Sprint tries to rip Ramit off? Oh my

Ramit Sethi

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:


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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  1. Josh Zerin

    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. Ginsberg

    Great post. Man, those people are scammers.

  3. Hazzard

    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?


  4. Will

    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. jim

    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. Flexo

    Good job in dealing with the company.

  7. Jerry Kindall

    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. LC

    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. Elizabeth

    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. Ric


    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!

  11. David

    I share your disgust for cell phone companies, and the way in which they treat their customers. I recently had another bad experience with Verizon, in which they repeatedly informed me “we understand but” which means that they dont understand. With such fierce competition for customers it is amazing and sad that companies focus so much on camera phones and useless features, and not on customer service.

  12. Jay Gatsby

    As an attorney, I usually resort to formal letters addressed to in-house legal counsel at a company, with a CC to both the sales representative involved and the CEO of the company. Miraculously, whatever dispute I’m having with the company is resolved to my satisfaction within a few days.

    It’s very helpful being able to threaten legal action and have the law license to back it up.

  13. Deron

    I actually work for T-Mobile and I can say without a doubt T-Mobile has the best network and absolutly the best customer service. T-Mobile’s coverage area granted is not up there with Cingular or Verizon yet, but when you are in network you will not experience a dropped call or so network failure like cingular has after free nights start when their cell sites get bogged down. If you take a look on the website T-Mobile’s service has blown up in the last year, and honestly it’s not far off from Cingular or Verizon.

    I can tell you this also, just in general for cellular companies, when you call customer care and you are not getting something that you want, simply say thank you and hang up and call back. Chances are you are just dealing with someone who is having a bad day or something. I call customer care probably 15 times a day or more sometimes and sometimes I get someone who isn’t willing to help (rare, but sometimes) even when I work for the dang company. I just hang up and call back and talk to someone else and problem is usually solved.

  14. Emily

    We stopped dealing with Sprint because paying the bill in person cost $5. Yes, if you want to drive down to their office and GIVE THEM MONEY, that costs $5. How about I just don’t pay you at all, Sprint?

  15. Alex

    Probably a dumb question, but how in the world did you negotiate out of a 2 year cell phone contract. Amazing!

    Or do these companies take advantage of the masses -realizing we don’t know any better? And if you want the phone, you have to do the time?


  16. Carl

    I have a Rule of 3s when calling customer service/tech support.

    The first two calls are meant to fend you off. Call back that third time and you’ll get someone helpful. Works almost everywhere.

  17. Andrea

    I have had horrible experiences with sprint sprinkled with a few kind souls. My latest issue is having to call a customer service person because the local shops can not deal with ‘old plans’. translation.. like mine that save me a ton of money over the new ones. I too record my calls and could not figure out why my bill kept going over limits.
    I was using on line billing and did not get a hard copy in the mail (52 pages) monthly. When I requested 6 months of back bills delivered (300plus pages).I was able to identify that our sprint to sprint calls on one of my 5 lines was not free. Of course I also noted that calling sprint to sprint voice mail is a charge item. Back to my origninal issue. I have had no less than 3 almost 55 minute calls with customer service from my home phone (speakerphone so I could do other things while I waited on hold )only to be hung up on or disconnected. who has time to wait that long. So we continue with our old plan for now. The tactic they use if your phone needs replacement is to begin the one year agreement again withe new ‘free’ phone. Another rip off. They also have tried to get me to turn in my dinoasaur spc 4700 sanyo phone because it has booster receiver of some sort that allows me to get GREAT reception when other sprint phones don’t. AND it still works beautifully after 5 years. translation.. I do not need a new flimsy phone each time the seasons change. I feel better for gettng this off my chest. Good luck to all you cell users out there that have to us a phone for service. HA

  18. zanna

    Sprint PCS is the WORST!!! I ended up taking them to the Better Business Bureau because after I moved from FL to TN. They continued to charge me FL tax for over 8 months and was also charging me TN tax.
    I ended up getting a credit for that after dealing with hours on the phone with useless “customer service” representatives. I had one tell me I should have notified them sooner of this charge and that it was pretty much my fault that I hadn’t noticed it on my bill. EXCUSE ME??!?! This was supposed to be a “supervisor”, but I know for a fact from a former rep that they will often transfer the call to one of their friends who will act as a “supervisor” to get you off the phone.

    I’m fighting them now because they are trying to charge me 3 early cancellation fees on 2 lines. I can maybe see 2 fees but 3? I am fighting this all the way considering I get conflicting stories from representatives as to when the contracts were up for these phones.
    Some say they were still in effect to they expired last year. One rep stated that I had no contract on either phone with Sprint. The fight will continue and I will return to the BBB to resolve this if necessary.

