Hey, where did my Sprint discount go?

When Denise Mendoza “upgrades” her Sprint account, the discount she had for years is gone. Is there any way to get it back?

Question: I’ve been a Sprint customer since 2003. We’ve had our ups and downs, but I was always able to resolve my issues with them. Until now.

I have had a discount with them since 2005. This May, I responded to an offer to upgrade my account at a lower rate.

When I called, they said the offer was for new customers only.

“What about old customers?” I asked. “Shouldn’t you give someone who’s been loyal to you that price?”

A representative agreed to waive the rule and I signed a new two-year contract. The sales manager told me nothing would change on my account, except the rate.

The first bill after the switch was $98, which was weird because I had been paying $80 for a few years. So I called Sprint and they basically told me without incriminating themselves that they’d taken away my discount and I needed to go through a re-verification process. I was dumbfounded.

I have complained to the BBB and the FCC and have appealed to Sprint’s “executive team,” but they refuse to adjust my bill. Can you help? — Denise Mendoza, Los Angeles

Answer: Sprint should have done what it said it would do: offer you a better rate on a two-year contract. The $98 is not a better rate than $80. You would have been better off staying with your old phone service.

Without taking a close look at your old phone bill and a new one — which, by way of full disclosure, I didn’t do — it’s difficult to say why your new phone bill is higher. As part of your “upgraded” contract you may be receiving extra services or a better handset.

But I think we can all agree that you’re paying more for your new two-year contract. And with a little sleuthing, Sprint should be able to pull up your call records and verify that a representative told you “nothing” would change. I think you’re entitled to a little clarification.

Your problem just underscores the maddening complexity of cell phone service. It’s difficult to know how much your phone bill will be from one month to the next even when you’re on the same plan. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the confusion is meant to squeeze a few more pennies out of subscribers like you. Most customers simply roll over and pay the higher bill.

By the way, the “executive” customer service team wasn’t the last stop on your appeal ladder. You could have taken your case higher up by sending a brief, polite email to one of Sprint’s executives. Email addresses at Sprint are either firstname.lastname@sprint.com or simply lastname@sprint.com.

I contacted Sprint on your behalf. It agreed to offer the same discount on your service that you originally had.

Are cell phone bills too complicated?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • http://www.tarpify.com Matthew Tarpy

    It sounds as if her discount was based on employment or membership in a group. I get a 14% discount off my Verizon service (and 25% off accessories, which, I have to say, is nice) based on a negotiated agreement between the large holding company that owns the company I work for and Verizon. I have to reverify my employment status every 18 months or so. Basically all that entails is them sending an automated message to my work email and then me clicking on a link in the email.

    Here’s how it appears on my bill:

    Your monthly access discount for Verizon Wireless services through XXXX XXXX INC employee program has two parts:
    Access Discount: 11%
    Bonus Access Discount: 3%
    Total Maximum discount up to: 14%

    I don’t think it is unreasonable of Sprint to ask her to reverify the status that got her that additional amount off.

    EDIT: I originally said 18%, I checked VZW and it’s actually 14%, still not too shabby.

  • http://www.moneybeagle.com/ Money Beagle

    Every time you renew your contract, you have to verify your discount eligibility. We recently did this and it was as simple as sending an e-mail from my company e-mail account. If she couldn’t do that, then she no longer qualified for the discount. Maybe Sprint should be more clear on this up front during the renewal process, but even so, it’s wrong that this person is demanding a discount that she is no longer eligible for.

  • shannonfla

    There are other discounts besides what you get based on employment. I have a pretty nice discount I received from customer retention department that I would absolutely hate to lose. I have to make sure every time we make a change that we don’t lose it. But reps make mistakes. One time it took a few weeks of investigation and getting IT to reinstate the discount just so they could apply it to my account. I now record every call I make to them; fair is fair!

  • Guest

    How do you know she’s no longer eligible for the discount? We don’t even know what the discount was for. I went through the Sprint system for getting a discount because I was eligible for one through the credit union I belong to. It was a lot more complicated than sending a simple email.

  • sirwired

    Would have been nice if Spring had actually delivered the discount they promised, but I suppose returning to the status quo is better than nothing.

    Are the post-paid carriers actively TRYING to drive people to pre-paid? Where you can take your business elsewhere whenever you please?

  • http://www.tarpify.com Matthew Tarpy

    For work based ones, it usually is nothing more than sending an email from your work email address.

  • http://www.tarpify.com Matthew Tarpy

    Yes, but in the original email from her, she said, re-verify, that pretty much implies that it’s work or other membership based discount.


