Sunday, October 17, 2010

How Sprint lost my business

This weekend, Sprint lost my business.
I have been with the company, in one form or another, for the better part of 10 years. It started back in 1997 when I got my first cellphone from Omnipoint at a little bodego in Jamaica Plain that was run by a Spanish DJ I knew at WUNR where I worked at the time. Omnipoint was later acquired by Nextel, which was later acquired by Sprint.
With the exception of a break for a couple of years in the mid-2000s, when I had Earthlink, I have been with the same company.
During the last seven years, I have had some form of smartphone: First an analog Treo, then a Motorola Q9, which was great, and then three Q9Cs, which were a disaster. Every few months, the buttons stopped illuminating and the battery would start acting strange. After two replacements, I was unable to get any more replacements since the warranty ran out. The last time was two weeks after the warranty ran out. If I'm in the car at night, I can't dial the phone, because the buttons don't illuminate. The other day, the battery, which normally lasts about three days without a charge, just died in the middle of the day.
I don't fault Sprint for this - the product was faulty. But they sold me the faulty product in the first place. They should have at least offered me some kind of inexpensive exchange.
So, I've been waiting until my renewal came up to get something new.
Sprint actually has the least expensive phone service (before they changed their plans). Because I had been with the company for a while, I had an older plan: $59 for two phones, a $15 data plan for one of the phones, and a third phone for $10. Total cost, before taxes, was about $85 [with taxes pushing it up to $100].
However, a couple of months ago, Sprint switched their plans around and when I went to look at getting another smartphone, our bill for the three phones would jump to $150 a month [plus taxes]. I was shocked and thought, This can't be right.
So, I visited the Sprint store and, sure enough, if I wanted to get even a new, simple smartphone, like a Blackberry or something [no more Motorolas, thanks], it was going to double my bill. Plus, I was going to need to pay about $50 to $150 to get into an inexpensive smartphone. I talked to an online salesperson and the gave me the same pitch. I even went to Best Buy and it was the same with them.
Even though my wife wasn't using data on her phone, I had to pay for it on her phone anyway if I wanted data on my new phone. I kept telling them, I only need data for one, why can't you leave my bill where it is? Sorry, this is the way we're doing things now. Great.
None of the other plans offered anything cheaper with three phones either, especially if only one had data. I quickly came to the conclusion that we were going to have to go down to two phones.
I then looked into a pay-as-you-go service and that was pretty reasonable. But, if I wanted all three phones, it was going to get me up over what I was paying, plus $250 for a new Blackberry, and another $100 for two new basic phones. There would be more minutes, but no free ones at night. That didn't work work either. It looked like I was going to be stuck.
I looked at all the reviews of the non-smartphone upgrade options with Sprint and none had a calendar service that I needed and most were geared towards kids texting [can you see me with a pink sparkle phone? No thanks]. Also, the online reviews varied with some folks saying they hated the phones and others saying they were fine. Did I want to risk it?
My wife, who is a Mac person, had been talking about getting an iPhone. Not because she needed it, but because the commercials looked cool and she thought it might be fun to have one. Her sister and brother-in-law have them too and they love them [they have an iPad too, which is pretty cool, BTW].
On a whim, I looked into them at Best Buy and was impressed. They have all kinds of features and apps, are super fast, and colorful. Wow.
I realized that the ATT plan would actually only be a bit more than my original plan [$99 plus tax]. I also got free 18-month financing for the iPhones and 30 percent off accessories [spend some money, help the economy in China, etc.]. And the money I saved not going with Sprint's plan will pay for the iPhones during the next two years, which isn't bad either.
When I got them home, we were both super impressed with them. Not only that, but ATT's service is three to four bars here instead of Sprint's one to two bars. Meaning the signal is better too.
So, I guess, even though I'm spending a bit more money, I owe a big thank you to Sprint for not listening to me, the customer. I have better phones with better signals and all kinds of cool gadgets. Thanks, Sprint!

No comments: