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« Social Networking Globally 6.5 B dollar industry already | Main | Open Letter to Sprint Nextel »

July 11, 2007



This is so sad it's funny. It's very hard to imagine any company would do such braindead things, but apparently anything's possible.

Though the same end result can be achieved in other ways also, like Elisa is trying to do in Finland - screwing up your billing system and then having no one to answer the phones when people complain is a pretty surefire way of getting rid of some customers, too.

And then operators have the audacity to wonder why they're at the bottom of all customers satisfaction surveys!

David Cushman

Sprint Nextel could have saved themselves a lot of time and trouble by cutting to the chase - and sending every customer a letter saying: "We don't care what you think. If that bothers you f**k off now."

Other end of the telescope? If Sprint Nextel regarded itself of part of the community of Sprint Nextel users, what would it have done?

There is an argument that if these particular 1000 customers were having a disruptive and damaging influence on the community as a whole there should be some form of sanction - and ultimately exclusion.

But we're told these are good customers, fully paid up etc. So what if you have an issue with Sprint Nextel? Are you meant to consider carefully whether or not you should share that with them?

"I'm sorry to trouble you, master, but is there any chance you could take your foot off my head?"

It's the best way I can think of to prevent two-way flow. No dialogue. No debate.

No customer relationship = no customers.

More on this on my blog (glad to oblige!)

Brian C

I've never been a fan of the "customer service" of any of the carriers in the US. That said, I actually applaud this move by Sprint. Anyone who's ever run a business knows that "the customer is always right" is really just hot air -- often, almost all the time, the customer is usually wrong. Sprint realized that these customers were a drain on their system, and decided to do something about it. Sprint knew exactly what they were doing, and realized that the bad press and the lost revenue still wouldn't equal the drain of resources by these customers. A good business will always refuse business from time to time -- it makes sense and is good business if the business you are refusing would represent a strain of resources, hurt overall quality of the product, etc. These customers were a drain, and it's good to see a company stepping up to do something about it.

Barbaric? Ridiculous! You are dealing with constant complainers -- throwing them anything would result in more complaining -- best to just toss them without anything. Harsh? maybe, but last I checked the Constitution didn't guarantee that your cellphone carrier needed to be nice to you.

As for high data users -- again, it's a business decision -- and Verizon already did it a year ago --

PJ Brunet

Sprint is the worst company ever, and overpriced. If I needed to call them they put me on hold for hours (I'd leave it on speakerphone) usually I'd get disconnected before they answered my call. The only way I could reach customer service was by calling them late, late at night.

Werner Egipsy Souza

I blame Number Portability!
For years now, people used this as a weapon to show their operator the door.
Now, the operator is doing the same!


Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Sami, David, Brian and PJ

Thanks for writing.

Sami - yes, me too, have had some bewilderingly bad customer service experiences with my operators in Finland and then the UK but nothing even remotely like this. What makes me sad is that many marketing people have been quoted on it - saw one on CNN a moment ago - who deplore this as a new low in customer treatment - and wouldn't it have to be, that we, the mobile telecoms industry - have to bear that historic "achievement". For an industry so despised this is just tossing more fuel to the flames..

David - thanks for blogging about it - great blog by the way, good point I hadn't even noticed before you wrote it, that this is of course dis-engaging the customer. This is in a very literal sense the evil anti-thesis of what our blog tries to teach. We try to get companies to engage. And Sprint Nextel will disengage. No disagreement equals no discussion equals no engagement. How very sad.

Brian - I hear you, its a valid point. And one made by quite many around this topic, that these customers "deserved to go" and thus Sprint Nextel's actions were actually a "healthy" thing for the company as a business enterprise.

Notice Brian, that I already wrote about that in my blog originally. I said companies have a full right to fire customers if they feel there is some reason. And lets agree that these 1,000 customers are actually inherently unrecoverably un-profitable, and should go.

But then - like I wrote - this is the absolute wrong way to do it. They could achieve the same result by totally non-intrusive non-offensive non-arrogant ways. They could simply not give future incentives to them (other customers get newer better prices or discounts or bigger bundles, why? Because they qualify for our "preferred customer" benefits...) which at the anniversary renewal of their contracts - no new handset for free this time - is quite a shock and should kick most of them away. With no backlash, no revolt at all. Some customers qualify for the subsidised customers, our preferred customers do, you, sir, are not a preferred customer. Sorry. No new phone...

These would churn away at the normal cycles of their contract anniversaries.

Or the really easy way - in this hideous letter, make it an offer at the option of the nasty customer. Offer him/her the "freedom" to leave the network with no departure penalty, paying for the transfer to another network. Many of the 1,000 would jump at it. The ones not willing to go, put to Plan A above...

Again, no hostility in the action and no wasted management effort now dealing with angry callers and customers and major investors and press and analysts etc.

What brainiac thought of this, really deserves to be fired, when the gentle totally non-threatening ways were always there to use.

PJ - Thanks. And ha-ha good comment on late nite to reach the customer service, I've done that at some times deliberately when there was particular congestion in my past too, but I don't think I ever did it for telecoms ha-ha..

Thank you all for writing. I'll be monitoring the story and reporting more on it as it develops. The blogosphere is convinced we are witnessing another Kryptonite or Dell Hell and its already called the Sprint Nextel 1000.

