5 Things You Should Never Say While Cellphone Shopping

We get a lot of questions and complaints about the cellphone shopping process, so we thought we’d put together a list of 5 things consumers say to cellphone sales reps that they really should just keep to themselves. Enjoy.

1) I don’t need any extra features or accessories, so don’t bother trying to sell them to me.
Cellphone sales reps are under a lot of pressure to sell features and accessories. Go ahead and use this information to your advantage. Avoid expensive accessories, but go ahead and see if you can’t use extra features as leverage. Need that data plan anyway? They don’t need to know that. Let them convince you.

2) I’m under contract with you guys, can I have a better phone anyway?
The answer to this question is “no.” If you’re under contract, the sales reps have no reason to give you a deal on a phone, unless you’re close to your contract expiration date. Even then, you’d be better off waiting until your contract is up and shopping around for the best deal.

3) I’ve been a loyal customer for many years! There’s no way I’m switching! Reward me!
You can try calling your cellphone company and asking for a “loyalty credit” before heading over to the store to begin your negotiation, but keep in mind that sales reps tend to get less commission for retaining customers than they do for getting new accounts. You’re probably going to get the best deal from a company that considers you a new customer.

4) Yes, I would like a 2 year contact!
You ideally want no contract. If that’s not possible, you’d like a one year contract. Cellphone reps tell us again and again that there’s no real benefit to you, the consumer, for signing up for a 2 year contract. Sometimes you can’t avoid it, but you owe it to yourself to try.

5) I have not shopped around, I do not know what your competitors are offering, and I have no idea what the hell is going on right now.
Shop around. Look at each company’s website. Check out the phones. Read reviews. Learn about the plans. Then go around to each company and ask when they’re willing to offer you. Write each offer down. Now you can start your negotiation. Don’t believe this is possible? Check out this letter from a reader who used tips from Consumerist to save lots of money on his new cellphone plan.

Bonus Tip:
Go cellphone shopping at the end of the month, when some reps are under increased pressure to meet their quotas.

We know you have lots of cellphone shopping tips. Add them to the comments and help your fellow man.

(Photo: medalian1 )


Edit Your Comment

  1. donnie5 says:

    No, really, has this really been a problem? Are people really saying this stuff?
    Is it a slow news day? Not enough tips coming in?

  2. jamar0303 says:

    Personally, I find that most of the stuff available in the States is lacking in some way or other. I’d be coming in with an unlocked GSM phone and asking for just a SIM, no contract.

  3. GreatCaesarsGhost says:

    Slow news day? It’s 9AM! It’ll pick up.

    Besides, this is helpful information for some.

  4. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    Isn’t the benefit of a 2-year contract a discounted phone? Do you get the same discount for a 1-year contract?

  5. Jozef says:

    I’m saying (or at the very least thinking) the loyalty argument. As long as the company doesn’t screw up in a major way, I’m not leaving it and not even going through the hassle of trying to find a better alternative (as they say, if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it). I know, thanks to Consumerist, that I could be paying much less than the $105/month I pay Comcast for basic extended cable and cable Internet, but I don’t want to raise any stink as long as it works. As far as cell phones go, I’m still on my first one, which I got with a 2 year contract with Verizon. I’m just finishing the third year on a month-to-month basis, and the only time I’d consider switching to another wireless provider is if my cell phone dies and can’t be fixed (at which point I’d definitely switch, as Verizon doesn’t offer bar-shaped phones anymore). I seriously doubt I’m the only one who feels better about being loyal to one company and who thinks loyalty should be rewarded.

  6. spinachdip says:

    @donnie5: Do you take everything really, really, really seriously? Would it be easier for you to understand if the post was about things cell phone shoppers do to themselves, rather than “things you should never say”?

    Sometimes, to break down a complex process, as negotiating a good deal with a cell phone carrier can be, it helps to put things in simple, if somewhat unrealistic, terms, and that’s something this site does well, I think.

    Also, did you know that the point of Aesop’s tale wasn’t to provide an account of the historic race between a random hare and a random tortoise? And that story about the Garden of Eden wasn’t about taking dietary advice from talking reptiles? Who knew, right?

  7. sir_eccles says:

    Number 1 is rubbish.

    I’ve walked into an AT&T store and said “I just need phone and txt, is this the cheapest phone in the store?” and been done and out in about 5 minutes.

    Basically you need to go in knowing what you want, and saying so firmly to the salesperson so that they understand not to waste any of his precious commission time or any of your time.

  8. sardonumspa says:

    These two year terms at T-Mobile are not a good deal.

