Customer Service, Craigslist and Buying Used Cell Phones

19 01 2008

 A preface:

I use Sprint for my cell service. Like Verizon (also AllTel, Helio, Qwest, etc) Sprint is a CDMA carrier. This is important because unlike my GSM pals (at&t and T-Mobile) the handsets are locked to the network. Unlike a GSM phone, which you can unlock on the cheap and then use with your SIM Card, CDMA devices are locked, by their serial number, to one network. Also, (at least for Sprint) the serial number (ESN) can be locked to a specific account or can be flagged as lost/stolen. This is important when buying a used device, like I attempted to do last night.

Because of the potential for buying a useless device I only buy used CDMA units locally, through Craigslist, if I’m buying from an individual. Why? The fact that you have met the person, have their phone number and know where they live greatly lessens that fuck-you-over factor.

The Story:

I found a used BlackBerry that I really wanted. It was the model I love at a decent price. Also, exceedingly close to work. After realizing that the hardware was perfect and all of the accessories were there I bought it and swung back to the office to sit down and get it activated.

The Bit About Customer Service:

I sit down and call Sprint to activate the BlackBerry in place of my regular handset and switch over to a BlackBerry plan.

After I get through the automated prompts so that I can wait for a real live person I am informed that my wait will be 5 minutes.

10 minutes later, I get a rep on the phone. He got the PTN (phone number) wrong a couple of times but we got into my account.

I told him that “I need to do an ESN swap and to change the plan on 301-xxx-xxxx.” Note the order in which I placed the ESN swap (getting the BlackBerry onto my account in place of my other handset) and the changing of the plan.  This will totally be on the test.  Then, “I’m switching to a BlackBerry, so I think we’ll need to do the ESN swap first.”  Notice how I said “I think” Instead of just jumping into “…we’ll need”?  I did that specifically so it would not sound like I’m telling dude how to do his job.

He put me on hold for a few to take care of things (this was after a forever of explaining what plan I waned) and when he came back he informed me that he could not activate the plan I wanted because a BlackBerry plan can only be put onto a BlackBerry.

“Yeah, I know that. That’s why I said that we’ll probably need to do the ESN swap first.”

He got the ESN from me and put me back on hold.  When he came back another 5 minutes later he told me he could not activate it because it is still active on the original owners’ account.

See? If he had done things in the order that I suggested he would have seen that the ESN was not available and not wasted both of our time trying to find and change the plan.

Back to the Part About Craigslist:

So I call the seller of the BlackBerry and tell him what’s up. I let him know that he needs to either clear it with Sprint or give back my money.

He called me back in a few to tell me something about how it was his sister’s and how tomorrow we can do a 3-way call with Sprint to clear it up….  I decided that it was becoming far too involved and I went back to his place and got my money back.

That is why I buy from Craigslist when I’m buying a used CDMA phone.  The guy knows that I know where he lives.  He does not know that if he fucks me over that I won’t show up to throw rocks through his windows, shit on his car or be otherwise evil towards him.

Conclusion:

The Sprint part of things was kind of a run-of-the-mill experience:  The rep was inexperienced/poorly trained, it took too long and I didn’t get done what I needed.

The bit about returning the phone was the best bad experience possible:  Shit didn’t work out, I got my money back, no harm/no foul.

Epilogue:

Dude calls me back today (twice!) saying how we can go to any Sprint shop (his words) and take care of it.  Really?  If I was annoyed by the prospect of calling am I really going to drive somewhere and stand in line to take care of it?  Fuck no.

After I left a message with the nice version of that last sentence I have not heard back and the hunt is on…again.

Update:

Got a reply from someone selling a newer, fancier BB for the same price.  Not my first choice but it is smaller.  We shall see, but we shall not be placing all of our eggs in this basket.

Update – the Sequel:

 The BlackBerry should be mine on Monday, which is perfect from an activation and plan swapping standpoint.  Despite my prior update regarding egg baskets, I am a wee bit giddy about it.

2nd-to-last Update (I hope):

Got a different BB and it looked good – turns out that dude suspended the PTN while waiting for a new phone – this does me no good as the ESN is still tied up.  So he got a call from me 1st thing this morning telling him that he needs to fix it.

At lunch (12pm Pacific) I will check with him and Sprint again.  If it is still un-usable by the time I am off of work (5pm Pacific) there will be stern words until my money is returned, in full.  After my money is back in my pocket, the profanity will explode from me with the power of 10,000 Suns.

Final Update:

So I spent 50 minutes this afternoon trying to activate this BlackBerry 8830 and get a BlackBerry plan.  The rep spoke little English, would not do what I asked and was combative the entire time.  When he said it was done I got the hell off of the phone before I exploded (see comment about Suns).

Come to find out 3 hours later that the plan was not provisioned.  I called Sprint again and got a non-outsourced rep.  Not only did she get the BlackBerry Plan on there, but got me one that is $10/month cheaper and includes unlimited SMS messages.  I am wary of that (sounds too good to be tru) and will call Sprint later to get the exact details of what plan is now on there. Sadly, it will be foreever before I can check the plan features online.

Currently, I have Twitterberry installed and will review that soon.  It is pretty damned straightforward (this is good) and I will confer with a longer-term user of it to make sure there’s nothing I’ve missed.  If it looks like I’ve gotten a handle on it, expect the review this weekend.

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