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Sometimes you have to vote with your feet…

June 15, 2017, 9:18 PM

Sometimes, the fact that the telecommunications market is extremely cutthroat has its advantages from a customer standpoint.  It means that there is no room for loyalty, and also that the big players are more than happy to poach customers from each other.  It also means that if I’m no longer happy with my service, I can bounce at a moment’s notice to someone else who will make me satisfied with their service.

I’ve done that twice in the last five years.  Back in late 2013, I finally took Candice Bergen’s advice and switched to Sprint, replacing Verizon as my cell phone carrier.  The reason for switching at that time was related to my unlimited data plan.  I had an unlimited data plan with Verizon when I got my first smartphone back in early 2010, and kept it with my second smartphone in late 2011.  However, about a year after I got my second smartphone, Verizon announced that they were doing away with unlimited data plans, and that while people on existing unlimited plans were grandfathered in, they could not upgrade to a new phone at the subsidized rate and still keep their unlimited data plans.  In other words, if you wanted to keep your unlimited plan, you had to pay full retail for your device.  I considered that to be unacceptable, so I did my research, and settled on Sprint.  They offered unlimited data plans, and had all of the other features that I was looking for.  So I switched.  Other than a very slight loss of voice quality (Verizon had clearer sound by a hair), I continued to be pleased with Sprint two years later when I upgraded to a new phone, and also when I adjusted my plan a few months ago to a cheaper one that had everything that I already had, plus 10 GB of hotspot service.

Now fast forward to about a week or so ago.  The USB charging port on my Galaxy Note 5 stopped working.  Not good.  That meant that the only way that I could charge my phone was via the wireless charger.  Clearly, this was not a sustainable proposition, since I couldn’t use a wireless charger in a lot of places that I typically charged my phone, like in the car or in a bag.  Plus if I took any photos with my phone, I had to transfer them via the cloud.  I couldn’t just plug in and transfer stuff directly.

So I made an appointment at a Sprint store for technical support at my earliest opportunity.  According to Sprint’s website, appointment holders got priority processing for support, and the appointments typically took around fifteen minutes.  Good.  I could deal with that.

When it comes to cell companies’ retail locations, I will only go to corporate stores.  I absolutely will not go to franchised locations.  I’ve found that I tend to get better service at corporate locations, because they represent the company directly, and thus stand to lose more if you switch carriers.  My experience with franchised locations is that they’re only interested in making a quick buck by selling you phones and accessories, and they don’t care if you’re satisfied or not, as long as they’ve gotten their money.  I had a very bad experience with an AT&T authorized retailer last year relating to a screen protector on Elyse’s phone that reinforced my no-franchises rule.  They did a poor job installing the screen protector, to the point that dust got under it.  We came back within an hour to get it fixed, and after several more sloppy attempts, they basically told us to get lost.  All that said, franchised locations are bad news, so I avoid them like the plague, because they’re not the company that they have on their sign, and are more interested in a quick sale than repeat business.

So I arrived at the Sprint store on Quince Orchard Road in Gaithersburg about ten minutes before my appointment time.  When I got in, the first thing that I looked for was a kiosk or something on which to check in, so that the store knew that I was there.  Not finding anywhere to check in, I went over to the counter, where I attempted to catch an employee’s eye to let them know that I was there for an appointment.  The employee whom I was able to get the attention of gave me the dirtiest look that you could imagine, and told me, “There’s only two of us.”  Not, “gimme one moment and I’ll be right over”, or something else along those lines.  Clearly, my presence with an appointment was a bother.  He later came over to me with a tablet and checked me in, still keeping up the attitude that said without saying it that I was inconveniencing him.  I’m sorry that I’m making you do all of your job functions.  But at least I was checked in.  Good.  They knew that I was there, and so I would get seen.

Then they called me up for my appointment.  When I started to explain what was wrong with my phone, they were quick to cut me off and inform me that they only had one technician, and that his queue was first come, first serve, and it would take hours for them to look at my phone because of all of the other phones ahead of mine, including phones from the night before.  Therefore, I would have to leave my phone with them, and come back in a few hours to check on the status of my phone.  Clearly, that wouldn’t work, because I had to go to work later that day.  So I told the person at the store that I would have to come back another day, because I didn’t have that sort of time on this particular day.  In the end, I wasted an hour or so out of my day to be told that the information on the website was essentially meaningless, and that I would be at the back of a very long queue for service.  So thanks for nothing.

Needless to say, I was annoyed about the service that I received from Sprint.  And since this happened at a corporate store, this reflected directly on Sprint itself, and not on some third party retailer.  Sprint itself allowed this, i.e. Sprint management didn’t schedule enough Sprint employees to handle the customer load, and Sprint management also instructed someone to disregard the promises that the website made.  And someone made these employees think that it was somehow acceptable to make excuses for Sprint’s inability to run a Sprint store.

And the thing is, if I had been told going into this that there were no appointments and that support was on a first come, first serve basis, I would have been fine with it, because I could have planned accordingly.  I would have allotted more time for the entire ordeal, likely on a day when I didn’t have to also go to work.

So that was the end of Sprint, as far as I was concerned.  I’m not going to do the “I want to speak to a manager” thing, because that rarely gets me anywhere, instead just hearing the same lame excuses from the next level up.  I will just leave and not come back.  Sprint came off as unwilling to provide repair service when I needed it, and so I did what I had to do in order to get what I needed.  Sprint did not earn my continued business, so I started looking elsewhere.  Other than the unlimited data thing in 2013, I never had a problem with Verizon, and was sad to leave them.  Now, Verizon offered unlimited talk, text, and data, plus unlimited hotspot connectivity.  I know that they throttle you after a certain amount, but history has shown that I have never reached that level.  So all in all, works for me.  They also offered incentives to switch, including paying my early termination fee for Sprint.  I also got a good deal on an Android tablet, which is something that I would have eventually gotten from Sprint had I stayed with them for another upgrade.  Plus Verizon’s sales staff was exactly as I liked: helpful and not pushy.  Additionally, I had always been pleased with Verizon tech support in the past.  So it made sense to go back to Verizon after a little less than four years away.

So all in all, I’m glad to be back on Verizon.  Hopefully they will earn my continued business for a long time to come.

Categories: Cell phone, Companies