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I [heart] code! .NET musings from the chick side

Last weekend I spoke at Iowa Code Camp in Des Moines Iowa. It was a fantastic time, those guys put on a great event. After a quick dinner and iced tea (no post-event beer for those driving home!) at the after party, I headed out on my four hour drive back to the Twin Cities. The weather and road conditions were good. Until just south of Clear Lake. Suddenly the highway became one big ice sheet and cars were going into the ditch right and left. People were spinning out even when we were crawling along at 20 mph. Long story short - at one point I had to call 911 from my cell phone. (A Treo 800w from Sprint.) Many people, including myself, pulled off at the rest stop just south of Clear Lake to wait for the salt trucks. It was here that I started making calls to friends and family to let them know I was delayed. After I had make a few calls, my phone presented me with the following: "No more non-emergency calls while in emergency mode." Apparently my call to 911 had flipped something in my phone and I was now blocked from using it as a normal cell phone. I took a guess and dialed *2 - the number for Sprint customer service. As I suspected, I was able to complete this call. When I was finally in touch with a customer representative, I was told that she couldn't "access anybody's records" because they were "updating" their system." I explained that this was not an acceptable answer because I was driving alone in an ice storm at night in the middle of no where, and absolutely had to have a cell phone for safety reasons. Not to mention that my brother was driving south to escort me back because, well, I guess that's what brothers do, and if I didn't have a cell phone, we would drive right past each other - me going north and him going south. She continued to say that she couldn't help me and that I needed to "call back in the morning." Then we were suddenly cut off. When I redialed customer service, I was greeted with a "Please call back during business hours" message. (From a 24 hour service). By this time, the salt trucks had finally passed by and people were leaving the rest stop, so just staying put and waiting for my brother was not an option. (I had borrowed someone's cell phone to let him know that mine was out of service.)

I was left with two choices: stay at a rest stop in rural Minnesota at night, alone, or hit the road and drive in an ice storm with no cell phone. Then I happened to overhear that the rest stop had wifi. I flipped the switch on my phone and sure, enough, was able to connect to the internet. After that, it was merely a matter of googling to find the registry hack that would unlock my phone. After downloading a free WinMobile registry editor and deleting the specified entries from the phone registry, I was on my way again with a fully functional cell phone. (Although, ever since then I cannot synch to my computer - Active Sync doesn't even detect the device. Wireless Active Synch still works, though.)

There were so many FAILs in this scenario that I don't even know where to begin. The locking of a phone after a 911 call. (Don't you think that someone making a 911 call might have a pretty pressing need for communication capability?) The failure of Sprint to even explain, much less address the issue (The rep I was talking to had no idea what I was talking about when I was trying to explain the problem with my phone.) The Sprint system "update" that took out their entire support network including the customer service number.

All ended well - after reinstalling Active Synch on my laptop I was even able to sync my phone again. But this never should have turned into such a saga.

Posted on Saturday, November 22, 2008 11:53 AM | Back to top


Comments on this post: Sprint Customer Service Fail

# re: Sprint Customer Service Fail
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Great story.

I will say this though. Always remember that the cell phone network is what the internet would be like had it not been for the government and successive non commercial ventures that gave us a neutral network that did not allow any individual corporation (heck, even Microsoft) to control part of it.

Whenever I hear a story like this, it makes me thankful that ATT and friends did not realize the internet was useful for commercial purposes until after the tube was out of the toothpaste, so to speak.
Left by Aaron Erickson on Nov 22, 2008 5:12 PM

# re: Sprint Customer Service Fail
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Correction, toothpaste out of the tube :)
Left by Aaron Erickson on Nov 22, 2008 5:13 PM

# re: Sprint Customer Service Fail
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so sorry that happened you didnt need the registry hack and we did not need our systems to help you that was an excuse to get you off the phone i work with tech support that is just unnaceptable to me as well
Left by thomas medlock on Dec 05, 2008 2:58 AM

# re: Sprint Customer Service Fail
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Your issue could have been handled as general trouble shooting. The agents system was actually "down", our systems are currently updating is the pc way to say it. Previous post was accurate by saying they were just trying to get you off the phone at the end of their shift most likely. Hope you figured out how to get your phone out of emergency mode. Its in the owners manual, if you dont have the owners manual it is free to pull up on sprint.com
Left by sean on Dec 05, 2008 10:45 AM

# re: Sprint Customer Service Fail
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I just spent over an hour on the phone with Sprint trying to unlock my phone from "emergency mode." I saw a car go into the ditch yesterday and called 911 and since then I cannot make a call out from the phone. The first customer service person I spoke to at Sprint could not help me and transferred me to a tech person who told me he had never heard of this problem - said "this is the first time I've heard of this problem." After being transferred twice, taking my battery out several times, entering and re-entering codes, etc., they told me I would have to take the phone (a Treo) into a Sprint store for a hard reset. I googled the problem and found a lot of people have had a tough time getting their phones back to normal after calling 911. It's amazing that all Sprint customer service workers are not trained on how to fix this problem. Very frustrating since this is my work phone and I handle the media for a large organization.
Left by Barb on Jan 20, 2009 9:58 PM

