Verizon Math At T-Mobile: 1¬¢ Is The Same As Free

I don’t really want to sit here writing painfully obvious sentences, but here’s the thing. A penny isn’t very much money. It is, however, more than zero, so an item that costs one cent is not free. In practical terms, it might as well be free, but it still isn’t. Which is why Mark found this bit of math confusion on a Verizon T-Mobile phone purchase page through Costco so amusing. “Even though the difference between .01 and .00 is quite small,” he writes, “it’s still not infinitesimal enough to be considered ‘free,’ right?” No, not yet.


For remedial instruction in what “Verizon Math” is, check out these classic posts:

Yogurt Shop Sells Frozen Treats Using Verizon Math
Verizon Math: $0 Off Equals A 25% Discount!
Verizon STILL Doesn’t Know Dollars From Cents
Verizon C&D’s VerizonMath Tshirts
Verizon Finally Admits They Were Wrong


Edit Your Comment

  1. TuxthePenguin says:

    My first question is whether the phone is free or the accessory pack is free? What was the original deal? We need details. Looking at their website, they have something similar – One cent.

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      And because you purchase online, you get the free accessory pack (look to the left side). Seems to be that the deal is a $0.01 phone plus free accessory pack.

    • GameHen says:

      Yea, you’re right. I’m pretty sure those are the costs of the line items and the accessory kit is free. You’ll notice that the total of the column is $0.01. It seems pretty clear to me.

    • Jawaka says:

      That’s how I see it.

  2. temporaryerror says:

    I think that there is some reason for the $.01. As I recall from my days selling “free” phones, it’s something to do with inventory tracking or book keeping. Of course, we never bothered to actually collect the penny from the customer.

    • SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

      isnt this the rounding thing that verizon is famous for?

    • gman863 says:

      When I worked at electronics stores that sold cell phones, the “.01” was required on any tangible item to remove it from inventory.

      If it was the only item on the sales invoice, the cashier would not collect it. A cash drawer variance of a few cents was not a loss prevention issue, especially on days when we sold 30+ phones.

      If there were other items on the ticket (especially if the customer was paying by credit card and the dollar amount had to exactly match the charge amount), I would reach into my pocket and hand the customer a penny. I was making between $20 and $30 commission per phone activation so it was no big deal. Customers thought it was both honest and hilarious. I got a lot of repeat business as “the guy who gave them a penny”.

      • ZachPA says:

        You’d think in this day and age that one would be able to sell an item for zero cents and still have it removed from inventory for tracking purposes. I know I can do it, and I sell pizza, not cell phones.

  3. PHRoG says:

    How is this Verizon math? He’s on the Costco website, it’s Costco math. Plus, it’s clearly a data entry error, or a simple coding error. Did you happen to, you know, notify them of the error? Costco is very good at fixing such things…

    • PHRoG says:

      Awww hell…as soon as I hit submit, I see at the top of the page:

      “You are no longer on Costco’s site and are subject to the privacy policy of the company hosting this site.”

      Soo…my bad. :p Verizon math it is!

  4. SmokeyBacon says:

    Ok, this is totally stupid, but I have to say that when my company quotes jobs to AT&T for free they still have to enter it as one cent because otherwise the work order won’t generate (if it is one they are paying for or where we are giving them credit there is not a problem – only with the free stuff because their system won’t accept $0). My guess is that Verizon has something similar in their system.that makes it have to show as a penny to generate whatever work order is needed correctly. It is a stupid glitch in the computer system that won’t recognize it – they should come up with a way to have it work, at least so the customer sees $0, but I doubt it is something they are concerned about.

  5. penuspenuspenus says:

    Looks pretty clear to me that the accessory kit is free while the phone is a penny.

    • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

      Yup, that’s what it looks like to me as well.

      • penuspenuspenus says:

        At this point I think it would be fair that the blog apologizes to Verizon and Costco for the article with a promise that they will look into these stories more seriously before posting.

        • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

          There does seem to be this, “Post first, ask questions later” approach to customer compliants lately. If these complaints were against specific, private citizens, then I don’t think this would fly.

        • SabreDC says:

          Bwahahaha. You really expect them to do that? We’ll be lucky if they even update the page to “T-Mobile”.

    • Hi_Hello says:

      that’s what I thought….

      it doesn’t say the phone is free…
      unless I’m missing something.

    • bsh0544 says:


      Also looks pretty clear to me that this is T-Mobile’s (entirely correct) math, not Verizon’s. What with the T-Mobile service plan and T-Mobile phones.

      • penuspenuspenus says:

        Wow… I completely missed that. Good catch. I’m not a Verizon fan at all, but if I worked for the company I’d be a bit irate that a large blog was accusing them for something that they obviously had nothing to do with.