    If you read through their contract, it says you are eligible for an upgrade after 11 months on a one-year, and 22 months on a two-year contract. The up front bonus for signing the longer contract is 50 bucks.

    They give you a discount of well over $100 off the retail price of a new phone, each time you sign an extension. So, you can get a $100 discount every year, or $150 discount every two years.

    Add to all of that the fact the the early termination fee is still $200, regardless of which term you agreed to. The end of the contract comes around much quicker on the one-year.

    It’s a no brainer, but I don’t think most people do the math.

  9. spinachdip says:

    @A.W.E.S.O.M.-O: You can get the same discount at 1-year if you want it bad enough or if you go through a third party. And with T-Mobile, you’re eligible for a new subsidized phone at 11 months on a 1-year contract as opposed to 22 months on a 2-year contract.

    For me though, the subsidized phones do nothing for me, since the selection tends to be limited and carriers often cripple multimedia features. I’m currently a free agent on T-Mobile, but rather than lock myself in, just to get a phone that I wasn’t all that really thrilled about, I went out and got an unlocked Sony-Ericsson, even if it cost me $150. No buyer’s remorse here.

  10. Carl3000 says:

    I don’t really care if they’re “are under a lot of pressure to sell features and accessories.” I’m under a lot of pressure not to get ripped off. I usually just immediately dismiss any stupid extras and act really disinterested and annoyed if they keep blabbing about them.

  11. Scuba Steve says:


    Not with the iPhone.

  12. idx says:

    Can anyone tell me if there is a 1 year contract available for the iphone? I just won one, and if I can get a 1 year contract I might try it out.

  13. backbroken says:

    “I just buried my neighbor in a shallow grave behind my shed.”

    “I can identify athlete’s foot by taste.”

    “I voted for George Bush.”

    Just a few of the embarrassing things I’ve said to my cell phone salesperson. Live and learn I guess.

  14. lol_wut says:

    Giving the nod to the sales rep and buying an additional accessory or tacking on a feature is a nice touch, especially when you are looking for a price break on a phone or a better deal than what you are currently getting if you are looking to switch carriers. Independent Agents can some times wiggle out a deal that is slightly better than the corporate offering, but buyer beware.

    My advice to anyone looking to buy a phone is to aim a little higher than what you need in a device because phones get outdated and revamped rather quickly. What was considered great 24 months ago has been outdone ten-fold within the last 3-6 months.

  15. MeOhMy says:

    @sardonumspa: This math only works if you really want to get a new phone every year. If I spend $100 on a new phone every year as opposed to $150 every 2 years (and in truth I hang on longer than 2 years anyway), I come out ahead on that metric.

  16. techadam says:

    I always buy a phone on Ebay, unlocked and unbranded. Hate having carrier logos and advertise for them. They should pay consumers to carry these ugly logos!

  17. donnie5 says:

    Sorry childrens, I did not realize I was messing with the Meg Marco Fanboy Association.

  18. jamar0303 says:

    @sw4383: I dunno- I personally haven’t noticed anything that could beat my old Sharp 902SH coming out in recent months. Haven’t really seen any cameraphones in the States that have optical zoom (or they have crappy optics).

  19. henrygates says:

    @sw4383: I disagree. What features on a phone become outdated? I have a 10 year old Nokia in my car (now just an emergency phone) that works perfectly. I’d probably still be using it if all the providers didn’t start charging extra for using analog phones.

    Aside from browsing the Internet (which IMO means you’re in the market for a portable personal computer, not a phone) there isn’t much that a new processor or fancy menu can do for making a phone call…or even texting.

  20. @donnie5:

    No, really, has this really been a problem? Are people really saying this stuff?
    Is it a slow news day? Not enough tips coming in?

    Good grief, you’re not the editor. If you don’t want to read the article, nobody’s holding a gun to your head to click on it. And you certainly don’t have to clutter up the comments section talking about how much of a waste of time the post is!

  21. @donnie5:

    Sorry childrens, I did not realize I was messing with the Meg Marco Fanboy Association.

    I only see one child ’round these parts.

  22. donnie5 says:

    Man, Monday mornings must be a pain for everyone. Seriously, I thought it was a story that put the consumer in the same light as a mindless sheep seeing as how these are things that are common sense (or so I thought. I, like you, am entitled to an opinion and have the right to express it in the comments section.
    @InfiniTrent: I clicked on the article looking for a post that was not a re-hash of things I already knew.
    Relax people. I will no longer post in the negative. How is this:
    This article is well written and informative to those who have never been through the cell phone update process. Gee, thanks Consumerist!

