. In Norway, the number of cell phone subscriptions is higher than the population (104%). More than 5 billion SMS-es were sent, while the population is 4.6 million. Cell phones are used for authentication in banks and when submitting forms to the government (one-time passwords).

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778379)

TELUS has rescinded it's offer to buy out bell. That isn't happening. And where did you get your info about cell penetration. I haven't read anythign notable about Canada's Cell distribution.

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (1)

purpledinoz (573045) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778597)

I remember reading an article about it. But I don't remember where. But a quick google search yields some info. Check out this link [seaboardgroup.com] .

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (4, Insightful)

JordanL (886154) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778089)

Actually, unregulated industries tend to have better customer service... phone service and telecom is HIGHLY regulated...

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (4, Insightful)

gruntled (107194) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778181)

Having grown up in a era where airlines, power companies, gas companies, the telephone company (there was only one at the time) and the cable companies were all told exactly what they could charge for their services, and what sort of services they could offer, it's impossible for me to avoid laughing when I hear about the claim that such and such a business in the United States is highly regulated. There ain't no more highly regulated entities in these parts, pardner.

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (1)

dabraun (626287) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778267)

Having grown up in a era where airlines, power companies, gas companies, the telephone company (there was only one at the time) and the cable companies were all told exactly what they could charge for their services, and what sort of services they could offer, it's impossible for me to avoid laughing when I hear about the claim that such and such a business in the United States is highly regulated. There ain't no more highly regulated entities in these parts, pardner.

Let me get this straight - are you actually suggesting the situation was better back then? We wouldn't even have cell phones if that level of regulation had remained. Over-regulation prevents progress because it takes away any motivation to be innovative.

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (2, Insightful)

gruntled (107194) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778415)

I'm simply responding to the following statement:
"Actually, unregulated industries tend to have better customer service... phone service and telecom is HIGHLY regulated..."

Leaving aside the issue of whether unregulated industries tend to have better customer service (a statement for which I can find a number of counterexamples, particularly the horrifically overregulated airline industry in the Seventies, when airfares were grotesquely expensive but there was quite a bit of sucking up to the customer, nearly all flights were pretty much direct, and the entire continent's air transport didn't shut down because of a thunderstorm over Boston) the claim that phone service and telecommunications companies in America are highly regulated is...well, highly regulated when compared to what, exactly? England, where consumers have to pay a tax to watch a TV? Japan, where the telephone company won't install your phone without proof that you've got your telephone license?

Plus, you can very easily make the counterargument, that regulatory requirements on the telecommunications industry have forced better customer service. For example, for years cell phone companies treated people badly and if you needed to keep your phone number, you were screwed, because you couldn't move that number to another carrier. After years of bullying by regulators, during which the carriers insisted that it was too technologically challenging, and would triple the costs of cell phone access (really, Verizon actually used to say that) number portability was enacted. Now, you can say that the the providers still treat you badly (though I would say that things are in fact better now than they were five years ago, since it's easier to walk away) but at least you can take your business elsewhere.

My point is that regulation is neither "good" nor "bad." Because there can be regulations that are either good or bad. Simple slogans about the miraculous properties of the free market or the intrinsic stupidity of government bureaucrats don't really answer any of my questions.

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19778283)

I don't agree with that. The problems most people have with cellular service are in problem areas that are not regulated at all or regulated very poorly.

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (1)

flargleblarg (685368) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778139)

> Here in the U.S., customers can choose whether they want to get screwed by Sprint, Verizon, Cingular, T-Mobile, AT&T, or Comcast. Isn't unregulated capitalism great?!

In Soviet Russia, phone company gets screwed by you!

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (1)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777821)

Well, I'm a business owner as well as a customer. The way I see it: as a customer, you have the right to pick a business or its competitor. The second right is to stop paying if the service provided isn't good enough. Seems like enough rights for me.

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (1)

AoT (107216) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777859)

The second right is to stop paying if the service provided isn't good enough.
You would really list that as a "right" in an article about cell phones?

