I love my Sprint plan, but I hate Sprint customer support. My plan offers an upgrade every 2 years, or approximately a $400 credit towards a new phone in exchange for agreeing to another 2 year contract. I am still happy with Galaxy S5 (which is still working after getting wet thanks to the fix I found). The Galaxy S6 I think was a step backwards and the Galaxy S7 doesn’t offer the removable battery which I’ve grown to really like. Even if I wanted a Galaxy S7, I’d still have to pay $250 for the phone.
While looking at the website, I saw that I could get an iPhone SE for free. They are usually $400, but I could order it for free – no tax, no shipping, and no activation fee. I saw that they were selling for around $400 on ebay, so I figured I would get the free phone and then sell it. I have a good plan on Sprint, so I have no problems agreeing to a 2 year contract. There are a few other factors motivating me to do this. First, I’m always worried that Sprint will decide to get rid of the promotional phone prices in exchange for a 2 year contract. If they get rid of that while I’m waiting for a new phone, I’d be pissed that I missed out on the credit. Second, if I use the upgrade now, the clock starts towards my next upgrade in 24 months. Third, I have seen that there are often Sprint phones available cheaper through other retailers than through the Sprint website. I don’t mind buying refurbished items from reputable sources. One other possibility is that I would want to get the new Google phone coming out this fall, which may only be available directly from Google – thus not eligible for the $400 discount.
Before I went ahead and used my upgrade, though, I looked around and found a few different threads online discussing this exact question to make sure it would work. First, there was this discussion from 2013 that explains that as long as I activate it on my line first, and then deactivate it, it will be able to be activated on anyone else’s line. There was another post from 2011 with a comment in 2012 saying the same thing – it can be done, but you just have to activate the phone on your line first, and then deactivate before giving it to someone else. Someone in that post said they never activated the phone on their own line, but were able to call Sprint after the person received the phone and get it removed from their line within minutes to get it properly activated on the new line.
So multiple people said that they had no problems doing this. I figure no big deal, right? I know that things change over time, so I called Sprint support and asked them if I could do this. They said absolutely and it won’t be a problem. I went ahead and ordered the phone. I got it the next day. I was debating if I should open the box, activate it, and then deactivate it before selling it. I called Sprint again and asked them about this. The customer service representative checked and he said he could do something to disconnect it from my account without me opening the box and activating it on my line first. He said absolutely I can now give my phone to someone else to activate it on a Sprint line. He said it may be locked to Sprint service for two years, but any account with Sprint would be fine.
I then had to decide what the best way would be to sell the phone. There are a bunch of fees with Ebay, but Ebay has the biggest reach. At this time, Ebay charges 10%, plus Paypal takes another 3%, plus whatever shipping, etc. I also saw a website called Swappa which is a website just for selling phones and they only take a $10 fee when you sell the phone. On a $400 phone, that’s a $30 savings. I’d still have the Paypal and shipping fees. The third option I came across was Craigslist. I’d never used Craigslist before, but it is free and easy to use.
I started with Swappa. It was easy to list the item. You upload a picture of the phone with the item number they give you in the picture so they can verify that the phone is really in your possession. The staff approved my listing within a few hours. The first day I got one person who kept leaving comments about how interested he was in the item, but he wanted it at a lower price. He kept asking questions about whether the phone will work with various services and I was within $10 of the price he was willing to pay, but since I had just listed the item, I didn’t want to discount it any further. He didn’t buy the phone.
Then there were no more comments for a few days and I started to get impatient. I decided to try listing the phone on Craigslist. I’m really glad I took someone’s advice and registered for a free phone number / texting number. There are several companies that offer this and I used an app called textme on my android device. Within the first few hours I got several text messages that were clearly a scam. Each one offered me more money than I was asking in exchange for accepting a check and then mailing it out of state. Interestingly, each time they did give what looked like a genuine address in the US. I was getting so sick of it that I kept asking higher and higher prices, just to see how much they’d be willing to pay. I think I got one person to agree to send me a check for $1500 (for a $400 phone). After doing this a few times to amuse myself, I finally just stopped responding to anyone who didn’t follow the instructions in my posting (cash only, no shipping).