  23. cerbie says:

    @A.W.E.S.O.M.-O: the benefit is the lock-in by the carrier. They want a contract, even if you’re bringing in a brand new phone, and just want a card to add a line to a monthly plan.

  24. theysaidwhat says:

    I’ve had different providers over the years because work usually insists on giving me a phone I don’t want. However, that’s proven to me time and time again that Verizon is my best option for the services I use. My primary phone died two months out of contract–screen went blank–and I was in and out of the Verizon store in ten minutes with what I considered to be a good deal and all of my memory transferred to the new phone. Told the guy flat out I want phone that I can close, with Bluetooth, and I like Motorolas. ( I know they aren’t the flashiest things out there but I use my phone for talking and little else, and know their menu systems.) Saved tons of time for me and the rep as they only had 3 phones that had Bluetooth and could be closed. Everyone was happy. And I was back to work in ten minutes. Hard to quibble with that.

  25. @donnie5: As someone who is 3/4 done with his two-year contract, I found the article quite helpful and enlightening. Just because a post isn’t intended for you doesn’t mean that you should act like a sarcastic asshole to the author and subsequent commenters.

  26. milk says:

    A couple of years ago I got the cheapest phone that I could get for absolutely free. They tried to say some other phone was oh so better, but I politely yet firmly refused and they backed down. It’s not hard to say no. I completely went against #1 when I recently bought a car. I made it clear up front if he talked my ear off about something I didn’t want, I would leave.

    My recent cell phone shopping lasted about 15 minutes:

    me: “My contract is ending, so I’m eligible for a $150 credit toward a new phone. I want this one. [handed him print-out]”

    sales manager: “OK. Which plan do you want?”

    me: “This one. [handed him print-out]”

    sales manager: “OK. You know, this plan blahblahblah.”

    me: “No.”

    sales manager: “OK.”

    After a couple minutes of typing and whatnot, I walked out. It probably helped I got a manager.

  27. @donnie5: Much better Donnie!

  28. mac-phisto says:

    #1 is not just about sales matrices or commission. sometimes we just don’t want you to come back in 2 months & bitch us out for not doing our job. it happens ALL THE TIME b/c people think they know what’s best – even when they don’t know their options.

    the classic example is mom setting up her 15-yr old daughter’s first cell account with 200 minutes & no txt plan. then she blames me b/c her daughter ran up a $600 bill even though i suggested more minutes & a txt plan or turning off the txt altogether. “you never mentioned this before”. actually, i did, but you were too busy telling me to stfu & ring the phone up already.

  29. donnie5 says:

    Hey, I was putting together some criticism when I was attacked here!
    Besides, the matter is over, so you do not have to use such abrasive words about donkey’s and their holes. I have recanted my comments. However, I will leave the sarcasm in tact.
    Oh, and this might help you; bypass the initial rep and ask for a retention specialist. You get better deals from them.
    Just trying to stay on topic.

  30. dragonfire81 says:

    #2 drove me nuts all the time at Sprint, people wanting deals when they’ve broken their phone after 7 months and do not have insurance. Then they’d try to play #3: “I’ve been with you for 6 years! I deserve a free phone!”

    Sorry, No.

  31. donnie5 says:

    @InfiniTrent: Oh, and thanks mate!

  32. spinachdip says:

    @donnie5: So what you’re saying is that you’re free to criticize, but you’ll respond to any criticism of you with ad hominems and passive aggressive dipshittiity? Got it.

    So you think this is common sense stuff – bully for you. But seeing how cell phone carriers practice the “subsidize to hell and lock them in” and “fuck retaining, rope in new suckers” business model, it’s clear customers, including otherwise half intelligent people, are screwing themselves. So people may not be saying those five things in so many words, but they are, in effect.

  33. madanthony says:


    One reason to buy more phone than you need is if you want to resell it when you upgrade. I’ve generally gotten phones that have more features than I need, and I’ve been able to resell them on eBay for close to what I paid for them when I’m done.

    Of course, if you never upgrade or don’t want to be bothered reselling, it’s not worth it. But often the difference between the cheapest cell and a nice one is small, and if there’s a chance you might need the features or can resell when you are eligible for an upgrade, it makes sense.

  34. battra92 says:

    My issue is I get a company discount at Verizon (I don’t work for Verizon or anything but my company got discounted rates for employees by having all our cellphones go through there.)

    No matter what way I crunch the numbers, nothing is cheaper than Verizon for me.

