All Business, Good & Bad

Sometimes, an awful consumer experience. Let's call them out. Okay, mostly. But sometimes awards. Yes? All the accounts are truthful. The names have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike. Email me with your stories and I'll include them.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Sprint/Nextel (yes, ANY cell company) - Bad Policy February 2006

This one deserves a new post, even though we've already got one on the shady cell phone companies. We return to our hero, heading to a Sprint/Nextel Store. Sprint has merged with Nextel, officially as of last year some time.

Here in Winston-Salem, there is only one Sprint store. This causes it to be crowded, even before it opens. I showed up as the doors were being unlocked and there were seven people in front of me. Nuts. Luckily there was only about a 15/20 minute wait.

The issue: My phone screen stopped working. Overnight. No fault of my own. What was once a colorful bastion of information alerting me to who had called and what my friend's numbers were was now an almost-black image, a blur.

About a year ago, my sister-in-law had a problem with her Sprint screen, they replaced it for free, then when it failed again, replaced the phone. I thought: no big deal.

Other policy: Sprint has a 2 year window between when you get a new phone and can get another new phone, at least at their lovely "discount" prices. My two year comes up in October and I am pro-rated $75 as of right now. Doesn't sound too bad.

Apparently, since Nextel and Sprint merged, they did some shifting in the dictionary while they were at it. Most notably in the term "insurance." When I got my phone, insurance was explained as an unfortunate drop, loss, or a semi truck running over the phone. Since the merger, "insurance" is something that covers the maintenance on any phone for any reason. I don't know where the memo was, but I didn't see it.

So because the product is faulty, I get to shell out $55 for the repair. I looked at my other option: a new phone at regular price costs a minimum of $200, minus the $75 (we're at $125), plus $36 activation fee ($161). That's right, even though I've had the service for years and years, I still get nailed with an activation fee. That's also new. So $161 or $55?

Bad Policy, Sprint. You don't get Bad Business because it turned out to be a dirty connector and I was charged nothing for the fix. But that doesn't mean that the practices you have are just.

Lesson? Honestly, with the number of business mergers going on and the number of services we subscribe to lead us down a black hole of neverending small print. Unless we read every bit of every piece of mail, whether we think it's junk or not, we'll still never know all the points and policies of these varied services until we force them to be upfront on all pricing issues. If it affects the consumer or might affect the consumer financially, it should be posted in plain print in a friggin' grid on a piece of paper that we can use to coat the fridge. Only we can make it clear that getting ripped off is not cool.

Advice? Bitch and moan. If something's not fair and you're paying money for it, let the supplier know it. When a war erupts not for better pricing but better service, we've succeeded.

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