If you'll recall, I was unable to get any help whatsoever in trying to resolve $600 in illegal fees charged by Sprint PCS for breaking a non-existent ''verbal contract.'' I put that in quotes for the following reasons.
By the time I got to a person that could help me, it was the executive assistant to Bob Forsee, the CEO. After agreeing with me that I'd signed no contract, she actually had the temerity/balls/gall to tell me that I'd agreed to a verbal contract with their sales representative. I've never had a discussion about a contract except for the very first 1-year contract when I opened it four years prior to cancellation.
When I asked her how I was to be informed of the new contract and why the sales representative did not explain that I would be entering into a verbal contract, she said, ''We don't have to explain or tell you about a verbal contract. Can you imagine how busy our sales people would be if they had to actually explain what the contract would say? I would take an hour for each customer.''
What? How on Earth can you have a verbal contract when no one actually tells anyone about the contract? That, by definition, is NOT a verbal contract. It's so insane that I asked her to repeat herself. (Have you ever had the feeling that you should really start looking for hidden cameras to just make sure you're not on PUNK'D? Yeah, I had that feeling with this woman.)
She then proceeded to tell me that no matter what I say, I actually agreed to a ''non-verbal verbal contract.'' The mind reels.
Oh yes, she also told me that she refused to give me Mr. Forsee's office's address and that if I ''managed to find it [she] will keep it and not forward it to him.'' Again ... What? I manage to keep up with nearly 1000 patients in over 7 countries and he can't read a letter?
So, I found his email address. And that of the CFO. And that of the Chairman of the Board. And the Public Relations Manager of the Southeast.
For anyone to tell a customer that they ''refuse'' to give your superior information on what will soon become a legal matter is, quite frankly, bullshit on a stick.
At any rate, I ended up writing an email to him. It ended up being far, far longer than I'd ever expected it to be. That's what happens when you get people angry, I suppose.
I've written similar, though far shorter, letters to the collection agency and to Sprint Customer Relation's. I honestly cannot believe that I can be in a verbal contract when no one opened their mouth to mention it. And they ADMIT it! Here's the letter, and, of course, it has to be cut for length. I don't really expect anyone to read all of it, but since I already sent it to these individuals, I may as well show you guys and you can give me after-the-fact suggestions. I probably should have asked for those first, but I hate being screwed over like this. Shit, I've been shot at in Kosovo and I never felt this angry.
From: MichaelB [mailto: MichaelJXXXXXX@gmail.com]
Sent: 05 January 2006 03:21
To: 'Gary.D.Forsee@mail.sprint.com'; 'Len.J.Lauer@mail.sprint.com'; 'Timothy.M.Donahue@mail.sprint.com'
Cc: 'Kristin.firstname.lastname@example.org'; 'XXXXXXmichaelj@XXXX.edu'
Subject: Contract Confusion & Deciet and Unconscionable Customer Service
Dear Mr. Forsee, Mr. Lauer, and Mr. Donahue:
Before I begin, I do sincerely apologise for the length of this e-mail, but there are quite complex issues of which you should be aware. As I was informed by Ms. Weaver that she refuses to forward any written correspondence to you whatsoever, I must send this in an e-mail.
I realise that you are very busy gentlemen but I do hope that you take the time to read this letter, not only to praise three excellent employees, but to give you background of the situation I am currently in and explain a seemingly ubiquitous and yet still increasing rate of a severe lack of professionalism in your Customer Service, Relations, and Collections divisions. It is not just a lack of professionalism; it is a complete lack of respect for your customers and horrible and rude manner which they treat many customers, not just me.
On 21-Dec-05 a very helpful Deborah Weaver in your Executive and Regulatory Services division called me to attempt to clarify what I consider to be a gross error – as well as business practices that border the immoral if not the illegal.
I was a loyal Sprint customer since 2000 and remained one until September 2004, or so I thought. As I am a physician working for Doctors Without Borders, I am often out of the country and finally decided that since I would be out of the country for the next six months it would be prudent to cancel the account.