# re: Sprint Customer Service Fail
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im a sprint cust care rep and i truly have never heard of this issue
Left by sprint care on Jan 24, 2009 8:18 PM

# re: Sprint Customer Service Fail
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I want to change my credit card payment to a new credit card.
Left by John Benthall on Apr 29, 2009 9:58 PM

# re: Sprint Customer Service Fail
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For complete customer care from Sprint, including billing concerns, you can contact Jaime Trevino at the Executive & Regulatory Department call 1-877-727-0665, Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., Central Time
Left by James on May 22, 2009 4:56 PM

# THE BOSS
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MY NAME IS WILLIAM TO'CONNOR. I AM GOTO CALL MT ATTONEY ABOUT THE I880 YOU SENT ME. IT IS USED PHONE. I HAVE BEEN WITH SPRINT FOR #10 YEARS. LOOK UP PAPER WORK ON THE BAD TIMES I HAD WITH SPRINT. SEE YOU IN COURT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Left by WILLIAM T O'CONNOR on Jun 06, 2009 7:17 PM

# re: Sprint Customer Service Fail
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There really is no reason for sprint to take "10-14 weeks" or more to honor it rebates to customers. I find your reason for this delay ["checking eligibility"] a very feeble excuse.
If I'm one dollar short when I pay my bill you let me know it; so now I'll let you know it, sent me my rebate!!
Left by Alvin on Jul 25, 2009 12:06 PM

# re: Sprint Customer Service Fail
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Yes, it is unfortunate when we need use of a cell phone in an or incase of an emergency, but the systems do go down and sometimes systems need to update. It is not logically possible to install updates to a system and affect absolutely no one in the process. It was not an excuse to get you off the phone because the calls are monitored and frequently scanned by a quality team. If anyone is caught trying to get you off the phone they will be fired for call avoidance. Customer service representatives can only know so much information and often times have to research problems as they come in. You can't possibly be trained on everything that has and that can happen with a phone. As for the emergency mode problem...it happens very rarely. I have come across it only twice and it has been so long that I forget what it is caused by. Yes, unfortunately you will get bad reps and you will get people who aren't as knowledgable, but to set the expectation that it should be flawless is unrealistic. New issues come up, we get problems that come in that are brand new issues that haven't been reported by anyone. It is a fairly stressful job to do for those of us that care. I won't say there aren't bad reps, because there definitely are...but those get weeded out as quickly as possible. Most of the time I handle calls from angry customers that won't give me a second to actually research the issue. The simple fact that I have to take 30 seconds to check my work sends some people over the edge. Just remember...systems go down...systems update...people tend to lose it when the luxuries they are use to don't work...even for the smallest amount of time...be it the internet...their cell phone...or an online game...as I stated before...you simply can't prevent 100% of the problems that might happen or time system updates to where they won't affect anyone...it is unfortunate but true
Left by TD on Aug 14, 2009 12:47 AM

# re: Sprint Customer Service Fail
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I left this part out. As far as the emergency mode goes...it is something set that when you make a 911 call it goes into emergency mode to keep the line clear incase they need to contact you back. Ideally, if you attempt to make a regular phone call it should unlock it, but this can vary depending on make/mode. In most cases it should be in your devices user guide (which I know you don't have on you at all times) but if you are reading this...its a good idea to take a look at it just incase you need to call 911. Something to always remember when calling customer service of any type is to be as descriptive as possible...they werent with you the whole way up to the problem so they have absolutely no idea what may have led up to the problem. Something as basic as texts or internet not working could be caused by many different things and I usually end up fixing it much faster when the customer tells me what happened up until that point and what else works/does not work on their phone currently.
Left by TD on Aug 14, 2009 12:58 AM

# re: Sprint Customer Service Fail
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From A tech support rep: To get out of Emergency only dialing on only SOME Sprint Devices - Pull the battery, count to 10, reinsert. This may correct the issue immediately on some devices. On others, you have to additionally, enter # 1 1 9 # or #* 1 1 9 # if there are no menu options in your user guide. The purpose of this is to enable gps tracking as well on some devices, so that missing or stranded persons can be found without interference from incoming calls or text messages.
Left by Nicety_ on Aug 20, 2009 10:26 PM

# re: Sprint Customer Service Fail
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Called 911 on my Treo 800w last week. All non-emergency calls cannot be made on the Sprint/Treo phone. Called customer service on 9/19/09, told me to reboot and loose all phone information. Calling 911 should not be a nusiance! To correct this issue, I was directed to buy a new phone.

These phones should be recalled.
Left by BillyBoyMN on Sep 19, 2009 5:38 PM

# re: Sprint Customer Service Fail
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I do cell tower maintenance and is amazing and very surprising how people try to get away from the problem. I have gone through the same thing and it is very frustrating that nobody can give me an answer. Is this big brother related that Sprint cannot do anything about it or what is going on? I am sick and tired of the over-protection sometimes I just feel that you are hiding so much stuff from us.
Here is the description of my problem I do 911 test calls a lot and one day I dialed 911 and once done with the call forgot to click EXIT and after that my phone is emergency call back mode. I researched the problem have invested so much time of my own and just looks like there is no solution. Sprint customer care this is a true issue and needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
Left by Sprint Employee on Sep 21, 2010 7:37 AM

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