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (1)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778385)

Yes I would. Suppose my mobile phone operator regularly drops connection for hours on end. After contacting the helpdesk and getting a stupid reply (as expected) I would write a letter stating dates and times, and telling this isn't a reasonable service for my money and that I stop paying and the contract should be considered broken.

Happens all the time with businesses.

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (1)

Xanius (955737) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778441)

The second right is to stop paying if the service provided isn't good enough.
You would really list that as a "right" in an article about cell phones?
Right, last time I checked my early termination fee could cost me almost as much as keeping my cell service until the end of my contract. There's no such thing as not paying a cell company if you want to be able to buy anything major in the next 10 years of your life. Yay for credit being based on random criteria.

Re:What rights exactly do consumers have? (3, Informative)

CanadaIsCold (1079483) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777873)

Both Corporations and Consumer rights are protected in the US. In this case they would protect you from breach of contract. Most cell phone contracts do provide mechanisms for both parties to terminate prematurely.

Although in the case of cell phones it is usually easier for the Company than the consumer.

Maybe (3, Insightful)

Teddy Beartuzzi (727169) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777749)

They should get the customers bills correct, and then they'd stop calling.

Re:Maybe (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19777881)

if Sprint screwed up that badly why the hell din't these people leave? for that matter, who calls 25 times a month over their once a month Sprint bill anyways? people with OCD?

Re:Maybe (2, Informative)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777909)

if Sprint screwed up that badly why the hell din't these people leave?
$200 "early termination" fees.

Re:Maybe (2, Insightful)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778345)

They should get the customers bills correct, and then they'd stop calling.

You assume they have valid billing issues. Some people dispute stuff just because they don't want to pay it.
And when a customer service rep refuses, guess what they do. Yup, they call over and over again hoping to reach someone who will do what they want.

Score! (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777787)

That makes it easy to get out of Sprint contracts, and switch to the iPhone on AT&T.

Yes, I'd like to get an iPhone, but I like in Canada and from what I can tell of Rogers, the required monthly plan [that would be unlimited data] would probably be an order of magnitude higher than AT&T's unlimited data plan for the iPhone. If they would offer such a plan.

Now, I don't think Roger's will want to make the concessions to Apple [and to consumers] to make the iPhone viable in Canada, so I'll have to buy an iPhone in the US, then hack it so it can be activated using a SIM card for Rogers, and just NEVER use Rogers EDGE for data access and live without Visual Voicemail.

Re:Score! (1)

IKnwThePiecesFt (693955) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778029)

Problem is AT&T is a CDMA network and (at least in the US) the networks that use SIM cards are GSM, making that impossible.

Re:Score! (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778093)

You are saying that the iPhone (GSM) won't work on AT&T network? Someone needs to tell Apple...

Re:Score! (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778209)

My AT&T (ex-Cingular) phone is a GSM phone. I've never seen an AT&T CDMA phone, just TDMA (obsolete) and GSM.

Re:Score! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19778119)

Why on Earth would you go through all that trouble just to use the most over-hyped, overrated, and feature-lacking phones in history?

and in other news... (1, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777803)

"Large company make business decision to drop business relationships client who are more trouble than they're worth"

I'm shocked.

I've run the gamut (3, Interesting)

Essequemodeia (1030028) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777805)

I was once a Sprint subscriber. I had ongoing unresolved issues regarding their billing mistakes. I don't think I called 25 times per month (psycho), but I did call 3 or 4 times at the end of my statement period trying (usually unsuccessfully) to correct blatant errors on my monthly bill. Sometimes they would charge me an extra 6.99 for text messaging, other times the taxes were incorrectly computed (that one still blows MY mind). I had so many successful challenges of their incorrect billing that I was allowed to terminate my contract in 2002 without paying a penalty charge. I have been a customer of all the major cell phone companies: sprint, nextel (now sprint + nextel), at&t, cingular (now at&t + cingular), T-mobile, and Verizon. I really miss Sprint because I feel that Sanyo makes one hell of a cellphone and they are exclusive with Sprint. T-mobile offers the greatest value but Verizon the best quality. Just opinions.