    @Jozef: Verizon doesn’t offer bar-shaped phones anymore

    The Bay of E shows quite a few you could use in a pinch if you want to spend like $10 for a phone just for calling and Texting.

  35. battra92 says:

    @dragonfire81: #2 drove me nuts all the time at Sprint, people wanting deals when they’ve broken their phone after 7 months and do not have insurance. Then they’d try to play #3: “I’ve been with you for 6 years! I deserve a free phone!”

    Verizon was pretty good to me after my phone died. They told me that I was 2 months away from the end of my contract and I’d get a credit in two months. They told me to check eBay for a cheapo or to ask a friend if they had an old cell they deactivated.

    I ended up using a used one that I had to put an earpiece in to hear but it got me by and then I came back and got my new phone.

    After 7 months and it’s broken you might want to reevaluate how well you take care of your things.

  36. Buy your phones unlocked from an online store or eBay.

  37. SacraBos says:

    @backbroken: I think you owe a lot of people a round of new keyboards…

  38. donnie5 says:

    First off, maybe we should go to the message boards or something because this comment thread is getting a tad off-topic.
    Second, I did not respond with ad hominems. I made no further arguments to prove my case beyond my own reasoning, incorrect or otherwise. Now, passive aggressive? Maybe, but it was more that I was admitting that my comment was a little harsh in the first place. I have since recanted my comment (please read my previous post) and made a semi-joke by saying I would leave the sarcasm in tact.
    My thoughts on the retention rep are as follows: T-mobile wanted $39 for a phone, and a $16 upgrade fee at the end of my contract (this past April). I said no, and that I was going to cancel. I was given to a retention rep who said, how about $9 for the phone, and no upgrade fee. I thought that was good. All worked out in the end.
    So, Mr./Ms. Dip, please relax and remember, this is the internet. Lets not get so worked up.

  39. donnie5 says:

    aww hell. I replied to the wrong person.

  40. deadelvis21999 says:

    I recently shuffled our phone situation, and I found that when I called Verizon to cancel my account (had it since 2004), the woman was falling all over herself to offer me deals. The way she was shoveling deals at me it sounded like she was going to get fired if I wasn’t retained.

    Part of the process was also adding a line to AT&T to make my existing account a family plan. In the store, they weren’t going to offer what was on the web (and it wasn’t a “web only” deal); I had to know about it and ask for it. Gotta do the research.

  41. samspot says:

    I just wanted to add that if you are like myself, and you don’t use many minutes, a prepaid phone like tracfone can be awesome. I buy minutes every 3 months or so, and I think my avg cost for service is $5 / month! I probably use about 30 minutes each month.

  42. gqcarrick says:

    One of my best friends went into Verizon and said “oh money is no problem, my company is paying for it” So he walked out with a crackberry with a million features he doesn’t need for his construction job.

  43. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    @cerbie: Well I know what the benefit to the carrier is. But I thought you had to sign up for two years to get the full carrier subsidy on a new phone, though apparently that’s not the case if subsequent commenters are correct.

  44. kspray--dad says:

    It REALLY shouldn’t have to be this hard to get a ‘deal’ on a cell phone. I hate negotiating. Maybe that’s why I don’t have one.

  45. ellastar says:

    In regards to #2 (“I’m under contract with you guys, can I have a better phone anyway?”), most of the companies won’t allow an upgrade/discount if the customer hasn’t been under contract for a certain length of time. Sales associates still get a commission for upgrades/renewing contracts, but not as much as signing up a new customer. Sprint gives discounts for upgrade after 1 year (still expensive) and bigger discounts around the 2 year mark (about the same price a new customer pays). At&t and Verizon offer a new phone/upgrade every 2 years. Not sure about T-Mobile. If the customer hasn’t been under contract for the required length of time, most sales associates can’t do anything about it. Sometimes At&t will offer an exception upgrade at the 1.5 year mark, but that’s it.

  46. camman68 says:

    @Jozef: I have no problem being loyal to a company if they are loyal to me. As soon as they screw me over (Sprint, AT&T, etc), it’s time to jump ship!

    Plus – which companies can you get a plan without a contract? I have tried Sprint, Nextel, alltel, and Verizon – as I have phones from each of these companies.

  47. Well, in regards to the 2 year contract… I was with Verizon for 2 years and signed up or 1 year… Waste of money to spend $100 extra on a phone to avoid the contract… Now I’m with Cingular and honestly I have no idea how long the contract is, but I went for 2 years and got a free phone.. sounds good to me… I’ll probably switch after this 2 years and get another new phone for free.. sounds good to me.

  48. Daniels says:

    Plus – which companies can you get a plan without a contract?

