Today, I’ll be talking about how to get a cell phone discount, including on premium smartphones like the iPhone and the Galaxy S series. I myself just got a iPhone 6S through UPS delivery the same day without having to wait or camp out on a line to the Apple Store. It was totally awesome sauce sitting in the comfort of my own home, getting my package no problem with a sweet rebate to boot, while the Hunger Games Apple edition was happening on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Hah, full price! *scoff* Follow my tips and you too can score a nice cell phone discount.
Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably wondering, “Armando, what does a cell phone have to do with traveling?” Any avid traveler knows that having a premium smartphone can make communication when you’re constantly on the road that much easier. The NY Minute Traveler knows how to be mobile, agile and versatile while being able to keep in touch with the real world when needed. It has certainly helped me through my travels. Some of the ways it helped me are:
- Make voice calls and/or texts via Wi-Fi for free or low-cost (Skype, WhatsApp, Google Voice and more).
- Make free video calls via Wi-Fi (Skype, FaceTime).
- Find out how to get from Point A to Point B in an unfamiliar city or place (Google Maps).
- Make a makeshift WiFi hotspot by using mobile tethering on my phone, essentially having a versatile hotspot wherever I can get mobile signal (available on a “rooted” Android phone and now comes standard on an iPhone).
- Look up some good recommendations for things like restaurants and attractions (TripAdvisor, Yelp).
- Communicate with fellow travelers for meetups and finding hosts to stay with for free (CouchSurfing app).
- Find cheap flights from basically anywhere to anywhere (Skyscanner, Kayak and plenty other apps).
- Translate writings or signs that are not in a language you understand (Google Translate).
- Taking pictures on the fly or in a pinch without having to take out a considerably more bulky camera.
This is just a basic shortlist, but I can assure you that the list goes on and on, and once you’re stuck in a tight spot (which will eventually happen if you backpack months on end like I have), you’ll be glad that having a good-quality cell phone will make your life that much easier. I’ll eventually get into more detail on how you can use your phone to your advantage while traveling (even without an Internet connection), but now I’ll show you how I saved over $200 on a brand-spanking new iPhone 6S.
Takeaways from the current wireless arms race
A lot has changed since I last wrote about getting a discounted cell phone here in my now defunct blog (worry not, because even though my posts have currently been a bit sporadic, I am still dedicated to making this blog even more awesome when the time comes). For starters, a lot of companies don’t offer contracts to make you stay with them anymore. What does that mean for customers? It means that the discounts tend to be less, which is understandable because not only do they take a chance with you leaving their service, but they also can’t hike up the bill like before with things like Early Termination Fees and expensive bundles you couldn’t change. I think it’s a move in the right direction, since this leads to better competition, better benefits, and less expensive cell phone bills, but it makes getting exclusive discounts (in other words, getting rewarded for being a loyal customer) that much harder. Fortunately, it’s not impossible as I found out.
Anyway, while it’s not impossible to get discounts, it’s not a given either especially with the facts that I have just mentioned. There’s a few factors you will need to consider.
- The amount of time you have been with the same carrier (I’ve been with T-Mobile for almost 9 years). The more time you have spent with them, the greater chances they’ll give you a good deal in order to keep you. All good companies know that it’s always “cheaper to keep them.” Also, you will get better discounts having your contract expired and going into a new one as opposed to in-contract/no contract.
- The representative you get. Let’s face it. There are people that just aren’t nice to you working in customer service, no matter how nice you try to be. After a while, if you see you’re not getting anywhere, hang up and call again to get a new person.
- The phone you’re going for. There’s an old Spanish saying that goes “what comes cheap, comes out to be expensive.” This is absolutely the case here. I remember getting the free smartphones from my carrier (T-Mobile, and yes I’m perfectly happy with my service), which would have all the “advertised features” of much more expensive phones, but it would never work and would always break down prematurely. Even though they were free with discount, they came out to be expensive in the long run. Once I started springing for the expensive premium phones from brands like Samsung and Apple, this just wasn’t a problem anymore while saving more in the long run, in spite of not getting a free phone like the cheaper models.
So, without further ado, I will give you some battle-tested strategies to help you land that smartphone. Fortunately, you don’t have to resort to what this guy did for a discount.
Tips to get that smartphone for cheap
Remember that your results may vary, but the main thing is you should be persistent. Frankly, I’ve noticed I have to be on the phone for at least an hour before I start getting somewhere. It comes with the territory, but if I save over $200 on literally a brand-new (I got my iPhone 6S the same day it was released to the public) phone, who am I to argue?