    If Sprint said nothing would change but the rate then they should have stuck with what they promised and given the lower rate with the discount she already had. She does not mention why she had the discount and skips the reason why she would not go through a “re-verification process”. which does raise the question of whether or not she was still entitled to the discount she was receiving. I have done the re-verification thing when switching to a lower rate with my provider. Took minimal time–much less than I presume she expended contacting the BBB, the FCC and the “executive team” at Sprint. And cell phone bills need to be simplified. Mine, with 2 lines, runs nearly 8 pages and we are not heavy users.

  • Guest

    That may be. However, we are not told what the discount is for and to just assume she was no longer eligible is presumptuous.

  • shannonfla

    You’re right, I missed that. We’re in a situation where we’re wondering if a retired person still benefits from discount given to employees of organization from which he retired.

  • Mel65

    If indeed, the OP “called Sprint and they basically [said…she] needed to go through a re-verification process” there was no reason for you to get involved, Chris. The OP simply needed to go thru the reverification process and get it back for herself. If she lost the discount because in the intervening time prior to the upgrade she lost her eligibility, that’s on her and she shouldn’t get a discount she’s not entitled to and should have taken that into account before asking them to bend the rules for her (remember it was supposed to be a “new customer” offer). That Sprint told her nothign would change was probably based on their assumption of her continued eligibility for that discount. Sounds to me like you got her something she didn’t necessarily deserve. There is no reason to be “dumbfounded” when asked to verify entitlement to a benefit unless one is no longer entitled to it.

  • http://www.tarpify.com Matthew Tarpy

    Um, well since the Sprint employee asked her to reverify belies that. The key word here is verify. If it’s a customer service discount, you don’t need to verify anything…but if it’s based on who you work for, where you bank (credit union) or something else (AARP or AAA membership) then I don’t see any reason for her to have gotten huffy over it.

  • Guest

    That is a standard reply from the reps. I had a discount on my account that was removed and when I called about it, they said I just had to reverify. Only problem was, the discount wasn’t on one of their “verification” list. So just because the rep says to reverify doesn’t really mean anything.

  • John Keahey

    Why didn’t she just re-verify her discount eligibility? Seems simple enough, but I might be missing something here. I’ve done that a couple of times when I upgraded service.

  • Rebecca

    I switched to prepaid and my bill for 2 phones went down almost $100 a month. Well worth buying a phone up front.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I want one of those “Assurance Wireless” freebie phones that are advertisted on TV. I mean, I’m paying for them with my taxes, so I want one.
    Of course, I can’t get one, on account that I’m not on government assistance, but hey…

  • ExplorationTravMag

    We get a 22% discount through Sprint due to my husband’s employer. Recently, we were notified the discount was expiring and we needed to renew it. The bad part was, my husband was out of work on short-term disability and didn’t have access to his work e-mail, thus we had to jump through hoops to renew it. I haven’t seen the next bill since this happened, so I don’t know if we have the discount or not.

    But, to answer your question, yes, most cell companies make things hard for you and will make mistakes such as this with a figurative flip of a switch, yet drag their feet when it comes to fixing that mistake.

  • emanon256

    I left an organization that offered such a discount to it’s employees, and in my exit packet, it had a new code to provide to AT&T for a former employee discount. It was not as good as the currently employee discount, but still better than nothing. I still use the former employee discount.

  • random_observation_source

    don’t worry raven… right now, no one else can get them either.

  • Mark Carrara

    Recently Verizon asked me to re-verify my employment status. I couldn’t because I changed jobs, so they stopped my discount. I wonder if I can get Chris to help me

  • $16635417

    “The sales manager told me nothing would change on my account, except the rate.”

    But now she wants her old rate? What was the expectation? Confused.

  • Michelle

    I also have Sprint and have been a cellular customer with them since 2000. At that time I was eligible for a Marriott discount. At no time during the 13 years did they ask me for re-verification. Earlier this year, I also took advantage of the same offer that the OP did. However, I soon began receiving MULTIPLE requests to verify my discount eligibility (multiple due to procrastination on my side). One would have to assume that the OP received the same requests. It seems to me that the OP was no longer eligible for the discount and felt that she had gotten away with it for so long that she should still be able to receive it. Shady.

  • Guest

    Or it could have been the rep improperly removed the discount, or failed to apply it after changing the plan, that the system didn’t send out any emails to reverify. Bottom line is we don’t know what the discount was for or if the OP was still eligible for it. To make any conclusion about the OP not being eligible is wrong and cannot be supported by the information given. Based on the outcome of the problem, it could be argued they were still eligible and that is why it was changed back.

  • Michelle

    I would think that if this was a legitimate discount that she was supposed to be receiving, there would be further discussion in her post about the steps she took to re-verify, hitting a brick wall while doing so, then complaining to the FCC etc. If someone ACTUALLY goes through the hassle of trying to re-verify unsuccessfully I am sure we would have heard about it. Seems she wanted to skip that step, which smells of shady. IMHO.

