It’s no secret that Sprint’s network coverage is the poorest among the major carriers. But that’s not necessarily reason to avoid them. If you live in an area where their service is satisfactory and rarely travel, Sprint is the most affordable of the Big Three. This, however, is my account of their customer service in handling a 3+ year account holder with multiple devices and lines, and it might give you pause.
In February of 2010, I was living in the Boston area, and my contract with ATT had expired. I was tired of being overcharged for their sub-par network coverage, and while Sprint’s coverage wasn’t any better, it was notably cheaper. So I became a Sprint customer for about 3.5 years, and tho my service in Boston wasn’t as good as those who had Verizon, it was acceptable as long as I didn’t roam outside of the I-495 belt.
That all changed when I moved to Florida in September 2012. Where I live, in East Naples, Sprint coverage is abysmal; to the point where I could not place or receive calls from my house. In fact, I would have to drive a few blocks away to discover that I had missed calls. To illustrate that I don’t live in the boonies, here’s a map:
Not exactly the middle of nowhere, right? But that’s Sprint coverage for you. And as I work from home regularly, not having an open line of communication to the outside world was stressful and frustrating.
Now, before moving to Florida, I had also brought my wife, a former ATT customer like me, over to Sprint in order to consolidate our phone bills. Interestingly, her iPhone 4 worked ever so slightly better than my HTC Evo 4G in that she was occasionally able to take calls at our house, with 0-2 bars of service. In late August, I decided that my 2+ year old Evo was due for an upgrade, and hoped that a newer device would bring some baseline of service to our home. I purchased another HTC product, the One, for $200 with a 2 year contract.
Unfortunately, it didn’t. Surprisingly, the HTC One actually had arguably less signal than the 3 year old Evo in our house. While the Evo would tease me with at least the carrier name, the HTC One sat in a state of perpetual No Service while home. Disappointing to say the least, but the phone was very attractive and fast and worked well once I ventured out to areas of Naples that Sprint cares to cover (basically north of Pine Ridge Road, if you’re curious).
Fast forward four weeks. My wife and I were returning from a visit to Boston when I powered down my HTC One in accordance with FAA regulations as our flight departed. When we landed, I attempted to power the phone back on only to discover that it was dead. Weird, since it had a full charge when we left Boston. But I crossed my fingers and hoped that plugging it in for a day would solve the problem. It didn’t, of course. My 30+ day old HTC One was dead for no apparent reason. How annoying!
The following day, I visited a Sprint store in Naples where I was told that because the phone was over 14 days old and I did not carry any additional coverage on the device, I was on my own. But the Sprint rep assured me that if I contacted HTC, they would ship a replacement out overnight while I sent my phone in for them to refurbish. Fat chance. HTC told me that I could send them the phone and, if the defect were found to be within their warranty, they would fix it for free in about 2 weeks time. Having rooted the phone to purge Sprint’s horrible bastardization of Android Jelly Bean, I knew that I was out of warranty.
Great. 2 weeks without a phone — totally acceptable for any technology-bound professional, right? False. It was at this point that I decided that I had to leave Sprint: their laughable network coverage is only out-failed by their customer service. But this is only when my nightmare began.
I had accepted that, in leaving Sprint, the $200 I spent on the HTC One was my loss, and at this point I wasn’t even bitter towards Sprint yet. After all, if they can’t afford to put up towers in my area, or if their strategy is to offer lesser service at a value-based price, that’s their prerogative. It suited me well enough for a few years, and while receiving no help on a 30+ day old phone was a slap in the face, I would have been fine if we parted ways at that.
Shortly after porting our lines out to Verizon, I was contacted by a Sprint representative to inform me that I would be charged $450 for an early termination fee. I found this very unfair, considering that I had only purchased a new device, and thus a new contract, to attempt to receive better service — a plan which had backfired. And at this point in time, I was barely a month into this new contract. I hadn’t even been billed for the HTC One yet. Surely there was some grace period with new contracts, or consideration given to customers who move out of the service area.
At first, I was very diplomatic in how I tried dealing with Sprint, and to some extent, they were as well. But as I escalated my case up the chain of command, in search of a human with a conscience, it became very apparent to me how their customer service department operates. In fact, the last two representatives I spoke with were outright condescending, bordering on argumentative. All they were prepared to offer me is Monday-morning-quarterback advice on how I “should have raised the poor service issues earlier,” or how I “should have opted for the additional device insurance on my plan.” And of course, my favorite oft-repeated line was that “There’s nothing I can do about the early termination fee.”
Really, Sprint? Your billing system has reached autonomy and no human can intervene? Or you outsourced Accounts Receivable to Skynet, and the only way we could conceivably reverse your $450 transgression is to send someone back to 1995 to assassinate John Connor?
No. Either of those would actually be really impressive. But the sad, true reason is that Sprint customer service reps are only allowed to be dicks. That job must be absolutely horrible, but I’m sure Dan Hesse doesn’t give a shit about his employees — he clearly doesn’t even give one about his customers.
So after two weeks of stress-inducing conversations with various Sprint employees, bound by their employer to refute reason and ignore their own judgement, I had to concede that Sprint would charge me $450 for jumping ship. $450 atop a $200 failed experiment to receive a service which I was already paying for.
Yup, nearly $900 to Sprint between September and October. So consider this a warning: the “most affordable” major carrier in the market also boasts the worst coverage, and pairs it with despicable customer service. They are a company completely void of discretion and empathy, and they would rather bully their way into your pocket than earn it.
As an aside, I would like to mention how pleasant our experience was joining Verizon. From the free iPhone 4S my wife and I each received, to the exceptional customer service at our local store, to their vastly superior customer website portal, and to the rock-solid coverage we now enjoy throughout Naples, Verizon has mopped the floor with Sprint. There’s really no comparison. We’re now very happy Verizon customers.