Oddly enough, one of the folks I was dealing with was as mystified as me as to why the company does the things it does. Let me rephrase that. Both of us understand the bottom-line financial reasons Sprint and all such companies use mail-in rebates, stick to contracts that righteously upset loyal customers and use those customers to subsidize new customers. But on a customer-service level, we were both at a loss. Granted, this commiseration might be some PR jujitsu -- "Just agree with him that the company does borderline imbecilic things, and he'll come around" -- but it goes a long way toward soothing an irate consumer. It shows the consumer is being listened to. Of course it helped that they didn't pull out the big guns and point out that I was in contract and as such would have to fork over a couple of limbs to escape to AT&T. (As it is, the potential prospect of spotty coverage and more tepid customer service at the other carrier also had a hand in keeping me on the farm.)
Ultimately, I got the phone I'd wanted at the price I wanted. And ended up getting a voice/data package cheaper than what I'd intended to get.
And that's the one thing I have always liked about Sprint: Told me the plan I was willing to pay for was much more than I needed. In essence, the company (even in times past, before it knew I was a journo) listened to me say something like, "Well, I was thinking of upgrading to the Gajillion-Minute-Tons-o-Data-All-You-Can-Eat" plan, and responded with, "You'll be wasting your money." That's a smart move.
Of course, the smart move from the start would have been to have some sort of loyalty program for longtime users so that they could get the same goodies as new customers. The smarter move, as I said in the previous post, would have been to turn those longtime users into brand ambassadors, rather than consumers who see their contract as some sort of minimum-security prison.
The fact remains that I had to make a nuisance of myself and drag the company's name outside and slap it around to get some attention. And others have had to schmooze with a Sprint Store manager (which I assume doesn't always work). And still others will go barking up a call tree, shouting at lower-level call-center operators to transfer them to a manager. It shouldn't have to be that way.