Friday, March 07, 2008

Sprint PCS

I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I'd noticed a problem with my latest Sprint bill and was going to have to call them to find out what was going on. At the beginning of 2007 when I got a new phone, I was going to switch carriers, but they'd made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Turns out I should have refused, because trying to get the actual terms that were offered to me on the first phone call took about six more weeks and twice as many phone calls.

So when I saw that the amount of my regular monthly bill had changed, I knew it wasn't going to be easy to get it straightened out. But I had to try. After successfully navigating their rather poorly designed voice response system and waiting on hold for ten minutes (with marketing messages every thirty seconds!), I got to speak to somebody. He wanted my phone number. Now the fact that I'd already punched that in during the voice response part of the call should have already made it available to him, but basic CTI is well beyond Sprint's capabilities. After that, he wanted my PIN. Previously, my secret key to enter the PCS netherworld had been a set of numbers and a word, so that's what I gave him. No dice. He wanted a "six to ten digit number." I told him I had no idea. No problem, I could give him the answer to my secret question. "What was the name of your firstmumble mumble?" What? Oh, my "first elementary school." Damn. That is just so not the type of question I'd have chosen. I thought for a moment, then came up with the answer. No dice.

Now what? I'm locked out of my account, and I haven't even done anything! Ah, but I can, he said, go to the website to check and/or reset my secret stuff. Now I'd been logged in to the website only a minute before I called them, so I bring up a new browser window and try to log in. It just takes me right back to a log in screen, with no indication of why. I try again. Nope. Phone-guy tells me to check caps lock. Thanks. I get their system to send my user name to my email. No surprise there, it's the one I've been using. Finally Chumley checks something and determines that the website "went into offline status a few minutes ago" and won't be available for an hour or so. Oh, you mean it's DOWN? Why not say so? I should mention that this was a 2 PM or so. Who has a website that goes into offline status at 2PM? Obviously, this phone call isn't going to get me anywhere.

A couple hours later, I tried the website again, since this whole security thing is confusing me. I find the page where all that stuff is set up and take a look. My "PIN" is more or less what I'd thought, except all the letters have been changed to numbers. I think I probably did this, so I'll take the rap for that, although a case could be made that the phone guy could have done the letter to keypad conversion or at least suggested it to me. The security question, however, is a much stranger situation. The page presents a drop down box with seven possible questions, including "What was your first elementary school?", "Street you grew up on?", "First employer?", and so on. The box is indeed showing the school question, but when I click on the field where the answer goes, it briefly displays for me the answer I'd put it. It was most decidedly not my school. So I dropped down the question box again, selected the correct question to go with the answer (insert Jeopardy theme music here) and then clicked the submit box at the bottom of the page. The page reloaded and once again, the security question was set to ask me about my first elementary school. I haven't thought about my first elementary school so much in over 35 years.

(interjection: I'm writing this at approximately 2PM the day after. I tried to log in to the website to verify a few things and have discovered that once again, it seems to be down, in the middle of the day. At least they're consistent on that.)

Being a programmer type by nature, I thought it would be a good idea to report this bug on their website. It's not all that easy to get to a page where you can actually send an email, and of course the pre-selected subject lines that are offered do not apply, so I'm stuck choosing "general." I write up the problem and hit send. Several hours later, I get a response. It tells me that since privacy and security are SO important to Sprint, that they can't respond to my account questions unless I reply with a whole laundry list of private information. Over unsecured email. Yeah, that's gonna happen. I fire back a response including the phrase "dealing with you people gets on my last nerve." Then I explain the problem again, typing slowly in hopes that doing so will aid their comprehension.

In the meantime, since I now know the answer to the secret question, even though they don't match, I choose to call in to try to get the billing question resolved. For some reason, I get transferred to an agent almost immediately after entering my phone number, which he immediately asks me for, of course. I also manage to get the PIN right and we're off. Except that my account "is handled by a different system" and he had to get permission to transfer my call. Say WHAT? I get put on hold while permission is granted, and then I am asked if it's OK to transfer my call . . . this post is already way too long, so I'll just mention that I had to speak to two other people, but finally got my billing questions resolved. I also decided to mention the website issue to the last guy. He told me I could go to the nearest Sprint store with two forms of ID and blah blah blah. Yeah right. It's your system problem, dude, I am not going to subject myself to the living hell that is a Sprint store.

Finally, I'll report on the response I got to the second email. First, there is a list of browsers that might have trouble with the site, including Mozilla Firefox, Opera, IE 7.0 or above, and Safari. I'm used to Firefox being blamed, but IE 7? Really? Since I was accessing their website from work, I actually was on IE 6 anyway, so then the first suggestion is to clear my cookies. Yeah, OK, 1996 called, they want their useless tech support back. I'm not going to delete ALL my cookies, many of which hold login information for sites like Slashdot, just so that Sprint's badly designed web pages will work.

Sprint, you FAIL at customer service.