At some point, we all feel like our cell phone companies have gotten the best of us; everyone has a frustrated story about customer service, an agonizing bout with a cancellation fee, or some way that we feel like weâ€™re losing to the big boys. In this financial climate, itâ€™s more important than ever that every customer can hold their own against a cell phone company; here are just a few ways for you to fight back.
1.Â Salespeople have sales quotas. This is true in virtually every sales-driven industry, and definitely true in cell phone sales. Shop employees will have sales quotas, and if theyâ€™ve already met them, they will always be looking to exceed them and gain incentive quotas. While itâ€™s possible that their sales month does not coincide with the calendar month, most frequently they do, so be sure to take your first shot at a plan at the end of the month.
2.Â There are ways to get them to waive the activation fee. If you are buying your cell phone from a store (as opposed to online or at WalMart, etc), remember that they really want your business, especially if it means beating out the other carrier or the other franchise store of the same carrier thatâ€™s down the road. Especially if there are several stores in close distance of one another, you can bet they want your business. Tell them you want to work with them. Tell them that this deal is totally sealed for you, except that activation fee is really making you hesitate. If you want to sweeten the deal, drop hints about the fact that if you like this, youâ€™re going to switch your whole family or office over to this plan (big business tends to mean big discounts to you).
3.Â It’s friendliness, not yelling, that will get you almost anything. Cell phone companies are like airlines; they are used to being nailed to the wall by their customers. The ones that call customer service are usually only doing so to complain, and most of the time they only get angrier and more demanding throughout the call. This is not the way to get what you want. Being kind, respectful, and level-headed will get you shockingly far. If you feel youâ€™re being charged unfairly, calmly ask for an explanation. If youâ€™re frustrated with your service, be even more genuinely nice (anyone can spot fake kindness a mile away, so mean it). Thank them profusely, verbalize that you know youâ€™re asking them to do you a favor but that youâ€™ve been very happy with your service to date and youâ€™d really love to get this easily resolved.
4.Â If you are moving overseas, usually your cell phone provider contractually can’t charge you for your cancellation fee. While this is something that you have to check your contract for, it does work in most instances. It also works if you move to a place with absolutely no service. Why? It means that your provider will give you the service you first entered the contract with or the contract is null and void. Because providers will charge you considerable roaming, long distance, and international fees if you move internationally (if they offer service at all), this means that it isnâ€™t the service you initially signed up for. They cannot provide for you as they first promised, so they are beholden to let you out of the contract without penalty, because they failed their end of the bargain, not the other way around. (Flickr: metropolitician)
5.Â You can trade people for contracts on sites like Celltrade to get out of your contract. If you arenâ€™t moving overseas and canâ€™t deal with your current contract, CellTrade is a great website that allows you to cash out. You essentially trade places with someone who does want to get into a contract for the remainder of your contract, and you donâ€™t have to pay your cancellation fee. You do have to pay a small fee to switch, but itâ€™s less that twenty bucks and youâ€™ll be the happier for it.
6.Â You can dial 411 for free. Yes, itâ€™s true! Donâ€™t let your cell phone company gouge you with ludicrously high 411 fees; just dial 1 800 FREE 411 or 1 800 GOOG 411. The latter hooks you up to Googleâ€™s directory service, but both of them give you pretty extensive access to phone databases without you ever having to pay a fee. Theyâ€™ll even text you the phone number if you want!Â (Flickr: dannysullivan)
7.Â You can decline the “free trials” upfront to prevent charges later. Come on people. How many times have you signed up for a phone, and when you sign the initial receipt, you see about seven â€œfree trialâ€ programs on your phone. A month later, the free trial is no longer free, and youâ€™re paying $7.99 per package. Now, if you are one of the disturbingly few people who pays close attention to your bill, you will notice it, but then you have to find time to call up, wait on the line, and get it canceled. Save yourself the hassle and unless itâ€™s something you really care about, ask for it to be nixed immediately. Just remember people, there really is no such thing as a free lunch, and the cell phone companies are usually on the better end of that deal.
8.Â You may be charged a fee for calling 911. This is actually not due to your cell phone provider, but it does mean you are taking a much sterner look at your taxes and fees than most cell phone companies feel comfortable with. This fee is instituted by your state or town, and the only way you can have this repealed is if you write to your representation about it. While the fee does not actually charge someone in the event of an emergency, it is a charge applied to all phone users in a given area and the money culled from that goes to additional town and state funds, expressly for the purpose of funding call centers. The amount varies, and many people find this charge sneaky and unethical. More information on a state by state basis is available here.
9. You deserve an explanation for every fee on your bill, and getting one may save you money. Every year Americanâ€™s spend almost $1000 in hidden fees. Here, the Federal Communications Commission breaks down every fee on your bill and tells you where it goes to, including the FCC tax, which is often misleadingly labeled because, as the site says, it does not go to the FCC, the US Treasury, or anywhere but your cell phone companyâ€™s pockets. Set aside some time and go through your phone bill line by line, checking every fee and charge to see if itâ€™s legitimate. If there is something you donâ€™t understand, donâ€™t hesitate to call up your company and ask for an explanation.
10.Â The FCC has capped out the subscriber line charge at $6.50. This is fixed and finite, and applies to each single line as opposed to an entire account. You can see their policy here. Make sure your company isn’t charging you more than that, because itâ€™s illegal, and while youâ€™re at it, revert to number nine and demand an explanation! (Flickr: benbrown)