At that time, the account was delinquent because, due to constant travelling, I was negligent in keeping up with bills at home. It's often quite difficult to concentrate on matters in the States while attempting to treat patients in the war-torn regions of Eastern Europe's former Soviet Bloc nations and the even more dangerous regions of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, and Kashmir where even desperately needed relief efforts are met with bullets and bombs. There are no mobile phone service provides in most regions of these countries by any local mobile phone company, much less an American provider like Sprint. Seeing as how we physicians working for the WHO and Doctors Without Borders are paid very little, every bit we have is precious. The average salary for a full-time physician with the organization is a mere $19,000.
Sometime in April (I believe the 10th) a second phone line was added to my account in order to make it easier for us to keep in contact with our associates. At that time, I had no idea that adding a phone to the plan, sharing minutes, would obligate me to a two year contract. I was not informed by the sales representative of this fact, nor was I provided with a contract to sign. Ms. Weaver explained that Sprint operated on verbal contracts. Unfortunately, I was never informed of this so there is no verbal contract. She then told me that it was listed in the ''fine print'' and that it was printed in a booklet ''placed in the box with the new phone.''
When I asked her how I was to be informed of the new contract and why the sales representative did not explain that I would be entering into a verbal contract, she actually had the temerity to say, ''We don't have to explain or tell you about a verbal contract. Can you imagine how busy our sales people would be if they had to actually explain what the contract would say? I would take an hour for each customer.''
What? How on Earth can you have a verbal contract when no one actually tells anyone about the contract? That, by definition, is NOT a verbal contract.
Ms. Weaver explained the $150 charge as a means to retain your customers and to compensate Sprint for loss of customers considering the ''many competitive features that Sprint offers [their] customers.'' This does make sense after a fashion; however, that your customers are not informed when changing minutes or adding a feature like voice mail on the internet is unfair and seems immoral. If there is no signed contract nor are they informed by sales personnel, how can there be any form a contract? Again, the terms and conditions are in a box that the customer doesn't receive until after the additional line is added or minutes/features changed. Once again, how can the customer be expected to understand or even know to what they're agreeing when they don't have the information provided before changing the options on the website or being informed by the sales representative in the Sprint store if it's a booklet in a box available after the purchase? I just do not understand how this can be done.
I would never think to perform a procedure on a patient without their consent. Even in third-world nations I make it a point to ask them, in their own language, if they understand what the risks and benefits are of whatever procedure or treatment we plan to administer. In my travels over the past five years I've learned seven languages to ensure that the thousands of refugees, war-destroyed women and children, and victims of attempted genocide understand exactly what will happen to them during our treatment. They have the right to decline treatment before it is administered, why should your customers not be offered the same basic right?
I purchased a phone for a temporary colleague, with no knowledge of the hidden contract, and had the line added according to Sprint's generous offer of, I think, an additional $20 per month at that time. However, if the contract was included with the phone, that means that I would have already purchased the product, activated the phone, changed the plan to add a line and services, and had it in my possession before ever having any information about the terms and conditions included in the box.
How am I, or any customer, to know there are hidden contracts if they're not informed by your sales staff and the terms are included in a booklet in a product for which I don't even open the box until I get home? By that time it's far too late to change my mind. I had no idea that by adding a second phone number to my existing account I would be obligated to another two years of your service. There would have been absolutely no way that I would have done such a foolish thing knowing that I'd be leaving the country in October to spend six months overseas working with our organization had I been informed of the contractual obligation implied in a leaflet included in a box AFTER I'd purchased it. Ms. Weaver waived a charge of $150 for an ''early termination fee'' for the phone number I had used for nearly four years, for which I am truly grateful. However being charged an additional $150 for the second line was never explained to me as possible, nor was it explained that another contract would be in effect by adding the phone to the same account.
