Negotiate Your Next Cellphone Contract Like A Diva

If your cellphone contract is ending, you can haggle the next one into a much better deal. Here’s how:

• Decide what you want (free phones, an amazing plan) and stick to it
• Don’t bother with front-line customer service reps
• Pit one company’s offer against the other
• Don’t be a sucker for their first offer
• Escalate up the customer service chain until you reach someone powerful enough to to give you what you want

You’re the princess and you deserve better. Make them court you.

Reader Virginia used these methods to get Sprint to give her two, new, expensive cellphones with her new Sprint contract.

Read her letter inside and find out how she did it. — BEN POPKEN

    “My husband and I have been with Sprint for almost two years. Unlike many other folks, we have had a good experience with them. Once or twice they accidentally charged us roaming (we have a no-roaming never-ever-ever plan) and one call to them took care of the charges. But our phones were aging, lacked the functionality of newer phones, our contract was up at the end of the month, and we were considering switching providers to get better phones. Sprint sent a postcard offering us $100 credit toward new handsets (and another two-year contract) but that didn’t even begin to cover the price for two new fancier handsets. This was a token offer but I knew they could do better.

    I researched other cell providers and called to see they would give us to switch. Sprint’s competition naturally salivated like Pavlov’s dogs and promised us the proverbial keys to the castle if only we would sign up with them. Brand-new phones, free text messaging, their first-born children, the works. I’ll admit it – I enjoyed the butt-kissing. I write all the offers down and call Sprint.

    I know the front-line CSR can’t really give me anything so I tell her, “Our contract is up in two weeks and I am considering switching providers. Would you please transfer me to a retention specialist?” Five seconds later, I’m live with the guy whose sole mission is to sign me up for another two years. He offers me the $100 credit. Oh please. That is not nearly enough groveling. I pull out my list of offers and ask him why I should stay with Sprint when I’ll end up paying (after the credit) over $300 for two new phones and the privilege of another two year contract? If I switch, Cingular will give me two much nicer phones for nothing and their rate plan is $9.00 a month less. Verizon’s offer is even better.

    We go back and forth as the boot-licking intensifies. Free text messaging for three months? No, we’re over 30; we don’t text. Free web access for a little while then a higher monthly fee when the trial time is over? Uh, no. Finally he offers me any two phones currently offered for free on the website if I will stay on as a customer at my current rate plan. I tell him that sounds *okay* but I don’t want to buy a phone unless I’ve seen it in person. He notes his offer in my account and we hang up. Two free phones that are free anyways? Not good enough.

    The next day, hubby and I head to the Sprint store to fondle the new phones. The salesperson in the store admits he can’t match the retention specialist’s offer but now we know which phones we like. Neither of them are offered for free on the website. I call Sprint back, get transferred to a retention specialist right away and I tell her exactly what we want. She looks at our account and then asks me to hold for one moment, presumably to consult with someone more in charge than she is. In a couple of minutes, she’s back on the line and gives me the good news. Yes, she can give me those two expensive, not-free-on-the-website phones for free if we sign up for another two years. Yay! Good answer, Sprint! Activation was waived, we are signed up, our phones are here, we love them, and all is right with our cellular world. We are now free to take bad pictures of people’s butts on the subway and annoy everyone around us by using the speakerphone feature (turned all the way up, naturally) in public places.

    I know cell companies get raked over the coals on Consumerist pretty much daily but I wanted to share this success with you because I truly believe it was a positive experience because of things I learned on your site: don’t bother with the front-line CSR, pit one company’s offer against the other, don’t be a sucker for their first offer, and escalate things up the customer service chain until you reach someone who can give you what you want. So thanks!”