adventures in the service industry

So email from my phone stopped working about a week ago. This has happened a few times before, and each time I had to spend 45 minutes on hold before talking to someone; and then I had to do it again an hour later when the first guy didn't get it right. So this time I decied to try "emailing" them, where "email" is their term for "fill out a 10x5 text field on the web site".

I said: <lj-cut text=" --More--(10%--) ">

I am no longer able to send email (SMTP) from my Treo 650 via It says "invalid login, check user name and password; Failed to authorize to smtp server on account"

My user name is set to "____" and my password is the same as it always was . Nothing has changed on my phone. It stopped working about a week ago.

The smtp server is set to "secure if available (starttls), always trust server" but I have tried it without ssl as well - no difference.

So I think something changed on your end.

Perhaps you have randomly changed or disabled my email password again -- this would not be the first time that had happened, in fact, it would be the fourth.

But I can't find anywhere on your site to re-set my *email* password.

Note: I'm not talking about my voicemail password, or my PCS-Vision password. I can get my voicemail and upload photos just fine. It's only SMTP email that doesn't work, and that password, as far as I know, is separate from the others. But i can't find the place on your site where one sets that.

Their reponse is truly priceless:

Dear Jamie,

Thank you for contacting Sprint together with Nextel regarding the email.

I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience you are facing. I would have been more than glad to resolve your concern. However, the problem you are facing is technical in nature. We do not have the tolls to handle technical concerns. A better and quick resolution to it can only be provided by a two-way interaction with our technical specialist. We have a team of technical specialists, who are equipped with certain specific tools to help you over telephone. Therefore, I request you to call us at 1-888-788-4727 from a landline phone. Please give a verbal command 'Wireless Web'. By doing so, you will be speaking to one of our Technical Support specialists rather than a customer care representative. We have specifically created this department to resolve queries of our valuable customers.

I appreciate you emailing us today. Thanks.

Devon K.
Business E-Care
Sprint together with Nextel
"Where our customers come first!"

I'm not sure what moon-man language "we do not have the tolls to handle technical concerns" is in -- perhaps he meant "balls"? but my head just about popped off at the notion that "email" support through their web site is not able to handle problems that are "technical in nature". It's a phone! <lj-cut text=" --More--(66%) ">

So, I interpreted that as, "if I was smart enough to understand your question, I'd be answering the phone instead of responding to web forms, call them instead." But, not wanting to be on hold for the rest of my life, I decided to try using smaller words and asking again:

Where on the sprint web site do I set my email password?

I'm not talking about my voicemail password, or my PCS-Vision password that is used for uploading photos; I mean the password that is used for connecting to the SMTP server at

Christ on a pogo stick:

Dear Jamie,

Thank you for contacting Sprint together with Nextel. I will be happy to assist you regarding email setting.

As this issue is of technical nature and it requires a verbal interaction, kindly contact our Technical Support Group by dialing 1-888-788-4727 from a land line phone.

I am applying a note for the same on the account and our specialist will be glad to assist you further with the issue.

We thank you for contacting us.

Business E-Care
Sprint together with Nextel
"Where our customers come first!"

Fuck it, I guess I'll have to open up my home SMTP server to the Sprint network and bounce my mail through there. Bleh. There aren't many things I enjoy more than dicking around with my sendmail configuration. (PS: Recommend different mail server software if you'd like me to ban you, it's no problem really.)

Tags: , ,

97 Responses:

  1. besskeloid says:

    *weeps uncontrollably*

  2. rly says:

    Wait, so why not do as they suggest and just call them?

    • jwz says:

      Because, as I said, I've been through this dance several times before, and I've got better shit to do than spend 45 minutes on hold waiting for the phone company to answer the phone.

      • sherm says:

        Plus, nobody there will have the "tolls" to know what the fuck an SMTP server is either.

        If you're not either a major business customer (with dedicated onshore support) or interested renting ringtones for $4.99/mo., the wireless companies just don't care.

        And Sprint is the best one I've dealt with. Sigh.

      • joel says:

        For what it is worth, here are the hacks for getting directly to an operator:

      • I now find it best to deal with "difficult" customer service by fax. I'm not sure whether it's actually more effective, but I find it less stressful. Of course, this depends on being able to find a fax number for the company in question, which often isn't easy....

