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Sprint tries to rip Ramit off? Oh my

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The cellular phone companies have some of the worst customer service of any company. In fact, in a recent survey, 2 of the 3 worst-rated companies for customer service were cellphone companies. Recently, I got another chance to go head-to-head with Sprint PCS, which surely has the worst of all in my experience. If you want to skip to the point of this story, here it is: Keep records of your phone calls with companies, especially cellphone companies.

Because I moved to a new place with weird reception, I had to switch my phone coverage from Sprint to Cingular, so I transferred my phone number away using number portability. I didn’t cancel my account at Sprint because I wanted to see how good Cingular was, and reserve the option to go back to Sprint if I needed to.

Well, Cingular worked out great, so I called Sprint last week and asked them to cancel my account. They told me it had already been canceled last month (apparently it’s automatically canceled when you transfer your number away). I said great! I don’t have to pay the extra month of service I didn’t use. They agreed and we started wrapping it up.

But then they told me my account had a $160.00 charge. For what, I asked? Wait for it…

“An early cancellation fee.”

Yeah, right. I knew I didn’t have a contract, and I had negotiated out of an early cancellation fee a long time ago. Cellphone companies make a lot of money from trying these shady moves, hoping customers will get frustrated, give up, and just pay.

Unfortunately for them, since Sprint started trying to rip me off 3 years ago, I keep records of every call I have with them. The customer-service rep was very polite, but insisted she couldn’t do anything to erase the charge, even after she read my entire account history.

Really? I’ve heard this tune before, so I pulled out these notes I had taken last year and politely read them aloud to her:

“10/12/04

Spoke to Joseph (x211XX).

I switched from a $35/month plan: 350 mins + 180 bonus recurring minutes…

to a $60 plan: 800 mins + I keep the recurring 180 minutes. Also keep 8pm evening time. Noted that I am in the middle of my billing cycle, so I will be charged for the 2 weeks I’ve used so far, and my new billing cycle ($60/month) will begin tomorrow, on the 13th. No contract, no cancellation fee.”

As soon as I read these notes out loud, I witnessed a miraculous change in her ability to waive the fee. Within 2 minutes, my account was cleared and I was off the phone. Amazing!!!!! Thank you madam!!!

I’m tired of companies taking advantage of people who get too worn down to fight back. Keep records and watch all their BS evaporate next time they try to hustle you.

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38 Comments

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  1. Good for you!

    Sprint used to be my cell phone company. I noticed that they had very friendly customer service.

    It’s just that I had to keep calling customer service so much!!

  2. Great post. Man, those people are scammers.

  3. Arrrggghh. I hate cellular phone companies, credit card companies, and insurance companies.

    At what point did we move from being customers, to victims that can be preyed on with very little ability to fight back?
    Hazzard

    “>http://www.everybodylovesyourmoney.com

  4. Cell phone companies definitely are the worst.

    I have two stories :

    1) My friend switched from Cingular to Verizon because the reception was better. She made sure her 2 year contract ended with Cingular before using the number portability. Verizon did tell us that Cingular would automatically be cancelled and they do the dirty work. One month later, Cingular sent a ~$150 bill for early cancellation. But we called Cingular and they immediately said , “Oops”. And they said ignore the bill. I bet they do this to everyone, and I bet some folks do pay not knowing.

    2) I’ve had a huge problem with Verizon Wireless that finally got resolved this month – They had coded my in-network and nights/weekend calls as peak…so every call was considered peak. I spoke with numerous customer service agents, and spent a few hours trying to resolve a bill. It wasn’t even the money…more the principle (although they did overbill me by $90). Long story short, like Ramit : I kept notes of every call I made to customer service, and I kept notes of when one representative would contradict the other. I had to download my bill into Microsoft Excel and sort my calls and color code it to prove to them that something was wrong with their computer system. Then I had to hand count every call’s minutes and fax them the sheet. So even though they admitted they screwed up, I was still pissed of. I sent a letter to their regional representative, and they called me with a personal apology. I didn’t want this specific problem to happen again to others. Still, they don’t care. I’m only 1 of 47.4 million customers. That’s the problem. These companies know they have the upper hand, and they know we want cell phone service.

  5. I always keep meticulous records of my phone conversations with any company. I have run into a problem where my notes are more detailed than what the CSR entered and so it becomes a lot of “he said, she said” heresay. I think I should record phone call conversations…

  6. Good job in dealing with the company.

  7. Sprint’s the worst for the spurious fees. When I had them, I was recovering from dismal credit and they asked for a whopping $125 deposit just to give me service. Later I canceled the service and switched to T-Mobile, and was assured that I’d be refunded my deposit. Those bastards continued to bill me for monthly service (without sending me a paper bill) until they had used up my deposit! It was no use arguing with them either — wish I’d kept better records.

    T-Mobile, on the other hand, has been a dream. One time they didn’t process my change of auto-billing credit card quickly enough and I got hit with an overlimit fee on my credit card. They credited me for this fee even though it was the bank’s, not theirs. For that, I’ll be a loyal T-Mo customer for a while.

  8. What a timely post. I’m just about to quit Sprint (also for bad reception). For prevention’s sake, I decided to get written confirmation saying that I’m not under contract and I won’t get billed any crazy fees.

  9. You are a god among men. I’m the worst at recording info, this is like setting the bar at cloud level for me.
    But excellent advice.

  10. Ramit,

    I am not shy about giving advice, all of it worth exactly what one pays for it, and this sort of thing always has me telling people to keep some sort of bound notebook by their phone. I use my Franklin/Covey planner for notes during phone calls, and have had to refer back to them on more than one occasion. My youngest sister just has a cheapo spiral notebook by the phone, but it has paid off for her as well.

    Keep up the great work. I enjoy your site!

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