Call customer service and get a real live person on the phone
Don’t waste your time going to the store or going online to get a deal. Stores are just representatives who don’t have to power to help you and while some online deals look good, the fact of the matter is that the special deals you want are always unadvertised. This is why you need to call customer service and get an actual human being on the other line. If you have problems going through the always-entertaining (in sarcasm font) voice prompt, just say “cancel.” That will always get a representative’s attention. When you reach a representative, then you can tell them your issue: you’re looking for a new phone but it’s too expensive, and you’re looking for a cheaper price because you want to be able to afford the service and stay with them.
Ask for a supervisor
As said before, the lower-level representatives don’t have the power to give you that great deal. Just humor them for a few minutes until you reach a natural dead end, then ask for a supervisor. If they ask why, just say you want more information on the product. Also, you sometimes will get a “I am the supervisor” which is a lie (you never get a supervisor as your first representative). In that case, say you have to go, hang up and try again with someone else. Sometimes, you will get someone working in conjunction with a supervisor. I’ve found these people to be truthful, since it’s through this person that I’ve gotten my current deal.
Don’t play hardball and be nice
Always go with some nice adulation. Talk like if you really want to stay with them, but you’ll have to leave them as a last resort because it’s just too expensive. Don’t go the Chris Matthews approach and play hardball. Always be polite and don’t yell, even if the other person is being a jerk. Sometimes, you’ll also feel the representative clam up and start giving you one-word answers. There’s typically no negotiating with these people, so hang up and try again with someone else.
Don’t accept the first offer
It’ll always be a cheap offer to try and get you off the phone ASAP, so don’t accept it. Stay on the phone and keep talking. In my case, the representative tried to offer me one-day free shipping, even though I knew T-Mobile does that anyway with any new phone they sell (and I called her out on it, which led to a funny moment). Also, they’ll try and sell you on other advertised plans. The best plans are always custom “loyalty discount” plans that are unadvertised. You know you’re close to the promised land when they say “let me put you on hold to review your account” or “this is a one time offer that’s only good for the duration of the call.” The latter part is true since they custom-build a plan to retain you, so it’s not really something normally offered.
If at first you don’t succeed…
Try, try with the discount again. Like I said, expect to be on the phone for at least an hour. Why? That’s just the art of negotiation, but time is on your side. Of course, these representatives have other customers to attend to, so it’s in their best interest to get you off the phone ASAP. I’ve taken some plays off this salary negotiation book called Get More Money On Your Next Job…In Any Economy by Lee E. Miller, since it very well applies to this case.
The whole point is to stress and repeat the points you want, while talking about other stuff to just put that person’s state of mind somewhere else. Then, revisit the things you want, while “giving up” the other elements you “wanted” but are willing to surrender as part of the negotiation. This tactic is known as a “red herring.” Here’s some lines I like to use:
- What else can you do in order to lower my bill?
- Can customers normally get x fee waived?
- What other plans do you have that include (Internet, x minutes, etc.)?
Also, ask leading questions so that way, you can get more information you can use down the road as opposed to a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Another cool strategy I learned to use to is to stay silent after a person answers your question. Many times, a person will keep talking just to keep a conversation going, which can lead to more answers. Again, if the representative is hard and unwilling to negotiate, hang up and try with someone else.
Write everything down and add a little throw-in
It’s easy to mix up your facts and figures, so write them down. Ask them to customize parts you like, and be willing to “give up” parts you don’t in exchange for the things you do want. When you’re basically done negotiating, repeat everything back to them just to make sure you’re both on the same page.
Once everything has been confirmed, then add a small extra to it. For example, if you’re getting a $25 credit, just say something like “make it $50 and it’s a deal.” It should be something not too big that would make the person roll their eyes.
The end result
After an hour or so, I’m happy to say I got the discount I was looking for after calling about a week before the public iPhone 6S release. The representative, while not being the supervisor, did work with one and ensured that I got the proper customer service I deserved. I was a bit surprised, because I could sense she was a call taker from India, but nevertheless, mission accomplished. I’m now a happy owner of an iPhone 6S (my first iPhone actually), and the delivery was quick and easy since I got the phone via UPS the same day it came out. No fuss, no hassle, and I got insurance from T-Mobile which covers accidental damage and theft. So there you have it. Yes Virigina, you can get a discount on a literally brand new phone.
For further reading on dealing with customer service, I like these articles: