The Home 

Landlines Are A Waste (Almost)

Old Rotary PhoneThe Consumerist’s Chris Walters commented about a Slate article in which they found that landlines were now considered a luxury expense. With rising costs in everything else, land-lines were becoming useless and cut from the monthly budget. In the Slate article, writer Daniel Gross pinged the under-30 crowd at the offices of Slate and Newsweek and discovered that very few had home phones at all. Those who did used Skype.

Since college, I’ve never had a land-line telephone. In fact, I still have the 412 Pittsburgh cell phone number I had when I was in college. Number portability enabled me to migrate that number across four carriers (six if you count the AT&T Wireless to Cingular to AT&T Wireless merger-acquisition-spin-off merry-go-round) in five years. Landlines are dinosaurs on a mammalian planet. I don’t know how much a land-line costs nowadays but even the ubiquitous “triple play for $100” seems like you’re overpaying for the telephone.

However, I can think of three situations where you’d want (or be forced to have) a land-line:

Children. While your cell phone does get 911 service, hitting 9-1-1 and then the green Send or green phone button is one button more than the traditional land-line. This is, of course, worst case scenario and not particularly strong justification for paying $20/month but it’s certainly a consideration for some parents. This is also only a consideration for very young children, the age at which they shouldn’t and wouldn’t be left home alone anyway, so you’re really talking about scenarios in which the parents are incapacitated. Either way, I know that some parents have justified having a land-line for this very reason.

Security systems. Most security systems need a telephone line if you want it to communicate with the central station. Some newer systems can take advantage of wireless networks but most still rely on the old land-line. A land-line is one of the hidden costs of getting a security system, if you’re sold on or required to have central monitoring.

DSL. DSL is a digital subscriber line and it’s internet service across the phone system. Unless your provider offers naked DSL or dryloop DSL, you’ll be required to have phone service to get DSL.

Outside of those three cases, I don’t see the point of a land-line. Anyone have a land-line anymore?

(Photo: clemson)


I Got A Treo 755p with a Sprint SERO Plan

Sorry Cingular/AT&T/AT&T Wireless/whatever your name is now, but I’ve finally cut the cord with you guys after several years of service as my phone was finally dying and you all refused to give me a new phone (or even a discount off a phone). In fact, when I called, I was told that any change to my account would require me to 1) pay more because I was on a cheap legacy rate, and, 2) sign up for a new contract (in return for nothing). So instead of doing something stupid and unreasonable like that, I signed up for a Sprint SERO (Sprint Employee Referral Offer) plan thanks to some advice from my good friend and yours, Nickel.

What did I get? The fancy Treo 755p PDA smartphone through the SERO website, which set me back $249.99. Now, you can get it through Amazon for $69.99 after rebate but there’s a reason why I didn’t go that route.

Through the SERO plan, I was able to get 500 anytime minutes with unlimited text messaging and data for $30/mo. I also stacked on a coupon code URANG for a $50 statement credit. The base plan of 450 minutes a month through Amazon costs $39.99 a month plus you are required to get Power Vision Access Pack (at a minimum) for $15/mo. Over the course of a two year contract, the difference in monthly costs far exceeds the equipment cost. Oh yeah, that doesn’t include the activation fee through Amazon of $36.

Oh, to make things sweeter, Sprint wanted me to give them a call about my order and they were going to compensate me $25 in statement credits just for my time. The call was for me to verify some credit information and took about ten minutes.

If you’re looking to get a new phone, seriously check out the Sprint SERO site because it’s is crazy cheap. You can use to get access. Now we just await the new phone.


$310,000 Vertu Signature Cobra Cell Phone by Boucheron

Vertu Signature Cobra Cell Phone by Boucheron Eight people with more money than brains will soon be the new owner of a cell phone that costs more than my house. French jeweler Boucheron designed a $310,000 cell phone called the Signature Cobra and Vertu is only making 8 of them. The phone has a pear-cut diamond, a round white diamond, two emerald eyes, and four hundred and thirty nine rubies. If you can’t afford to spend three hundred large on a cell phone, there’s a $115,000 version, called the Python, but only twenty-six of those will be made.

Photo courtesy of CNN.


