Shattering Some Illusions in the Cell Phone Game.

Be forewarned- If I disappear, it was this post right here that did it (or, maybe this one). This is legitimately information the cell phone industry does not want you to have. I don’t know if there’s some kind of salesperson’s code or anything that we’re supposed to follow, but I definitely don’t owe that industry any favors. Also sorry this is kind of a long one, I’ll put tl;drs at the end of each one if you don’t wanna read the whole things.

At one point in my tenure working with cell phones, I noticed that people were more gullible than I thought. Now, whenever I could, I kept my sales clear and transparent. The commission you make off of cell phones is not worth dealing with a bunch of problems, especially if you’re making them for yourself. All that said, I’ve seen people fall for some crazy stuff. I mean, I’m a guy; a human just like the people walking into the store, the only difference is that I’m behind the counter. Nothing makes them more susceptible to sales and marketing bullshit than myself aside from that I’ve seen inside the system. So, allow me to open your eyes with tips for buying new phones, and maybe dealing with salespeople in general. Number 5 is a tip for keeping your bill the cheapest it can be. Feel free to skip to it if that’s all you wanna know.

1. Marketing

Let’s start with the part you face before you even enter the store. They’re misleading. Every add you see for a thing that costs money has a catch. It is too good to be true. You think they’re gonna pay money for ads that tell you the good and the bad? Verizon’s just gonna lure you in with that “Unlimited plans starting at $35 a month.” They’re not gonna tell you that’s the price with 4 lines, on autopay, and before you factor in your $1000 price tag phone, or insurance which they may tell you you have to have. I didn’t just pull that $35 out of the ether either. That is their current advertised price in commercials (though sadly I can’t find one on youtube, I think because they’re actively airing).

Screenshot from Verizon.com

Above is Verizon’s current price for one line of unlimited, and if you notice in the very small print they already included the $10 discount for autopay for ya so you don’t have to do the math yourself. Aren’t they so generous! And they’re not alone, they all do it. It’s a nice tricky way to advertise an unbelievably low price. Here’s AT&T’s cheapest unlimited plan:

Screenshot form att.com

Occam’s Razor is a problem solving principle that when put simply means: Usually the simplest explanation is the right one. If you see a price that’s unbelievable, or looks like something that would have a catch, it does. It does.

tl;dr: Marketing for sales is meant to be deceiving. There 100% is a catch.

2. Salespeople are not your friend

Unless you knew them long enough to call them your friend prior to buying something from them, they are most certainly not your friend. You may click with them, but you’re not friends. You’re just more likely to buy stuff from people you click with. If antagonistic relationships got more sales, you can bet most of the sales people you meet would be your worst enemy.

If you click with a sales rep your next best course of action is to assume that they will try to sell you as much as they can. They have no intention of keeping your bill cheap as long as it’s cheaper than it was before. They’re trained to sell you as much as they can. There may be short term deals like waived fees, for your long term detriment, because now you’re stuck with a bunch of extra stuff you’re not gonna want. They’ll tell you you’re getting a deal, say you’re going on the “commuter plan” give you the stuff you asked for, tack on two of their car diagnostic devices -let’s call them ‘sprint drives’, and give you the total which is lower than the bill from your last carrier. The problem is they’re saying the two sprint drives are free, but if you left without them your bill would be lower. Hmmmm?

If when you’re buying something you feel you truly were undervaluing a thing and then a sales rep showed you the light, by all means buy what you want to buy. Furthermore, not all sales people are like this. I wasn’t like this. Eventually people find out, but it’s often too late. That’s you need to ALWAYS have them break whatever they’re selling you down by the numbers; as it would show up on your bill. Honestly even this isn’t infallible, they may still lie and be prepared to face the consequences, but you have some leverage if they straight up lie to your face.

tl;dr: Unless you knew them beforehand don’t trust a sales rep. Salespeople are trained to be nice to you and speak vaguely to get you to buy more than you need or want. They aren’t friendly to make you happy. Get a mock itemized bill (or the actual one), and make sure you know where every penny you’re paying is going.

3. Don’t take it personally

When shopping for phones you may encounter a situation where all the new deals are for new customers, or feel like you shouldn’t have to deal with customer service, or have to deal with being given incorrect information from different sources within separate chains of command. The list goes on. If at any point you feel like you aren’t being treated the way a customer of your tenure or character should be, don’t take it personally. I’m not saying it’s right, or that it’s good business, I’m just saying it isn’t personal.