    • It takes less time to reconfigure sendmail once than to dick with Sprint for two hours once a month for the REST OF YOUR MOTHERFUCKING LIFE.

  3. wetzel says:

    except possibly waiting on hold for 45 minutes, eh?

    • jwz says:

      Yeah, I think I'd rather wade into sendmail than spend 45 minutes in voicejail. Sad but true. Especially since the fuckers seem to like to discard my email password every few months; this is a recurring problem, and it's not like I have any reason to believe that this time the phone call will make it go away for good.

      • m4dh4tt3r says:

        at least wading into your sendmail config is actually productive. waiting in voicejail is a complete waste of time.

        • omarius says:

          Reconfigure sendmail while waiting on hold.

          It'd be some kind of masochism world record.

        • baconmonkey says:

          that's why dog invented speakerphones and headsets. voicejail allows for conjugal visits.

          • violentbloom says:

            okay so here's what you do. you have to call, you have to get past the first several levels of tech support idiots, after you get transfered get a direct number to call back for that level of support (you know in case your call gets dropped ie so you can call back later skipping the first several levels of tech support) keep saying it doesn't work until you get to at least level 3 support, even if it does and someone else has fixed it. Eventually you'll get the people that actually run this and will know why it's fucked up and rather than just bandaiding the problem maybe they can fix it. That person you ask what the hell is up with the crazy resetting passwords and how to work around it if there isn't a fix. Also get an email or direct number and name if you can, then you can just call them back directly or send email when it breaks next time. thus making your wait next time much less, possibly not at all. and hey if your lucky maybe one of them will be a fanboy. :)
            I only have the level three for cingular..sorry no sprint as yet.

            • ammonoid says:

              You make it sound like a videogame. First you have to circle around, then go through the maze, face the level 3 ogre, then you get the prize! A phone that works!

              • luserspaz says:

                Thank you Mario! But our tech support is in another castle!

              • violentbloom says:

                I suspect it's much like video games. Dodge the idiot tech support guys reading off a script that barely understand English. Get past the tech support guys who have better scripts and *think* they know what they're doing. Sneak past the next level who's main job is not to pass you along to the guy who actually knows something. Though in this case I think the only prize you hope to get is the number to call someone who knows what's going on directly the next time it breaks. It's like the secret passcode that gets you to the special level.
                I think the ogre ate all the working phones.

  4. nyankolove says:

    Really, what kind of insight do you expect from someone named Garfield? If you need answers, try asking about lasagna.

  5. hexapod says:

    every once in a while I get the strong urge to train our support staff to answer calls like this, just so I can listen in.

  6. transgress says:

    what i dont get is why are the technical 'wireless web' people without email? Doesn't that seem ass backwards to you? I mean its kinda like tech support saying 'sure just a second, let me get your file out of the cabinet'

    • kchrist says:

      Clearly, you don't work for my company (and it's not Sprint). Can you name one internet company who keeps nearly everything on paper? Me either, aside from my employer.

      Which reminds me, a company I used to work for partnered with Sprint internet and I distinctly remember not being able to reach someone I needed to by phone and, rather than leave him voicemail, I had to leave a message with someone else who then stuck a post-it note to the first guy's monitor. And this is a telecom company.

  7. bifrosty2k says:

    I have yet to have mine dissapear, but I have heard stories about the horror that is their billing system. Relaying from sprint aughtta be interesting tho... Any chance you have SMTP AUTH already configured in sendmail?

    • jwz says:

      I have STARTTLS working in sendmail, but I'm still trying to figure out how to do AUTH. What I'm hoping for:

      1. One set of half a dozen IP addresses get totally unmolested SMTP access, SSL optional, no passwords;
      2. Everyone else can only connect with SSL plus a user/pass (that is not the same pair as something in /etc/passwd)

      Don't suppose you know offhand how to do that?

      • bifrosty2k says:

        hrm, #1 I think you can do that with the access table, and then the other part is part of enabling SMTP auth.