Researching Cell Phone Plans

When number portability became widespread and available to all, I’ve been switching cell phone carriers every year so I can get a new free cell phone, maybe some cash back, and the joy of another one year contract. My first cell phone carrier was Sprint, my second was T-Mobile, and my current, and longest running carrier, is AT&T Wireless/Cingular. Of the three, T-Mobile had the best customer service (drop call credits!), Sprint had the best coverage, and AT&T Wireless has the worst customer service ever. But… it’s been over a year so I’m scouring the Free After Rebate plans for a hot deal. The only downside though is the number portability problem with deals for some carriers.

(Click to continue reading…)

 Personal Finance 

Lifespan of a Cell Phone Relationship

After a weeklong hiatus, Bargaineering is back on track and ready to bring you some hearty information on cell phones. Everyone has a cell phone now and the thought of instant contact at anytime is too powerful to dismiss. On the flip side, cell phones are like a life preserver, safety is a mere phone call away in most situations. That being the case, cell phone companies are fighting each other like crazy to steal customers and keep the customers they have. We will explain how to get the best for your buck before, during, and after you sign the contract.

Lifespan of a Cell Phone Relationship: Understanding where you are in the lifespan will dictate what you can demand and successfully receive.

  • Phase 1:Pre-purchase – This is for when you’ve decided to get yourself a new cell phone and are shopping around for the best deal. You hold probably the second most amount of power of the three phases here.
  • Phase 2: In Contract – This is after you’ve decided with a contract and have begun using service. You hold very little power here because the company knows if you cancel you will get socked with a $150 – $200 “early termination fee.”
  • Phase 3: Post-Contract – So you’ve run the life of your contract and you now want new service. You hold more power in this phase than in any phase ever with your current service. There is an old adage in business that states acquiring new customers can cost five times more than retaining current customers. If you decide you want out with the current services regardless, then you go back to Phase 1 (minus the option of going with the service provider you have now).

    Now let’s play the game…

    Phase 1: There are typically three criteria you look for when you’re shopping around for a phone: a cool phone so you can show off to your friends, great coverage so you aren’t frustrated by drops, and price. The matter of finding a cool phone or discussing coverage areas is way too complex to get into for now so we’ll just get into price — bottom dollar. Keep this hard fast rule in mind — Never pay for a cell phone. It is accepted practice that cell phones are loss leaders and the service is what earns the big bucks. Take a look at’s Cell Phone and Services section and start scrolling through the phones. Over half of them pay you money to sign up, that’s how lucrative cell phones are these days (all free or “pay you” phones will require a contract). The benefit of an Amazon is that you can compare multiple offers are once, something you can’t do if you go to a T-Mobile or Spring store in the mall.

    Before you fall in love with a phone or a service, keep this next table in mind:

    Service Min. Contract Period
    AT&T Wireless* 2 years
    Cingular* 1 year
    Nextel 1 year
    Sprint 2 years
    T-Mobile 1 year

    *AT&T Wireless and Cingular are now one service (Cingular acquired AT&T Wireless) – but Cingular rebates still say 1 year minimum!

    If you sign a two year agreement, you lose power during those two years so avoid it if you can.

    Phase 2: The worst phase but you can still get something out of it if you try really hard. Early on in a two year agreement, there is still the threat of cancellation if they believe you think the service could possibly warrant it. I was once put hold for about an hour and transferred three times for a mistake they made in my bill. I was angry and eventually transferred to a mediator who offered a $25 courtesy credit for my trouble. Sprint has their automated customer service that if you say “dropped call credit” then they’ll credit you something like a quarter (you can do it a limited number of times a month). Just call a bunch of times when you’re bored and it’s like an instant discount. Always ask, always complain, you might get a little something in return, there’s no pain in trying.

    Phase 3: The best phase… going month to month gives you the most flexibility because they want to keep you. They’ll offer you free phones and better rates just to keep you but with the advent of number portability – there’s almost no point in staying because of the “pay you” phones available on Amazon. But if you do stick around for a few months, try complaining and asking for credit, they’ll give it to you more readily than in Phase 2. Don’t abuse it because they’ll see the pattern and get wise to what you’re doing.

    Phase 3 -> Phase 1: If you decide to go with a “pay you” phone, you can’t go with the service you have. New service activation means you can’t have had service with that company in the last three or six months (depends on the company). But you can have someone else sign up for you if you want to avoid it… and then have it transfered to you. To transfer just go to a store (they need to see you) and ask to switch it over.

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