Whoever it was who first coined the phrase, "Good guys always finish last" was surely referring to the Wireless Industry. What other industry rewards new customers with better deals than long time older subscribers who regularly pay their bills on time without complaining. Ironically, it's the folks who call in unhappy that get offered the newer, better deals.
The problem is, unless you are an unhappy camper and make a stink, you are totally ignored. All of the Carriers energies are focused on stealing subscribers from the other carriers they are competing against. In order to get these folks to move their numbers over, they must offer incentives like port-in credits and more competitive plans. One of the best kept secrets in the wireless industry is current subscribers can get these new, more generous plans, just by asking for them. There is a problem with this though. You have to know when these better deals become available because most carriers won't tell you. If you are content with overpaying for your wireless services, so are they.
How to level the playing field with your wireless carrier
Okay. In a perfect world, you could contact your carrier and asked to be transferred to the customer retention department. The problem is, if you ask to be transferred there, you will never get there. You'd have to go through a regular customer service rep and then possibly a supervisor or two who will likely not be very helpful. I'm going to divulge a sure-fire way to get immediately transferred to the retention department for a better deal, almost every time. This technique is foolproof for one reason - The way the actual porting process works.
Normally, when you decide to move your number from your current carrier, it is done by the new carrier, or an independent dealer like me. Your old carrier never even knows you were unhappy until the new carrier tells them that you are gone, and to send a final closing bill. There are two pieces of information that the new carrier must provide before this happens, in order for the current carrier to have to release your mobile number(s). to the new provider. That information is your Personal ID Number (PIN), and your BAN (Billing Account Number). Normally, since this information is provided by the customer to the new carrier directly, the customer is gone before the retention department can do anything.
Call your wireless carrier and tell whoever answers the phone that you need to find out what your PIN number is. Usually, customer care will put 2 and 2 together and assume you are getting ready to bust a move. If you have a totally clueless representative, also tell them that you need to get your billing account number. This is your account number on the phone bill. Even the dumbest of care reps will know that these two pieces of information are all that is needed for you to pull the plug. At this point, they will usually pull up your account, check your average revenue per month, how long you've been with them, and ask if there are any problems. Now, you tell them that another carrier is offering you a much better deal and they asked you for this information. The carriers may be greedy, but they are not stupid. All realize that a percentage of something beats 100% of nothing. If you can sell them that you are leaving for a better deal, I guarantee they will offer you a better deal to stay with them.
This technique has worked for our clients for over five years. If you have any questions about the carriers and need unbiased answers, contact me.
As a professional wireless consultant, I get asked a lot of wacky questions and see a lot of crazy things. For that reason, consider this a public service announcement...
1) If you didn't play the Australian lottery, you cannot win it, despite what that e-mail says.
2) If you get an e-mail from a friend who needs cash because he got mugged while overseas, pick up the phone and call them. I guarantee they never left town. This is a popular scam.
3) That monetary award from Africa requires shipping costs, or paying any up front fees is bogus.
4) That prize that you won that requires shipping costs to be prepaid is a scam.
5) Those offers to get paid to receive and then re-ship goods generally involve receiving purchases from stolen credit cards and shipping them off. Guess who gets caught holding the bag with the stolen goods.
The major carrier that was first to do away with their UNLIMITED Smartphone data plans just brought them back. Unfortunately, there is a slight catch. If you missed it, AT&T spent a boatload of money to buy Direct TV. Now they need to figure out how to recoup this money. AT&T's solution to solving this problem was to create a Bundle. Sign a contract for AT&T U-Verse, or Direct TV and AT&T will give you Unlimited data on your Smartphone. I'm told that they reserve the right to throttle speeds after 22GB.
There are a few exceptions (Time Warner Business Class offerings), but for the most part, bundling can be very dangerous to the end user for the following reasons...
1) Putting all your eggs in the same basket can be dangerous for a number of reasons. If your service goes down, there's a good chance everything but the cell service goes down too (internet, cable TV, voIP telephone). If you have a beef with the provider, you have far less recourse.
2) Aside from losing the redundancy of multiple companies, many of these bundle deals have short term promotions that expire, sometimes years before the contract expires. That means that after that great promotion is over, you are stuck.
3) These companies offering bundles may be strong in some areas but not in others. I personally have a Time Warner bundle at home with Internet and Cable TV. While their voIP deal was fair, I decided to go with Vonage because it was $10 per month less and added 60 countries we can call for FREE. As my wife speaks to her Mother daily, we now pa zero long distance toll charges.
When something looks too good to be true, it generally is. For those who already have these services and are happy with them, go for it if you want the UNLIMITED data. Remember, both T-Mobile and Sprint still offer UNLIMITED data plans without having to "sell your soul" to the devil. In T-Mobile's case, they also offer Unlimited DATA (2G) in 140 countries with FREE Unlimited texting and $0.20 per minute voice roaming.
The Wacky World of Wireless
Sometimes I have to scratch my head and wonder what the heck management is thinking. For years, I was an Authorized Verizon Wireless Business Solution provider. My problem was the playing field between Verizon's Enterprise Corporate business channel and my indirect Enterprise business channel was far from level. Verizon Direct would regularly undercut my discounts with larger ones not available to us. My solution was to move all my Verizon Enterprise accounts to T-Mobile and no longer offer Verizon to my enterprise accounts.
