Sprint has not been "making wireless easy" for me.
It all started with the flaws in my beloved, but quite imperfect, Treo 600. I decided the 600 was a lost cause--Sprint couldn't figure out why it had so many problems. In fact, Sprint couldn't even get its test equipment in the stores to work long enough to find out that the company couldn't find out what was wrong with it.
I tossed my 600 into a desk drawer and hauled out its predecessor, my old Treo 300. I called Sprint to switch my phone service back to it, and that went fine. Then began my descent into hell: getting the Internet connection reactivated.
First, I made four calls to tech support over three days. Each time, I had to start from scratch by telling the support rep what the problem was, and each time, I'd be told to go through the same steps I'd tried during the previous call. I was presented with four different theories about the problem and would later surmise none of them were correct.
So I resorted to a quaint practice: I visited a Sprint retail store. The first stop was the Pine and California location, a few blocks from our CNET offices in San Francisco. There, I was told the computer test phones were giving a Windows error when connecting to my Treo.
"Try the Mission and Fifth store," they said helpfully. "They'll have an HP tester."
After a $7 cab ride to Mission and Fifth, I found that the store had a tester but not a technician. He's off Fridays--you know, like a Seventh Day Adventist running a day early.
"Try Geary and Van Ness, they're a really busy store."
Is that supposed to be promising?
Another $7 cab ride later, Van Ness and Geary tell me the Sprint Provisioning Network is down for the day, and no phones can be activated. (That turned out to be total BS.) "Have you tried Geary and Stanyan?"
I demanded a landline to call Sprint support from the store. They wouldn't do that, but they did let me use one of the cell phones on display. That was wonderful--I got to sit on a long support call holding a 5-ounce cell phone tethered to a spring-loaded, antitheft cable trying to retract it with 22 pounds of force. My neck still hurts.
But it was worth the chiropractic bill; that call did it. The Treo was fixed in less than two minutes with five short keystrokes.
Now I was madder than ever.
Why did I have to spend $14 in cab fares and make five phone calls totaling more than 60 minutes over seven days before I got a guy at Sprint support who could fix my simple little problem simply? Read on for the answer.
It's called the curtain
| Behind the curtain is a CEO, a VP of marketing, an SVP of product development, and others who think their company does what their advertising says. || |
There is a curtain at large tech companies. Behind the curtain is where you want to be. In front of the curtain is you, the schmuck with the problem.
Behind the curtain are hundreds of company engineers who can fix whatever problem you are having with their product in a matter of two minutes at most.
In front of the curtain with you is the tech-support gang--not to be confused with company engineers.
Behind the curtain is a CEO, a VP of marketing, an SVP of product development, and others who think their company does what their advertising says.
In front of the curtain is some guy in Delhi bumbling your support request and making complete bull out of that advertising the CEO really believes.
When companies get big, they get curtains, and you aren't allowed behind them--not to get an answer, not to find out where your repair is, nothing.
| In front of the curtain is some guy in Delhi bumbling your support request and making complete bull out of that advertising the CEO really believes. || |
Small companies don't have this problem. I lobbed a support request into MailFrontier the other night and got a spot-on technical reply within the hour. Last weekend, I needed support for my copy of Second Copy. I got a complete and correct reply a little later that same Saturday night.
But with Sprint, I'm on the wrong side of the curtain. And you're right there with me.
The curtain is the reason a lot of ordinary people still roll their eyes and shun personal technology. In the end, the curtain smothers companies that live behind it, damning them to lose money, market share, or their very existence--at least, that's what I'm hoping.
New to these CNET pages is a TalkBack thingy below. Use it. I don't write these things just to watch my fingernails move.