      • cacepi says:

        One set of half a dozen IP addresses get totally unmolested SMTP access, SSL optional, no passwords

        Put FEATURE(relay_hosts_only) in your .mc file, and then add any hosts or IP addresses you want to /etc/mail/relay-domains. That should do the trick.

        This will make you an open relay for any IP address you specify, but I assume those addresses are yours, anyway.

        • jwz says:

          I still can't figure out how to confiure AUTH, though; I uncommented the stuff that seemed related in


          and rebuilt/reloaded, but when I have my phone try to connect with a user/pass that is in /etc/passwd, I get "Invalid login" on the phone and this in maillog:

            sendmail[5563]: STARTTLS=server, [], version=TLSv1/SSLv3, verify=NO, cipher=RC4-MD5, bits=128/128
            sendmail[5563]: STARTTLS: read error=syscall error (-1)
            sendmail[5563]: k1G47vCb005563: [] did not issue MAIL/EXPN/VRFY/ETRN during connection to MTA

          Is /etc/passwd the only way to provide user/pass pairs to sendmail auth? I'd rather use a name/pw that is not associated with a shell account at all.

          • cacepi says:

            sendmail[5563]: STARTTLS: read error=syscall error (-1)
            sendmail[5563]: k1G47vCb005563: [] did not issue MAIL/EXPN/VRFY/ETRN during connection to MTA

            It could be you don't have the certificates set up properly for TLS to work... try setting the log level higher (define(`confLOG_LEVEL', `15')dnl) and look at the log file to see just where the connection breaks.

            • jwz says:

              Thanks for the loglevel tip. It was that I had to do "saslpasswd2" first (it wasn't checking /etc/shadow at all, which is fine with me).

          • cacepi says:

            Forgot one thing:

            Is /etc/passwd the only way to provide user/pass pairs to sendmail auth?

            No, you can use different user/pass pairs with cyrus-sasl (sorry I'm pushing you to a URL but it does a better job explaining it than I ever could):


          • tooluser says:

            Note I'm not actually suggesting an alternative MTA. Wouldn't dream.
            It is really, really funny to listen to sendmail people trying to do something that -- let's be serious -- is an inherent part of sending email.

            I _know_ sendmail is extensible. I _know_ it's bee's knees, wasp's nipples, and the catydid's clitoris. You really, really don't need to email me saying those things, but by all means, rave on. Just saying.

            (Is there anyone else who finds an odd similarity between Wietse Venema's and Ross Perot's rhetorical style?)

  8. pdx6 says:

    One day the EV DO service started going sporadic on my SprintPCS/NexTel phone, so I gave a call to tech support. After being on hold for 2 hours of canned music and "Your call is important to us, please continue to hold", I just gave up. You got to a tech in 45 minutes? You must have called in at 7am east coast time.

    I can't wait until they merge with AT&T, then the circlejerk will be complete.

    • By AT&T, do you mean Cingular?

      My head hurts.

      • pdx6 says:

        Well, they just renamed the ball park here to AT&T Park or some such, so I figure they are just going to take over the world. I can't wait until the day I can buy beef from AT&T (grim meathook future?).

        • AT&T turned tail and ran from the cell phone business a while ago, though, selling out to Cingular. They noticed they only made money off business phones and leased lines/bandwidth delivery for businesses. They still sell long distance, of course, because a sucker who'll still pay for it's born every minute, but...

          • pdx6 says:

            My understanding is that Cingular is really the cellular part of SBC, and SBC is now AT&T. NexTel is now part of SprintPCS, so that leaves T-Mobile which I'm sure is part of some large company or will be bought out soon.

      • editer says:

        AT&T owns Cingular; SBC, Cingular's parent, bought AT&T but kept the more recognizable name (and NYSE ticker symbol, T). So Cingular (the mobile-phone service) is part of AT&T (the parent company, formerly SBC) and not the other way round.

        • That's all subsequent to AT&T spinning attws off as a less-than-wholly owned subsidiary, which was subsequently bought out by Cingular, wholly-owned subsidiary of SBC, which then bought out AT&T. (Yes, roll it back three years and you'll see that SBC was Southwestern Bell, then another seventeen or so to see that that's one Baby Bell and AT&T the Momma, but, first, they're totally different companies now and, second, that still means that Cingular's parent bought attws's parent, as Cingular bought attws.)

