Sprint customer: Dad on our calling plan just died. Sprint: prove it

Sprint customer: Dad on our calling plan just died. Sprint: prove it

Summary: Just when you thought that Sprint-  they of the $14,062.27 phone bill-couldn't get any dumber, now comes news that this same booboo-plagued "organization" initially had refused to humanely cancel the account of a subscriber who had just passed away.

SHARE:

Just when you thought that Sprint-  they of the $14,062.27 phone bill-couldn't get any dumber, now comes news that this same booboo-plagued "organization" initially had refused to humanely cancel the account of a subscriber who had just passed away.

Story goes back to December 21, when a 66 year-old man in Framingham, Mass., died of a brief illness. After what had to be a really sad Christmas, the deceased man's son-in-law, Bill Stewart, called Sprint to cancel his father-in-law from the family cell phone plan.

"They said his contract wasn't up and to pay the fee or keep it activated," Bill Stewart  told WCVB-TV in Boston. "He came in sprintoffice.jpg  and said my father had upgraded his phone, so we can't cancel unless we pay the early termination fee or give the phone to somebody else," Stewart added.

The jerk in the Sprint office first suggested to Bill Stewart that they add someone else to the plan. That suggestion didn't go well with Stewart. Then, the customer "service" rep offered  to reduce the monthly fee for his deceased father-in-law's phone from $20 to $10 until the contract ends in September 2008.

That didn't go over too well with Bill Stewart either.

Finally, someone (presumably a WCVB-TV reporter) got Sprint spokesperson Mark Elliott on the line. He said that with a death certificate from the Stewart's, well, give us five days and we'll make it right.

So, readers, how does that sound to you? Well, to me, it is Sprint saying to a grieving son-in-law, we hear what you're saying about your loss, but prove it. And we aren't talking about the reaction of an outs-ourced, offshored, clueless customer service rep. We are talking about someone in a Sprint office who had the gall to request official proof of a longtime, loyal (up until then, presumably) Sprint customer of his family's recent and sad loss.

"More disbelief than outrage. My father was the type of man who you'd expect people to do the right thing," Stewart tells the station about the reaction of his family to being jerked around like this.

What bugs me about this incident, as well as the $14K+ errant billing, is Sprint's insensitive corporate culture toward customers.

An insensitive attitude that one would have hoped would have ended with the departure of now-former CEO Gary Forsee, who headed the company during last year's issues with canning members of the military who roamed too much.

Topics: Mobility, CXO, Telcos, IT Employment

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

7 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • While I agree that the individuals taking the calls were insensitive

    I don't have a problem with them asking for a death certificate as proof of the death. After all, it's this sort of thing that we need death certificates for. It's not as if death certificates are that difficult to obtain. Most funeral directors will get them for you at cost, and on average they cost $5 apiece.
    Michael Kelly
  • As long as consumers put up...

    with corporate arrogance expect it to continue.

    Until the consumer takes his place at the head of the food chain where he belongs people need to quit complaining about corporate injustices. Put up or shut up.
    bjbrock
  • RE: Sprint customer: Dad on our calling plan just died. Sprint: prove it

    I don't work for Sprint, but give the company some credit for having a standardized process in place for handling such situations. Picture this...A low life from Boston Mass calls NSTAR, or National Grid, or VERIZON landline company to say that the billing party passed away. What would any company do? Simply prove that the responsible party passed away, and we will make good on it.

    No different than most good gyms or health clubs...if you sign a contract or make a commitment and get hurt, they will let you out of your commitment with a doctor's note. As a matter of fact, Wachusett Mountain ststes that their policy, should you purchase a season's pass, and become hurt (on or off the mountain) that would prevent you from skiing they will credit you toward the next year's pass. If you die, I'm guessing your estate will get money back.

    Why in "heck's" name must you journalists always be looking for a headline that turns out to be false when you dig right into it?

    Cut Sprint some slack. They did what every other company would do...They asked for proof.
    Just imagine how many idiots would use that excuse to get out of their cell plans if word got out that all you had to do was say someone died.

