If you are in the market for a new smart phone or mobile data plan, be sure to think twice before signing up for Sprint’s latest “unlimited” offering.
I had a Sprint “unlimited” plan, myself. At least, I thought I did. Back in March of 2011, I signed a two-year contract for an unlimited 4G data plan to go along with a cheap, highly portable laptop.
The laptop broke early, but Dell sent me some replacement parts and I was able to get back to work with it. The data connection wasn’t great: 4G coverage was limited and 3G speeds were extremely slow, but most of the time I could still get some kind of internet on the go.
That’s enough unlimited for you
Unfortunately, one day I get an email from Sprint warning me that I’m about to run out of my monthly 4G data allotment. I assumed it must be some sort of mistake since the plan I agreed to was unlimited 4G data, but when I called them up on the phone they were insistent that I had a new 5 GB monthly cap.
It turns out, buried in the fine print of a bill they sent me, they had issued a warning to all unlimited customers that their plans would be changed to a 5GB monthly limit with no other compensation or reduced rates being offered. They claimed we only had one month from this announcement to protest, and since I had not protested I would be bound to the new limited data terms.
Well, it was all news to me since I’ve always paid my bills online. I told them to cancel the account, but when I refused to accept the termination fee, they got upset and started playing the transfer game. I spoke to probably about 10 people that day, and after a few hours on hold and in between representatives I was pretty sure the account was closed down and all my monthly charges were paid up.
Until the bill came a month later.
See, they hadn’t actually canceled my account. They just told me they would while they continued to bill me for the next one. When I got this notification in the mail I was sure to open it up – and call them to complain. This time, they actually closed the account and gave me a confirmation number for the request. I figured everything was finally settled.
Until the bill came a month later.
Now they wanted the extra month they had overcharged me, and in addition to that they tacked on a $70 early termination fee for a contract they actually broke. I called and raised hell, but they dismissed my concerns and wasted a bunch of both our time.
Just uphold the contract or let me out!
I didn’t think my demands were too greedy: I either wanted the terms we’d agreed to, or I wanted to be able to leave the contract and get a deal with someone else.
Instead, the only offer of restitution that Sprint could make ended up being another slap in the face. It was revealed during the back and forth with representatives that they usually only charge $59 for the 5GB plans, but those of us who had been downgraded from an unlimited plan were still paying $69! The “offer” to “make things right” was that they’d only charge me the normal $59!
Of course, two weeks after I got that last bill from Sprint, I also got a notice from a collections agency informing me that Sprint wanted me to pay up with cash or with my credit rating. Well, we’re in a dispute process and there’s no way I’m going to cave in to this scammer’s blackmail. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of time to fight a collections claim, so learn from my mistake and save yourselves the trouble of getting in to a Sprint contract!
Sprint Data is bad anyway
Even if by some miracle they let you keep the unlimited plan for the duration of your contract, Sprint has pretty awful data speeds on their mobile plans. Like I mentioned above, 4G was limited to the urban core of large cities, and even there the coverage was extremely spotty. 3G speeds were painfully slow – even reminiscent of the dial-up days.
Obviously though, I’m a dissatisfied customer, so don’t take my word for it. PC World has the resources to do a more thorough investigation, and the data they’ve compiled is more damning than any anecdotes of slow downloads I could possibly throw at you.
Get what you pay for, or less
They say you get what you pay for, but it seems like you get even less than that when you try to save a few bucks with Sprint. Right now, they’re trying to compare their prices to AT&T and Verizon’s shared plans, but it really isn’t a fair comparison when you calculate the availability and quality of service.
Just save yourself the headache and two years of waiting for a signal: Spend the extra few bucks and get a data plan from Verizon or AT&T. I know they have their own customer service issues, but at least they aren’t downright bait & switch scammers like Sprint seems to be.
Before you blame Sprint for everything: 4-G is limited to major metropolitan areas for all the carriers I know of . I have Verizon. We can’t get any 4G in my entire county.
Also consider that what 3G signal you get may be determined by where you live and the carrier. I have a friend down the road with Verizon. And although Verizon offers decent 3G/voice coverage for my county, they can’t get any cellphone service inside their house even though they’re just a mile or two from a larger road. People need to check their local maps and talk to friends/family in their local area.
Bottom line is all the major carriers are sneaky and will lock people into horrible long contracts. It’s a sort of monopoly where only a few big companies dominate most markets, and where contracts are a million pages and are often changed midway through without customer’s permission.
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The city I used to live in was big enough for an NFL team and Sprint specifically claimed to have a local 4G network, but it was really limited to a few upscale neighborhoods. Even then, when I was in a place I could get a good signal, it wasn’t half as fast as the Verizon 4G I’m getting anywhere in my new, much smaller town.
Phone quality? Well, Sprint wasn’t bad. Verizon hasn’t been bad either, but there was one day I did have pretty bad reception.
I’m sure that everyone likes to play gotcha games with the contracts too, but it is really suspicious for Sprint to offer a new unlimited plan so soon after saying unlimited plans were too expensive for them. Either they got burned by a lot of angry ex-customers like myself, or they’re setting up a bait & switch. I’m hoping it’s just the former, but I wouldn’t recommend signing up to find out!
Oh, by the way, after disputing the debt through collections and filing a complaint with the BBB, Sprint has backed off 2/3rds of the claimed bill and isn’t even trying to get the cancellation fee anymore.