What a joke... (5, Interesting)

ratbert6 (515555) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777831)

I couldn't wait for my contract to end with Sprint. The frequent billing mistakes were nearly monthly in occurance and required WAY to many calls to customer service to TRY and get them fixed.

IN EVERY CASE, whomeever I had managed to get to when I request a 'manager' to speak with, would listen to my story/explanation of the problem and assure me that they had corrected the error and that it would show up on my account with XX number of hours.

Odd, that every time the XX was a different number ranging from 4-48. Also, the fact that none of the errors were ever in fact corrected. When did it become 'standard procedure' to lie to the customer??? Every rep did it, everytime.

I tried writing my disputes and sending them to customer service (with return receipt) to leave a paper trail of the disputed amounts which I never did pay and still owe according to them. None of my correspondance has been acknowledged in any way. They just flat expect that I will eventually pay to avoid the mark on my credit.

I could go on forever, fortunately for you all, I need to go bed. Sprint is a company that deserves whatever it gets. I wish I'd been a customer they dropped. Guess I figured out too soon that they just won't do anything and I don't have the time to talk to those nice people in India all day to have them lie to me.

Re:What a joke... (2, Insightful)

Evets (629327) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778003)

I hear you. They actually tried triple billing me at one point. I could go on for hours about them - including pretty much a breakdown at a store because it was plain to the employees in the store, the manager on premises, and the rep on the phone that they had fraudulently billed me AND fraudulently extended my contract and not a single one of them would do a thing about it. If I only knew calling them 25 times a month would get rid of them, I would have been calling them non-stop.

Come to think of it... /dials 611

Re:What a joke... (1)

tilde_e (943106) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778173)

Hrm... I guess I should start looking at my bill. I usually have it auto-pay, but that stops working every once in a while and I see that they haven't been paid for a few months. One would think that they would at least get that part right.

Re:What a joke... (1, Insightful)

Threni (635302) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778317)

To be fair to sprint, if I had a customer who phoned me every day, I'd probably tell them to fuck off as well! Who needs that?

Re:What a joke... (5, Funny)

houghi (78078) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778439)

I am from Sprint and I hear you. I have looked into it and have coorected the procedure. This should be active in 28 hours.

Charge 'em (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19777837)

Affected customers should bill Sprint the $175 termination fee. Contract's a contract.

So that's how we do it... (2, Funny)

BulletMagnet (600525) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777853)

I maintain a +/-100 phone account with Nextel and probably call 20 times a month (Contruction laborers are notoriously rough on their handsets - even the hardened phones don't do so hot when they get run over by an excavator)

I guess I need to call 5 more times a month....

Don't stand for this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19777897)

If it isn't against the contract you signed, don't stand for it. Consider sueing them.

Sprint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19777983)

Sprint is teh sux0r!

Cost Of Tethered Hardware (3, Interesting)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 6 years ago | (#19777999)

Granted, this is AT&T not Sprint but the concept still applies...

Assuming you buy a $600 iPhone that doesn't work on any network other than AT&T's, when they terminate your contract, do they buy back the hardware that they've now rendered unusable?

I wonder if you can claim it as faulty under an extended 2 year Apple care warranty as it now fails to work as advertised? I could see Apple getting pissed at AT&T for forcing them to take returns on otherwise totally functional hardware just because AT&T decided phone support cost too much.

Re:Cost Of Tethered Hardware (2, Insightful)

davmoo (63521) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778035)

With phones other than the iPhone, this is probably not much of a valid issue. Most other phones are sold at a greatly reduced price, if not for free, for you signing the contract. When I renewed my Verizon contract last year, I got a LG Chocolate (an otherwise $300+ phone at that time) totally free...I didn't even have to pay sales tax. Thus if Verizon were to terminate me, I don't think I'd get very far whining to a judge about the expense of the now useless (unless I hack it) phone.