In September 2004 I went to your website and paid off the balance listed as due, then called Customer Service to cancel the account. I asked the gentleman if the bill was paid and if anything else was owed. He said that I'd paid the bill and he could cancel the account. The first week of October 2004 I left for the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, someone continued to use the phone and I will freely admit to being responsible for those charges. I will accept culpability of not fully ensuring that the phone calls I made to Sprint's Customer Service department were actually carried out and the service cancelled. It matters little that I don't know who used the phone, I will pay that amount due: $198.42 as calculated by Ms. Weaver. I do take umbrage with the fact that the website listed an amount lower than what was actually due; apparently I owed an additional $96 that the website did not list as due. That is quite deceiving and my current provider for the next two months has the current amount due at all times. However, in a way I can understand that this may be a very difficult thing to do.
My billing cycle apparently ended on or around the 22nd of each month. If the customer service agent had cancelled the account as I had requested that day the bill for September should have been included. He instead told me the account was current and that he would cancel the account. I considered the matter closed and final. The phone was apparently not turned off and while I was gone someone (most likely someone in the office not realising I'd cancelled those lines) made a few calls up until November 19th. I do suppose may be responsible for that amount, but only the amount of the monthly services.
I cannot, in good conscience, agree that I am responsible for the additional $150 still remaining classified as an early termination fee on the second phone line. Deborah Weaver, again, a very helpful and understanding individual, did agree to remove one of the early termination fees since I'd had that account for such a long time. For these actions I am very grateful. She also waived the late fees due to the misunderstanding; however, she said that she could step no farther out of the boundaries of the normal procedures enacted by Sprint.
I ask that you kindly find a way to remove that additional charge for the early termination fee. I was never informed as to the enacting of a new contract each time any small change was made to the account and as stated above, because had this been disclosed we would have found away to function with just the one phone until we were ready to leave on your next relief effort. Please, in light of the financial burden this places on me and the actions that occurred yesterday that I will list below, is there no way to make the decision to grant this request?
Unfortunately, due to the above referenced errors and the unclear and deceptive manner in which a ''verbal contract'' was issued to me with neither my consent nor my being informed of any existence of said contract, I must formally dispute the debt.
I am required to spend six to seven months travelling to ruined cities in which no one should be forced to live and diseases and birth defects that no one here in the United States or Western Europe would ever contract. I try to do everything I can to help people and tried my best to pay every amount due to Sprint each month. Sometimes I was late, but I always brought the account current.
Now I would like to turn your attention to the tremendous problems with many of the employees in your company.
First though, I would like to praise three of your employees who really have tried to assist me. Catherine, who works in the first tier customer service department answering the 1800SPRINT1 number, made sure that I was connected to the collections department and even took down my current phone number to make sure she could call me back if I got disconnected. Kristen Wallace in Public Relations for the Southeast United States who called me early this morning to see if she could help me and made sure that the appropriate people get back in contact with me. Deborah Weaver in your Executive and Regulation Services department, whom I've already mentioned, has also tried her best to help me. For these three ladies I am truly grateful. While I understand that the merger of two very large companies would inevitably cause stress, there is absolutely no excuse for the way I was treated by your staff.
Unfortunately, their assistance is far overshadowed by the horrible treatment I received on 20-December-2005. My calls began at around 15:00 CST and didn't end until 18:00 CST. Nothing was resolved. My first call was to Debt Recovery Solutions where I was informed that the only information available to them was the total amount due and suggested I contact Sprint.
My second call was to Sprint and I was sent to a call centre in, most likely, India and ''Tammy'' answered. I'm sure that wasn't her name, but current trends are that persons in the foreign call centres adopt ''Western Names'' for American and British companies. She was unable to locate my account based on the account number provided to me by the collection agency or by my Social Security number. Tammy transferred me to another customer service representative (I forgot to write her name in my notes) who did finally find the account and transferred me to collections after making me repeat my entire story twice. Jermain in the collections department answered the phone, asked for my account number and phone number. When I told him that I didn't know the phone number, he put me on hold for approximately ten minutes. When he finally returned, Jermaine gave me a number to call (800-808-1336), and then hung up in the middle of my asking what that number was for.
