Sprint: A Portrait of a Dysfunctional Company

I’ve been trying become a Sprint customer for almost a week.

I want to order two 4G Motorola modems for a redundant Internet connection at work.

I call the Sprint phone number to determine price, terms of service and what their refund policy is.

The telephone sales representative sounds like he’s communicating through a CB radio from Southern India. He gets pushy and wants me to sign up right then and there, but I say no thanks, I’ll try to go into the store and do it. That was my first mistake. There must be a Sprint store near where I work, and indeed, I find one on Google Maps. I call the phone number and listen to a beep-beep-beep-boop-this-number-has-been-disconnected message. I try Google maps to find the phone number on the side of the awning, call that number, no one picks up.

I locate another Sprint store, in the West village, and call them to ask if they have the modems in stock. Nope. Do they get them in often? Nope. Do they know of any other stores that might carry them? Nope. Is it something that stores even carry? Not really, the woman on the phone has never seen them stock and is pretty sure I have to order them online. I begin to order the modem online and get a Request Timeout error that looks like its from a default Apache configuration. This does not inspire a lot of confidence.


Finally get to the end of the online order form and am told that there is a problem with my account — my identity and credit needs to be verified further, and an email is sent to the same effect, encouraging me to call a phone number for more information. I call said phone number only to be told my information isn’t in the system, and that Sprint can’t help me yet. I need to wait between 24 and 48 hours to call back to verify my information. OK. I call back in the next couple of hours and try to get to the bottom of what they need from me: a copy of a utility bill with our information faxed into a number with a cover sheet with my email, an Application Number (not order number) in order to verify my identity.

I send the fax and wait.

The next day, with no confirmation or indication that they’ve been able to verify my identity, I call back and ask what the status of my order is. I wait on hold.


That is strange, Sprint says, they can’t find any evidence of my fax being sent in.

It turns out the representative that handled my previous call didn’t make a “note” of the impending fax so therefore no one thought to look for it.

Where did my fax go? Sprint isn’t sure, they can’t say because my order didn’t have a note in it saying that a fax was coming. So I just sent my utility bill to your fax machine and now no one knows what happened to it? Yes, that appears to be the case.

I’m going to have to send the fax in again, but this time they’ll make a note of it and be sure that it will be associated with my order. Will I get any confirmation that they’ve received my fax? Can I check? No, a credit department representative will be in contact with me within 24-48 hours to tell me whether I have enough credit to order the modems. How? They’ll either call or email.

Two days later an email arrives from Sprint’s Business Credit department saying that a line has been approved for me and that I am eligible for up to 5 devices and a $150 deposit per device and so on. I reply: OK does that mean my order can go through? No, the Business Credit department informs me that they do not handle orders. What should I do now? I have to call one of another dozen Sprint phone numbers (if anyone needs a company directory, let me know, I got ’em all).

I get back on the phone with Sprint with someone who sounds more competent than the rest of the people I’ve been dealing with. She shows a modicum of empathy. “I’m just trying to give your company money. I want to be a customer and you’re making this very difficult for me.” “Yes, I understand” she says and starts dealing with the credit department.

Hold music and an advertisement from Sprint warning of the dangers of App Stores and espousing their company’s “personalization” taunts me. They play it over and over again and again and I try to remember to beg the representatives to just put me on silent hold so I won’t have to listen to this. But every time I forget and start to understand the potential of repetitive auditory stimula for inducing psychosis.

Finally the woman comes back on to tell me that we’ll have to cancel the old order and try again. Does that mean I have to give you all the information I gave the website over the phone? No. But what she really means is yes. Yes, that is exactly what I’m going to have to do: as she goes through the list of information I recognize every question as a field from Sprint’s online checkout form. My own name and business address cease being meaningful concepts as I mumble them drearily into the phone.

More hold.

She’s back: ok we’re almost there. We need to charge the credit card. Get the credit card.

Getting the credit card. After an hour on hold, I can hear the excitement in both of our voices.

