Bye Bye Sprint, No Looking Back

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 |  Includes: S, VZ
by: Joel West
My blog posting Monday about switching to Verizon (NYSE:VZ) after 12+ years with Sprint (NYSE:S) — as posted on Seeking Alpha — brought an email Tuesday from someone at Sprint financial PR which said in part:

I saw the post in which you were trying to come up with a workable data plan but felt you didn't need data for all four folks on your account. I reached out to our executive team to see what we can come up with and they would like to talk with you personally to see what we can do that you would find helpful and satisfactory.

Here is an excerpt of my reply:

Your offer briefly put me in a quandary. In response to a previous frustration with Sprint

http://blog.openitstrategies.com/2009/03/commoditization-vs-customer-support.html

a Sprint manager reached out to me. We discussed it, and I realized that I was not comfortable getting special treatment as a member of the press -- which he understood. I went through normal channels, which meant that (like other customers) I got no satisfaction.

I said I’d be glad to talk to someone at Sprint, as long as it was about terms that were available to any other customer. (As a former full-time newspaper reporter and MacWEEK columnist, I’ll take free admission to trade shows but not any special consideration unrelated to what I need to do my research or write my blog.)

When I wrote the post, I was certainly hoping there would be a way to work things out. In addition to sentimental ties to Sprint, my tween might someday get that green Palm Centro she’s been admiring for several years.

Today I got a call from Dre, a Sprint representative, about possibly getting a new Android smartphone such as the Samsung Moment to replace my Treo 700p. For more than a year, the hitch on changing to Android (or Pre or anything else) was Sprint’s requirement to change my $70/month “Fair&Flex Family” plan to a $130/month for the “Everything Data Family” or $190 “Simply Everything Family” plan. (The data-for-anything-but-Palm-OS requirement seems to be the industry norm.)

When I select the Moment on the Sprint website, this is what it tells me:

You may need to change your plan

For this phone to work, you'll need to be on one of the following plans:

  • Simply EverythingSM
  • Simply EverythingSM Family
  • Everything Data
  • Everything Data Family
  • Business Essentials with Messaging and Data
  • Everything Plus™ Data
  • Everything Plus™ Data Family

See Plan Details

Dre noted that a family data plan is not required for some Windows Mobile and BlackBerry smartphones, but is required for any BlackBerry that has Wi-Fi (one of my requirements). In fact, I’d be quite happy to have a Wi-Fi phone without a dataplan, but of course Sprint (like other carriers) doesn’t want to do that.
In the end, we concluded what I found out last summer: upgrading my phone will require an extra two-year $1400 financial commitment that my family is not willing to make. So, no looking back, it’s on to Verizon (VZ).

The conversation wasn’t a total waste. As a representative of Sprint’s Executive of Regulatory Services, Dre was better informed than the shopping mall sales rep. And unlike the other telephone support reps, he was not under the same pressure to clear a case and move on to the next call, allowing us to have a real conversation.

He also made it clear he had my whole customer file in front of him, including the frustrating incident involving replacing a dead Samsung i500 that prompted my earlier blog posting. Clearly, they have good IT systems allowing tracking the complete history of a customer relationship.

But in the end, Sprint has decided to bundle Internet access — a “want” but not a “must” — with text messaging, GPS, TV and other services that I definitely don’t need. For some people, this is a better deal, but not for us. Its bundling also means that my wife’s voice-only phone has to buy these services as well, even though our combined text message total is about 10 messages a year.

This means I’m leaving Sprint about where I’ve been the past two years: their people are polite and well trained, but (perhaps due to their losses) their inflexibility means they can’t or won’t meet my needs. (They’ve also bet big on a 4G technology that is otherwise unused by US cellular carriers).

No hard feelings. I wish CEO Dan Hesse and his team well.

† Asking for the data plan on an Android Moment produces a web page entitled “Some important things to know about Palm webOS phones.” Presumably it’s just web programmer error.