Subscribers fume over what has become yet another bungled Sprint launch

Why can’t Sprint launch a handset? That’s the question countless subscribers are asking themselves as the release of the BlackBerry Tour 9630 continues to look more and more like a paper launch. A fair number of people who ordered the handset have received it by now and many were able to snag a unit at retail locations, but it seems that for every happy new Tour owner there are three enraged subscribers looking for answers. At this point, you can’t find a Sprint or BlackBerry forum without reading post after post from people fuming over the bungled Tour launch. Since July 12th, the official launch date, we’ve also received countless emails from Sprint subscribers venting their frustrations and recounting various horror stories. The consensus among them: Sprint can’t launch a handset to save its life — or business, as it were.

Beyond a few emails we have from people who got their Tours at retail locations and couldn’t activate them, the biggest problem being reported is a seeming lack of candor with regard to inventory. We have tons of emails from people who ordered the Tour within the first hour of online availability — within the first 15-30 minutes even. Despite the website showing the handset as being in stock and ready to roll, they received a backorder notice immediately after ordering. Here is an example of an email received by a Sprint customer shortly after submitting his order online about a half hour after the Tour went live on Sprint’s site:

Product ID: SP9630RIM Description: Blackberry Tour 9630 Qty: 1 Order Date: 2009-07-12

Status: Your order or a portion of your order is in backorder status. If you would like to select an alternate product or cancel your backordered item, please call 866-789-8292 between 8:00 a.m. EST to 11:00 p.m. EST Monday to Friday or 9:00 a.m. EST to 9:00 p.m. EST on Saturdays and Sundays.Please note that cancellation requests may not always process successfully due the speed of warehouse processing. If you cancelled your backordered item but still received a shipment, please refuse the shipment or call us to process a return within 30 days of receipt.

Why is it that Sprint just can’t seem to stock a handset — and perhaps more importantly, why was the handset listed as being available if in fact it was not? It has gotten to the point where the carrier even confirmed to us ahead time that the Palm Pre launch would be a mess. Fast forward to the Tour, Sprint’s next flagship handset, and we’re seeing the exact same mistakes all over again. We understand it was a big deal for Sprint to finally get a hot new BlackBerry out to market at the same time as Verizon. Great. Golf claps. If doing so simply means the carrier is going to have to snub half of the people who want to buy the handset however, we have to think waiting for shipments would have been the wiser move. In fact, we’ve received several comments from people who decided to switch to Verizon for the Tour because of this mess. If you’ve looked at Sprint’s numbers over the past couple of years, you know the last thing the struggling carrier needs to be doing right now is giving subscribers another reason to jump ship.

Of course Sprint isn’t the only carrier plagued with launch issues, it just happens to be more in need of smooth sailing than any other at this point. Trust us — we want nothing more than to witness and report on a great and successful launch at Sprint. The company has made plenty of good moves of late in an effort to strengthen its network and focus on better customer service training. It shows, it really does, but it’s all for naught if Sprint continues to stumble where top-level strategy and execution are concerned.

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