No ringy-dingy: Sprint tries to right wrongs

Like many companies, Sprint tries hard to get customers to use its website. The current cyberspace special, for instance, offers one month of DSL service free for ordering online; it was that kind of encouragement that enticed Mike Logan to place his order on the website instead of using the phone.

Logan ordered DSL service for $34.99 a month, which was reduced by $10 a month for adding a set of custom-calling features to his home phone service. In addition to getting the first month of DSL free, he was to receive a $50 rebate on the activation fee as a reward for ordering online. Service, he was told– both DSL and custom-calling features– would begin on January 13.

But January 13 came and went. When nothing had happened by noon the following day, he called a number on Sprint's website– which, he ruefully reports, is "where the fun began."

After 10 minutes on hold, he claims, his call was dropped. On the next call, he got a customer-service rep, who transferred him to another. That rep put him on hold before coming back to apologize for the wait and to say she was looking for assistance– only to put him back on hold.

"After a total of 58 minutes as recorded on my phone timer," Logan states, "the call was dropped. A little frustrated, I called back and waited on hold for approximately 10 minutes and was again dropped." Whoa!

His fourth call, he claims, was also a bust: "at least" 20 minutes on hold, after which a rep transferred him to another, who transferred him to a third. After what he estimates was 30 minutes for the entire call, he was dropped yet again.

The fifth call, finally, was a success– in part simply because, after being on hold for an estimated 17 minutes, he wasn't dropped. The rep placed the order the old-fashioned way and allegedly told him that "using the web to order was a bad mistake and that the web ordering system did not follow through as promised." Logan's service, the rep said, would begin on January 24.

I spoke with Logan on January 25 and learned that his DSL service had been delivered, as promised, the day before. The custom-calling features, however, hadn't. I forwarded Logan's email account of his ordeal to Margaret Wright, regional public affairs manager for Sprint, and asked her to investigate.

Things began happening soon after: Late that afternoon, local customer service manager Philip Cashwell called Logan to get the details on the custom-calling features that hadn't been installed. He promised to get them up and running, and said that Logan would be compensated for his time and frustration.

Cashwell emailed Logan two days later, on January 27, to say that the voice mail was working– but, when Logan tested it, he discovered that it wasn't. An employee in Cashwell's department, however, was able to resolve the problem.

Logan was at pains to say that his dissatisfaction was with the website and Sprint's national service center, not local service people– who, he says, have been "very helpful."

Wright called me on January 28, after researching the history of Logan's botched order, to explain what had happened. "For some reason," she said, the verification process on the website "did not take" when Logan placed his order. Why that happened, she added, is a mystery that "no one in the company can explain; the order just sat there." To compound the situation, when the order was ultimately placed by an employee over the phone, the custom-calling features weren't entered.

Wright also said that she had put a $100 credit on Logan's account to compensate him for all the problems he had endured. She also said she'll make sure that Logan receives his $50 rebate for the activation fee, and will keep an eye on upcoming bills to ensure that all Sprint's promises to Logan are kept.

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer, write her at 100 Second Street NW, 22902, or call 295-8700 ext. 406.