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Nightmare with Sprint
In this company, nobody really cares whether or not I am a satisfied customer

By Elliott Parivar
June 12, 2002
The Iranian

I have been a happy MCI customer for over 15 years. Recently, I received a telemarketing call from Sprint, persuading me to switch my long distance company to theirs because supposedly they had better rates, including 8000 frequent flier miles. This was only the beginning of a nightmare that I am about to describe.

I wish I had not ever answered that call or been fooled by an ignoramus who first misinformed me, then put me on the wrong plan, and finally left me in the lurch with a long distance company whose motto should be "customer abuse and aggravation."

My wife is a Russian immigrant who makes frequent phone calls to Russia. While I was being switched to Sprint and exchanging information, I specifically asked this telemarketer about their rates to Russia. I was told the rates were 31 cents a minute on this particular plan. You can just imagine my shock when approximately 3 weeks later I received a long distance bill from Sprint for the amount of $499.39!

Looking closely at the breakdown of calls, I came to the realization that they had charged me $5.19 per minute for all Russia calls, instead of the 31 cents per minute that they had originally quoted me! Multiply that number by 75 minutes that my wife had spent on the phone talking to her folks, this came to $389.25, plus another $100 in taxes and surcharges.

I picked up the phone and called their customer service. This was only the beginning of a series of phone calls to Sprint customer service, where I spent 30-45 minutes on hold everyday and another few minutes trying to get them to adjust my bill to the rate that I was quoted in the first place.

Obviously, they had me on the wrong plan. They apologized for their mistake and switched me to the right plan with the 31-cents-per-minute rate. You would think that my troubles are over by now. Not with Sprint, they weren't!

I called them again to make sure that they had recalculated my first bill to the 31-cent rate, instead of their "intergalactic" rate of $5.19 per minute. I mean, would anyone in his right mind pay that rate calling anywhere in the world? Needless to say, I only got the runaround, and all my pleas were falling on deaf ears. I can honestly say that during a 2-week period, I spent a total of 8 hours on hold and probably 12 hours on the phone all together, trying to get them to adjust my bill.

I was disconnected twice during my daily calls to their customer service and hung up on once. Finally, I reached the man I was trying to reach for several days: the supervisor in charge of this whole mess. This man boldly told me that he had done me a favor and that he had given me a 30% discount on the bill and that my bill was now adjusted to $308.96. I was flabbergasted at this statement!

I mentioned to him that according to my calculations, the total amount for all those Russia calls were only $23.25 (that's 75 minutes times 31 cents per minute), and that even with his kindness and generosity, it was still not justified and beyond my budget, especially since they were the ones who put me on the wrong plan in the first place.

I must add, this man was extremely rude to me, told me that I had no right to demand this rate, and that I would have to pay the full amount on this adjusted rate. I told him that I never agreed to this rate and that I wasn't going to pay the bill unless they adjusted the bill to the rate I was quoted in the first place. He then abruptly hung up on me and that was the last time I spoke on the phone to any Sprint representative.

Next, I wrote a detailed letter to an address on my bill, a post office box in Texas, with a copy of my original bill, explaining what I had gone through. This letter was addressed to just "a supervisor." Approximately three weeks later, I received a form letter (no name or signature of a human being on the bottom) in response to mine.

In their letter they had "regretted the difficulties I had experienced in my conversation with their representatives" and that "they had forwarded my concerns to the appropriate management." They then went on saying that "they regretted that they were unable to resolve my concerns to my satisfaction." And "according to their records, a dispute was entered in the amount of $184.27 and was approved, and that they were unable to approve my request for other credit."

It is worth mentioning how else I was misinformed by the saleswoman who enticed me to switch to Sprint. I told her that with MCI, I had been receiving American Airlines frequent flier miles. She first told me that they weren't affiliated with AA and that they were partners with Norwest Airlines.

I told her that I didn't want Northwest miles since I hardly ever flew Northwest. She then checked with another person and came back on line to tell me that they were also affiliated with AA and she even took down my AA frequent flier number. It was only later when I found out that I had been lied to just to get me to switch! One Sprint representative told me during one of our many conversations that the saleswoman probably mistook it for the American Express card, with which they are also affiliated! How idiotic can one be!

It has now been over three months since this whole mess started. Sprint has not relented and neither have I. I know some day I will be receiving phone calls from collection agencies and attorneys, and this would probably affect my credit rating. But, I am a man of principles and would not budge unless and until they take care of the mistake they made in the first place to which they have admitted.

I figured, by writing this letter, if I could keep just one more person from falling into the same trap that I did, it would be worth my time. In the meantime, the bill is up in the air. I know that eventually, justice will prevail and that this issue will be resolved to my satisfaction, but here's my question: Why would a large corporation like Sprint would want to bilk an ordinary customer like me for more money?

I know if this had happened with MCI, they would have immediately adjusted the entire bill, not to mention their average wait time on hold, which is about 3 minutes, not 45! I sincerely believe that this whole mess is caused by bad management. In this company, nobody really cares whether or not I am a satisfied customer.

The problem arises from the upper echelon of the corporate hierarchy where managers and supervisors just get their salaries and move up the corporate ladder without being questioned or evaluated. Only if they had done the right thing after they realized that they had made a mistake and adjusted my bill to what they had originally quoted me, they could have kept me as a customer for probably another ten years and made thousands of dollars in profit from just me alone.

I am back to MCI and I will never switch again. At least with them, customer satisfaction has a meaning. As a consumer I feel like I have been run over by a steamroller throughout this ordeal, but my spirit has remained unscathed. However, I have learned a valuable lesson and I am planning to share it with the media, hoping to keep others from falling into the same trap I did and to spare others all the headache and anguish that I have had. I am now corresponding with some government agencies (such as FCC, among others) trying to get them involved in this situation.

Folks, please don't ever switch to or deal with Sprint. It is the worst phone company on the face of the Earth. You will be glad that you didn't!

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