I did get a real person interested and by the time we were ready to meet, she contacted me to say she couldn’t make it and was going to get a different phone. Someone else made an offer then backed out saying he thought it was a different model once we agreed on the price. A few other people offered half of what I was asking and said that was all the money they had. It wasn’t going too well.
I started to lower the price slightly on Swappa and eBay, while keeping it listed on Craigslist. I eventually had someone purchase the phone for $389 via eBay, with me paying shipping. They had a high eBay rating, so I figured all was good. I spent about $7 on shipping Priority Mail, no insurance (beyond the $50 they provide automatically with Priority) and no signature required. From what I can tell, eBay and Paypal will use the tracking provided by Priority Mail as confirmation the item was received and cover any claims of non-delivery for a phone of $400. Ebay took about $39 for their 10% fee. Paypal took about $11 for their transaction fee. Overall, I netted about $340 and I was happy with the outcome. Unfortunately, my problems with Sprint were only beginning.
A few days after the phone was received, I get a message from the buyer through eBay saying the phone can’t be activated as it is showing as already active and they are requesting a return if I can not inactivate the phone. I give Sprint a call and the very pleasant support person reviews my account and says the phone is definitely not activated and is not tied to my account. He says there should be no problem activating it but if the person has problems, they should call 866-264-1282. I send this information back to the buyer.
The buyer then sends a message back saying “This is a prepaid phone I need a phone able to be on a contract. Sprint does not interchange these devices please continue with a refund and return thanks”
I replied with, “This is definitely NOT a prepaid phone. In fact, the person I spoke to at Sprint said that it is currently configured to go on a post paid plan, but if you call the number I gave, there is a way to change it to work with a prepaid plan. Did you call the number I provided to try to get it activated on Sprint? If you want to have a 3 way call with sprint to assist in getting it activated, let me know.”
Buyer replies back, “I assure you it is not able to be put on my account. We are a sprint dealer. If this is not resolved soon we will dispute this purchase with PayPal.”
I called eBay, because in my listing, I specifically said that I will not accept returns. Also, the buyer was not willing to do a 3-way call with sprint, which the sprint representatives had said would definitely allow them to get the phone activated. My call with eBay support was surprising. They informed me that even though I indicated “no returns accepted”, if the buyer claims the product is not what I described, then I should accept it back and just lose the shipping fees. They said if I let it go to a dispute, since eBay doesn’t have the actual item in front of them, they have no way to verify whether it really is what I claimed when I sent it out. They said if I accept the return, then I get my fees refunded and there is no negative mark on my eBay account. They said if I refuse the return and the reviewer decides in favor of the buyer, then I will lose my eBay fees, have to refund the money, and it will have a negative mark on my eBay account. They strongly implied that most reviews are found in favor of the buyer.
I called back Sprint to try to get more information about what is going on. Again, a very pleasant and apparently helpful support person tells me that upon his further review it did look like there was some kind of block on my account which he would put in a request to have removed. He said it would take 24-48 hours to have the block removed. It wasn’t clear to me whether he actually was saying the word “block” or whether he meant that it was set to only be activated on my account. At this point, I’m frustrated that Sprint didn’t take care of this problem before I mailed out the phone, but I’m glad that they have apparently identified the problem. I’m also feeling bad for the buyer because it is clear there was a problem with the phone.
My next reply to the buyer, “I just spent an hour on the phone with sprint and reached someone who knows what they are doing (I think). Despite what the three previous support people told me, my phone was still tied to my own account. Today they submitted a request to have the block removed to allow you to activate it. I am very, very sorry for your inconvenience. They said it will take 24-48 hours before the request is processed. If you want to wait to see if you can activate in 48 hours I will refund you $20 if you decide to keep the phone. If you want to return it now for a full refund (or after trying in 48 hours I will refund the entire amount. It is my error in trusting Sprint, but I am more optimistic they will fix it now. If you want me to proceed now with the return, let me know, or let me know the outcome in 48 hours.”
