AVOID USING THE "S" word around Rolling Stones fans. That word, Sprint, is a source of anger for many people who bought into the company's latest scheme to hook new customers--a chance to buy Rolling Stones concert tickets before the general public. For Geoffrey Pearman, that offer meant "two days and lengthy stays in voice-mail jail" trying to get simple questions answered. He wanted to know if he'd be guaranteed to get seats if he switched, and if he'd get his choice of locations or be stuck in the rafters. He wanted to know how much he'd have to pay. He was told all that information and more was available once he dropped his long-distance company and joined the family of happy Sprint customers. "The combination of people flatly refusing to help and the amount of time I spent in voice-mail jail really got my blood going," says Pearman.
The company probably wouldn't have told anyway. Sprint spokesperson Mark Bonavia says the company isn't announcing how many tickets it reserved in any city, or how many people signed up to get them. Still, Bonavia calls the promotion a "great acquisition tool" that is succeeding "beyond our expectations." Apparently the long-distance company is more worried about acquisition than retention. Robin Johnston switched to Sprint when she heard about the promotion and was one of the first to call when the tickets went on sale. Her first calls only got her put on hold, and later a machine told her she'd already bought tickets. A day later, she'd been hung up on once and told three times she couldn't buy tickets. Eventually, by demanding to talk to a few supervisors, she was able to get someone to sell her tickets for a concert in Miami. Johnston says she'll wait 'til the concert is over, then become an ex-Sprint customer. Sprint admits some customers have had problems, but overall says employees are doing "a super job" handling the traffic.