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 […]

Two MiFis all in a row

Two MiFis all in a row

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.

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  1. Gavin Miller Sunday, May 17, 2009

    Oh, nice closing touch! Send them into a ‘mystery shopper’ panic. ;-)

    It just shows you, you need to have done your homework before entering any carrier store, you can’t rely on the staff there to offer you the best deal.

  2. great do the math again for me as it is still confusing, and enjoy ur mifi ….

  3. Maybe I have to go back and read this again as I have no idea how you got a MiFi for $4.13!!

  4. James Kendrick Sunday, May 17, 2009

    I’m not sure either because I don’t know what the mystery discounts are.

  5. Tom Reestman Sunday, May 17, 2009

    Great story. As far as I’m concerned, an existing customer (as long as they’re upgrade eligible) should always take precedence over a new customer. Alas, that’s usually never the case.

    It’s entirely possible there has never been a device that intrigued me more, or that I wanted as badly, as the MiFi. And I can certainly afford one. Yet there has also probably never been a device I could justify any less, or needed as little. What’s a pseudo-geek to do? :-)

  6. James, you probably picked yours up at the 1960 store, I went over there on Saturday asking if I could buy it early, but they said no. Said that one was on hold.
    I had two on hold at the Cypress store and picked them up this afternoon. One was for me and I had no contract on my current “unlimited” data plan so they gave it to me for $129.99 (plus $8.12 tax) minus the $50 rebate so final drive out is $88.11 for the one year agreement extension. I qualified for the $100 discount because I was out of contract, otherwise it would have been $230 for a one year agreement I assume.
    The other one I got was for a friend but they had a contract that expires in Jan ’10. We renewed it to two more years for $149.99 plus a $20 early upgrade fee and $10.62 tax and a $50 rebate takes it to $130.61 total drive out.
    Charging them up now and will test them out this afternoon.


  7. Enjoyed your write up, one of the only times I can recall that someone walked out of one of those situations ahead of the game.

  8. Funniest story for a long time.. man they are crazy!

  9. Cannot wait till this comes to the UK. This looks likely to be one of the hottest items this year so far. Very very useful.

    I am always surprised how the threat of cancelling a longstanding expensive contract works, in helping others understand why you are there.


  10. Nice work James. Verizon should have just sold it at full price like you had intended to do, and they would have made more money on your account, but not willing to do that you came out saving money in the long run. By the way since you canceled your other account to get this on a new account you actually will be paying more than the 4.13?

    1. James Kendrick HG Sunday, May 17, 2009

      I didn’t cancel any lines. The threat was enough.

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