My third call: It turns out that number gives a voice recording asking for a valid Sprint PCS phone number. I'd already told him that I didn't know the number, yet he gives me this number anyway? I tried every combination of dummy numbers I could think of, 999-999-9999, etc., but none worked. The phone would not allow me to get to an individual person by pressing zero as most phone lines would. I fail to see the point in giving me this number knowing that I did not know the old phone number. It was though he did it as a joke. He barely said 10 words to me the whole time and seemed disinterested and unconcerned.
My fourth call: Again I called the only number that I could access, 800SPRINT1, and was transferred to a call centre in India where ''Robert James'' asked for the entire story. He couldn't find my account via my Social Security number nor the account number provided on the collection notice. He offered to transfer me, and then hung up the phone.
My fifth call: A gentleman named Matthew answered; again I had to tell the entire reason for the call. He placed me on hold for quite a long time, approximately 15 minutes before coming back with another person on the line. This time I was speaking with a man named Ranj/Rajj; he would not repeat his name for me to verify it. Again I tried to explain my questions and find out what this amount represented. He would ask a question then place me on hold. This pattern continued for a very, very long time. Finally I asked if it would be possible to speak with the supervisor he was consulting with each of the answers to his questions. He sounded very rude when he muttered, ''Fine.'' Yet again, I was placed on hold. After spending quite a long time on hold, the music stopped, I heard someone cough, then hang up the phone.
My sixth call: I was getting sick to my stomach by now because I was so worried that nobody would be able to tell me what was happening. This time when I called a very pleasant and helpful young woman named Catherine made sure she stayed on the line until she had a lady named Princess from collections on the phone. She even took my phone number and promised to call me back if she accidentally disconnected me. Luckily, she didn't, but after five calls and being treated so rudely, you have no idea how pleased I was to have a competent employee.
Unfortunately, Princess, after hearing my questions, could not answer them, so she transferred me to a woman who I thought was named Kenisha, but it may have been Tenisha. She refused to spell it or repeat it. When I asked her what the charges were, she told me to call the collection agency. I explained that they were the ones who instructed me to contact Sprint. Kenisha was perhaps the most rude and angry person with whom I've ever dealt. She repeatedly interrupted and shouted at me for the length of our fruitless conversation.
I tried to explain that I'd paid the balance in September 2004 and cancelled the account, but didn't know what this amount was. She confirmed that she showed the account paid through September but then she said, ''They're early termination fees. You broke your contract.''
When I explained that I'd been a customer for four years, she said, ''Oh, it must be a late balance then.'' When I asked her what late balance, since she just said the account was current, she refused to tell me for what months the late balance was for, nor would she explain why she kept changing her mind about what the charges were.
She then began yelling, literally yelling into the phone, ''I TOLD you that I don't HAVE any information.'' But she'd been telling me rather specific amounts and dates, conflicting though they were. Obviously she was able to access some form of data. I am unsure as to why she lied about having no information.
She then began to shout angrily that she'd ''already told [me] twice to call the collection agency.''
I asked if she could give me the name of someone that I could write to for information. She refused, angrily, with ''I won't give you anybody's name.''
I asked to speak with a manager. She replied, ''I TOLD you already, I'm not giving you NOBODY'S name!''
This is when the conversation turned completely absurd. She asked me which manger I needed to speak with. I asked, ''If you won't give me their names, how can I know for who to ask?''
I begged her to please, please let me speak to any manager on duty. She screamed ''FINE!'' into my ear and put me on hold.
For the next 20-30 minutes I could hear someone taking me off of hold – the hold music stopped. The person on the other end had some kind of head-cold. I could hear them breathing. Whoever this was kept taking me off of hold ever few minutes, listening to me say ''Hello? Hello?'' in vain, then placing me back on hold.