Whose credit card is this? Its the company card. Who is that?

Can I speak to the card holder please? No, he’s our CEO and is very busy right now.

The only way we can charge that card is if I speak to the cardholder.

I hand my boss the phone and he says yes and gets asked what he just agreed to.

Back on the phone with woman, ready to charge the card for the deposit plus first month of the modems. So very close.

The credit card was denied. My boss gets a phone call, its American Express verifying the charges. He spends 10 minutes on the phone with Amex trying to navigate their voice prompts to allow Sprint to charge our card.

Finally the modems are charged, and I get sent a confirmation email from Sprint for the new order.


Back at work, Monday morning, check the status of the account: Your order has been canceled. Please call Sprint for more details.

I get passed from one person to another, and signing off, the first person says to me: for more information on your order, you can check sprint.com/myorder. I tell him that the reason I’m calling is that that page told me to call this number. He repeats himself and hangs up.

After half an hour on the phone, having talked to 4 different people, and at least one manager, I’m told that Sprint cannot verify my identity and they are incapable of fulfilling my order (or any order) over the phone. This concept no longer makes any sense to me, but I’m defeated at this point.


Is there any possible way I can order these modems? Yes, I’m told, I can go to a store and order them.

What? Your stores don’t carry the modems. The stores told me to order them from the web.

Let me find you a store sir.

My apologies, sir, but our store locator is broken.

So I can’t order two modems from you– I can’t become your customer because your store locator is broken?

Maybe there’s a store outside of the city you can go to.

I have to leave NYC to order a modem from your company?

Our store locator isn’t working.

Do you have any idea when it will work?

No, they haven’t given us a time frame when it will work.

So not only can’t I order from your website, but I can’t even determine which stores I could go to?

I’m sorry sir.

They ask me for a new zip code and I give it to them. 10 minutes of hold later, I’m given 3 different stores with 3 different phone numbers. I call the first store.

Do you carry the modems?

No, you can only get them on the website because they’re for home use.

Sprint told me that I could get a store like yours to verify my identity and then I could order the modems over the web. Does that make sense to you?

Yes, that makes sense, but we can’t actually do that because we’re not actually a Sprint store.

So I was just told to call a store that Sprint thinks is a Sprint store but isn’t actually a Sprint store?

You’ll have to go to the main Sprint store to verify your identity. The one on 23rd.

Sell your Sprint Stock

Here’s a graph comparing AT&T (blue) and Verizon’s (red) stock with Sprint’s (green):

It is no mystery that Sprint is not doing well, and many people believe they are on the verge of bankruptcy. With sales (not customer) service like this, that’s not surprising. It shouldn’t be this hard to become a customer of anyone’s business.

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Avery James Brooks and Dan Lewis. Dan Lewis said: So, @mecredis tries to become a Sprint customer. This is what happens. Oy. http://bit.ly/dSj7WM […]

  2. You should seriously consider submitting this story to Consumerist. They’d eat it up and maybe you’d get the help you need. Lots of customer service horror stories get solved by the company when it sees they’ve wound up on Consumerist.

  3. Sprint is soooo dysfunctional they do not even give the employees information that will lead somewhere other than a dead end. Their main job is to keep you hopeing that it will get better until the trial period ends and then you have a whole other set of run a rounds. Try their buy back program which has 4 programs none are functional. This is the WORSE cell company ever. Do not try them and if you do do not buy it will be worked out in 3 months it never gets worked out and only gets wore. And as for their buy back try ebay you will get more back with less far less hassel.

  4. I work outside in a park. We have Sprint phones with push to talk so we can communicate at work. Out of our entire staff, there are only two people whose phones actually work. We’ve gotten new phones twice in the past year, each time with promises that the new ones will work perfectly. Every time we’ve gotten the new phones, we charge them up and, standing next to each other, we try to use the phones. No dice.

    Here’s my theory: the Sprint people you’re calling used their own phones to come up with their phone tree and business systems.

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