          SBC has retained the ATT name and ticker, but not for either the home LD market (where SBC is a better Brand) or for the cell/mobile/wireless market (where Cingular is a better Brand): it's for the business carrier (meaning both voice and data) market, where they compete with a very different subset of the Sprint mentioned above (and both SBC and ATT were getting totally whomped by Sprint the last time I paid attention, though the combined entity may be doing better).

  9. evan says:

    I would put the call on speakerphone, or on a headset, and tune out until I hear someone talking ("...wha? Who are you? Oh yes, my password...").

    But that's because the thought of fighting with mail servers is right down there with skewers under my fingernails. When I think of how angry I get trying to make mail work, and then I think of how angry you get about stuff that I can grin and bear, I'm glad I'm not in your vicinity for fear of bodily harm.

    • jwz says:

      What's awesome is the new trend in voicejail systems -- and I think Sprint might be one of these -- where instead of just playing you 45 minutes of Muzak, they play 30 seconds of Muzak, then the sound of a phone ringing, then a click, and a voice saying, again, how important your call is to them, and how call volume is "unusually high". Then right back to the Muzak.

      Those make it impossible to actually stop paying attention, which I guess is their goal, because then those pesky customers will just stop calling.

      [Holy shit the new LJ "inline reply" box is still just so fucking broken.]

      • christowang says:

        Over the weekend, I received the "Unusually High Call Volume" message after punching through the prompts with my cable company. I expected to wait on hold for awhile at this point, but to my surprise it rings once and someone picks up.

        You can always try the "I'm an idiot" move, hit sales, someone will pick up immediately, then ask to get transferred to tech support.

        • fnoo says:

          Doesn't work in just about every company I know of. All they do is transfer you to the queue.

          • xaosenkosmos says:

            That's why you don't ask for sales, you go for the "cancel my service" option. There are backdoors into the head of just about every queue out there, it's just a matter of knowing the number for it. The sales people might not officially get it, but i'm willing to bet that the save team has it on speeddial.

      • daveman692 says:

        What is wrong with the box, works for me.

      • bodyfour says:

        > [Holy shit the new LJ "inline reply" box is still just so fucking broken.]

        Please call the LiveJournal support hotline. Operators are standing by.

  10. greatevil says:

    I have in the past managed to unflip the evil bit in my Sprint phone by going to the PCS vison screen and sellecting "Update PCS Vision Profile" and letting it run just as long as it wanted to. That has at least for me fixed problems with my cheep-o phone connecting to the sprint mail servers.

  11. talkingtrees says:

    DirecTV does the same thing. I've asked them simple things like "it sounds like my DVR is dying". What are they going to do, have me hold the phone next to it?

    • jwz says:

      My Roomba was acting up, and they had me hold the phone next to it so they could listen to its R2D2 beeps -- so maybe!

  12. baconmonkey says:

    However, the problem you are facing is technical in nature.

    as opposed to having a spiritual problem with your phone?

  13. grahams says:

    It's shit like this that drove me away from Sprint and into the arms of T-Mobile (who, after two years, have proved equally incompetent, but that's another story)...

    Sprint would constantly reset my voicemail password, stop sending me bills for no apparent reason, and never charge me sales tax for the proper state (When I lived in NY they charged me NJ tax, when I lived in NJ they charged me NY tax, and when I moved to MA they switched back to NJ). It got to the point where I would overlook little annoyances (like the sales tax) because I didn't want to deal with their phone reps....

    The icing on the cake was when one day I was reading some wire service or somesuch and there was an article talking about how Sprint was increasing the capacity of their web customer support services and laying off phone people because "customers were increasingly choosing the convienience of self-service options"... Maybe that's because your phone staff are completely useless and you have to wait an hour to talk to one in the first place.. After my head stopped spinning I made my last call to Sprint to cancel my service...

    The best part is that for about a year after I cancelled Sprint sent me bills for $0.00...

    • ydna says:

      Cingular (ATTWS) has been sending me bills for $-11.32 each month for almost a year now since I dumped them (for T-Mobile as well). I finally called and asked for a check. Now I get bills for $0.00 each month. No check.

