My sister-in-law owns an iPhone, but when she went away on a business trip a few months ago, took a cheap international cell phone her mom had and left the iPhone at home for the week and a half she was away. My brother, Not thinking that his actions would have any consequences, took his sim card and put it in his wife’s iPhone and suddenly he had thousands of apps at his fingertips.
He was probably pretty amused by it for that week and a half, but what he didn’t realize is that if you’re going to use unlimited cell phone service, you should probably sign up for the unlimited data plan. For those 10 days he was happy as a clam, but every time he checked his email or downloaded an app, it was costing us money. And it wasn’t just a few cents here or there, it was over $900 for the 10 days he had the phone.
When the cell phone bill came out, I saw a $600 overage and realized something was wrong. I scanned the bill and found that one number used a ridiculous amount of data. I called my brother make sure it was a mistake (surely he didn’t actually use that much data), and when I told him that our account was messed up and it said he had an iPhone, he paused for a second and said, “O crap.” He really did it. I’ve had my share of negotiations with AT&T, so I told him not to worry, that it wouldn’t be a big deal, and that I would take care of it. But first I called him a few names and made fun of him quite a bit.
I called up AT&T to explain what happened and get the charges reduced, and got a customer service representative who listened to my problem and agreed to try and resolve the situation. The conversation went something like this:
Customer Service Representative: Hi, my name is Tracy, how can I help you today?
Me: Hi, I just got my bill and saw that there are some ridiculous overages for this month, so I wanted to try and get that reduced.
Tracy: I’ll be happy to help you. It looks like the 0480 number has a lot of data usage this month.
Me: Yah, my brother put his sim card in an iPhone and didn’t realize that he should have signed up for a data plan first. Is there a way to remove the charges?
Tracy: Well, unfortunately it looks like the charges are valid because he didn’t sign up for a plan before the billing cycle began, so there’s not much I can do. If he had called up in advance to get a data plan before doing so, it would have only been the $30 cost of unlimited data for the month.
Me: Yah, I know that the charges are technically valid, but if you looked what happened, it was obviously a mistake. He doesn’t have an iPhone usually and it was a temporary mistake. We’ve been loyal customers for 10 years and we’ve liked our service a lot, so I’d hate for this to give us a bad impression of AT&T. Is there anything you can do? I’d like as a courtesy to have the bill changed. Can you apply the $30 a month data package retroactively?
Tracy: Well, we do appreciate your business, so as a one-time courtesy, this is what I can do: While I can’t remove all the charges, I can retroactively apply a $30 data plan to that line so you’ll be charged only the $30 and not $600.
Me: Wow, that would be great. You just saved us $570!
Tracy: It’s not a problem. Actually, I can apply the data plan from the date he started using data, which was 7 days before the end of the billing cycle, so the charges will be prorated. So for those 7 days, it comes out to $7.32.
Me: Thanks, I really appreciate it. Since we just realized what was happening, can you do the same thing for this month as well? He’s been using it for the past few days, while the bill was coming out, but after the billing cycle started, so I’m sure he’s racked up some more charges.
Tracy: I’m unable to remove charges from a bill that hasn’t come out yet, but what I can do is keep the data plan on for this month. When your next bill comes out, you will see the charges on the account, so you’ll have to call back next month and a customer service representative will see my notes and make the adjustment for you.
Me: That’s not a problem. Thanks so much, I really appreciate you helping me out!
I called my brother and told him that I got the bill reduced to $300 and that he should send me a check because I already paid the bill. Just kidding. He was pretty relieved that he didn’t cause our family such a large, unnecessary charge. He felt bad about using the data, so he took out the sim card and put it back in his regular flip phone.
I called up AT&T again to have the data package removed since he stopped using the iPhone, and the prorated charges for the month totaling just $3. Then, when the next bill came out with $300 in data charges, I called up again, told them to reference the notes, and they were able to credit our account. So instead of paying over $900 for 10 days worth of data, we paid only $10.
While I like to think that I have special powers and just plain good at negotiating, the truth is that I’m nothing special. Customer service representatives are there to help you. They may not always jump at the opportunity to reduce your bill, but ultimately they are willing to help if you ask the right questions. If you think you’re paying too much for your phone, cable, or internet, call up and ask if they have any promotions that could save you money. You definitely won’t save money by sitting on the sidelines.