Over the past week, it’s been quite a learning experience here at The Consumerist. Former and current reps from all of the major wireless companies have written in, sharing their tips and tricks and confessing their sins. It’s been a fascinating look inside the daily life of a sales rep, but what have we learned?
We’ve looked over the tips and come up with some general rules that will help you negotiate your cell phone purchase no matter which provider you sign up with. Here are 10 Things We’ve Learned From Confessions of a Wireless Sales Rep:
1) You have negotiating power. This should have been fairly obvious, but a lot of people probably did not realize that purchasing a cell phone was more like buying a car than buying a jar of Cheeze Whiz. You really can negotiate. Prices are flexible. You are in control.
2) Features, accessories and new line activations are important to cell phone salespeople. Cell phone sales reps have quotas they need to meet. You have something they want and will be paid a nice commission for getting. Use this to your advantage to get the best deal. If you’re walking into a cell phone store knowing you’re getting a new line with a bunch of features, expect to get a high end phone for a very good deal. Walk out if you don’t get it. Go to another carrier if you don’t get what you want. Your business is valuable. If you can’t get what you want from one carrier, chances are another one will be able to help you.
3) 2 year contracts don’t offer many benefits. One of the most common tips we saw was “2 year contracts are not a good deal.” Most carriers give you about a $50 discount on a phone for signing a 2 year contract. There’s really no point. Pay the $50. Get a 1 year contract and renegotiate every 9-11 months.
4) Rebates can often be redeemed both in store and online. Here at the Consumerist we tell you not to count on rebates. We suggest that you ask for all your rebates in store. Rebates are designed to encourage breakage and are not a consumer friendly product. The interesting thing about cell phone rebates is that many reps (Cingular, T-mobile) claim that you can get the rebate in the store and online. Hey, it might work. Even if it doesn’t, you already got your rebate.
5) Accessories are a bad deal. Huge markups. Unless you’re going to use them as a bargaining chip, or try to get them for free, stay away from accessories in a cell phone store. Buy them on eBay. Here’s a cute tip: If you need a cell phone charger, look in the technology recycle bin at Best Buy. People get rid of cell phone chargers all the time. It’s not stealing! It’s saving the planet!
6) Price match! Cell phone stores can price match. Check the carrier’s website for deals before you go to the store. Check other carrier’s prices, too. Know when to call customer care and when to use a store. Sometimes the sales rep on the phone will get commission for things that will be a waste of time to a person in a store and vice versa.
7) Deals vary wildly when upgrading your phone. It may be better to switch carriers every two years. Research other deals before you upgrade. When choosing a carrier, think two years ahead. Ask about the upgrade plan. If you’re out of contract, you have much more negotiating power. Don’t feel trapped by your current provider. Shop around. Price match. You may be able to activate an unlocked or pre-paid phone on your existing line in order to avoid signing a contract extension. Look into your options.
8) Unlock your phone if you’re on T-Mobile or Cingular. Good for traveling. Fun. Free.
9) Don’t buy cell phone insurance. It’s expensive, the deductible is high, there are ways to get a new phone without it, and the reps don’t get commission on it.
10) Upgrade early/Ask for loyalty credits. If you’re happy with your provider and want to stay on, why not ask to upgrade early? Most providers seem to agree that if you’re on a 1 year contract, you can upgrade your phone every 9-11 months. You’ll likely have an easier time if you’re on a higher rate plan or have a lot of features such as unlimited text messaging or internet. These make you a more valuable customer, and because of that you have more negotiating power. Use it. —MEGHANN MARCO
PREVIOUSLY: 8 Confessions Of A Former Verizon Sales Rep
7 Confessions of a Cingular Sales Rep
6 Confessions Of A Former Sprint Sales Rep
11 Confessions of a T-Mobile Sales Rep
8 Confessions of an Alltel Sales Rep