I Hear you Loud and Clear

A Sprint commercial linked from (what seems to be) the official Sprint Youtube channel

Above you will see a commercial from Sprint, advertising their “different” 100% satisfaction guarantee, and on the surface that seems like all it is, but in just 30 seconds they said a whole lot more than what came out of Paul’s mouth.

Let’s start with the man himself; Paul. For those who don’t recognize him, he used to be ‘the verizon guy’. He was featured in a lot of commercials with a tagline of “Can you hear me now?”. Having him is a call out to older folks who would remember him, because they’re the ones more likely to be in control of accounts that they want to attract (5 lines+). From the first second of the commercial they’re saying: “Yeah, this guy who had the inside track on Verizon is with us now. You see that? Obviously we’re better than them.” They’re saying all that before he even speaks. Now, most people don’t know why Paul left Verizon, and while it was pretty poor practice on their part, it certainly had nothing to do with their network or prices which is what the average customer cares about when watching a commercial like this. It could indeed influence purchase decisions though, but back to the topic at hand. The point of this commercial is to make the customer aware of their lack of expertise, and while it pretends to be the option of simplicity it’s actually using that confusion against them just like it’s competitors (who frankly aren’t even guilty of it in the context that this commercial brings up).

If you haven’t shopped for cellphones yourself you’ve probably heard that sprint sucks. The truth is that isn’t entirely accurate. In terms of coverage it was about the 3rd best, and in many heavily populated areas it was just as good as the big two AT&T and Verizon. It was also cheaper than both. It certainly wasn’t without fault, but it worked for a lot of people. What you were privy to was just a stigma, and that is what Paul is actually addressing when he brings up the competitors’ claims about being the “best”. What he is saying at this point is: “Multiple companies are claiming to be the best?! Too confusing! Let’s just ignore EVERYTHING we’ve casually heard about the wireless companies. Which- OMG! I guess that means forget about the claim that Sprint sucks too! I guess that’s in there. I mean I did say everything so yeah, I guess that too. Crazy how that worked out.” Again, (though a rather poorly executed attempt) the purpose of this claim of confusion was to isolate the lack of expertise of customers who might be shopping, because if everyone says they’re the best how can the layman possibly know? And it is within that chaos that they hoped to escape the shackles of the stigma that has plagued them “since they were Nextel” (to use the parlance of its most noble, holy, and loyal customers).

Now, those first two things aren’t so bad. Paul moved to Sprint commercials for a good reason, and wanting to escape bad rumors? I’m sure many of us have been there. It’s the things they say from this point on that mark how they are no less manipulative in their marketing than their competitors.

He follows his deflection by saying: “Sprint’s doing things differently. They’re offering a new one hundred percent total satisfaction guarantee.” There are two keywords here, ‘new’ and ‘total’ (or 100% whichever one you choose the other is redundant). This is not a new concept. As a matter of fact, there aren’t many sales of anything that don’t have some kind of satisfaction guarantee thrown in. It’s so old that the term has been distorted to represent a return policy rather the actual guarantee of satisfaction. “But see, I told you to ignore everything you heard about the industry. This is new. Sprint is doing things differently.” That’s the first part of what lies beneath the surface of this claim. The second is omission.

The word ‘total’ here is meant to dispel all of your reservations. That, coupled with ignoring the sins of the past, and it’s basically the ideal place to choose. “We have a return policy, so even if you decide against no harm no foul right? Huh? ‘Is it a smooth process?’ Oh, you’re missing the point. Yeah, no we have one, and we’re doing things differently so… connect the dots I’m giving you.” That’s what’s being said here. Your satisfaction is guaranteed in it’s totality; one hundred percent. You have nothing to worry about. So don’t question it. Never mind that there are restrictions on where you can return your devices based on where you purchased them, or if you already spent a lot of money to pay off your old phones that you used for a trade in and you were hoping to get that money back when Sprint paid out it’s contract buyout (you also don’t have devices to go back to the other carrier with now for a few weeks by the way). Forget about that down payment you paid. You’ll see it in a week or more (though basically any company is guilty of this one). Good luck winning the battle against retention, or it’s gatekeeper; the automated system! No, no. All you need to know is that by the end you will be 100% totally satisfied. Didn’t you know? They added all the obstacles so you can feel accomplished when it’s finally over.

There is also the omission of price. you may be thinking “Free phone? $35 a month? What’s the catch?” (Or not, I’ve witnessed many many many- so many people fall for this. It’s even there on the screen in fine print). Well, I’m gonna need you to trust me on this but. *looks left, looks right* *whispering* There is one. BOOM Did I blow your mind? I sure hope not. this price is how it breaks down if you chose to take whatever subpar phone they were offering at the time, and had five total lines, and were set on autopay. You want insurance? $$ You don’t like autopay? $ Have bad credit and have to pay a subsidized phone charge $$$. More than five lines? Less? Dollar signs. Dollar signs everywhere. And don’t forget the golden rule salesman must follow: Sell, sell, sell. Want a smart watch? Tablet? TRACKERS- ACTUAL TRACKING DEVICES. They’ve got plenty of things they’re happy to add to your bill.

They’re glad you don’t know any of this stuff. All companies are, none of this is unique to Sprint. In fact if I disappear mysteriously it’s probably because I spilled these beans. But as strange and precarious as this fight may seem, I do fight it. Customers may have to deal with all this manipulation, but frontline retail employees deal with the fallout. You see there’s one more thing this commercial wants you to believe that I left out. Of course would be pretty detrimental to say anything contrary to it whether it’s true or not…

Oh, you wanna know? Well, just take a look at Paul. You see how he’s smiling? That’s their way of saying: “Our representatives are proud to be here.”

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