My Story: Cell Phone Hardball

contributed by Gordon Reeder

Play hardball when it comes to selecting a cell phone plan. And don't buy the standard offering. Several years ago, I had to update my AT&T (now Cingular) cell phone plan. I also needed a new phone. Unfortunately, new phones are only given to new customers. Existing customers have to pay for new phones. I balked. I decided I wanted the new phone free. Here's what I did.

First, I tried pleading with them. That didn't work. Then I appealed to their sense of customer satisfaction and loyalty. That didn't work either.

Then I realized that my best hand was to let them know that I was willing to walk away, so I did my homework. I went to three of the biggest cell providers in the area. I got details of their plans and the free phones they offered. I took notes. Then I walked into the AT&T store, carrying their competitor's pamphlets in my hand. Let the game begin.

"Hi, I need to renew my cell plan."

"Yes, Mr. Reeder, I see that you have our 'blah, blah, blah' plan. Is that what you want to renew?"

"Hmmm, I see that night and weekend minutes begin at 9:00 and XYZ starts theirs an hour earlier. I really like that."

"I see, well we can offer..."

And just like that I got unlimited nights and weekends starting at 8:00pm instead of 9:00pm. And so it went until I also had an additional 200 bonus minutes and free mobile to mobile calling. But I still didn't have that free phone and I wasn't leaving until I got it. And so…

"Well there is only one more thing before I agree to renew my plan. I need a new phone."

"Of course, Mr. Reeder, we have a great selection of phones. This one is only $49.95, and this one is $99.95, and..."

"No! No! You don't understand. Phones are free if I switch carriers."

"Right. We can offer..."

And out came the credits and rebates. By the time it was over, the $99 phone was free. Yes! I win! I walked out with a better plan than I went in with and I got a free new phone.

So don't just settle for what is put in front of you. The cell phone market is very competitive. You can use that to your advantage. Be prepared to negotiate for what you want.

Check out Gordon Reeder's website at

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by

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