Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past couple of weeks, you know how impressed I have been with the Verizon MiFi. This 3G modem/Wi-Fi router has revolutionized my mobile work, and with the official release today, I headed out to the local Verizon store to pick up a MiFi of my own. The Verizon evaluation unit has to go back soon, and the MiFi has become such an important tool in my work that I was suffering withdrawal symptoms even before sending it back. I knew the only way to deal with that in an adult manner was to get one of my very own, so today that’s what I did. The process was a bit bizarre, as wireless carrier sessions often seem to be, so read on to see how it went down and how I ended up with a Verizon MiFi for $4.13.
I suspected that there would be a healthy demand for these MiFis, given how the coverage of them has been uniformly positive, even on those sites that tend to get a bit testy with new gadgets. I wanted to make sure I would be able to snag a MiFi today, so yesterday I called my local store and talked to Steve.
I asked Steve to hold me a MiFi, and he informed me he’d be happy to do so. He also mentioned that I’d better be at the store as soon as it opened this morning as each store only got two MiFis for the launch. Being there at opening time would be the best way to make sure they still had one, even though he was holding it. I guess there is “holding” and then there is “holding” — if he couldn’t guarantee me it would still be there after the store opening.
I got there a few minutes early and formed a line outside the door that started growing quickly. At the appropriate time, the door was unlocked and in we went. I told the rep who approached me that Steve was holding a MiFi for me, and she pulled up my account on the computer and said she’d be happy to order me a MiFi for future delivery.
Say what? She went on to explain that since my data line was not eligible for an upgrade currently that she couldn’t sell me a MiFi today, that limited inventory for launch was in play here and they could only sell the two units in stock for new data plan customers or those who could be upgraded. I explained that I was willing to pay full retail as I had told Steve the day before, and she said that no, Steve had made an entry in the system after my call that detailed how he explained this situation to me and that I agreed I couldn’t take delivery of a device on launch day.
No one at the store could explain to me why I would show up early and stand in line just so I could put an order in for a future MiFi. It didn’t make sense to me, and they admitted that didn’t make sense to them, either. I kept my cool though and told them that if only a new data plan customer could buy one even at full retail then let me cancel both my existing voice line and data line and then start a brand-new data line which would qualify me for a MiFi purchase on the spot.
This set them back a bit, as you might imagine, and they went on to explain that if I did that I would be subject to that nasty Early Termination Fee (ETF) which would cost me more money. That fee was $175, but I pointed out that I would be getting a new data plan, so I should qualify for the $99 “new plan” price for the MiFi (including the $50 rebate). Since I was expecting to pay the full retail price for the MiFi ($270) to be used with my existing data plan I would only be out $5 for the ETF. That caused some discussion in the background for a bit.
I would actually be saving far more than that, I pointed out to them, as I was also canceling my voice line for which I am paying over $100 per month, so it was a total win-win for me. Verizon loses big-time, but I win and I get a MiFi today. :)
They huddled up briefly and then determined that my voice line, not my data line, was eligible for (unnamed) discounts that could be applied to my data line as an “alternate upgrade.” If they did that, I keep my current voice line and data line and the MiFi, which they could indeed sell me today and would cost me $54.13, and since I’d be eligible for the $50 rebate, the net to me was $4.13. Needless to say that’s what I did, and I walked out of the store with a new MiFi for far less than I was expecting to pay ($270). It’s that fancy carrier math, I guess.
They mentioned that this new data plan used with the MiFi was different than the old 3G plan. The 5 GB cap is different than the old “unlimited” data plan I was currently using. I pointed out to them that the “unlimited” plan did indeed have a 5 GB cap as mentioned in the TOS, which they admitted was correct. They said the main difference was the overage charges that this new Mobile Broadband plan would be subject to if the cap was exceeded. I pointed out that under the old plan if you exceeded the 5 GB cap then Verizon could simply shut off the account which they now couldn’t do given the new charges. They admitted that was the case so, in essence, those heavy data users now have some wiggle room they did not have before with the old plan. I hate data caps, but in this instance, having a cap can actually keep you in business.
When our business was finished, I asked the reps if they had actually seen a MiFi in action. They said no, so I pulled the evaluation unit out of my gear bag and let them play with it. They were impressed with the device and totally wondering why I already had one. I told them it wasn’t mine – it belonged to Verizon, and I left the store. I’m so bad.