  • Guest

    Or that portion was edited out of the story, something Chris has said he has done in the past with other stories. Again, the bottom line is we don’t have all the facts and to make these types of conclusions about continued eligibility is wrong. The fact that it was reinstated is evidence they may still have been eligible.

  • Grey

    Why do existing customers feel like they should get the discount aimed at gaining new customers? If you’re a “loyal” customer it’s because you’ve been happy with the service. If you’re still getting the same service that made you a loyal customer, why ask for a discount you’re not entitled to?

  • EdB

    Why shouldn’t existing loyal customers get rewarded? They have helped the company’s bottom line than those newbies.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    If I’m not obligated to continue using your service, I’m entitled to negotiate the terms of my remaining your customer at any time. You can decide if its worth it. That’s why they have customer retention departments.

  • Grey

    You’re already being rewarded with the great service that earned your loyalty in the first place. Sure, you’ve helped the bottom line, but you were still getting the service you paid for.

    There’s nothing wrong with trying to negotiate a better deal and I don’t fault the OP for trying to snag this discount. That’s not my issue here. I just don’t like when when people play the “loyalty” card to get things they’re not entitled to.

  • EdB

    That’s not a reward. That is getting what you paid for.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I don’t understand, what’s the difference?

  • BMG4ME

    I don’t believe it said anywhere that the discount was for new customers, especially since the discount was from 2005 and they have been with Sprint since 2003.

  • BMG4ME

    It seems pretty clear she wanted the rate to be lower, as it said “I responded to an offer to upgrade my account at a lower rate” but instead the rate was higher. Not sure why you are confused.

  • BMG4ME

    Sorry your husband was on disability. However regarding your statement “yes, most cell companies make things hard” – that wasn’t the question. The question was whether the billing is complicated, and for all their faults, I can’t say that I’ve ever found the bills to be complicated although I do agree with your statement.

  • Grey

    Why is getting what you paid for worthy of a reward?

  • EdB

    Because it costs a business money when you lose a loyal customer and even more to find new ones. It is in the best interest of a business to find the balancing point between the cost of rewards to keep your current customers versus the greater cost of finding new ones.

  • Grey

    I completely agree with that statement. I’m only saying you shouldn’t call yourself “loyal” when you’re willing to bail if you don’t get something you’re not entitled to.

  • EdB

    You are the one calling a long term customer “loyal”. Not all long term customers are loyal and not all loyal customer have been customers for long term. I am a long term customer of Sprint and I wouldn’t call myself loyal. If I found a better deal on better service, I would leave Sprint in a heart beat.

    The argument about “entitled” is not relevant. This story deals with two discounts of which we have no information on what they were. It could be reasonably argued they were entitled to the new discount because Sprint signed her up for it, but in doing so, took off the other discount she had been receiving. Was she still entitled to it? Again, it could be argued she was because the rep said she needed to re-verify for it and in the conclusion, they put it back. So unless you have some other information about the discounts, I would suggest you just drop this entitled argument.

  • Grey

    My point was regarding only this part of the story:

    When I called, they said the offer was for new customers only. “What about old customers?” I asked. “Shouldn’t you give someone who’s been loyal to you that price?”

  • aerix88

    Speaking as someone in the cell phone industry… those subsidized handsets cost a ton of money. Having people pay full retail or receive less of a discount on them would save a lot of money, and would reduce the monthly cost to consumers in the long run, just like in Europe. So in a way, kinda? Hopefully that made sense. :)

  • aerix88

    Usually there is an alternative way to get re-verified, like a recent paycheck or copy of employee ID. But I am sorry to hear about your husband and the difficulties of getting his discount back. :-/

  • SadCustomer

    I need help, I have a similar issue been a customer since 1999. I had a discount and just signed for new contract via best buy, who said plan will not change an did! Now sprint is taking away my discount and plan was changed. What do I do. How can I get my old plan back..? ;(

  • EdB

    Live and learn *NEVER* to buy a phone through Best Buy. Had them do the same thing to me. Odds are Sprint is saying that the discount is no longer available and because it was removed, they can’t put it back on.

    Sprint gives you 14 days to return the phone without having to pay the ETF. If you are in California, 30 days. If you are still in that window, call Sprint and ask for the retention department and tell them unless you get it fixed, you are going to cancel.

  • esquire415

    CA return window went back to 14 days years ago. The Governator signed that into law to revert it back for some reason…probably because he was paid off by these wireless carriers.

  • EdB

    Yeah. Did some research after that post and found out the Gov. Terminator loaded the PUC with pro-business members who quickly overturned that rule.