Personal Finance 
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Cancel Sprint Without Early Termination Fees

You can no longer take advantage of the change below to cancel your service contract. However, wait until January 1st, 2010, and another material contract change will let you escape your contract. Between January 1st and January 31st, 2010, you can cancel your contract because they are increasing the monthly regulatory fees from $0.20 to $0.40.

If you have a Sprint cell phone contract and have been waiting for a contract change in order to cancel your contract, an opportunity while you were watching the ball drop in Times Square! Sprint announced that they would be increasing the Administrative Charge to $0.99 per line, which is a material change to the contract and is your chance to get it terminated while avoiding the early termination fees (ETF).

From their website:

Administrative Charge
Effective Jan. 1, 2009, the Administrative
Charge will increase to $0.99 per line. For
details on surcharges, please see Sprint Terms
& Conditions or visit sprint.com/taxesandfees

If you can cancel (ETF waiver), it may be a way for you to get some additional services for free because they’ll want you back on contract or to stick with them. A warning though, as an experience by one Consumerist reader has shown, Spring won’t give up without a fight. Unfortunately, you’ll have to do it before the end of January because you need to dispute changes within 30 days.

Good luck!


 Shopping 
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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 savings@sprintemi.com to get access. Now we just await the new phone.


 Shopping 
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Sprint “Dropped Call Credit” Ninjas Get Axed

When I heard that Spring was canceling the accounts of folks who constantly called customer service, I thought it was just another boneheaded company doing another boneheaded thing. Well it turns out that this was because those account holders were calling up and scamming Spring for hundreds if not thousands of dollars according to an insider who spoke to the Consumerist.

Back in the day, when I was in college, I used to call up Sprint when I was bored (in the car, waiting in line) for the lucrative “dropped call credit” refund. Basically you just called in, talked to the automated CSR and said “dropped call credit.” Your account would be refunded whatever it cost for the average call, I forget the amount, but you’d be limited to X number a day or billing period or something. Yeah it was unethical and something I wouldn’t do now, but not illegal. Well, after a while that adds up, but it doesn’t come close to the numbers the insider was quoting. People had balances of thousands and hadn’t paid a bill in years? That’s pretty ridiculous.

What’s even better was that those account holders with thousands in credits were asking for a check!


 Personal Finance 
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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 Amazon.com’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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