I was eager to purchase the Palm Pre to replace my aging Zire 72s, and also consolidate my PDA and mobile phone into a single device. Since reviews have generally been positive, I headed to my local Sprint store (8501 Fenton Street, Silver Spring, MD). My current mobile carrier is Verizon, so I also needed to set up service with Sprint.
The store had the Pre in stock, and the sale proceeded smoothly until the sales associate asked me for my Social Security number. He had already verified my identity with a driver's license. When I asked why the SSN was needed, he said it was to run a credit check. I offered a credit card instead, but he said that the SSN was required.
I asked to speak to the manager, who was a pleasant young woman, but not able to resolve the problem. She confirmed that Sprint required the SSN to run a credit check (through a credit bureau) before opening an account. I told her that I understood Sprint had an interest in making sure that I could pay for the service (I was planning to get the $70/month Everything Data 450 plan), but that I was concerned about identity theft and privacy. I offered several other options, including a check on my credit card limit, which is an order of magnitude greater than the combined price of the phone and two-year contract; placing the maximum deposit that Sprint requires from people with poor credit ($500); or pre-paying the entire two-year plan on the spot. None of these was acceptable options, so Sprint lost the sale.