It was an Aug. 2 letter threatening to report me to collection agencies that pushed me over the edge. After seven years of being a mostly satisfied Sprint Nextel (S) customer, two months earlier I had switched to Verizon Wireless. Since Sprint merged with Nextel in 2005, I had begun to notice a decline in network coverage. I got fed up with an increasing number of dropped calls and busy signals, and when someone began using my phone number illegally in May, I decided it was time to break up with Sprint.
But Sprint refuses to let me go. Since changing service providers, I have tried on three occasions to cancel my service. Over six weeks, I have spent about 10 hours on the phone with Sprint customer service representatives, repeatedly explaining my predicament. And yet Sprint refuses to cancel my contract and continues to charge me for service. "It seems they never have these glitches on the front end when they sign you up," says Russ Haven, legislative counsel for the New York Public Interest Research Group.
As a journalist covering technology, I had long known of service complaints against Sprint, but now I have experienced many of these frustrations firsthand. My tale reflects the troubles engulfing Sprint, and raises concerns over how soon the wireless carrier may emerge from its slump. In the second quarter, Sprint reported a 95% dive in profit as sales growth slowed and costs increased. One of the few glimmers of hope: Sprint attracted 373,000 new customers in the period, reversing three quarters of losses—though it continues to lag rivals AT&T (T) and Verizon Wireless, which added 1.5 million customers and 1.3 million customers, respectively.
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