  6. dorianh49 says:

    One penny is infinity percent more than zero pennies so, percentage-wise, the difference isn’t that small. ;)

  7. seth_lerman says:

    Yup, the math looks good to me. Phone is $429.99. Online discount of $429.98 plus FREE ACCESSORY KIT leaves a net balance of $0.01.

  8. DemosCat says:

    In the early days of programming, back when “do not fold, spindle or mutilate” punch cards came with the phone bill, a common programming error in billing systems would be to mail bills to customers with a zero balance for $0.00. If the customer did not respond with a payment, seconds notices demanding payment of $0.00 would go out, and so on.

    So yes, I imagine the 1 cent is to “fool” the billing system into processing an invoice.

  9. wrbwrx says:

    i find it more interesting that some products at Costco cost more than if purchased from their original store.

    It would cost me more to get a Galaxy Nexus from Costco than from VZW directly.

  10. Reading Rainbow says:

    I had a similar thing recently at Jewel. It was buy 3 for $13 and get a 4th free. Well because 3 doesn’t divide evenly into $13 they were rung up as 4.34, 4.33, and 4.33. Well the 4th run up as 4.34 but the free only knocked off 4.33 off my bill. I didn’t care enough about the penny to try to dispute it, but it kinda bothered me.

  11. omargosh says:

    Perhaps it’s actually on purpose. I seem to recall something I read when skimming Chris Anderson’s book “Free” that even if an item costs just $0.01, that actually deters many people from purchasing the item, because any price greater than zero entails greater “mental transaction costs”, or something along those lines.

  12. StatusfriedCrustomer says:

    //1¢ is the same as Free//

    I am very surprised to hear this. Usually so-called “free” things are much more expensive than that.

  13. anarkie says:

    It’s T-Mobile, not Verizon. Look at the phone package and phone model. Great reading skills…

  14. NeverLetMeDown says:

    I know “OP Unable to Read” isn’t a great headline, but that’s what this story should be called. It’s very clear looking at the screenshot that it’s the _Accessory kit_ that’s free, and the math is fine.

  15. categorically says:

    Guessing author was so excited about using the title of the post that they forgot to actually research the deal.

  16. homehome says:

    I’m still waiting for the apology of jumping the gun and being wrong. Everybody knows if the company was wrong, the site would be up in arms about it and wouldn’t stop bashing them. Especially after ll the remedial jokes. Maybe we should call it “Consumerist Math.”

  17. some.nerd says:

    Chalk up one more complaint against the one person’s cent!

  18. borgia says:

    The big key to this is that in order for the transaction to count as a contract there has to be an exchange of money. Otherwise, it would be a gift and it would be hard for verizon to force someone to enter a contract by giving a gift. This is part of the reason that some companies use rebates.

  19. dilbert69 says:

    Is there anything you would accept for free that you wouldn’t pay one penny for? If not, then one penny = free.

  20. StevePierce says:

    Math is hard.

  21. scottd34 says:

    Except that costco is a third party reseller and the verizon kiosks in those stores are not owned by verizon.

  22. crazydavythe1st says:

    sigh, epic fail Consumerist. I don’t know if it is more embarrassing to not fact check in the first place (fact checking being looking a freakin’ picture), or that even 12 hours later the editor hasn’t bothered to fix it.

    Maybe we’ll see a post on Verizon’s site – “Consumerist Finally Admits They Were Wrong”. Consumerist issued an apology letter and promised to teach their editors the difference between Verizon and T-mobile.

    • SabreDC says:

      While they “corrected” it about 24 hours later, they have yet to issue any type of apology. In fact, they still found a way to blame Verizon for bad math at T-Mobile. Let Consumers Union know that this type of behavior is unacceptable for an outlet that is there to call out bad companies.

      Mr. Walter D. Bristol
      Chair of the Board of Directors of Consumers Union
      101 Truman Avenue
      Yonkers, NY 10703-1057

      Hold Consumers Union accountable just as they’d ask you to hold any other company accountable.
      (914) 378-2000

  23. Press1forDialTone says:

    This and all other similar phenomena is due to one thing:
    Most of the software folks that are -now- working out there
    are working with software modules that were written as building
    blocks to make larger programs and many of those are very
    flawed, like they can’t do math correctly based on how they
    are used in context in a larger program. The Web 2.0 programmers
    are really programming anymore, they just glue stuff together they
    they find or are given with spit and balljuice and then push it -out
    there- because they are hounded by their delusional bosses. After
    it is time to paaaaarrrrrtttttaaayyyy.