April 25th, 2008

Wireless – Why am I paying to sign up? But they pay me to take the phone …

So, I tried to switch service providers the other day. I really wanted to switch, but I couldn’t figure out the math or get a deal that suited me.

I wanted to get a voice plan (ca. 900 minutes) and a data plan. I also wanted to be able to use at least two phones. (OK, yes, this story is about a GSM carrier.) Here are the problems I encountered:

1) The first thing I learned is that not all data plans (just data access) are equal. In my mind, a small screen phone with full browser vs. a medium-sized screen phone with limited browser (no email service) seemed comparable. Prices, however, were really different. Crazy.

2) They wanted me to pay them an activation fee for an account. I didn’t want a subsidized phone. I was just a walk-in customer off the street who wanted a plan. They wanted me to pay them to become a customer. I asked them to waive the fee, but they wouldn’t. I even waited around for a while (this works in the fruit markets in Morocco, and has been a successful tactic for me in the past at places such as Virgin Records, Best Buy, Good Guys, etc.) to see if they would change their minds. They didn’t. I walked out. I have about five phones with service, and I’m not on contract (which I told them) so I had time.

So, I went home and searched online. I looked at places like Amazon.com, WireFly, Wireless Toyz, etc. Did a Google search on “Free phones from [wireless service provider]” Got a lot of results. I even found a few cases on Amazon.com where they would pay ME money to sign up and be a customer.

Then my brain shifted into overdrive.

If I sign up on Amazon, they’ll give me the handset and $25 or so. I could apply the $25 towards the activation fee (if it isn’t already covered) Perhaps I could then sell the cell phone for another $10 at least to cover the remaining portion of the activation fee. I’m not sure if I’d qualify for SuperSaver shipping since they are paying me to take the phone, but I’m paying for service.

Wait, am I selling or buying a service plan?

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