  19. Kathy Applebee

    I am unable to get regional contacts to complain about service. I am in Virginia. Can anyone help me?

  20. Angela

    It’s somewhat comforting to know that I am not alone in my
    problems with Sprint PCS! I av-erage 1-2 hours at least every
    other month (sometimes every
    month) on the phone trying to
    resolve some screw-up on their
    part. They undoubtedly have the
    most incompetent customer ser-
    vice reps of any company I have
    ever dealt with! If you ask five
    different reps the same ques-
    tion, you will get five totally diff-
    erent answers, and none of them
    have the authority to do anything
    to correct their own mistakes.
    We would have changed to an-
    other company a long time ago,
    but my husband’s employer re-
    imburses him for the charges
    and it’s the “company of choice”.

  21. doobie

    I had the same thing happen. I called March 5th and asked when my contract was up and when I could switch providers. They told me “It’s up on X, but during the last month we don’t charge an early termination fee, so you can cancel on or after Y”. I canceled on Y and got a $160 charge from them. I called and sat on the phone with someone for ages and finally got them to say they are giving me a refund. We’ll see in a month if the refund happens or not.

  22. HAHA

    Well quite frankly you are a moron. No shit it cancells your contract. Do you honestly think sprint is going to allow you to take THERE number and port it over to another company so you can test it out. Seriously you are the type of customer that the rep gets off the phone and makes fun of for days!

  23. rodo

    you must be a sprint cs rep. (btw, look up the difference between THERE and THEIR – great stuff).

  24. Ted B.

    I had a “lovely” experience with Un-American Express. I had cancelled a card, thinking I would not be using it again, but later I re-activated the account. I had been only 30 days. I received a letter that it had been over 90 days, and the account could not be re-activated. I called them, explained their error, and was told that my account would be reactivated and a new card sent (I had cut the other one). I received the new card, and a month later I discovered that it was not the same account. Now I had two accounts, and $400 on the new account already. I asked them to correctly reactivate the old account, transfer the balance from one Blue card to the other, and close the newer account, which only had a $700 limit. They said that there was no way to transfer the balance! No one from the first person up through the manager could do this. I thought “if this money was incorrectly charged to my account, but should have been on someone else’s account, they certainly would have a way to do it”, and told them this. Bottom line: they never did the transfer, I had to do it “my way”. That was, imo, very poor customer service and now I use a different card entirely, not American Express.

  25. Nikos

    The cellular phone infrastructure in the US sucks. Due to their capitalistic system, they started having cell phones here in the US a long time ago starting with an analog infrastructure. Now that technology has advanced, they are trying to migrate into a digital infrastructure, however the cost of switching from analog to digital is to large for the companies to handdle. So who pays for that price? Us the customers. In europe they never had an analog infrastructure and they went straight into digital. The phones, the receptions and the plans are amazing. I mean here you have to pay extra for everything, where as in Europe everything is included in your plan (3way calling, texting, internet, email etc.) I have Sprint and they suck big time. We recently moved to a new apartment in Boston and I have absolutely NO reception on my phone. I literally have to leave my apartment, walk 2 blocks just so I can get 2 reception bars on my phone. When I called Sprint to complain their answer was “Since we don’t guarantee reception inside buildings, there is not much we can do for you”. Now why don’t the sales reps tell you that when you go to a Sprint store to purchase a phone and a plan? Bad for business right? But it is mentioned in the plan contract. Yes that paperweight thing that no one reads? SPRINT SUCKS AND SO DO ALL THE CELLULAR COMPANIES IN THE US. Unfortunately they have us all by the balls, cause we live in times where everyone needs a cell phone and they need us the customers to pay for their infrastructure switch from analog to digital. By the way if they tell you that everything is digital it’s a LIE. Nothing is 100% digital yet in the US!!!

  26. Tracey Crockett

    My goodness! I thought I was the only person that thought Sprint PCS’ customer service is a joke. I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I have both called to discuss the same situation just to see if we’d get the same response. The scary part is that you can hang up the phone, call back, get a new rep, ask him/her to review your notes from the last call, and they can’t pull up anything. However, as soon as you tell them you spoke with so-and-so they miraculously find it! I’d like to know who the training director is for the customer service team. They’re getting paid way too much money for their results!