The buyer sent me back the phone without bothering to try to activate it after the 48 hours. Interestingly, he sent it in one of the small “if it fits, it shops” flat rate Priority Mail boxes. Yes – the iPhone SE box fits in there perfectly. He didn’t use any padding and the phone came back in perfect condition. Good to know that you can easily ship an iPhone SE in the box, in the small Priority Mail flat rate box. I had to pay approximately another $8 for shipping. Ebay and paypal reversed their fees, so at this point I’m out about $15 and quite a bit of my time.
I call back Sprint to see if I can just return the phone to them and get my upgrade credit back for a future purchase. At this point I realize I’m not going to get as much money for the phone as it is now open box, and I’m not 100% convinced that a new buyer won’t run into problems. I literally spent over 5 additional hours on the phone with Sprint support spread out over many days trying to just return the phone. It was one of the two worst customer support experiences I have ever had.
Each support person starts out with their pleasant promise that they will get everything to work exactly how I want. They first want to troubleshoot to figure out what was wrong that the phone didn’t activate. I of course didn’t have many details of that as I wasn’t there. They kept asking me if I would try different things to activate the phone and I said I wasn’t trying to activate it on my line, and I have no reason to activate it on my line as I don’t want the phone. They also instructed me to go to a Sprint store to see if they can get it to work. The support people had a really difficult time understanding me when I said I don’t want the phone anymore as it wasn’t for me in the first place.
Eventually it got escalated to a supervisor and this was where it got really bad. I explained that I don’t want to troubleshoot the phone, but I want to return it. I said that I got the phone for free, so I’m not looking to get any money back, I just want them to reverse the contract agreement so that I can use the upgrade credit on a future phone that I will personally use. She explains that she can’t do that since I’m outside of the 14 day return window. I explained that the only reason I’m outside of the 14 day return period is because they had promised me someone else could activate the phone, which turned out to be wrong. She said that they would first need to do more troubleshooting as they don’t see anything wrong with the phone and that they should be able to get the phone activated.
She then goes on to accuse me of having used the phone before I gave it to someone else. I asked her why she would say that. She tells me that she can see on the account that I activated the phone on July 14 and then deactivated it on July 18 and she tells me that the phone received a text message during that time. I explained that was impossible as I mailed it out in August, still sealed in the box. She starts talking to me like I’m lying. I tell her that she can look at their own shipping tracking and see that I didn’t even receive the phone until July 15. She actually checks the tracking information and sees that I received the phone on July 15. I explained to her that it must have come to me pre-activated and that when I called on July 18 to confirm that there would be no problems activating the phone on someone else’s line, that was when the customer support person “sent a text to it” and then deactivated it.
Next she asks me why I was giving the phone to someone else. I said that I had the free phone upgrade which I didn’t need, so I figured I could get some money from it by getting the phone and selling it. She asked me why I would have sold the phone. I said to get money. She reacted like this was the most sinful thing I could have done. She explained that I am not allowed to do that. I said that I asked before they sent the phone whether I could sell the phone to someone else to activate it on their line and they said it was fine. I also said there are numerous posts online of people doing this. She responded by saying that Sprint would not approve of my selling my phone I received as an upgrade. I said they should have told me that it wasn’t allowed when I called in to find out whether it was allowed. She then said that she was going to listen to my previous phone calls to Sprint and if I had informed them that my plan was to sell it, she would see what could be done; however, she also said that she did not think there was any way that she would be allowed to accept the return and cancel my contract, claiming that Sprint would fire her if she did that. I told her to review the phone messages and call me back. Because I do in fact have a life, I said she’d have to call me back the next day. She said she would that first thing at the start of her shift the next day.
The next day, I get no response from her at the start of her shift. Near the end of her shift, I call back Sprint and after a long period of time, get routed to her again and she apologizes saying she didn’t call me back earlier because she didn’t come in to work because of being sick. Then she quickly added that in spite of being sick, she forced herself to come in to work late. She then said that she would review the messages and call me back. The previous day she said she would review the messages right away, but then call me back the next day.