The decisions are made by the board and/or owner(s) of the company. They’re made by these people knowing full well that not everyone will like them, but -to be frank- they don’t give a shit. They don’t have to see you, or deal with your outrage, and they make less money off of loyal customers than they do new ones. Most importantly, in many cases, they’re already rich. Obviously they want their business to succeed so they can better insure they stay rich, but worse comes to worse, they already have a lot of money. It has nothing to do with you every person shares the same circumstance in which they could fall prey to being disregarded. It ain’t pretty, and it ain’t good, but that’s how your cell phone sausage is made.

Again, this isn’t the case with every company, but it can especially be the case with franchises, so if you experience this at a franchise for a carrier, really try to actually understand that the people dealing with you and whatever emotions are flowing at that moment. Really have nothing to do with what might be upsetting you. Trying to strong arm them into making more efforts to keep you as a customer is largely fruitless if they’ve already told you they cannot solve your problem. And that it could happen to anyone.

tl;dr: The people behind the counter don’t make the rules, and the people that do make them honestly don’t care about you. They don’t know you, they don’t deal with you. You may be hurt if you’re mistreated by your character, but at least know that it isn’t personal. If you want your recompense, just go to a different carrier. Whatever you do, do NOT take it out on the rep.

4. The people behind the counter are humans like you/Retail SUCKS

I’ve hit this point a few times already. People behind the counter are not punching bags for you to take your frustrations out on. You saying “I know it’s not your fault” doesn’t mean much after you’ve already gone off. If the rep didn’t directly cause your issue. Treat them with respect. They have to deal with customer outrage, and pressure from the company to clean up it’s mess, all the while getting paid the least of anyone involved. They might be suffering more than you are.

You probably know by now that this is a big part of what I’m about. Hopefully you understand this without me going into too much depth. I have years of experience suffering through retail, and have seen many of my coworkers share in my feelings. We even consider our group chat as a kind of support group. Retail employees do all the work, and barely get any of the profits. Be grateful they made it through their last shift to be at this one.

No tl;dr for this one. You read that whole thing, commit it to memory, tell a friend, and then live it.

5. The actual best strategy to having the cheapest bill possible

Pay off a phone to own it and then switch carriers every year.

No it’s not clickbait. It’s right there for you to see. You’ll have to get the phone unlocked, potentially every time you leave, and that honestly may lead you to dealing with script reading customer service agents, but unlocking is a simple process if you own your phone, and might not be necessary after the first time. It varies by carrier.

NEVER tell your current carrier you’re about to leave, and to avoid doing so REMEMBER YOUR GD PIN, (Yes you did come up with one) and make sure you know what your account number is. You can find it on your bill.

If you happen to like your carrier, and their coverage, just pay off your phone, and don’t add anything you’re not definitely gonna use or need. This includes unlimited data. Go to the settings in your phone right now, and search “data usage” and it should show you the amount of data since the last time this metric was refreshed (that date should be at the bottom of the screen if it’s now clearly listed anywhere else). Do you need unlimited data? My mom was paying for it at TMobile a few years ago. I showed her the usage in her settings and she had used 12 gigs… over the past three years. If you’re at home, you’re probably on wifi, if you are allowed to use your phone at work, probably on wifi. If you’re driving, GET OFF THE PHONE! Going to school? The got wifi there. Pretty much the only time I’m ever not able to connect to wifi, is when I’m being driven, which isn’t often to begin with. Streaming music while you drive doesn’t take that much unless you’re going to be on an excessively long drive, but if you really wanna be thrifty buying a pack of blank CDs and making a roadtrip mix will still probably be cheaper.

Sometimes, plan wise companies will try to strong arm you into getting unlimited, by having only one non unlimited alternative that’s around 2 gigs (still probably enough for most). And to be fair there is extra value thrown into the unlimited plans (the problem is that you can’t choose to drop the things you don’t want to reduce your plan cost proportionately to the value of the dropped item). It can also be cheaper to have your account on unlimited if you have a lot of lines.

Did that get confusing? No? Good, you should be fine. Yes? Good. Remember that, and use it to seek out the information you lack. If they have all the information and you have none, you have no choice to believe whatever they tell you and they send you off paying monthly for a $30 tracking device you didn’t even want, until you cancel it. Ask questions, make sure you know exactly where you’re money’s going, exactly what the plan includes, and exactly what each item costs. Make them be fully transparent. If you can do that you should be in good shape.

But wait, there’s more!

There are some other things I could clue you all in on, but this post is probably overly long as is. Sorry, I got a lot of passion for this, and can be long winded. If you want more tips, let me know. I’m happy to dismantle the hellhole that is retail any time.

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