About 30 minutes later, a female voice picked up the line, and yelled, ''I said I won't help you!'', then hung up on me.
She hung up on me.
It wasn't an accidental disconnection like I truly, truly want to believe the first three people that hung up on me did. This was out-and-out hostility and contempt. She treated me like some sort of criminal, as though she couldn't be bothered to even put up with my call and I was interrupting her. The only reason she kept picking up the phone and taking me off hold, I assume, was to see if I would give up.
Even in countries where people would like to kill us for helping their wounded and sick children I've never had anyone speak to me with such utter contempt and rudeness. The way she treated me was so unprofessional that it actually left me speechless. I could only stare at my phone in disbelief.
Mr. Forsee, you have been with Sprint since 1993. I can't believe that you would allow such rude, unprofessional, and contemptible people to represent your company. Wasn't it you that came into the company and attempted to restore Sprint's reputation after the tax shelter scandal? Shouldn't that show integrity and honesty on your part?
Again, I ask that you please reconsider the additional early termination fee for the second line. I was not informed by any sales representative to the existence of any form of verbal contract; I never signed a written contract. Again, the implied contract is supposedly written in the terms and conditions that were apparently given to me only after I'd purchased the mobile phone and changed my phone plan. In changing my phone plan I apparently agreed to terms and conditions not given to me until they handed me the telephone in the box and had me take it home to charge it.
Apparently, as was explained to me, even if I'd changed my mind the next day, by changing the plan back to the single telephone would have in effect given me another two year contract anyway. According to what I was told today, the only interpretation could be that no matter what I did in April 2004 buying the phone and adding it to my plan and keeping it or changing my mind after someone explained that any change to a plan would make sure that I had a contract. I'm sure that you can understand my predicament; I knew I would be leaving the country in six months. Why would I agree to a two year contract when I was planning on cancelling my account before I left?
I know that Ms. Weaver thinks the early termination fee is a valid charge, but I do not. I ask that you reconsider the need for this fee in light of facts that I never agreed to any contract (verbal, written, nor in the terms and conditions that were not made available to me except in the box the second phone came in after I'd already changed the plan and purchased the phone, thus not having a chance to review them, as admitted by Ms. Weaver) and in light of the fact that I made a good-faith effort to not only cancel the account but to bring it current. There was no way for me to know the account truly was not closed as I was basically out of touch with the Western world for six months except for the occasional satellite phone. Not only that, but this causes a significant financial burden on me. I will be leaving the States for Nicaragua in March, and after that, Slovenia. It will be very difficult to get this resolved if I'm in another country trying to help patients. I would prefer to have this resolved as soon as possible so that I can get back to the important work to Sprint has donated in the past.
Sirs, please, if you can assist me in any way whatsoever, I would be greatly appreciative. Because of the confusion and seemingly underhanded fashion these two-year contracts are imposed, many of my colleagues have urged me to contact the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General, but I would hope that not be necessary.
I look forward to your attention to this matter and your assistance and advice. If you or your staff should need to reach me, I would prefer it to be in writing.
With sincere regards,
Michael J XXXXX, MD, PhD
There's a lot of formatting that was lost when I realised that pasting in this much HTML code would kill my post. I wonder what the chances are that anyone will actually read this e-mail? I'm going to attempt to write a hard-copy of the letter but I suppose that Ms. Weaver will just throw it in the rubbish bin where she left her brain and soul. (I doubt that's her name anyway. If they force Apu Nahasapeemapetilon and Sahgaffifir Saneth-Kumar* to change their names, who's to say the American's don't, too?
*I actually do know someone with the name Sahgaffifir and someone else with the surname Saneth-Kumar. I've always wondered how traumatised Sahgaffifir would be if she ever met and married Saneth-Kumar. Not enough room on the cheque to sign her name. Bless.