  14. editer says:

    What gets me is that Sprint/Nextel, a mobile phone company, asked you to call in from a land line. Seems like cellphone users would be the least likely demographic to still have an active land line at their home.

    • jferg says:

      Actually, there's a perfectly valid reason behind this - frequently, they want you to verify the ESN/MIN on the phone, while you're on the call. All well and good, except on most of their phones, the ESN is printed under the battery, so that if you take off the battery to get the number, well, you're back in voicejail. Also, they may want you to power cycle the phone, which has the same problem.

      • suppafly says:

        that might be a reason, but it's not a perfectly good one by any means.

      • editer says:

        OK, that makes sense up to a point, but from what you've said the call doesn't have to be from an actual land line; it just has to be from some other phone than the one being called about. They could have said that. Unless there's more techy stuff to it that I wouldn't understand even if you explained it to me.

        • jferg says:

          Nope, nothing more technical than that; I'm sure somebody's just said "this is the wording to use" to the e-mail peons, and so that's what they say.

  15. revsphynx says:

    I think they meant "tools" not "tolls".

    They've pulled this crap on me too. Even over the phone. I switched phones, and one of the apps I had bought for the old phone didn't work on the new phone. I was paying a monthly charge for it. There was no way on the website to remove the app. I called, and the guy there said he didn't have the tools to remove it either. Their solution? They'll credit my account for the amount of the monthly service charge of the app IF I call and remind them every month.

  16. moof says:

    'tolls to handle technical concerns' sounds suspiciously like Indian callcenter-ese.

  17. kallisti says:

    Sprint together with Nextel
    "Where our customers come first!"

    ...because we f*ck them really, really well!

    My sympathies about having to wade into sendmail's control file...been there, done that, and have 10 inches of shell space taken up by books to prove it!


  18. ladykalessia says:

    I haven't yet used any of the info from this place yet, but they have a number for SprintPCS, so it might be worth a shot. I'd be interested to hear how it works out for you.

  19. vxo says:

    "Sprint together with Nextel"

    Nextel. Is. Pure. Fucking. Hate.

    I'm sorry. I will have respect for this company again as soon as they can ship phones that don't need a 'Master Reset' every other time you go on a trip longer than 20 miles with the phone turned on to get them back out of "Restricted Group Only", or when they can actually deliver service that works without having to step outside of the building you're in and find a tall balcony --- but not facing towards the tower that'll allow your phone to associate with it and then pass no data over the connection; facing towards one that WORKS...

    I got all too used to using the Trace mode menus on my phone to identify which tower it was connected to and hunt for a spot where it'd be on one of the few working ones. Ugh.

    Star, #, Menu, Right.

    I will remember this code FOREVER.

    • wfaulk says:

      I will never forgive them for introducing push-to-talk. I want to smack someone every time I hear "ba-deep!!". The best part is that these fuckers continue to talk that way for the next five minutes, with a new "ba-deep!!!" every ten seconds or less. And I've still yet to hear a reason that it's better than using the phone normally.


  20. suppafly says:

    sbc dsl has that same problem with their instant message a support analyst thing.. as soon as they realize it isn't a billing question or something they want you to call the "technical" number and explain your problem to someone who doesn't understand english.

  21. My phone's email broke during the AT&T Wireless -> cingular switchover. I stupidly tried calling their phone support chimp. He wanted me to use the phone's web browser to send email via their web form. I tried to convince him that I had an actual SMTP client in the phone, but I could practically hear his eyes glazing over.

    I ended up solving the problem myself, two different ways. First, I made it use my server instead of cingular's, as you suggest. Second, I switched back to cingular's server but used unencrypted SMTP, which avoided the certificate & login problem I was having.

  22. ivan_ghandhi says:

    How about threatening to drop them in favor of some other provider?

  23. rosefox says:

    Apropos of nothing, I'm amazed you haven't posted this yet.

    • taffer says:

      Is each one using $100 worth of watch batteries? Their house looks awesome with those things all over the outside.

  24. kfringe says:

    We do not have the tolls to handle technical concerns. We do not have the tolls to handle technical concerns.

