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Decision: A spiffy phone, or my soul (for two years)?

Posted by: Burth Helm on September 1, 2006

So last weekend I lost my cell phone. This is not the first time: Earlier this year I accidentally destroyed a different phone, spurring me to do a series of product reviews about the inexpensive phones you get when you’re ineligible for the cheap promotional prices (one by Nokia, two by LG, one by Samsung, and one by Motorola). Here I am again, but this time the situation is a little bit different.

I want out of my Verizon Wireless deal. I’ve been thinking about T-Mobile, which got some of the highest J.D. Power & Assoc. ratings. But my question is, will joining T-Mobile or another provider be a case of meet the new boss, same as the old boss? Is there any wireless provider in the U.S. that doesn’t make you feel like you’ve signed yourself into serfdom? Finally, is it rational to end a deal with a giant telecom provider for purely emotional reasons?

Verizon’s phone service is fine, and staying with them would certainly be cheaper than going somewhere else, at least in the near term. Right now I’m even eligible for a free phone upgrade with Verizon, on the condition I sign a new 2-year agreement. But I feel like I’m being bullied. If I don’t sign that deal, I’d either have to pay the $175 termination fee, or the full retail price for a phone, which is also over $150. I realize losing the phone was my fault, but a large part of me feels like if I renew a contract, it should be because I’m happy with the service — not because they’ve cornered me into it. And I’m not happy with the service. Get ready for the rant after the jump.

My problems with Verizon are small, but they add up. I don’t like being milked for every last cent for extra features. I’m sick of contract terms that feel patently unfair. Example: if you catch yourself going over your minutes, you can call, up your plan for just that month, and pay about $10 more. Forget to catch the overage? Your phone bill doubles for an extra 57 minutes, as if somehow you cost Verizon far more money. Then there are slick announcements like the one in June, where Verizon Wireless said it would prorate its $175 termination fee. That sounds fair, right? Except it doesn’t go into effect until this fall, and it won’t actually apply to current contracts. Then there’s the way they lure you into renewing your contract when you are at your weakest, like when you need to replace a phone, or are over your minutes. I know a lot of people just deal with this stuff. And perhaps this style keeps more customers on board than something radical like just keeping them happy. But why is cutting a straight deal with customers so hard?

In the meantime, what should I do? Swallow my pride and get the upgrade? Or pay $175 and get free?

Reader Comments

Forrest Elizabeth

September 12, 2006 4:37 PM

I share your pain brother. I recently "downgraded" from a really smart looking Nokia that was stolen along with my purse to an LG that does the job just fine....which is my lead-in to telling you to just buy a phone - a CHEAP phone and be done with your contract when it is over. The beauty is that once a contract is done, you can choose to stay on a month to month basis without another contract indefinitely until you upgrade. And you may find that as a normal telephone once was go enough, you don't really need all the bells and whistles you thought you wanted. Also, ask for a deal - don't buy a phone that is not on-sale and if nothing is look elsewhere.

DON'T buy a phone on EBAY. I thought I was going that route, but most sellers start the bidding at the retail price for any cool phone or else its a refurb and you are still paying too much plus you have no warranty and no guarantee that it wasn't stolen out of my purse.

Bottom line is the industry standard for cell phone service is beyond sub-standard. I feel unfairly played by these corporate giants, but that's what corporate giants do. The real question is how do the good people of the world who work for these companies feel about checking their values at the door each day they go to work. Myself not withstanding. 'Nuff said......


September 15, 2006 4:38 PM

They certainly make you feel like they have you by the throat. There is no other service for which I feel such animosity. Even vampire credit cards can be cut up and no more charges made on them when you decide to stop using them. With a cell phone contract you must continue to pay even if you aren't using the service anymore. Is there any way to force the companies to be more reasonable about their contracts, beside keeping only a land line?


September 29, 2006 2:05 PM

I feel your pain too. I recently changed carriers and am feeling regret. The entire cell phone industry is a scam if you ask me. Why the need for contracts, limited minutes, rate changes at 5 or 7pm? Why so expensive? The cell phone, for most modern Americans, is no longer a luxury but a necessity (its my primary phone, I have no home phone) and as such, should be treated like a utility like water or natural gas. You use this much, you pay this much. If you don't use, you don't pay and you can turn off your service anytime without penalty. Such a scam.


June 26, 2007 11:17 AM

I had a telephone solicitor for US Cellular call me and tell me my phone of 2 years should be replaced with a new phone. This will also obligate me to a 2 yr contract. He said the phone I have now may not pick up all the new towers built in the past 2 yrs. Is that true? I find it hard to believe that the internal workings of my phone will not pick up any tower within range. I don't think much of telephone solicitors, but find it unbelievable that they can say anything without consequence.


July 24, 2007 4:29 PM

I think you should go to Wal Mart or somewhere and buy a prepaid phone and not have them activate it and you bring it home and enter the ESN online. You will certainly get it cheaper. They acctually have a decent Samsung with camera and bluetooth for under a 100. Just a thought.


August 10, 2007 3:41 PM

You can buy a phone at Walmart and then activate it through , say, Verizon on my current account?

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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