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The iPhone 5 and Sprint Story

Part 1. From the old HTC to the new iPhone5

My son had a birthday this month and I decided to buy an iPhone 5 as a present. He’s been a Spring customer for the last 10 years and was happy with the service. So I went to the closest Sprint store and asked if I can upgrade my son’s phone as a birthday present. The Sprint guy asked me if I know the pin code on the account. I said that I didn’t and wouldn’t be asking my son about it cause it would ruined the surprise. Sorry, nothing can be done about it.

Following my rule that every rejection brings me closer to the goal I decided to call to Sprint’s customer service with he same request. The lady asked me about the pin, and when I said that I didn’t know it she decided to help, “Let’s see if you know the answer to his secret question. What’s his favorite hobby?” This was a no brainier, and I said “Music”. Great, the account security was easily broken and asked if my Son would be eligible for an upgrade. Yes, his current Android phone is 2.5 years old so this can be done. But the service representative mentioned that to get an iPhone5 for $199 I’d need to commit to a 2-year contract with Sprint with early cancellation fees of $350. This is a little to high of a penalty, but my son was already a Sprint customer and had no intentions to leave them anyway. Oh yeah, one more thing. Currently he pays $70 for his phone/data plan, but after switching to a smartphone (as if Android was not) it’ll cost him an extra $10 a month. OK, no problem.

The new iPhone5 arrived at my son’s place one day before his birthday and my wife and I received a happy thank you email from him. Late at night, while exiting the Subway in Brooklyn he was mugged by two Mexicans carrying knives. They grabbed my son’s backpack where his was keeping his new iPhone. This sucks. Big time. But the good news is that my son was not hurt physically other than a small scratch on his face.

Part 2. From the new iPhone5 to an old HTC

Calling to the Sprint customer service didn’t help and it’s hard to blame them for not being to do anything to their loyal customer of 10 years. So what’s the next step? Time to get back to an old Android for another two years waiting until the contract expires and buying iPhone 7. And this became the hardest part to do. While switching to iPhone5 took 5 minutes online, to go back to an old phone required the visit to the Sprint store (it was done in Manhattan). After 50 minutes of the manipulations made by a technician the old phone gained back its ability to make calls, but 3G was not comping up, and all the data (including photographs) where gone from the SD memory card. The technician said let my son go home promising that the phone’s data access will be recovered in a couple of hours. It never happened.
My son tried to call the Sprint customer’s service to remove the extra $10 of monthly fees added while upgrading to iPhone didn’t help.

Last week my son can home for a Thanksgiving weekend, and I suggested that we’d go together to the closest Sprint store to resolve two problems at hand:
1. Fixing the 3G data access
2. Reducing the monthly fees bat to $70 a month.

This line in the closest Sprint store was not that long, and after 15 minute wait representative rebooted the Android phone, but then said that there nothing she could do, and that they din’t have sevice technicians any longer, and we need to go to another store 5 miles away. Fine. But to resolve the billing issues, we’d need to go to yet another head-office store 11 miles from us. She suggested that it’s better go there in person that trying to resolve this issue over the phone.

Twenty minute later we’ve enter the head store. After waiting in line for another 20 minutes we were greeted ny a polite guy. Who rebooted the phone, raised his browses that 3G is not there, and explained that there is no way to reduce the monthly pay to $70 a month because all smartphone plans start at $80. The fact that my son “grandfatherd the $70″ plan is irrelevant and there is no way to get back. Are you still with me?

Before: an old Android with unlimited data and no contract at $70 a month.
Now: an old Android with 2-year contract (for a stolen iPhone) and $80 a month.

Quite an achievement, isn’t it?

Then we drove to a third store where the technician was supposed to fix the 3G. After 45 minutes in line, the customer service representative rebooted the phone. Strange, the 3G is not there. Checked the account tho make sure that there was no any lock on the data access there. Finally he said, that their technician was gone for today and we’d need to leave the phone for tomorrow. After spending 2.5 hours visiting three stores and getting nowhere, we said, “Enough is enough”. So where were we?

Before: an old Android with unlimited data and no contract at $70 a month
Now: an old Android that can only make phone calls with 2-year contract (for a stolen iPhone) and $80 a month.

The Happy End

The morning after, my son has visited the closest Verizon store where they canceled his Sprint service and gave him a new Iphone5 (shown on the left here).

Just now I called Sprint asking to lower the termination fees given the circumstances did not help.
“Could you do anything for a guy who was your loyal customer for 10 years?”
“No Sir. But he was using our services for 10 years, wasn’t he?”

He was, but not any longer. What did Sprint do wrong? Not much. All of their customer service representatives were nice and polite. But they were incompetent. The problems were not resolved.

The lesson learned: if you believe that your new phone may get stolen or lost, buy an insurance that covers such situations. Go into all nitty-gritty details of the insurance policy and study what steps should you take to prove that your phone gets stolen.

No biggies. Life goes on, but without Sprint. No worry, be happy!


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More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a co-founder of two software companies: Farata Systems and SuranceBay. He authored several technical books and lots of articles on software development. Yakov is Java Champion (https://java-champions.java.net). He leads leads Princeton Java Users Group. Two of Yakov's books will go in print this year: "Enterprise Web Development" (O'Reilly) and "Java For Kids" (No Starch Press).