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How to Negotiate with Wireless Carriers

A few months ago, my brother went over his text message allotment (200) as part of our family plan, and I thought this was an abberation, so I increased his text messages to 1,500 for the month. I didn’t want this to continue. With overage charges being 20 cents per text message over 200, it was not worth it to rack up $20 in charges for texts 201-300, so he was put on the $15, 1,500 text message plan. This was the first time he was going over his limit considerably, so the following month, I decreased him back to the 200 message plan for $5.

This month, it turns out that his texting again went over his limit, and halfway through the month he was already at 200 texts. So, it was time to make a change. I had a 1,500 text message plan for $8.99 that was put on awhile ago with a special code that has since expired. Finally, my father uses 10-15 text messages per month ($2-$3) and my mother usually calls 411 and gets text messages sent to her phone, but does not know how to access them ($1).

I called up AT&T to complain about the plan we were on, and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, I have a problem. We have a line on the account that uses about 400 text messages per month and your plans only give us options that do not fit our account. Can you help me find a solution?

Customer Service Representative: I’d be happy to help you. Unfortunately, the only plans we offer are 200 messages for $5 per month and 1,500 text messages for $15 per month. I see that you have 1,500 text messages. I recommend the unlimited text messaging for the whole family for $30 per month.

Me: That’s silly, I would save money by just adding $15 to his account. Together we’d be paying ($15 + $8.99= )$24, which gives us more text messages that we would need for less than $30. I’m very unhappy about this situation, and we don’t have the money to spend another $15 on text messages. I know that Sprint has other options for us, can I talk to someone who can help me cancel the account?

Customer Service Representative: One moment, I’ll transfer you to the Customer Retention Specialist.

Me: Thank You.

Customer Retention Specialist: Hi, I understand that you are considering leaving AT&T and I hope I can help you. let’s take a look at your account…may I suggest the unlimited family texting for $30 a month?

Me: No, that doesn’t make sense for us. It would be more beneficial to pay for $15 for that line, but that seems unreasonable when he’ll only be using 400 text messages.

Customer Retention Specialist: I understand. Well, there is not much we can, we don’t offer plans with text messages between 200 and 1,500 messages.

Me: Ok, well it seems like Sprint has the plans I’m looking for, so as much as I like AT&T, if you can’t help me, maybe it’s time to switch over.

Customer Retention Specialist: Well, we don’t want that. Let me see what I can do to help you.
(After a 5 minute silent hold, she returns) Thank you for waiting. What I am able to do is reduce the price for 3 months. We can offer you the unlimited package for $30 and we will pay for half of that.

Me: That doesn’t really help me, that’s a very short term solution. What will happen in 3 months? I’m going to have the same problem. Is there a way to make that a year? That would be a lot more reasonable.

Customer Retention Specialist: I don’t think I can do that.

Me: What about 9 months?

Customer Retention Specialist: That’s still something I can’t do, unfortunately.

Me: Well, then 6 months would be good.

Customer Retention Specialist: Let me see what I can do. (After another silent hold, she returns.) Hi, thank you for waiting again. What I can offer you is either 8 months of unlimited text messages for half price, or we can do 4 months of unlimited text messages for free. Which would you prefer?

Me: OK, that sounds pretty good. We’ll go with unlimited text messages for 4 months.

I went with 4 months for free because I figure in 4 months I will be able to call back and negotiate a slightly better plan. It took 30 minutes, but we were able to save $8.99 + $15 my brother would have needed + $3-$4 my parents spend. That’s a savings of about $27 a month. Over the first 4 months, that saves $108! Not bad.

Now, I realize that I will lose my $8.99 text message plan, but with my brother returning from overseas in 10 months and heading off to college, we’ll likely need unlimited text messages for the whole family anyway at that point. Hopefully I’ll be able to negotiate that down from $30, but either way, I am happy about the money we are saving.

Right now, we use about 2,200 minutes as a family (4 lines) and get unlimited text messages for a nice low price of…$79.17 per month, plus taxes. And of course, we don’t have phone insurance. That’s less than the monthly cost of one iPhone on the cheapest plan (450 minutes) with a text message plan. Not bad. Not bad at all.

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  1. I think you've highlighted the best point in negotiation: Keep asking for a new person, and be willing to walk away to get a deal.

    That's how I got $50 free on my credit card, because I told them I wanted to cancel it (genuinely I did, but I kept it for the $50 and then cancelled it after).

    I'm hosting the new Carnival that you've submitted the post for and I wanted to answer your question(s):

    1) No one knows what trackback URLs are.

    Umm.. at least *I* don't.

    And I have been on Blogger, and now WordPress.

    So I normally put the same URL of the link in the trackback section and hope for the best.

    Besides, anyone who hosts carnivals, just picks the post URL anyway. :) Doesn't matter if you are on blogger or not.

    2) I liked the post. :) And I have moved you from the category "Other" to "Saving", because technically.. you did save money by calling them and negotiating right? :)

    Thanks for entering.


  2. Congratulations! I had never thought to do this about text messaging. I have had to call AT&T about a different issue and while I did not threaten to leave, I did ask to speak to a supervisor. That is what it took! The rep put me on hold for 5 minutes then came right back saying that they could help me out (after saying they couldn’t for 30 minutes). It takes patience but negotiating definitely is possible.

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