Again, no call back. I call back again and she said that she listened to the message and spoke to her people and they can’t accept the return until they find out what the error message was that kept the phone from being activated. They said they needed to know the account it was being added to and what error message was received. Of course, I didn’t have the error message, but I said they can contact the person who had the phone and ask him, and with him being a sprint dealer himself, he can explain that the phone wasn’t going to work. I gave them the contact information, they told me to hold, and then I got disconnected. Argh.
I’m not happy but I was optimistic that the “request to have the block removed” from my phone had been submitted and that I would be able to sell my phone to someone else without running into this problem. Oh how wrong I was.
I relisted my phone on Swappa, lowering the price significantly as the phone is no longer in a sealed box. The plastic was still on the phone itself but I know that having an open box raises plenty of questions as to whether the item is really “new”.
I did get someone to buy the phone for $335. $10 of that goes to Swappa. Paypal takes their approximately $10. I spend about $8 on shipping it out Priority Mail. At this point I’ve netted $317 from this transaction, minus the $15 I’ve lost sending it back and forth with the eBay buyer. I’ve stilled netted about $300. I’m not too upset by that, but not thrilled either. I’m just hoping the saga is over. But it wasn’t.
Before I send the phone to the new buyer, I decide I may as well activate it on my own line first, and then switch back to my Galaxy S5. Based on those threads I linked to above, some people said you needed to do that in order to free up the phone to be activated on another line. I figured it couldn’t hurt. Switching the phone was really easy through the Sprint website. I checked it out and it was able to receive a call after about a 5 minute process. Couldn’t be much simpler. Then I went to switch back my Galaxy S5 to the line. Uh-oh. The website still shows my Galaxy S5 is the phone I’m swapping OUT. It won’t let me swap back. I’m hoping it was just too soon to switch back, as I had planned on shipping out the phone the next morning (a Saturday). Fortunately, the next morning the website had updated properly and I was able to switch back to my old Galaxy S5 with no problems. The only minor downside was that I had to factory reset my Galaxy S5 first. Fortunately, I keep my photos on the SD card so those were safe either way.
I go ahead and ship out the phone Priority Mail on Saturday morning and gladly inform the new buyer that the phone is on its way. The tracking shows that the phone should arrive on Monday. I’m happy things are going so smoothly.
Monday rolls around and the USPS website is still showing the delivery should be Monday. As it’s getting to be dinner time and still not showing delivered, I’m getting a bit worried. The site updates the next day saying the delivery route has been changed, the package is on its way to the destination, but no estimated arrival time is available yet. Great. On Tuesday evening, the site does update to give an expected arrival of Wednesday and fortunately, the phone did arrive at its destination on Wednesday. Not horrible. Much better than being lost.
So now I’m waiting patiently for an email from the person who bought the phone saying they activated it. I get an email around 6pm saying that the phone can not be activated, that it isn’t a Sprint phone, and that they are going to have to return it. They post this on the private Swappa sale page.
I email Buyer #2 my phone number and tell them to have Sprint support call me while everyone is on the line to troubleshoot. Buyer #2 responds saying that Sprint phone support was unable to do anything and told them to take the phone to a Sprint store. Buyer #2 expresses frustration in the email. I apologize and point out the obvious – Sprint support sucks.
Buyer #2 emails me a few days later saying they made it to a Sprint store. The store told them it was flashed as a “pre-paid” phone and that they had to call corporate in order to look up the error message. They were going to re-flash the phone and they said it would be all good to go in another day. Things are looking positive but I point out that it makes no sense that it shows as a pre-paid phone, given that I activated it on my own contract line before mailing it out. Obviously there are some problems with Sprint’s system.
Three days later Buyer #2 goes back to the store to get it activated. It can’t be activated. The store will not contact me unless customer care is also on the phone, and the store will not contact customer care to have them contact me. Buyer #2 expresses frustration. I express frustration. Sprint is frustrating all parties involved. But there is plenty more frustration from Sprint.