  27. Soll Fri

    All fees are stated in the bill. Contracts are renewed automatically when changing a plan. your note taking ability had nothing to do with your fees being waived. As most companies are equal opportunity employers and do not require an iq test upon hiring, no one can fire for stupidity in this free country. therefore many companies hire stupid people and are then stuck with them. The world is full of stupid people, you cannot blame a company for you not knowing the right questions to ask. Buying a car for the first time, do you know what to ask? but are all car dealerships rip off? are all salesmen/women rip offs? it’s just unfortunate that you cannot learn and move on. so bitter to make a web page? Every company seems to rip off someone sooner or later, but then again, if the world were full of smart people, we would all know how to avoid being ripped off wouldn’t we?

  28. doll

    I had a terrible experience with sprint the customer rep told me my contract had expired and that it was there was no cancellation fee. when I changed providers they charged me a cancellation fee. What should I do? any advise? HAs any one else had this experience?

  29. Nicholai Madias

    Sprint will not replace defective phones no matter what they tell you!

    • lorraine drake

      absolutely true they accuse you of breaking them

  30. Chris

    Recently I changed my services from sprint to Verison. Somehow sprint signed me up for an additional 2 yr agreement without my permission or sig. thats one of the many reasons I changed services. Now im being billed a 300$ for cancellation feez. Ive spoke with 3 managers whom all refuse to help me. Other than telling me to email and complain. What should I do to get rid of this fee before my credit becomes ruined more!?!

  31. Chris


  32. Yeli

    SPRINT SUCKS!!!!!!

  33. Laura

    I’ve been with Sprint (begrudgingly) since 2003.
    I have noticed that the more I am with them the more likely they are to do things i need. Like this:

    My phone bill was late and $530. I called and asked them to turn it back on (please) for 2 weeks until I got paid. They did! I nearly died of shock.

    In general I think Sprint sucks. When I first signed up my phone was automatically shut off within 3 days. I had two phones and the guy hadn’t put one of the phones on the plan so each call was .40 per minute. He’d also failed to tell me i had a $200 limit.

    Of course, when one of my phones was stolen (though I thought it was at my Mom’s house) my limit was raised to $1000 without them notifying me.

    The one time I threatened to cancel (in 2005) because they’d been charging me 7pm -9pm for regular minutes instead of free like I’d paid for — they credited my account $300. I had taken good notes and had names, etc.

    Then in 2005 I got a T Mobile account because i started my own company and needed reliability. At this point Sprint was turning off my phone every month on the 28th or 29th even though I received my bill on the 25th and the bill wasn’t even due yet. They said that they pre-billed the following month and that put me over my $200 limit. It took a year to get that to stop happening.

    T-Mobile is much better and has their call centers in America, but they’re towers must not be in my neighborhood because in many places in Southern Cali it doesn’t work. Was a charm in other states — and CANADA all summer.

    This new Sprint call center in some third world country is ridiculous!! I get lost in translation on EVERY call. Some of them have great non-accents and can be tricky with their made up names like Rick, etc.
    Sounds like Dell. I canned Dell and Sprint will be soon to be canned by me as well.

  34. Sprintguy

    maybe if you read the contract , you wont be surprised about the early termination fee. stop trying to weasel your way out of everything and abide by the contract rules… thats life,

  35. emily Davitto

    SAME THING just happened to me! I received a bill a year later after cancelling a line with sprint. Which I remember cancelling it when I knew my contract was up. A YEAR LATER!!

  36. Linda

    Anyone writing a positive comment on here about a cell phone company is either 1) employed by a cell phone company 2) getting paid to write nice things about a cell phone company or 3) just plain stupid!

    I’ve been with several different cell phone companies and even worked for one and I can tell you – they are all rip offs! Unfortunately, we’ve come to rely on their service and must tolerate, to some degree, their rampant greed.

    Tell me this… why can I sign up as a new customer and receive a the same plan with NO contract when I can’t as an already existing customer (for 10 years no less!)? I was shocked to see the “FlexPay” plan on TMobile’s site.
    The “catch” is that you have to pay retail for the phone… ok, so why shouldn’t that work if I already have a phone that I paid retail for?

    Meanwhile, I’m on a plan that costs $99/mo for 2500 min. I’ve been out of contract for a while (intentionally). To switch me to the “Unlimited” plan for the same $99/mo, they want to require me to agree to a new 2 year contract.

  37. lorraine drake

    sprint is the worse co I have dealt with I canceled in 9 days because the phone kept going off they accused me of messing with the battery. I sent the phone back to them they now want money for useage are calling me day and nite now my e-mail with threats to the credit agency I have asked them to leave me alone handi-capped son and lost my hubby with cancer 2 months ago- please tell me how to get them off my back