    What's next??

    Find a story that you have to work for. I'm guessing your favorite hobby is shooting fish in a barrel or shooting deer in headlights.
    When was the last story you wrote that you had to get off your a** to get the details?
    private555555@...
    • Your first paragraph shows . . .

      that you don't get it. that ISN'T what Sprint did at first. The rep first stated that the family had to continue paying the bill regardless. THEN they "Offered" to lower the monthly bill to $10 from $20.

      If they had stated company policy up front that they neede to produce a death certificate, then there would be no outcry, since most, if not all companies require this. At my company, in order to get bereavement leave, you have to produce at least a card from the funeral home concerning the death (this is to keep employees from abusing the system).

      At one company I worked at, we kept track of how many times a certain fellow employees' family members 'died'. Either his family had trouble keeping them in the ground, or he had 3 fathers, 5 grandfathers, 2 moms . . .I think you get the point.
      jlhenry62
  • RE: Sprint customer: Dad on our calling plan just died. Sprint: prove it

    The point is that the customer "service" (and I use the term loosely) rep did not present the company's standard policy. If he had said "provide a copy of the death certificate and we'll cancel the account", everything would have been OK.

    The overzealous rep did everything he could to AVOID cancelling the account. This type of callous, non-caring attitude should cause an outcry from the public. Unfortunately, we have been conditioned to accept poor or mediocre service because it's the only kind of service we get.
    john@...
    • Exactly.

      I think the problem is, is in call centers? It's the reps duty to try to save an account, through any means necessary. So they WILL avoid cancelling the account. The problem is 95% of the reps out there don't know or don't care how to meet their goals and still satisfy the customer's needs.

      They have this thing called 'quality assurance' which is basically an arbitrary list of 'did the rep say this? did he do that? did he follow the flowchart perfectly even though he could have skipped half of it? Did he push x service on the customer?' etc etc etc. It drives my fiance nuts, and she works for direct tv. We're both of the opinion if you fix the customer's problem, are polite, and notate the account properly, then nothing else really should matter. Maybe give them some extra information they might need. But honestly. Those hoops? They suck.

      See..Not jumping through hoops could cost them their bonus, or worse(do it enough, get enough low 'quality' scores and get written up. Written up enough lose your job). Working for a cell phone company (I worked for t-mobile a few years ago) is one of the worst things out there. So many policies and procedures, and the crap you have to put up with (both from customers, but mostly from the higher ups demanding you jump through hoops just to get a 'pass' on a quality score, let alone a perfect.

      I'm not defending them, I think the rep was being an idiot and should have just told the customer the policy, and not try to save it, bonus be damned. Any supervisor worth his salt would have backed him, anyway. And you can word it in a way that the customer gets what he needs, and you don't look like an ass AND you meet your goals. I think the words I would have used would have been something like;

      "I'm sorry for your loss. Because the account is under contract and would incur a charge for canceling, you'll need to either move the account to another name or provide a copy of the death certificate so that we can cancel it without incurring the early termination fee."

      Emphasize with the customer, half-assed tried to 'save' the account and thus pacify the assholes in quality assurance, and provided the customer with the information he needed to get it all sorted out. Bingo.

      Never. Ever. Want to work for a cell phone company again. Couldn't even give a 10 cent credit without supervisor approval. Ugh.
      SniperCT
  • RE: Sprint customer: Dad on our calling plan just died. Sprint: prove it

    Well it is 12/2010 and my Father just passed and I went into the Sprint store. They handed me a # to customer support (888) 211-4727 and after hitting a few buttons I got to where you cancel your service. I explained that my Father had died and with a bill in hand I gave them the account #. They gave me a fax #(866)766-2491 to fax the death certificate into along with the account info. The death certificate or power of attorney is a must for most company like life insurance, banks, credit cards and a like... Sprint is no different... The rep said Sprint will not be charging me for any charges after the day of cancellation... That is all I could ask... Thank you Sprint...
    IndyMaxxx