At 59 years old, Wayne Dobson should be enjoying the relaxed, stress-free life of a retiree. Instead, he's been spending the past few years dealing with people who think he's a cellphone thief.
As the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports, that's all due to an apparent glitch in Sprint's location-tracking services that, for some reason, has been directing owners of missing phones (as well as police) to Dobson's home in North Las Vegas. As a result, he's had people knocking on his door at all hours of the night, asking for cellphones he doesn't have. "It's a hell of a problem," Dobson said. "It would be nice to be able to get a good night's sleep."
"I don't care about these technology pets they have."
It all began in 2011, when a couple knocked on his door around midnight one weekend. They were convinced that Dobson had stolen their phone, having been led to his doorstep by their phone-finder app, but the 59-year-old had no idea what they were talking about. "I just said, 'I don't know these people; I don't go where they go,'" he explained. "I'm 59 years old. I don't care about these technology pets they have."
After several similar incidents, Dobson soon noticed a trend: most of the people showing up at his home were with Sprint. When he called the company, a technician there acknowledged the issue, but couldn't offer a solution, telling Dobson that cellphone GPS technology can only provide a general starting point for a phone's location — and that just happened to be his home.
"It's like Pavlov's response."
And it's not just cellphone owners who are getting tangled up in the crosshairs. On several occasions, police have shown up at Dobson's home in response to 911 calls shown to originate from his residence. Local authorities say they will begin flagging calls to Dobson's house, but they'll still have to dispatch officers there unless they can determine that there really isn't an issue.
Sprint, for its part, says it's working on a fix, though it has yet to determine the nature of the problem. "We will research the issue thoroughly and try to get to the bottom of what is going on and if it has anything to do with our company," Sprint spokeswoman Rachael Crocker wrote in an email to the LVRJ. In the meantime, Dobson says he's living on pins and needles. "It's like Pavlov's response now," he said. "I dread the thought when I hear a car drive by that they're going to be pulling in and knocking on my door."
Update: Sprint contacted us to let us know that the source of Mr. Dobson's plight isn't a glitch per se, but a consequence of his home being located in the middle of one of its cell sites' coverage areas. The full text of its statement is below:
"Sprint has researched this matter and has determined it is not related to a “glitch” or issue with Sprint’s network or systems. It is a rare occurrence which is unfortunately affecting Mr. Dobson. This issue is apparently caused by the fact that Mr. Dobson’s home happens to be in the center of a geometric circle denoting the coverage area of one sector of a Sprint cell site. This information would be provided – for example when someone uses an app to search for a lost phone - as a result of a location-based search when a more precise location of a device is not readily available. Location search results in cases like this are intended to be interpreted as anywhere within a several-hundred-meter-wide circular area – not the center point of the circle itself. We sincerely regret the inconvenience experienced by Mr. Dobson."