Blog Post

Got My Verizon MiFi Today for $4.13

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.

41 Responses to “Got My Verizon MiFi Today for $4.13”

  1. Strudel

    Kudos to you!!! I love when the man tries to stick it to you and you get to reverse it!!!!

    I am eagerly awaiting the MiFi on Sprint will now do my research for those “mystery” diagnosis.

    It’s like the Wizard of Oz, behind the curtain…

  2. Allan Jones

    One thing I’m always curious about with 3G routers (of which there are a few, but most not as portable as this) is how good they are at reconnecting after a connection has been broken (I mean the 3G connection, not the wif-fi connection). This affects how practical such devices are for use in trains or in cars/buses. Ideally you want the device to reconnect automatically when the signal comes back. You don’t want to have to do it manually.

  3. David

    James, did you have anything to do with the near collapse of our banking system? Your creative math and deal-making powers make me a bit suspicious.

  4. I was between hartford and boston today, en route to a BOS-SFO flight. I went to 1 store near west hartford CT, “sold out” but then he admitted they only had *one* to begin with.

    called 2 more stores from the car, none in stock but they could order and i’d have it in 2 biz days, asked if they could help me figure out a store that would have one (about 3p EDT). found “two” at a store down the road. so off I went.

    showed up in south windsor CT store, really busy, waited about 15 min, the guy is amazed that I have no questions and just want the MiFi. tell him i’ve been drooling over it and had planned to buy it on launch day. got a corporate discount and paid $109+tax (still elig for $50 rebate), so $69 for it. turns out they only had *one* as well.

    what’s up with shipping none, one, or two to each store??? and the differing prices on it is also poor planning. BUT I LOVE THE MIFI. IT ROCKS MY WORLD.

  5. I love how you messed with them heads and got what you wanted in the end (and for less)…

    But this story just reinforces how messed up US carriers are – you are a very patient man!

    To them it’s all bout signing up new accounts. It’s not about giving exiting customer quality service.

    • ramfrancis-uk

      They behave in the same way. In the UK they treat customers the same. You will normally see a high degree of customer churn on mobile networks as customers port numbers looking for the best deals in terms of handset upgrades and cross net minutes and texts. You only tend to get the best deal when you ask for your pac code. As soon as you do this, you get transferred to the “retentions dept” who have more scope to offer a better deal. Then its up to you.

  6. I called my Verizon store and they told me they had plenty in stock. When I arrived, I was told I could only order one.

    In my case I was adding a brand new line. If they had MiFi’s in stock only for new data plan I can’t even begin to describe how angry this would make me.
    It’s a hell of a way to treat loyal customers.


  7. rssurfer

    Picked mine up at the Houston Galleria store this morning. They only has 2 as well, no line no one else even in the store. What’s up with only 2 per store??

  8. I went to a store in Lansing, MI today and got mine for $99. I thought it was going to be $149 and then the $50 rebate so I was pleasantly surprised.

    I didn’t go until 4pm so I would have been REAL pissed if they didn’t have one since I didn’t know each store was only getting 2 and tried numerous times to get stores in CO to sell me one this week early.

    Regardless, I am in the same situation as James. I would have been willing to just cancel my line and get it as a new plan if need be because my contract just ended in April.

    This thing is REAL cool and honestly I think I am getting a connection faster than I was when I was using the internal cards on my Sony P and u820.

  9. scott

    Well, I was able to get one in NY today. I was told every store got 2. I showed up at 4pm , one store was out and another down the block had both left. So far, nothing but problems. My battery will not charge and when plugged in, I cant turn it off. When I turn it off, it goes off for 3 seconds and automatically starts back up. I heard all the stores are getting large shipment tomorrow, so hopefully I can get a new one in the morning. I also noticed my Viliv will not work in wireless after it comes out of standby (seems to be a different problem than James from a few weeks ago.) One of those tech days!!!

  10. Gordon Cahill

    Not MiFi but store related. When I went to get my iphone they said,”sorry. new numbers only”. I said “OK, I’m going to the competition next door (we have multiple iphone carriers in OZ) and porting my number.” Walked out with shiny iphone in five minutes. They may have to open a new accounts for new products as policy, but they have to stop customers cancelling accounts even more.


  11. I tried to buy one in Ashburn, VA. Store in Sterling said they had none in stock yet, but could order from the warehouse. They also wouldn’t let me buy one at retail without committing to a 1 or 2 year plan, so I figure I will give it a couple of days.


  12. KCinci

    I’ve had my own version of MiFi 4 sometime now… Iphone+PdaNet. 1 Plan – no upgrade fees wireless access via pc, mac or other wireless device whenever needed or where 3G is available.

  13. James, you’re bad for my pocketbook but good for the economy. Got my MiFi today. Not for $4.13 though as I’m nowhere near eligible for an upgrade. But it’s worth it. As you say, it’s a game changer. Genghis

  14. I have to bring a Sharpie with me when I go to a Verizon store . . . to remind myself if I’m at the phone store or the car dealership.

    My favorite quote from a Verizon rep a few years ago, “We don’t have any bluetooth phones. Bluetooth is on its way out.”

    Congrats on the MiFi, looks like it is sweet

  15. Walter Wise

    Got mine this afternoon in Nashua, NH. Used the upgrade eligibility on my voice line, paid $119.99 plus the $50 rebate, so $69.99 net. Was expecting to pay the full $270 as well. I even got to keep the USB device in case I needed it later!

    Took a couple tries to get things loaded as the mobile broadband drivers didn’t want to load on my Toshiba laptop (XP Pro) but once that was resolved, it worked as advertised. Have tried it on one other Windows PC and a MAC Powerbook and it works great.

    Thanks for info James, and the reviews. I hope my Viliv experience is as good as this.

  16. Paolo

    I went down to the local verizon store at lunch today. No signs up, nothing in the store about it. They got two in last night to sell today. I upgraded my two cards for $99 each plus the rebates so $98 total.

    Took all of 5 minutes to swap everything.

    The people at the store didn’t really seem to know anything about the device. It’s a shame because this little device is pretty amazing.

  17. 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?

  18. Richard-Uk

    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.


  19. Cliff

    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.

  20. Kevin Ha

    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.


  21. 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? :-)

  22. 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.