Since previously Sprint had said they wouldn’t let me return the phone without confirming the phone couldn’t’ get activated, I asked Buyer #2 for the name of the people they spoke to at the Sprint store and I also asked if Sprint phone support could contact them. I call Sprint phone support and reach another very nice person who tells me they will happily call Buyer #2 and they will get it activated.
Buyer #2 is willing to talk to Sprint phone support, even after spending two hours at the Sprint store having no luck. Sprint phone support says they are getting the same error message – that the phone is a pre-paid phone and can’t be activated. They tell Buyer #2 that the phone must have been activated on a network like Boost mobile and that is the problem. They told Buyer #2 that the ticket was being escalated and they would call back two days later. The phone support person was actually good enough to call me and tell me what was going on. I explained that in no way was the phone ever activated on Boost and I pointed out that it was activated on my own Sprint line right before I mailed it out. Phone support person said they can see that and they will get it taken care of in two days as they have escalated the ticket.
I thank Buyer #2 profusely for sticking this out and tell them if it gets activated, I will refund them $20 of the purchase price. I understand that Sprint does not value anyone’s time, but I do. And I also know that if they send it back, I’m out $8 for shipping plus I’m stuck with a phone that Sprint doesn’t want to take back.
Three days later I get an email from Buyer #2 that the phone is not able to be activated and they are returning the phone. I asked what the error message was, and they said the same thing that the phone is not recognized by the network. Buyer #2 asks where I bought the phone. I send a copy of the purchase receipt from Sprint and suggest seeing if Sprint will swap the phone. Buyer #2 says that phone support is useless, but they said that they escalated the ticket and they should have it fixed in 5-7 days.
I decide I will call Sprint and see if I can convince them to offer a phone swap. For whatever reason, the phone they sent me that can be activated on my line is not able to be activated on anyone else’s. No idea why. I try calling Sprint and spend about 45 minutes on hold because I keep getting cut off before a human gets on the line. Twice while I’m driving I enter areas that my cell signal gets dropped. The third time was the worst – after being on hold 15 minutes, a person picks up and asks for my name and number. I tell them and then they hang up on me. Mother F’ers!!!!
I finally get through to a human. The human agrees to call Buyer #2 at the same time. I provide the IMEA number, the sim card number, etc, and the phone support person says the phone is showing as a “Bring your own device” phone. I said that’s impossible since they sent it to me and they can see it was activated on my own account. I ask if there is any way that they can process a swap for Buyer #2 at the store. Phone support says hold on a few minutes while they see what can be done. After about 10 minutes of me and Buyer #2 being on hold together, the call drops. We both get cut off and no one calls us back.
I apologize profusely to Buyer #2 and we make arrangements to have the phone sent back.
In the meantime, I decide to try the online community support forums where people seemed to have success getting someone to activate their phones. You can even see my question here. I made the post at 11:30am. About 1:30pm the post gets moved to a more appropriate forum. I assume I’ll be getting a response shortly. Most of the previous responses seemed to be someone from the support team sending a private message to the person to get their account information, and then they resolve it behind the scenes.
I make another post at 4:30pm asking about typical response times and hoping I can swap the phone. I post again at 7:30pm which was after I spent the extra hour on the phone, only to get disconnected with no return call.
At 5:30am the next day I get a friendly post from Juan who asks me to send him a private message with my info. I go ahead and do that and that process has been relatively painless (no hold times and reasonable response times of a few hours per message).
First, the community support people are unable to call or use email to reach people. I have to figure out a simple way for Buyer #2 to send a private message to Juan. Their website is not at all intuitive, but I finally find a link that will send a private message to Juan, even from a mobile device. I send the link to buyer #2 and fortunately they are able to make contact.
Juan isn’t able to get the phone activated. He spends hours trying, with no success. He says that it will take 48 hours to hear back what the issue is. At this point, buyer #2 is done and the phone gets returned back to me.
