Thursday, July 05, 2007

Sprint PCS Owns Me

I am fortunate enough to serve two genetic masters. Both were on display Tuesday, to the everlasting pleasure of the first of three Sprint PCS customer service clerks I spoke to.

I speak for my entire family when I say that we have hated Sprint PCS almost from the moment we signed our first contract, back in 2000. Seven years of sketchy billing, incompetent customer service, endless unrecorded phone calls followed by mysterious bills, plus their complete inaction in a case of identity theft, which resulted in a very dark spot on our credit, which may still be there, despite their repeated reassurances that the "incident" has been resolved.

So why, you ask, did we put up with Sprint for seven years? At first, because it's just easier to swallow the rage than to get new phone numbers; then, when it became possible to "port" your phone numbers, we were imprisoned by our 2-year servicea agreement. Thanks to Genentech and Verizon, we entered June on the brink of freedom from the nefarious forces at Sprint PCS. All we had to do was untangle ourselves.

Not so fast, former wearer of an impressive Jewfro: despite the apparent ease of switching our phone numbers to Verizon, and despite Sprint's insistance that our 2-year agreement was up, I found myself spending 90 minutes on the phone (landline) with a friendly Sprint "customer care representative" Tuesday, while the Jawa lurked in the background, learning how to use words like "ludicrous," "unacceptable," and "corporate lackey," words I myself learned in 1987, while eavesdropping on an incensed Peter O'Toole whose engagement ring design had been botched by Shreve's.

The problem, according to the woman whose name I never got, thank God, was that, despite what I'd been told the week before, our agreement was not up until July 16, and so I would have to pay $150 per phone number and, oops! I'd already transferred those numbers, so I guess I owed $300. We still had one line with Sprint (Sandra Bullock's old line, now erased through Genentech largesse), would we like to transfer that one, too? If we wait until July 16, it won't cost $150, but we will ahve to pay for another month of service.

And that earlier call I'd made to Sprint PCS? Never happened.

Somewhere in Arizona, my mother's ears perked up: it was time to fight the power.

Imagine the frustration. Also imagine the freedom. Given that there was essentially no way to avoid being screwed by a company that had screwed me over time and time again, I was free to abuse this woman any way I saw fit. I could shout, use words she'd never understand, say things like, "LET ME FINISH SPEAKING!" and frankly, at the cost of $300 plus a month of Sprint that we'd never use, she owed me at least the chance to vent.

But I went too far, and I don't mean when I told her that I'd just done a Google search on "Sprint sucks" and got 1,800,000 hits. When she kept insisting that I had not called the week before, and that maybe I was the kind of person who'd jump the gun and cancel three phone lines at a cost of $450 less than a month before they were set to expire, I decided that what I needed was for her, this heartless, mindless Sprint PCS she-devil capable only of mimicking the corporate line, to admit that maybe Sprint PCS had screwed up.

If she'd done that, I would have gone away. But she wouldn't. And so it went on and on ... and then she hung up on me.

I wonder if the Jawa could see how close I was to a coronary. Could my mother, now undoubtedly attuned to this disruption in the force, feel the angry, solid mass settling into my stomach. Did she pause while working in the glass lab, and shake her fist toward the heavens? Hung up on by your former wireless provider! The irony!

The Jawa quickly ran into his room, emerging with a note. On it he'd written "Dear Sprint, you suck. We are not paying. You are freaking crap."

My thoughts exactly, but probably more likely evidence that I'd unwittingly commmitted a parenting faux pas during my outrage. Shoot.

Not to late to turn it into a learning opportunity, so I explained to him that there was essentially nothing we could do, and that I was yelling for two reasons. First, because they owed it to me, and second, because as my mother's son, I will NOT be bullied and I will tilt at all the freaking windmills I see fit to tilt at.

"If I was grown up, I'd sue them," explained my litigious son.

"Well, the problem is that they have no record of me calling earlier, and they're a huge monolithic corporation who can destroy my credit. I have to pay them. What I can do is write a letter to the company, to the Better Business Bureau, write in my blog, but honestly, they don't really care. I can't hurt them. They can only hurt me."

In other words, kid, your father, like most, is a paper tiger.

By the time we reached his OT appointment ($100 a week so he can make a rubber band ball to strengthen his fingers and thus ultimately improve his handwriting), I was taking directions from the other half of my genetic soup. I called Sprint back, this time speaking slowly and calmly, like a very reasonable man who has been treated poorly but understands that we need to work together to resolve this problem.

This time, somewhere under the hot Arizona sun, a man in a Reyn Spooner shirt stirred.

"Look," I said, "I understand that you probably don't have to do anything. But the right thing to do would be to waive those charges." I paused, as a reasonable man would do. "It's just the right thing to do," I repeated.

Amazingly, the rep put me on hold for 10 minutes, not 75. And every 3 minutes she broke back in to see if I was doing alright.

Then Melissa, her supervisor, came on and explained that, even though it is in the contract that I would need to pay $150 for each disconnected line, it was wrong of Sprint PCS to not remind me of this. They can waive one of the charges, but not both. Would that be okay?

"That would make me happy," I said. Meanwhile, in Arizona, Dad made his bio-feedback face, which is designed to demonstrate that the person wearing it is calm, in control, and completely unflappable.

After I hung up, I thought about the game Sprint PCS had just played at my expense. For instance, how come Melissa had a record of my June 25 call, but the unnamed she-devil did not? And how come Melissa had clearance to erase one of my charges but not both? What difference did it make? Basically, Sprint had gotten rid of me with as little impact on their end as possible. The she-devil got to hang up on me, and since I couldn't remember her name, she wasn't called out on the carpet for it. They'd already lost me as a customer, and they're getting one more month out of me. Where I woke up Tuesday thinking I owed Sprint nothing, in the end they got an extra $250 out of me.

$250 which I'm sure is needed so much more by Sprint PCS than it is by me. Good job, Melissa and she-devil!

Which leaves me where? Nowhere. Like I told my Jawa, there is nothing I can do, short of spending alot of time and money and at best ending up a human interest story that fills up the last 2 minutes of the evening news. Whoopee. Sprint never cared about me, no more than Verizon now does. Melissa ended our call by saying, "We're sorry to lose a valued customer like you," and I'd hung up before I thought to even say, "Yeah, well I never felt valued."

It's a pretty lousy lesson to learn, re-learn and/or be reminded of. The only good part was enjoying the full effects of both parents as they channeled themselves through me. To my mom, thanks for the awareness to take on a behemoth like Sprint and fight it to the end, never once thinking (until the she-devil hung up on me) that my valient battle would end in total defeat.

To Dad, thanks for giving me the awareness, once I learned that I would not win the battle, to switch gears and lay on the charm. In this case, of course, the charm was a completely hollow and false manipulation on my part -- and exactly what they deserved.

Good to have both options.

Oh, and a plague on Sprint PCS. May your nationwide network crumble like a hunk of bleu cheese left out in the sun while we all dance on your grave, you bloodsuckers.


Anonymous anotherlefty said...

maybe you should incessently complain and then they'll drop you. Do you have to pay then?

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