Sprint to AT&T: Take Our Customers Please

Instinct Won't Kill iPhone With That Attitude

By Published on .

So the Samsung Instinct, the latest -- and judging by early reviews, the greatest -- iPhone clone launched exclusively on Sprint last week. You may not have heard anything about it. I haven't seen much advertising. The knuckleheads at my local Radio Shack said they didn't know if Sprint would deign to send them any. And there's been no media fawning.

Say what you will about political bias in the media, but there's certainly a Mac bias. Next month's release of the newest iPhone will no doubt unleash a wave of slobbering, drooling and jabbering across the media landscape. Grown men will act like little girls at a Hannah Montana concert. They will write about the latest iPhone as if it's the best thing since, well, OMG, like since forever. Totally! And Samsung's Instinct? It might as well be a bond resolution in Opelousas, La., from all the coverage it's getting. Sure, the reviews have been pretty solid, but it's not getting the of media love.

All of that said, I -- a 7-year Sprint customer -- will likely be switching to AT&T and getting an iPhone. And it's all Sprint's fault.

Like many cellphone users, I stay with my plan not out of loyalty but out of laziness. In most of the places I've travelled, Verizon gets better reception. And, obviously, AT&T's got the best new toy on the block with the iPhone. But I've been too lazy to switch.

I figure that, much like cable companies, all cellphone providers are created equal when it comes to screwing you over. I'd considered the iPhone, but anecdotal evidence from friends and family puts AT&T below Sprint in terms of coverage. So when the Instinct was announced I was excited. When I saw that it was available for $129 after discounts and rebates, I was doubly excited.

Then I logged onto my Sprint account with an eye toward buying the damn thing and found out that I've got to wait until September to get the full discounts. If I wanted to buy it now, I'd have to shell out $349. That's some way to treat an existing customer!

So I wrote a note to Sprint.
I'm a long-time Sprint subscriber and I'm currently trying to decide between sticking with Sprint and buying an Instinct or switching to AT&T and buying an iPhone. Considering that new customers are being given the Instinct for $129 after rebates and you're going to charge me $349 (and I don't even know if I'll have the option of bothering with this infernal mail-in rebate) -- and that I can get the new iPhone 3G for $200, I think my choice suddenly becomes clear. Is this how you treat your existing customers? It's unacceptable--but sadly not unbelievable.
Ken Wheaton
Sprint's unsurprising reply?
Dear Mr. Wheaton,

Thank you for contacting Sprint. I am glad to assist you with your query about upgrading your phone.

Samsung Instinct phone is available at a retail price of $ 449.99. As per the records, you are eligible for a handset upgrade rebate of $75.00 and I can offer you an additional rebate of $ 75.00. That will make the effective price of the phone as $299.99.

However, you can avail all the rebates after September 1, 2008 and you will be able to purchase it for $129.99.

Thank you again for contacting Sprint. We appreciate your business.
Obviously, Sprint doesn't appreciate it all that much. Let's forget the fact that I shouldn't even have to bother with these moronic mail-in rebates. The last two times I've gone that route with Sprint, I've ended up waiting anywhere from three to nine months for that rebate. (It's enough to make even the hardened, crusty anti-rebate souls at The Consumerist weep.)

But what Sprint should consider is this: I told you that I was trying to decide between your company/product and another company/product. You're telling me, basically, that I'm screwed until Sept. 1. The new iPhone comes out in July. I'll say this much for your customer service. You made my decision a hell of a lot easier.

I'm not going to launch a jihad or terrorize the company. I'm not going to launch a blog. I'll even take on some of the responsibility. After all, I was the moron who re-upped for a two-year contract back in December of 2006 when I bought a Motorola Razr (aka, the worst phone I've ever owned in my entire life). Cell providers are notorious for hosing us two-year suckers. And, granted, when I call up to cancel my service and tell Sprint where to stick it, the company might offer me the cheaper rate.

And before journalistic watchdogs or the PR people at Sprint give me any lip about seeking fair comment, what I'm trying to do is relate what happens to the average user. The customer service and problem-solving efforts you make when you know you're being written about don't count.

I just find it odd, especially considering what is known about the low expense of keeping old customers compared with that of gaining new ones, that a service provider would do this. If Sprint were smart, it would be rushing the Instinct (at decent rates) into the hands of any subscriber who wanted it so that they would become brand evangelists, talking up the phone AND the service. But what do I know?
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