While the phone is in transit, I let Juan know the phone is on its way back, and I’m concerned that I’m stuck with a phone that is basically an ipod touch now, but heavier. Juan says that he will escalate the ticket, as the escalation team is good at resolving these problems.
The next day, coincidentally the same day that I received the returned phone, I get a message from Juan saying the problem is fixed and the phone is now ready to be activated on another line. I asked him if he can tell me what the problem was, but all he responds with is that there was a configuration error.
At this point I’m debating selling the phone on ebay as an auction to the highest bidder, pointing out that the phone probably can’t be activated in spite of Sprint telling me it can. That way if the phone doesn’t activate, they shouldn’t be able to return it (although eBay will probably still back the buyer so some risk). I did go ahead and relist it on Swappa and on craigslist.
Someone makes me a crazy low offer on craigslist and I entertain it with far too many messages back and forth, but I ultimately get to a price I can live with. At this point, one part of me just wants to get rid of the phone as it has become this albatross around my neck.
We agree to meet at a local Starbucks and I said that I only want to meet if the price is confirmed in advance. He is insisting that he needs to see the phone first. I tell him the phone is brand new, still in the box but it has been opened. I ask him if he promises to buy the phone at the agreed upon price if it looks as described. He is going on and on about he just wants to see it first and that it’ll only be 5 minutes of my time. I try to explain I am a busy person, etc, etc. He finally agrees to the price if the phone is as described. The guy is already on the phone with Sprint and they are looking up something relative to my phone. He tells me they show that I am not the owner of the phone – it is registered to Buyer #2 and he asks me to talk to them to see if we can clear that up. I said that is obviously wrong and the phone support person asks me if I am really the owner of the phone. Craigslist guy meanwhile is looking at my phone while I’m on his phone with Sprint support trying to explain what is going on and seeing if they can activate the phone. I tell Craigslist guy not to take the plastic off the screen, which he proceeds to do anyway. He also pops out the sim card and is looking in the sim card slot. He then gives me this whole song and dance that if I’m not listed as the owner, I should be selling it for less, etc etc. I tell him the price is what we agreed and he said he needs to think about it some more. I leave with my phone.
I go ahead and list it on Ebay as an auction. Ebay guaranteed that I would receive at least $295 or else they would make up the difference in Ebay credits. I made sure in the listing that they have to agree to troubleshoot with Sprint if there are any problems, and I disclosed that a previous buyer had trouble activating it, but that Sprint assures me that it is now good to go.
While waiting for the first bid, someone buys it on Swappa for $315, which means I get about $305, minus about $10 for Paypal fees, minus about $8 for shipping. So about $287, minus the approximately $25 I’d already spent shipping back and forth to other buyers – so I’ve netted $260 at this point.
I send it out, it shows as shipped, but I hear nothing from the buyer. On Swappa, the system asks for the person to confirm when they received the device – no answer. I send an email to the person asking if they can confirm activating the phone without any issues – no answer. I contact my Sprint community forum contact and ask if he can see if the phone has been activated. As of one week after the phone was received, the recipient hasn’t activated the phone.
It has now been almost two weeks since I sent out the phone and I haven’t heard any response from the buyer. I have no idea if that is a good thing or a bad thing. The paypal address was a verified address, but I guess I can’t completely rule out some type of fraud.
It is unsatisfying to not know if the phone is able to be activated as I’d like to know if it ever crosses my mind to try to sell one of my cellular phones again.
So – if you read this post hoping to find an answer as to whether you can get your upgrade just to sell it to someone – it should be possible, but I have no confirmation that it worked in my case, but I can tell you that you need to be prepared for a huge amount of hassle. In hindsight, I wish I didn’t do it. At some point my time is and aggravation is worth too much to waste on Sprint phone support people. Next time, I’ll just use the community forum support staff – at least then I don’t have to wait on hold. The downside is that the responses do take a few hours each time.
If you’ve had success or failure activating your Sprint phone on someone else’s line, please share here.