Business owner versus Sprint

January 9, 2009 3:26:11 PM PST
A local business owner says he's being ripped off by a corporate giant. He says he was just trying to bring in business and help his customers get the lowest price, but instead, the promotion he offered cost him thousands of dollars and maybe now his livelihood.Michael Vinson thought he came up with the perfect promotion at his Sprint store in Sanford. He explained it this way: “Say no to mail-in rebates. I do your mail in rebates. Customers loved it. It was a win. Sprint got the sale. I got the sale and the customer got the lowest price.”

Vinson started the promotion in December, 2007 at his Sprint store. Here's how it worked: instead of the customer paying full price, filling out the rebate form, sending it in and waiting two months to get their rebate money; Vinson gave them the rebate right away. Then, Vinson applied for the rebate to be sent to him. Vinson says he told his local Sprint representative about the promotion.

“He said 'It sounds like a great idea. It’s a good way to close the sale and a good way to bring in customers and save them money,'” Vinson recalled.

For more than eight months, Vinson says close to 400 customers took advantage of the promotion. Vinson says he got each rebate back from Sprint. But come August, a big problem developed.

“They [the rebates] started coming up denied and I contacted my local rep,” said Vinson.

Vinson said he was told to stop the 'Say No to Rebate' promotion because the rebates are for customers only. He said he followed Sprint's instructions, but at the time he says he was told to stop, he already had more than 100 rebates pending, which totaled more $6,000.

“Every sale is documented. I have receipts for every single sale,” Vinson told Troubleshooter Diane Wilson.

Vinson has a stack of paperwork that he says proves each customer got the rebate at the point of sale.

“The customer and Sprint has benefited and I'm losing a great deal of money here,” he added.

Sprint investigated, and in a statement said in part: "We believe Mr. Vinson's actions violated the terms of his contract with Sprint which states that a dealer cannot change the terms of a Sprint service offer. This Sprint service offer clearly stated that the customer must complete and mail the rebate form."

But when we looked at the rebate form Sprint and Vinson provided, it doesn't state anywhere the customer must fill out the rebate form. It just states the 'Requirements for all Customers' which Vinson says each sale did qualify for the rebate.

“I told Sprint if even one of them said I charged the higher price, I would close my doors right now because I knew I didn't do anything wrong. I'm not here to cheat anyone out of money. I'm here to save people money. I'm a businessman trying to save people money,” said Vinson.

Instead, Vinson says Sprint is benefitting since they didn't have to pay out the rebates which total more than $6,000. Besides being out the rebate money, Vinson got even more bad news this week. He was terminated as a distributor for Sprint, so now he has no business.


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