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Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Cell Phone Companies Hate Their Customers

That's the only conclusion I can draw. Cell phone companies hate existing customers. It's all about new customers. But once you're a customer, you can get f***ed. And I'm so tired of the game.

Sprint, my carrier, who I'm happy with, is coming out with a new phone. It comes out on 4 June. I want it. I have been a Sprint customer for over 6 years (without leaving). If I want to buy this phone, it'll cost me $450.

If I am new to Sprint, say I'm one of the iPhone people who will dump AT&T to get the HTC Evo 4G phone, well Sprint wants to welcome me right in by offering me the phone for $199 if I sign a two-year contract. I'll extend my contract two years. Nope, I can pay $450.

Here's where it becomes the stupidest math problem on the planet.

The early termination fee is $200. If I didn't care about losing my phone number (and so few people have it that that's not so scary), I could cancel my phone for $200. I could then say HEY, I'm new! I'd get the phone for $199. I would come out $50 ahead in the deal... but have lost my old phone number. Which will mean less and less as I give out my Google Voice number more and more.

I have another option. Chew on the wacky stupidity of this one. I have a 2nd phone on my line. It's a phone I had gotten for a previous boyfriend, and hey, the contract lasted longer than the relationship. Shame! That phone is due for an "upgrade" special according to Sprint. On 1 July, I can get the HTC Evo 4G for $199 by using my "upgrade."

I can then cancel that other line, and pay the $200 early termination fee, but finally shut that line off, saving me around $40 per month (over the remaining 13 months of the contract). Another win for me. So this is what I'll do. I'll get the new phone on 1 July, and then cancel that line (paying the fee) because the fee is less than the difference between a $450 phone and a $199 phone!

But look at how many hoops I'd have to jump through to do either of these things. Sprint and other cell phone companies should make this easy. You want me to use my phone. You want me to like my phone. You want me to need my phone. As a long term customer, I am worth way more to you than the $250 extra you are trying to get out of me. When I tell people how happy I am, I am bringing you business. I am worth more than $250.

It's like that bank commercial where the bank gives newer people better things, and they tell you that businesses should know to not do that. Same for cell phone companies. If you cared more about keeping your customers, it wouldn't be so easy to lose them to a hot deal from someone else.

I was recently in the AT&T store, just to see what they had. I don't like their products or services, but I was curious. They tried to make it sound AMAZING that if I signed up with them, I would get a $75 discount. A whole $75!!! I told them I don't give it up for that little money. They were surprised that in this economy, I didn't want to completely change cell phone companies to have $75 that day. I guess people are that fickle or desperate or excited about $75.

Cell phone companies should reward me for sticking around. I don't want anything special. Just the same price on the phone that other people are getting. If I agree to a 2-yr contract extension, what's the difference between me and the guy who is new and gets a 2-yr contract? We are worth the same... except I'm worth more because I've proven that I'll stay. The guy who jumps for your deal will jump the next time he gets another offer.

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