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We have a family cell phone plan which covers my wife, my sister-in-law, and my mother-in-law.  My father-in-law and I both have cell phones provided by work, so it's just the three lines.

mb-cellphone201308Recently, all three decided that it was time to upgrade phones.  They were all over two years old, and after some wavering and looking around, the decision was made to stick with Sprint.

My wife and sister-in-law both obtained their phones through Best Buy, where they got iPhone 5's for $50 less than could be found elsewhere.  My mother-in-law also got an iPhone, but she was in the market for a 4S and got hers from a local Sprint store.

I've had an account for ten years now with Sprint, so I was pretty familiar with what would come next.  Sure enough, on the next bill, there were activation fees for each of the lines.  They put a charge of $36 per line in addition to the normal monthly charges.

I've always had very good luck with getting these waived.  One hundred percent luck, as a matter of fact, and I was hoping to keep my streak alive.  It would not be as easy as in the past.

The last couple of times were actually much easier.  For awhile, Sprint had a program (I think it was called Premier) where longtime customers got extra benefits, one of which was automatic waivers of activation fees.  I know one of our renewals took place while this program was still active, so that didn't even require a conversation.  Unfortunately, Sprint shut down that program a couple of years back.

In other cases, I got the equipment from Sprint by placing an online or telephone order, and would get a waiver in advance or during the order process.  Buying two of them through a third party, I knew I would have to ask later.

The first attempt I made was to open up an online chat session.  Within a couple of minutes, I could tell two things:

  • I was typing with someone overseas.  Phrases were somewhat disjoined and I could tell that English was not their first language
  • They were operating from a script.  Some of the sentences did flow and were very well written.   Too well written, and I could tell that I was dealing with someone copying and pasting lines from a ‘script'.  The person denied it when I asked directly, but the difference in tone between some of the lines (that I suspected were ‘scripted') and those that they had to type were different.

One of the recommendations I've learned to try is to get the person to deviate from the script.  I did try a few questions to break the person out, but they would just jump right back in.  Another idea I've seen is to ask to ‘chat' with a manger.  I tried this and got the person's ‘supervisor', and I'm pretty sure it was probably the person sitting next to him.

After awhile, I gave up on trying to get it done, but I did ask to have someone call me, and that I wanted to speak to someone at the management level.  They said that this would be noted, and that I would hear from someone soon.

Within a day, I did speak to someone.  On the phone.  Someone that spoke English as their first language and was most assuredly not reading from a script.  He asked what my concern was, and I politely explained that I was looking to have these charges reversed due to our long loyalty with Sprint, never missing or being late on a payment, and the rest.

And what did he do within two minutes of getting on the phone?

He waived the charges.

I did get the sense that this might be one of the last waivers we'll get.  He launched into a discussion about how Sprint is putting together a big upgrade of their network, and how those upgrades cost money.  He actually went into the process of how an individual tower is upgraded, and some of the roadblocks that they have to face (each tower usually requires municipal approval, something I would have never guessed).  I could tell he was telling me these things not to make excuses, but because he was genuinely interested in the topic and wanted to share information.

I was happy that the $108 in charges were reversed, but I guess I should budget for these in a couple of years when we'll likely be faced with them again.

Though I'm sure going to try to get them waived!

Readers, do you pay activation fees or have you been able to slip out of them?  What are your tricks of the trade in getting these charges reversed?