A number of readers have e-mailed me about Sprint Nextel canceling troops’ cell phone accounts because of “excessive roaming.” A commenter at the Sprint Users forum first blew the whistle:
I have been a Sprint customer for over 5 years now. Just shortly after my unit returned from Iraq, we rec[ei]ved notification that we would be redeployed to West Point to train cadets over the summer. With almost 1/3 of the unit being Sprint customers, almost 200 soldiers, one of the first things we did was get online and consult Sprints coverage map to ensure that we would have service once we arrived. We where relieved to see that we would in fact have service and did not take any preventive measures in making sure that we would be able to maintain a reliable means of communication to our families back home. The area we would be staying in was actually cat[e]gorized as having “best” coverage.
After we a[r]rived however, we [were] disgruntled to find that the service was not “best”, there was no service at all. A few of us that used Sprint[‘]s free roaming feature informed others of this service Sprint offered, and many called and enrolled. Even with roaming, calls are sketchy at best, and very unreliable, but we [were] satisfied to at least be able to call home for a few minutes an evening and let our families know that we where well.
And now comes the kicker. Many of us Sprint customers rec[ei]ved a letter at the begi[n]ning of this month declaring that our Sprint account will be cancelled on July 30th due to the amount of roaming we are doing. The letter stated that they believe that another carrier will be able to serve us better and that we are recieving the boot. Keep in mind, we are not here permanently, or by choice. This is a two month obligation that we had to fulfil[l], and because of it, Sprint is telling us goodbye. We will be returning to our home station, where we have clear Sprint service, FIFTEEN days after the cancellation of our accounts. I personally know at least 10 soldiers that called and explained this situation to Sprint and was told everything was fine.
Because we recently came back from a deployment to Iraq, many Sprint users bought new phones in order to catch up the updates in technology that we missed out on over the 12 months we spent out of country. As we all know, Sprint phones are not interchang[e]able with other carriers, and these are basically going to be very expensive paper weights for many members of the unit. I broke my phone on a training exercise, and did not have insurance on it, so I called to order a new phone. Sprint sold me a new phone at full price THE DAY that thier cancellation notice was mailed to me. When I ordered the new phone, I agian asked the sales rep about the free roaming, and explained my current situation, and was told that everything was fine, and asked for my credit card information.
This is the icing on the top as far as Sprint Customer Service goes. Why on earth I can[‘]t get coverage at the United States Military Academy, 40 minutes away from New York City is a mystery to me. I had a cell phone the entire time I was in Iraq with a middle eastern company. I payed LESS to call home and keep in touch from the other side of the world than I do now with Sprint to call within the country. It also did not matter if I was in a major city or out in the middle of nowhere in the desert, I ALWAYS had full coverage. Never had a dropped call, and the customer reps of that company spoke better English than those with Sprint do.
This is just step one, next I will be contacting every news agency I can get a hold [of], with the support of 200 to be canceled soldiers, and then my Senator.
ZDNet picked up on the story here.
I called James Fisher at Sprint corporate communications this morning. He wanted me to share this statement:
Sprint Nextel will not discontinue service for active duty military customers because of excessive roaming. As part of a general enforcement of the roaming policies that all customers agree to under our terms and conditions, we have contacted some customers about violation of those policies, due to excessive roaming. We understand that military customers may have unique circumstances regarding roaming, and we will not discontinue service for those customers. Any military customer contacted by us regarding excessive roaming simply needs to contact us to confirm their military status to have the roaming issue waived and to ensure continued service, and we apologize for any inconvenience.
Sprint Nextel is proud to be a strong supporter of our employees and customers who serve in the military and particularly honored to have been named by G I Jobs Magazine for the past five years as one of the “Top 25 Most Military-Friendly Employers.” For our military customers Sprint Nextel provides assistance to military personnel who are sent overseas into active duty. Instead of having to disconnect their wireless service due to deployment, military personnel are able to temporarily suspend their account for 24 months and keep their phone number at no charge.
Looks to me like Sprint screwed up, but responded quickly to Internet-fueled customer pressure. Let’s hope they keep good on their promises to military customers. If you are one of the affected customers, keep us updated.
Related: Sprint is not having a good week…
“Find another carrier!”
That’s the message Sprint Nextel Corp. sent to more than 1,000 customers in a bid to weed out habitual complainers who clog up customer service lines.
Consumer advocacy groups are calling it a case of David versus Goliath, while others say it’s a smart move to wipe out customers who cost the carrier more than they’re worth.
Sprint Nextel — the nation’s third largest cell phone provider — has decided to literally hang up on the 1,000 customers or so it deemed habitual complainers by canceling their accounts.
Sprint broke the news in a letter, telling these now-former customers that “the number of inquiries you have made to us during this time has led us to determine that we are unable to meet your current wireless needs & after careful consideration, the decision has been made to terminate your wireless service.”
Michael Tereul was one of the Sprint customers who received the Dear John letter.
“Customers service is there in the first place to help customers with issues,” Tereul said. “If we can’t call customer service, what do we do?”
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