The iPhone is the only phone that I am aware of where there has been absolutely no discounting, and Real Money has to be paid. Of course, on the other side of the coin, Apple fans are the only people I know of who would pay $600 for a phone that has been way over-hyped and actually has very little revolutionary about it, instead of just using the free or discounted phones from their carrier.

Re:Cost Of Tethered Hardware (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778281)

IF the contract is on the phone: yes.
If the contract is on service: No.

reading AT&T's contract it is on service. Hence if iphone is turned into a brick, you need to sue Apple for refund as per laws.

Dilbert moment (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19778047)

Scott Adams 1996/01/25

PHB: I've asked Dogbert to help us get rid of our most troublesome customers.

Dogbert: Ten percent of your customers account for ninety percent of your service costs. They must be eliminated.

Alice: Is that the same group of customers who actually use our product?

Dogbert: Plus the ones who were injured unpacking it.

I wish we could do that! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19778081)

I work for one of 'The Big Four' Australian banks. We have millions of customers and thousands of people in our call centre. The company prides itself on it's customer service, and personally I think rightly so. While we're not perfect (especially at the branch level) we are always striving to do better and as constantly seeing results.

One of the more often heard quotes in the call centre is "There are no problem customers, just customers with problems, and it's our job to fix them". Works great 99% of the time.

However we do have one customer who is to put it lightly, a little bit loopy and a whole lot of aggro. He's been a customer of the bank for years upon years, and constantly threatens to leave over non-existant issues. Basically he likes to pick fights. By picking fights I don't just mean arguments (although he has a very extensive vocabulary for what he likes to call staff members), this guy has assaulted staff on more than one occasion. He's almost made threats against call centre staff, which is why we have a restraining order barring him from calling the call centre and presumably visiting branches unless previously arranged.

Prior to the bank, I spent several years in retail management and have dealt with similar people (the majority of whom seem to have mental health issues). I imagine that a vast number of these customers refered to in the article probably fall into this special category of customer, so I can see the sense.

Re:I wish we could do that! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19778395)

I work for a company that uses a ticketing system when providing customer support. Every time I close a case, the customer is surveyed. If the case is transfered to another group, then that other person who closes the case will receive survey feedback.

Great way to improve customer service scores! (1)

VidEdit (703021) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778121)

This is a great idea. Rather than improve customer service, why not just dump the customer's you've screwed over the most? That way customer satisfaction surveys won't reflect their opinion because they are no longer customers.

Sprint should have to pay an early termination fee to the customers. What's the point of a two year contract if it doesn't work both ways? As it is, cell phone contracts require the customer to pay a non-prorated early termination fee and to pay whatever Sprint says to pay. Sprint is required to do virtually nothing since they can change the terms of the contract whenever they feel like it and they can dump customers in the middle of their contracts. That is inequitable.

Customer Service (4, Interesting)

mrshowtime (562809) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778137)

I worked at Cingular customer service, in a call center, for over a year during the TDMA nightmare years and 1/3rd the calls were from legitimate billing errors and screw ups due to roaming (that was in the vagueness days where true nationwide roaming cost a fortune), another 1/3rd of the calls were to cancel, or switch plans and the other 1/3rd were from angry customers who were blatantly lied to at the retail store and given free "add ons" that either were pulled off by the auditing department or simply did not work (like trying to add national roaming onto a strictly local plan).

As a customer of Cingular since the switch to GSM I have had ZERO billing errors and I have been all over the country and have never gotten one roaming charge on my Cingular/Att bill.

I can now go into my account on the internet and add and remove features and change my plan, which is just fantastic.

As for Sprint dropping "problem" customers, I am all for that! The whole "firing the customer" is something new that has sprung up in the past ten years and I think in some cases it should be done. The thinking is that you are wasting time helping a customer that consistently has problems with your service as he/she is already badmouthing you to everyone they know and in the end you most likely will leave anyway. Put simply, your resources are better spent helping your normal "bread and butter" customers that spending inordinate time and resources on "a-hole" customers.

