Brain Buster

Screw Your Customers

Any time I’ve seen Sprint advertising the Centro Palm smartphone it is with a $99 price. I have a Sprint plan with 4 phones on it that is running me over $100 a month. I called to get the Centro and the best price they could do was $250. The rep that I talked to on the phone said that the $99 price was only for new customers.

So the truth is that some terrorist looking for a throwaway phone, who has no intention of ever paying a bill, is getting a better deal than I am. Am I wrong to think that I’m getting treated like the new prisoner on the cellblock? Is there any reason besides the PITA factor (pain in the a$$) that I shouldn’t just get us all iPhones so that I can get the new customer deal from Sprint 2 years from now (if they have some less crappy phones)?
I’ve always had a problem with companies that give better deals to new customers than their existing ones, but that is life in the commodity market – too bad iPhones aren’t a commodity. Many will defend this point saying that one time offers are a good tactic for new customer acquisition, I say it’s at the cost of the resentment factor. Existing customers that are smart understand that they are subsidizing somebody else’s better deal.

For relationships like this we need a term more accurate than customer, for business models like this the customer is just another commodity in the equation, not really a human.

Merry Christmas!

Update: Sprint completely turned this around with some exemplary service at one of their stores. Why sit on hold, I’m going to hang out at the store if I have issues.

13 replies on “Screw Your Customers”

You said it – commodity vs. relationships. That’s why you see the Sprint Centro commercial several times an hour on TV.

On another note, you may want to look into if Sprint has a small business department. T-Mobile does, and that’s where I got my phones. A lot better than dealing with someone just off the street with a name badge that isn’t even their name.


[…] Big companies often find great ways to aggravate their customers, and cell phone giant Sprint proves the point. John Wall of the Ronin Marketing blog posted a rant about Sprint’s advertising for their Centro Palm smartphone, Screw Your Customers. Wall was understandably miffed when he found out that the $99 advertised price for the phone applied only to new customers, and that as an existing four-phone Sprint customer, he would have to pay $250 for the Centro. Beyond exacting what appears to be a penalty for customer loyalty, Sprint has committed a second sin of the neuromarketing variety. […]

It’s funny, I was listening to David Maister on the way in this morning where he talked about the exact opposite – spend 90% of your budget on existing customers and 10% on outreach, because losing an existing customer is far more expensive in the long run. I’d think a rational business model would be to have the new customer deal, but offer it PLUS 5% to existing customers IF they refer a friend.


This has been a constant frustration for me because it seems that my phone miraculously dies at the time that I hit the “early renewal” portion of my contract. So, if I want a new phone I have to re-up with my current provider and can’t shop around.

I have felt for a long time that these cell phone companies are stupid and missing an opportunity. They all seem to be focused in locking in phones, etc to prove that they are different than the others. Why doesn’t one company say, “Hey, we’ll give our CUSTOMERS an even BETTER deal on new phones than new subscribers!” How quickly would people flock to that company for that type of service?

Keep up the great work!


Great post! I’m living this right now — with Comcast. And I’ve been ranting for days.

My Comcast bill just jumped up by $30+. When I called, I found out that my promotional bundle package has ended and “because I already have such a high-level package and can’t really upgrade, there’s no promotional offer that they can extend to me.”

The ultimate irony — I am such a great customer that they can’t help me…grrr… Strongly considering a switch to Verizon now.

Amen. I spent 3 hours on the phone this week with DirectTV trying to get as good a deal as a coworker I had just referred! Here’s a recap of every single conversation:

rep: “I’m sorry sir, that deal is for new customers only.”
me: “Don’t you care about your existing customers?”
rep: “Uh…”

Well, every conversation until the last, when I finally found a CSR with some sense…

[…] John Wall over at Ronin Marketeer has struck a nerve with his most recent post entitled Screw Your Customers. The gist is that as a loyal customer, he went to his cell phone company to get an advertised rate, only to find out that he was ineligible. Why? Because he had the unfortunate situation of BEING A SPRINT CUSTOMER! If he wasn’t a customer, though, they gladly would have offered him the deal. […]

Wow, this resonated, thanks for the comments!

Mike – Good idea, I’ll try the small biz route…

Erika – My boss was dealing with this, he has it to the point where he has the new provider leave all the old wiring, now he can switch every year from provider to provider… insane….

Sprint is up there second to only Gold’s Gym and AOL as purveyors of some of the most dishonest business practices this side of small claims court. They love to use legal loopholes and 20+ page contracts to confuse their potential customers into paying exhorbitant penalty fees should they decide to change anything about their contracts, and it becomes even worse if they try to cancel service!

Maybe this abolition of human sympathy is a side effect of becoming a multinational corporation, or maybe this is the new generation of customer service that’s wised up to pesky customer defense tactics such as asking for a refund. The only reason the courts haven’t called it fraud is because none of the customers/victims are wealthy enough to prosecute.

I guess I’d just like to know when and why American services started waging psychological warfare on their customers. Comcast, Sprint, various gyms, the list goes on. Every last one of them forces you to juggle complex service plans and countless “special agreements” just to keep a reasonable price on your services. And may God have mercy on you should you try to cancel before your minimum contract is up!

Is all this really necessary just to squeeze a few more dollars each month out of their customers? Wouldn’t it save the entire US economy a lot of wasted man-hours (and money) just to make service contracts sane again, and downsize half of the anti-litigation teams and customer complaints staff in India?


I agree Sprint is not too wise to treat existing customers the way they treated you. Unfortunately it appears Sprint and other major carriers are focusing on locking customers in that 2 year contract – that seems to be their main concern and the reason they aggressively go after new customers while providing poor service to existing ones. Not too smart – especially in today’s social media society like this blog for example.

The sprint rep lied to me even after I asked the same question half a dozen ways (will changing my plan get me a cancellation fee within the next year?) and they have lost my business for life (i was with them for 5 years).

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