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Would you pay a bill without seeing the bill?

Dear Help Squad,

On Oct. 8, 2013, I bought a phone at the Sprint Store in Evanston, and the phone was returned on Oct. 17, 2013, a refund credited to my charge card, minus a fee. On Dec. 18, 2013, I received a collection notice for $746.53 from Receivables Performance Management.

I called the manager, Lindsey Bennett, at the Sprint Store and she removed all but $99.48, which she said was for termination fees, “taxes by accident,” activation fee proration, proration fees for 10 days and restocking fees. I said I’d already paid a termination fee, and a restocking fee, and she said these fees were in the contract. I said I never got a copy of any contract and she said I would have had to have asked for one.

She said that’s all she could do and I should call another number, 888-211-4727, to request removal of the last $99.48. The call went to Venezuela and a young man told me he’d refer the matter to the “boys in the back office” and get back to me. When I did not hear from him, I called a few more times, and after explaining the problem, I got hung up on.

On Jan. 29, 2014, I received a “settlement offer” letter from the same collection company for $69.62, though the full amount “due” is still $99.48.

I do not know if Sprint follows these collection practices in other cases, but I would like these charges removed and a written acknowledgment of their removal. Can you help me with this problem with Sprint?

Dianne Walston,

Winnetka, IL

Since Sprint is such a large company, Help Squad was pretty confident we could get to the bottom of this one pretty quickly. We were very wrong.

The first thing we did was call Lindsey Bennett, manger of the Evanston Sprint store, who told us she couldn’t talk to the media before the line went dead. We called back again, trying to explain that all we wanted was for someone at Sprint to send Dianne a copy of her contract, or a statement explaining the $99.48 charge. Again Bennett told us she couldn’t talk to us and the line went dead.

What is so baffling (and wrong) about this case is that after both Help Squad and Dianne made several more phone calls, both to the Evanston Sprint office, as well as to the customer care center, no one was able to give Dianne any kind of proof — a contract, a receipt, a statement or bill — to explain why she owed $99.48.

Would you pay any company $99.48 if you had no idea what the charges were for? We sure wouldn’t!

A couple days ago, before publishing this column, Help Squad made one more call to Bennett, trying to obtain some kind of record of the charges. This time Bennett didn’t hang up on us. She just said, “I already told you, I can’t talk to you.”

Dear Dianne,

We are truly sorry that we couldn’t help you solve this. Had we been able to get a statement that explained the charges, we probably could have tackled it for you and tried to get you some results.

Surely Sprint executives understand the competitiveness of the cellular phone industry, so we hope they know how many other choices you and millions of others have when it comes to choosing a cellular carrier.

In our opinion, if they couldn’t produce an explanation of why you owed $99.48, then they should have removed the charges.

To use their words, maybe Sprint should “Do More.”

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