    I think the contracts are usually a condition of discounts on the phone. If you pay full price for the phone (or buy one used and have it activated) I don’t think there’s a minimum term.

    Of course, I haven’t shopped for a phone in a few years since my company gave me one and I don’t pay for it so that info may be dated.

  49. dangermike says:

    I have what appears to be the cheapest advertised cell plan. 29.99/month for 300 minutes with sprint. Of course after taxes, it’s often over 40. Sometimes, if I get a lot of texts, it’s up to around 60 (I don’t use texting much so it’s *usually* cheaper without any so-and-so number of messages). But I was looking at prices since my contract ended a few weeks ago, and with my actual usage (60-100 minutes/month and 30-60 texts) a t-mobile prepaid plan (10 cent/min + 10 cents/outgoing text + 5 cents/incoming text) would run between approximately $9 and $15. Comparing the worst case scenario in prepaid, maybe $20/month, with the best case monthly I’m in now ($40), that $480 I’ll save in the next two years. They can keep the $150-$200 they offer in their contractual “rebates”. That’s nearly half a grand in the worst case scenario. I think I can reasonably expect to save around $700-$750. I can easily make that into a couple weekends in vegas.

  50. camman68 says:

    @dangermike: Don’t forget to check out Sprint SERO. 500 minutes, unlimited text, unlimited picture mail, unlimited data, etc for $30.00/month. I have 2 sero plans and they are great.


  51. DeeJayQueue says:

    It’s worth noting that a lot of times the sales reps will say anything to get you on board, but there are some things they simply can’t do. They can make you a great deal on the phone or the plan or the extras, but the rest of the company won’t stand behind them. I had tons of problems with Sprint not honoring the deals that the sales rep gave me.

  52. dragonfire81 says:

    @DeeJayQueue: Been there, done that. Usually the sales reps will conveniently NOT leave any notes in your account about any special deals/agreed upon discounts and thus there is no proof you are telling the truth and typically nothing you were told will be honored.

  53. BlakeMinnows says:

    Are you kidding me? I aggree with almost all of this except for one part,
    sales reps (at corp stores) are given very specific guildlines as for as
    pricing, discounting etc. if you don’t get the deal you want don’t blame the
    rep, blame the company. You know what the average sales rep makes on your
    new activation? 13 bucks. You think they give a damn if you say “I can get
    it cheaper somewhere else.” ? As far as upgrading to new phones, face it,
    companies subsidize, don’t blame the rep for following policy, they don’t
    make any money off of you when their boss fires them for breaking policy.

  54. cordeduroi says:

    Damn, I have to *stop* saying “I have no idea what the hell is going on right now!” everytime a salesperson walks up?? LOL.

  55. Boberto says:

    @idx: @idx: Jailbreak it and put in a T-Mobile prepaid sim card at .10 cents/minute. No contract, no BS.

  56. Eric says:

    What’s a “cellphone sales rep”? I’ve always done my cellphone shopping online.

  57. ogremustcrush says:

    If you want a good deal on a phone, don’t go to any cell phone store, get it online. Amazon.com has just about all their phones discounted to close to free or less after rebates. T-Mobile and AT&T have the best deals on phones on there. You have to sign a 2 year contract unfortunately, but when you can get a blackberry for free or even make money after rebates, it becomes worth it. Also, look for employee discount programs, they might not get you the best deal on the phones, but the rate discounts make up for it in the long run. In many cases you can add an employee discount to an existing line, in which case you can buy your phone at amazon and get it cheap. Its also good to check out sites like slickdeals.net , as occasionally they find find some deals that can let you get prices about as good as Amazons except with 1 year contracts…. But again, never buy in the store. Why deal with the pressure to buy crap you don’t need when you can get the phone cheaper online without it.

  58. neilb says:

    I have gotten the best deals by calling tmobile late at night and getting a good rapport with the “retention department” person and asking if they were running any specials.
    They had more leverage in the past, but I was able to negotiate a decent deal for new phones at the end of last year when they were under a great deal of pressure to get contracts before the year end.
    The B&M corporate store would not work with me at all.
    It ended up being $80 per phone (retention dept) vs $150 (B&M corporate store).
    I have also used ebay to get phones and avoid contracts…but results of doing this have been mixed.

  59. bkives says:

    @jamar0303: said “I’d be coming in with an unlocked GSM phone and asking for just a SIM, no contract.”

    I went into Cingular / AT&T with an unlocked phone. A year and a half later when the phone broke, I found out that I have a two year contract. The contract will be up by the end of summer.