Granted, this is not saying that the customers are in the wrong, but it stands to reason if a customer has to call over 25 times in a month for the same reason; Sprint should have escalated those calls after the third call.

Also, some responsibility has to be put on the customers. I certainly would not stand for my bill to be screwed up to the extent where I would have to call 3 times, let alone 25 times; I would have found a way to get out of that contract.

As for Customer Service, it's the same with all of the carriers. You are never going to get consistently good customer service anymore. The call centers in America have a horrendous turnover rate which impacts service greatly.

I have noticed a new trend lately; outsourcing to the Philippines. The last time I had to call a company for tech support the person on the other end had a slight accent, but otherwise was spot on "American," and was familiar with American culture/t.v. show/music/etc. It was a refreshing break from the Indian call centers of late.

Re:Customer Service (2, Insightful)

not_anne (203907) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778465)

The whole "firing the customer" is something new that has sprung up in the past ten years and I think in some cases it should be done.
Thankfully, this policy also in place in the cable industry. I am allowed to blow off customers who are unreasonable, and it's great to be able to say no and not get into trouble. The customer is not always right. Some companies are far too lenient to customers who abuse the system and/or service provided to them. Customers always want something for free, and will waste an incredible amount of time and energy to save a buck or two.

Re:Customer Service (3, Insightful)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778533)

For the last 8 years if you ever thought you were actually speaking to an American customer service representative, you were very probably talking to a Filipino. They speak with an American accent right from birth, average income is far lower than in the US, they are loyal, hard working, smart, and they have a generally pleasing disposition even when faced with irate customers. I wouldn't be surprised if the number of call centers here is far higher than in India (per capita anyway)

Re:Customer Service (3, Insightful)

loraksus (171574) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778613)

Granted, this is not saying that the customers are in the wrong, but it stands to reason if a customer has to call over 25 times in a month for the same reason; Sprint should have escalated those calls after the third call.

Except with Sprint, they don't.
You get transfered from one fuckwit to another. Over and over and over again. Agents lie to you repeatedly, giving false contact information, forgetting about promised callbacks the moment the line goes dead, "losing" records of previous calls and promised changes. You call back again, hoping that you'll get them to fix their mistake, but instead get kicked in the balls over and over again by yet another agent hates their job and knows there is no such thing as accountability at Sprint.

As for Customer Service, it's the same with all of the carriers. You are never going to get consistently good customer service anymore. The call centers in America have a horrendous turnover rate which impacts service greatly.

It also helps that all the carriers have nearly identical abusive contracts and policies that ensure that if you want to leave, you're stuck with a several hundred dollar cancellation fee and a (probably) a phone intentionally crippled to only work with a certain company's network.

Once your customers are all so afraid of canceling early due to an ETF and you know the "competition" doesn't really provide anything better than what you have, is there a reason you have to care about what your customer service?
Americans migrate from one carrier to another like mindless sheep, hoping that one cell phone carrier will be better than the last, but once they get their first bill, they realize that their new cell company is just as dishonest, unethical and scummy as the last bunch of fuckers.

Lawsuit (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778241)

Is it possible to sue them in small claims court for the time and money that their customers have to spend attempting to fix billing errors? Those are real damages caused by the company's incompetence.

I can see their point.. (3, Interesting)

circularcircular (1105843) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778389)

Having worked in customer service for an IT company, I've come across these kinds of customers. They're the ones who never RTFM or refer to online FAQs. They need to speak to an actual person about everything, an email ticket won't do.

They ring up about every little thing and ask obscure questions, like whether the pro-rata charge is based on the day starting at midnight, or 6AM like with the usage meter. Of course you don't know, so you have to waste time tracking down a manager to find out. And they make up an answer on the spot because no-one except for the database admin has ever needed to know that.

Honestly, the amount of employee-hours it takes to deal with these customers isn't worth their monthly service fee. My company would encourage these customers to churn elsewhere too (and waive the contract termination fee). I bet a lot of other companies do this too.

