Critical Section

my positive Sprint experience

Saturday,  08/13/05  10:12 AM

Are you sitting down?  Are you holding any sharp objects?  No?  Good.  Because you aren’t going to believe this…

I’ve had a positive experience with Sprint.  Let me repeat that because I’m sure you think it’s a typo: I’ve had a positive experience with Sprint.  Yes, this is the same Sprint that finished at the bottom of a recent J.D.Power & Associates survey of mobile phone providers, a survey more notable for the fact that every one of the providers was despised than for the differences between providers.

Here’s what happened.  Of course your mileage may vary.

So I have a Treo 600 phone.  I love it, by the way, but that credit goes entirely to Handspring PalmOne and not to Sprint.  (There is now a Treo 650 out which is even cooler, and which I’m eyeing covetously, but I digress.)  The other week I had a minor incident while driving which resulted in my Treo being bathed in coffee.  That’s another story which I won’t relate here.  Overall the Treo emerged from its coffee bath operational, but a few quirks appeared, most notably the battery was somewhat hosed and as a result my phone suddenly became much more sensitive to signal strength.  It worked, but it stopped working well.

A brief digression.  This tip courtesy of Greg Crandall.  If you ever have an item of personal electronics bathed in coffee or some other liquid, do the following:  1) Remove the battery (if possible).  2) Rinse thoroughly in clean water.  Yes, you read that right, rinse thoroughly in clean water.  Bottled water is good, distilled water is even better.  3) Dry thoroughly using a hair dryer.  Chances are good that the device will still work.  Really really.

A while back, when I first bought my Treo 600, I decided to subscribe to Sprint’s “extended care plan”.  I am not usually a fan of extended warranties, they seem like a ripoff, but somehow this seemed worth doing.  Maybe it was the fact that the plan only cost $6/month, and my phone cost $500.  The extended care plan has two parts, first, Sprint extends the manufacturer’s warranty through the life of the phone (while you own it), and second, Sprint offers a no-questions-asked replacement in the event your phone is lost or damaged via a company called Lock/Line.  (More on Lock/Line in a moment.)  Since Handspring offered a 90-day warranty and I was planning to own my phone a lot longer than that, this seemed like a good deal, with the added bonus that if I lost or damaged the phone (or dipped it in coffee), I’d get a replacement.

After struggling with my now-really-sensitive-to-signal-strength phone for a couple of weeks, I decided to put the extended care program to the test.  I called Sprint, reported the problem, and they said “call Lock/Line”.  Sigh, here we go, I thought.  So I called Lock/Line, jumped through about 10 hoops, finally reached a human, and they said “call Sprint”.  Sigh, here we go again, I thought.

You see, there’s a weird tension in the business relationship between Sprint and Lock/Line.  Sprint offers an extended warranty, while Lock/Line offers insurance.  They are both bundled together in Sprint’s “extended care plan”.  The difference is that warranty covers defects in the phone, while insurance covers everything else.  Lock/Line wants every problem to be a defect, so it is covered by Sprint’s warranty, while Sprint wants every problem not to be defect, so it is covered by Lock/Line’s insurance.

The Sprint customer support rep asked a few questions about what happened, and then determined that obviously it was not a manufacturing defect, so obviously it wasn’t covered by their extended warranty.  That’s why they had me call Lock/Line.  The Lock/Line customer support rep asked a few questions about what happened, and then determined that obviously it was a manufacturing defect, so obviously it was covered by Sprint’s extended warranty.  Sometimes in this situation the consumer is the loser, you end up falling through the cracks between the finger pointing.  But in this case the relationship works, because one way or another, you are covered.  In the end the Lock/Line rep prevailed and was able to file the Sprint warranty claim on my behalf.  This seems like a bad thing from Sprint’s point of view but it was a great thing from my point of view, because I received a new phone for a processing fee of $10.

I’ve had my Treo 600 for about 18 months, so I’ve paid 18 x $6 = $108 in “insurance premiums”.  Therefore the new phone cost me $118 plus about an hour on the phone with Sprint and Lock/Line.  Of course I could have destroyed my phone earlier, or never, that’s how insurance works.  On average I would say I do destroy a phone every couple of years or so.  (On one memorable occasion I left one on the roof of my car, and watched it fly off onto the freeway…)

After the warranty claim was filed, I received a brand new Treo 600 four days later.  The phone arrived with detailed and accurate instructions about how to activate the new phone and how to return the old one.  I followed the instructions and am now happily using my brand new Treo 600.  Oh, and of course the extended care plan covers this phone, too, so I can do the coffee bath thing every year or so and have a new phone forever.

Anyway as I said your mileage may vary but this was a positive customer service experience with Sprint.  And if you have an expensive phone I can recommend Sprint’s extended care plan, it is a good deal.

P.S. Note to self – one of the most positive aspects of the whole experience was the detailed and accurate instructions about how to activate the new phone which came with the replacement.  Documentation is so important.


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