    Did you forget to hold your FasTrak thingamabob up to the phone again?

    I had a similar problem with my phone service about three years ago. The solution was actually painless. I chucked my phone off a bridge, cancelled the account, and spent the money on beer.

    Believe me when I tell you that I'm a happier person now.

  25. rsheridan6 says:

    I've had 3 different cell-phone providers (Sprint, T-Mobile, and Cingular), and they all suck. But sprint just has that little something extra that makes them stand out from the crowd. The only way to deal with them is to cancel their service.

  26. beschizza says:

    The only winning move is not to play.

  27. thaths says:

    You know, if I were your telephone company I will just have my technical "tolls" call you and fix the problem. They know what sort of problem you are having before they call you and they *have you number*. They can also end up saving the cost of 45-minutes of toll-free number usage when you are put on hold.

  28. roninspoon says:

    "we do not have the tolls to handle technical concerns"

    Sounds like a subtle request for a bribe.

  29. valentwine says:

    My girlfriend and I are among the suckers who got screwed when Cingular bought AT&T Wireless, and ever since that merger, my girlfriend's phone has never been able to do more than send and receive calls. No text messaging, her voicemail has been fucked, etc. Every time she called to complain, they replaced her phone under warranty, but to no effect -- because the problem was NOT IN HER PHONE but in their shitfuck database. She left it that way for a whole year because she didn't want to bend over and be customer serviced any further. I finally had a problem with my phone too, and so we scheduled a WHOLE SATURDAY to deal with the phone company, and we ended up needing it. I found our local official Cingular store, and off we went. We got there and waited patiently for the ONE tech on duty, only to have him tell us that they recently took away all of his access to the AT&T system (this store used to be an AT&T store) and he can do absolutely nothing. I very nearly tore off his legs and pissed up the stumps.

    When the support droid figured out that I was about to reorient his anatomy, he showed me to the batphone -- a special phone that dials directly into Cingular/AT&T support, without putting me on hold. I picked it up and pushed the button and when a customer service rep picked up I did what anyone would do. I lied. I said "Hi, this is Joe, calling from the Cingular Store and I have a very unhappy customer here, I need to speak to a database manager to get her account straightened out". And lo and behold, I was transferred to an actual DBA. As soon as I got him on the phone, I told him exactly what was wrong, and he confirmed for me that she her account records were well and fucked. He fixed them. A couple hours later everything started working, all without replacing her phone.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is: welcome to the new boss, same as the old boss. And fuck those guys.

    • joel says:

      Try spending 14 weeks in a "third world" country. People in Africa get better cell phone service than we get in America. In Africa, everything is prepaid, you can buy a SIM on the street and pop it into any phone. No minimum contract, no sales pressure, no "calling plan", you can buy extra minutes from pretty much anybody.

      After I got back from Africa, I got a unlocked GSM phone and used a prepaid SIM card. $100 got me a meager 1000 minutes. I paid over $100 a month for cell phone service. But it sure was worth it. I was ready to move to another provider if my service was ever degraded, it would have taken one hour max and cost me nothing.

      Honestly, is having a phone that just works all that hard? I don't care about getting the best deal, I just want a fucking working phone.

  30. hermeticseal says:

    agreed that just using your own SMTP server is the best solution. i use chattermail with my sprint treo, and from day 1 i've been using my webhost's SMTP server, even though they 1) claim its unsupported and 2) would really prefer me to use my ISP's SMTP. but screw it, theirs works great, supports SSL and is never down.

    sprint sucks, yes. but you can't beat their price for unlimited web data. and i'm so glad to be rid of F'ing VZW with their constant bluetooth-hatin'.

  31. catonic says:

    Why don't you try using (*walks into broom*) *BAM!*. Ever thought of trying *BAM!*. What *BAM!* about *BAM!* this... *BAM!**BAM!* server *BAM!* I heard *BAM!* of *BAM!**BAM!* once.... *BAM!*

    You know, maybe sendmail isn't so bad after all.

  32. ladyjalana says:'ve discovered Offshorish. It's based on several Indian dialects, with a frosting of boilerroom script.

    "I'll be glad to help you with your problem. Call somebody else. Where our customers come first!"