Re:I can see their point.. (0, Troll)

MooUK (905450) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778417)

The summary stated that a large number of those calls were billing issues. In those cases, it's not generally the customer's fault, it's virtually always entirely the fault of the company. Are you saying that it's better to cut off customers than it is to actually get their bills right?

*subscription* required (3, Funny)

vic-traill (1038742) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778393)

It's not registation required, it's *subscription* required - $79 annually or monthly payments $9.95.

Man, 59 comments and counting - I'm just so impressed that so many /. readers are paid up subscribers to the WSJ.

What a way to ensure that no-one reads TFA - it's the declaration of a new epoch at /.

Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19778451)

They are a service provider, not a training service.

I'd have to know more about the situation (2, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778489)

But I can see this as being legitimate in some cases. Some people are just whiny/needy as hell. They call all the time and take up a disproportionate amount of support time. I can see why a company would decide to cut these people. We have this problem at work all the time, since we are departmental tech support and there's no cutting anyone off.

For example someone will send an e-mail asking for us to do something. This is the preferred method, it goes to the whole support group and is added to the ticket tracking system. Then, 5-10 minutes later (literally) they'll be down in the office asking if we got the e-mail. We tell them yes, these things take time and they proceed to badger us for a specific time when it can be done, which there nearly never is since the issue is generally unknown as to what is wrong. They ten come back a couple hours later, they call, they e-mail again, they e-mail their professor and so on. They seem to think that the way to get quick service is to annoy the service people. In fact it's the opposite, you get better service if you submit a ticket and let us deal with it.

Also the people who tend to do that also tend to be the ones with the least problem solving skills. They'll go to support for the most basic problems, rather than try to work something out themselves. They'll contact us because a printer isn't working, and the problem is it isn't plugged in. They'll contact us because "the Internet is broken" when indeed the network is fine, just a single page they want is offline (and they still want us to fix it) and so on.

Well, if we could, we'd love to terminate support for people like that. The small number of individuals account for a disproportionate amount of support time. In our case, it simply means that everyone, them included, gets worse support since there is just less staff time to go around. However in a company it could very well equal a higher cost. Thus I can see why you'd want to cut them lose.

I'm not saying Sprint is blameless, I'm sure they are not. However if there's a problem, calling every day or multiple times per day just to whine "is it fixed yet?" doesn't help. People need time. Bugging them for an update every day doesn't help anything.

If Only I had Heard (2, Funny)

Derosian (943622) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778561)

If only I had known about this before I killed my Contract with Sprint. I paid 200 to get out of my contract. The problem was I was paying 90 dollars a month. After I switched, I now pay half of that with my current company, and pretty much have all the same features. In my opinion Sprint is NOT a very good company.

Regulation (1)

Boricle (652297) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778575)

In a price unregulated environment, companies compete on price.

In a price regulated environment, companies can't compete on price - so they compete on features and service.

It happens..... (2, Informative)

Stanislav_J (947290) | more than 6 years ago | (#19778585)

25 calls a month -- OK, in many cases, we might be dealing with an obsessed nitpicker here. But believe me, it is possible to legitimately hit that figure. I recently had a problem with my elderly mother's long-distance (I won't mention any names, but the letters "A," "T," and "T" come to mind). It was not a simple problem (it involved her having been slammed by Sprint some years ago, then getting funneled into the wrong plan when she went back to her original provider, etc.), but not nucelar physics, either. I logged every call. In ONE AFTERNOON, I made 12 calls to 5 different numbers and never talked to the same person twice. I got shuttled from department to department -- you need to call this number -- you need to call THAT number -- they can handle this -- no, we don't handle this anymore -- and person to person over and over. There was never any single person, or even single group or department, who seemed to have enough knowledge to solve the problem. (Which, BTW, was NEVER the problem of the person or department I was speaking to -- the finger was always pointed in some other direction within the corporate camp). So, I can imagine 25 calls in a month being legitimate.
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