Anyone who has ever been in the wireless industry would know that everything above is perfectly normal. What's got me puzzled is now my channel apparently can exclusively do something that Verizon's direct channel cannot do. We can offer Verizon's amazing new S, M, L, XL and XXL with contracts. I've been told the Verizon stores can no longer offer contracts with the instant $450 subsidy, except to current legacy plan users. Well, we can offer these to anybody, individual liable, corporate liable, upgrades or new activations.
Don't get bamboozled by the carriers that are no longer offering contracts and saying they were a bad deal. If you were under contract with a carrier that offered crappy service, or inflated rates, than contracts might seem like a bad deal. The funny thing is if you were happy with your carrier and did your new device upgrade promptly when eligible, contract plans protected you. Traditionally, any one who signed a contract would retain the same deal, even after it was fulfilled. The carrier would continue to charge you the same rate, but you could leave anytime without penalty. Carriers almost never try to change terms or conditions for those who are under contract or were previously under contract. The disadvantage of monthly plans is they can and often do change the terms anytime they wish. An example of this is Verizon's 1% club. All of those folks who had signed up for UNLIMITED data and still have it, despite the fact that Verizon has not offered UNLIMITED data to the public for over 3 years. One of my colleagues recently penned an interesting article explaining every carriers confusing buying plans.
For years, the wireless carriers bundled services and equipment without ever breaking down what subscribers were really paying for. In the US, the standard model was to sign a binding two year agreement with early termination fees. Should you try to leave before the 2 year term ended, they would bang you for as much as $350. In return for signing that two year contract, the carrier would give a "FREE" phone or $450 credit towards one. The biggest problem with this model was the opaqueness of what you were paying for.
In 2013, T-Mobile broke the mold and abandoned offering contracts. They disclosed what we all had expected all along - Those FREE Phones were never FREE. The carriers simply bumped up their plan costs $20-$30 per month. So the gift of a FREE phone of $450 credit was a bit deceptive, like a mirage. If you chose your carrier and plan correctly and did your upgrade immediately becoming eligible for it, this was not really that bad of a deal, except for those who did not immediately upgrade. That's because the carriers made an extra $20-$30 per month after month 24 for those who continued using their old devices. For those who had crappy coverage or went with a carrier that charged overage fees for excess data, roaming or long distance charges, carrier contracts could be a nightmare.
T-Mobile actually started the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) revolution. They began disclosing what they were charging and encouraging users to bring their own devices. They also began offering contracts on devices, not services, with no termination fees. Add zero interest financing, and it was now possible to buy an iPhone 6s'16GB for $27.09 per month x 24 months. The device charges are simply added to your bill and fall off month 25. What a concept! T-Mobile also did away with data overage charges and in most cases, global data and texting charges.
The other carriers were much stricter about what devices they allowed to utilize their networks but have finally started to come around. The problem is their "early upgrade" programs are really no better than the contracts they replaced. They still bind users to their carrier. Savvy wireless users are beginning to figure out that in many cases, it is wiser to bring your own device to a carrier, versus getting one from them. Obviously, this requires getting the right technology and proper 4G LTE frequency bands on the device that support the carrier you choose.
Thanks to the FCC's Tom Wheeler, Apple and Google for breaking the carriers stronghold on the industry. AT&T announced that effective January 8, 2016, they will cease offering contracts to join T-Mobile. Officially, Verizon only offers contracts to their legacy users and those who upgrade. The reality though is Dr Wireless can still offer 2 year Verizon contracts to anybody who asks for them. Since even Verizon now discloses exactly what they are billing you for with their newest S, M, L, XL and XXL plans, getting a contract with them is not a bad idea, proving you upgrade month 25. They also offer zero interest financing as do all of the carriers.
Today, Sprint offers the widest array of purchasing options. They have contracts, zero interest financing and lease programs available. To sum it all up, Verizon still offers the most comprehensive domestic coverage of all the carriers in my opinion. T-Mobile offers the most value, features and global roaming and long distance benefits. For monster data users, Sprint and T-Mobile are the only carriers that still offer UNLIMITED 4G data plans.
Oh, before I forget...Just because the carriers are getting a bit more transparent does not mean you are completely safe. There is still fine print. An example of this is the zero interest financing programs. While all carriers now offer these, they are structured differently. AT&T and Verizon offer two options - paying the monthly premium each month, or paying the total amount off in full. With T-Mobile's finance program, it is possible to increase the amount of your monthly payments if you wish to finish the device finance agreement off early.
One of my wireless industry colleagues just did an interesting carrier expose worth reading. He explains the confusing options such as early upgrade plans very well.
For a complimentary consultation, contact Dr Wireless.
Dr's Tip of the week...
Unless you have purchased a volt meter battery checker, knowing how much charge a double A, Triple A, C, or D-Cell battery has was always a challenge. With a 9 volt, you could stick it on your tongue and if received a minor shock, it was good.
Well, there is a way of telling when these batteries are bad without any diagnostic equipment. Simply drop the battery from 1/2" over a flat service several times. If the battery lands vertical and stays vertical, it is still good. Empty batteries will fall over every time. Try it!
Joel Saltzman has over twenty years of wireless industry experience. He is currently CEO and Chief Wireless Analyst for Dr Wireless.