Tomi Ahonen :-)


This is great news. Now, if I want to get out of my Sprint contract so that I can get an iPhone, all I have to do is call Sprint twice a day for 3 weeks. After that I am sure to be such a pain in the ass that they will gladly let me leave without paying an early termination fee.

Speaking of Sprint idiocy, the Blackberry data plan is $40 per month. An Power Vision Unlimited Data Plan for the Treo is costing me $10/month. Sure, they are technically the same service but the package has a different name. Can I buy a Blackberry and keep my plan? Nope.


Sorry Tomi, but I've got my own customer service crusade at the moment. Trying to figure out what to do with the bad check I just got from Google Adsense. You want to see an example of bizzare customer service? How does a gazillionaire company like Google send out insufficient funds checks? tsk, tsk

Try this one.

The Sprint story is a good one, but mine is personal. With 1200 of those folks available, some US attorney will sue Sprint for sure. Me? I'm tiny lone publisher, although my holding a bad check from Google is an powerful message about their lack of customer service.


Ah, Tomi, never let the facts get in the way of yet another one of your tiresome anti-American rants. You'll take any excuse to jump off on it, won't you?

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Jackson, mobilejones and flamebait

Thanks for writing.

Jackson, good points, ha-ha, yes this is now the way to get out of Sprint Nextel "jail" and onto an iPhone on AT&T. And yes, bizarre pricing plan. What else is new (I wrote a follow up piece, this story is so much more convoluted and utterly despicable, it makes me cry)

mobilejones - what? The do no evil Google (again? Their definition of do no evil sounds ever more bizarre by the day). That is miserable news. We'll support you of course, I'll blog about it. Google of course should know better. Shame on them.

But hey, thanks for stopping by. I think this story has enough steam in the blogosphere and mainstream press that it might survive without the mobilejones final touch ha-ha... Nice to hear from you. I'll blog about your Google thing.

flamebait (you sound like a regular reader?) - hey, first, are you seriously suggesting to DEFEND this company? Sprint Nextel that finished dead last in customer satisfaction in MSN Money's survey this May, not among telecoms providers, but by all American companies? Do you really mean I am off base on this story?

But then, on the specifics of the story you refer to. That has found no independent support anywhere. The person quoted is anonymous (might it have been you?) and the story now goes against the official position of Sprint Nextel yesterday quoted in the Boston Globe when they explained this matter more fully. No, I think that story you referred to is totally unfounded - obviously unless some proof emerges - and if would have been in Sprint Nextel's interest to tell that story if it had been true, in the statements to Boston Globe yesterday. No, I don't believe it is true those customers were somehow cheating Sprint Nextel's billing system and skimming money.

But flamebait, lets imagine for just a moment that it was true? Sprint Nextel is the worst company in America for customer service. If that was happening, it is a technology error in billing or a marketing error in pricing (or both). Any sane company would fix its error. Sprint Nextel prefers to fire its customers. No, even if that was true - this is totally the wrong way to fix it by Sprint Nextel.

Thanks for writing

Tomi Ahonen :-)


Sweet, glorious specs of the 11.6 millimeter device (that's frickin' thin, by the way) include a 3.5-inch 480 x 320 touchscreen display with multi-touch support and a proximity sensor to turn off the screen when it's close to your face


This is great news. Now, if I want to get out of my Sprint contract so that I can get an iPhone, all I have to do is call Sprint twice a day for 3 weeks. After that I am sure to be such a pain in the ass that they will gladly let me leave without paying an early termination fee.
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D. Johnson

In July of this year (2007) I upgraded my Sprint Nextel phone. I went to Georgia last week and the temps got into the 40’s at night. I left my sprint Nextel phone in my truck with the windows closed. Following that, the phone works, however, the display, although lighting up, will not display anything. No background, contacts, nothing. I took the phone to the Sprint store in University Mall where it was purchased. They said they could see that it was not water damage, and referred me to the Sprint store on Dale Mabry where there was a techinician who could look at the phone. I went to that store, and the first person I spoke with said that the technician would try to repair the phone, and if it could not be repaired, that I could purchase an identical phone for $55.00. She said come back in an hour. I returned and spoke to another person who claims that the phone had water damage, and therefore, I would have to purchase a used phone for approximately $200.00 and that the $55.00 replacement did not apply. I explained that there was not water damage, that the cold weather was responsible. I was basically told that I was a liar. I could pay $200.00 for a used phone or pay $150.00 to end my contract. I was told that since I upgraded in July that I could not pay to upgrade my phone as they only allow one upgrade per year. This is an absolute outrageous rip off and a racket. The phone did not have water damage. Maybe it has damage from the dampness caused by the cold weather, but not water damage. The phones should work in the cold. I plan to turn this over to the Attorney General’s Office for investigation. Sprint Nextel does not care about their customers, particularly the management of the North Dale Mabry office in Tampa, FL.

Phantom customer

Sprint Nextel stock plunges, customers who complain of too high a bill terminated, those who use too much free time billed for time, and so on.
There is a pattern here of malicious deceit to make more money to cover lost revenue. It's called Class Action Lawsuit. Forget loyalty.


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