One Man's Answer to the iPhone 3G S Surcharge

26 Comments

intro-iphone-speed-20090608.jpg.jpegGiven my views on AT&T’s network and my recent breakup with my iPhone, I have watched the release of the new iPhone 3G S with mild amusement. Many on our team are looking to upgrade and, like many of their fellow current iPhone owners, have been complaining about the AT&T (s T) $200 surcharge for upgrading to the recently announced iPhone 3G S. The unsubsidized price of the new iPhone 3G S is $599/$699, depending on the total storage space of the device. Ronald Lewis, author of a soon-to-be-released book called “Stick it to the man,” has figured out a way to beat the subsidy.

While the world was slamming AT&T over their miscalculated move, I sold my 16GB iPhone 3G and reserved my 32GB iPhone 3G S for $299. View the slideshow that confirms my pricing. Know what’s funny? I’ve only fulfilled 11 months of my AT&T contract.

His technique is my favorite way of getting what I want: being nice and polite to the salespeople. He says if you reinforce the point (politely) that you are a longtime loyal customer, AT&T is likely to cut you a deal. I think Ronald’s approach is good, though I have a tough time believing that Ma Bell will be nice to each one of its customers. And if it does indeed reward its longtime customers with a surcharge waiver, then I will tip my hat to it. I have not independently tested Ronald’s approach, so don’t start hating me if it doesn’t work. If it works, then thank Ronald.

Also, did anyone else see the humor in Ronald “sticking it to the man” by being nice? I, for one, advise my good friends to get a phone that runs on a network that is the exact opposite of a “fewer bars in more places network.” But if you still want an AT&T-iPhone combo, well, have a swell time yelling in the wind. To be fair, AT&T says it is hard at work improving its network.

26 Comments

southernsnapteach

I must say that I disagree with Mr.Lewis and his “catching flies with honey” with AT&T. Because of my recent experience with them, I absolutely DESPISE that they are the ONLY carrier available in my very rural area and if I want a phone like the iPhone or a similar type model, I MUST purchase it from them and sign a 2 year contract.

Now to the reason that I would NEVER purchase from AT&T if I were not forced to do so. After suffering a stroke in 2008, I found myself unable to comprehend how to use any of the features (except dialing a number) and also being unable to push the tiny buttons (due to uncontrollable shaking of my hands) of the Blackjack phone that I owned at that time. During my rehabilitation, I had used my son’s iPhone and found that I could easily press the touch screen numbers and understand how to access the calendar, contacts, and other features of it. When my son had to go back to school, I was left without the access to his iPhone and was forced to go back to the Blackjack phone that I owned. That is when any respect I had for AT&T and its policies and so-called rules that couldn’t be changed, was totally taken away.

When I realized that I was not able to use my Blackjack phone because of the effects from my stroke, I called AT&T to discuss this with them. This was in January 2009, and my 2 year contract was up in May 2009. I asked if there were any way that I could get an iPhone at this point in time, and explained the situation. I was told that my contract was not up until May and I would not be eligible to buy an iPhone until then because the agreement they signed with Apple would not allow this, and they NEVER let anyone get an iPhone before that person’s contract was up. This being the case, I could not get one until May 2009, regardless of the circumstances. I asked to speak to a supervisor, and again, same story. I asked her to go back and see how long I had been a customer, look at my never having been late in paying my bill, and note that I had never asked to get another phone before my contract was up. Again, I was told that it could not be done.

From that time until Mother’s Day 2009, I called periodically to see if I could possibly get an iPhone. My doctor wrote a letter explaining why it would be an asset to my recovery, I wrote letters to different people at AT&T, and also wrote letters and called Apple to see if they could or would help. They finally told me, the day before Mother’s Day (My husband wanted to buy this as my Mother’s Day gift), that I could get the iPhone, but would have to pay the full price. I was forced to retire from my teaching job of 20 something years because of my health, was receiving no paycheck due to disability, had not been accepted for SSDI yet, and didn’t have the money to pay full price. My husband had saved enough for the usual price, but not the full price. I was 12 days away from the end of my 2 year contract, and this was their answer. By this point in time, I was not surprised. They had not cared that an iPhone would have helped me in so many ways after my stroke. Having the calendar to keep up with appointments, being able to have my doctor’s numbers at the touch of a button, and many, many other things that are too numerous to name, would have been easier for me.

Needless to say, I have NO RESPECT for AT&T at all, in any way, and for anyone who makes the decisions there. I KNOW they have allowed people to buy iPhones earlier than the time they are supposed to and at the reduced price. I have read forums where people have discussed doing so and have a dear friend who got hers early. Why they did not allow me to do so, I will never know. I was very kind and respectful. I went through the correct channels and handled all calls in a professional way. As for them, I was rudely spoken to and treated as if I were a lunatic for daring to ask for an iPhone before my contract date was up.

To the author of the book, congratulations. I don’t know what you did that I didn’t do, but I believe. only that you happened to speak to the right person. I, on the other hand, never reached that person!!!

Glenn Ralph

This is a often occuring problem with large corporations these days. It is the NORM, not the exception.In their desire to have higher and higher profits these giants have just omitted the “Human Factor”and make poor decisions that border on criminal in some cases. They could care less about you or me or anything but profit and I find it sickening. They operate with complete impunity and if they get into a jam then we will NOW just bail them out too!! Unbelieveable!

Simone

Can anyone tell me why the iphone does not support the attaching of documents? It is a basic function with all the other advanced devices?

Andrew

great saying but i am not sure it applies to the iPhone.

Andrew

However, it was a great way to market your new book. Good Luck!

Andrew

Reach the office of the president and the associate said that any employee which oks an early upgrade will be fired. I don’t believe this article…sorry.

Andrew

Very nice. I tried calling in and was also rebuffed (though I didn’t go that far up the chain). I guess I’ll wait a year for Verizon to enter the arena. :)

S

I’ve never understood why Americans sign contracts for their mobile phones.

We Europeans/Africans don’t have contracts.

KRM

I agree. I’m American and I live abroad, but when I was still back home I sort of naturally assumed our model was superior and that all of this was “normal.” Of course one can make the various arguments concerning the transmission technologies, but as far as the consumer end of the market goes our market is hilariously backward. Kind of odd, too, because one of the things the US does excel at is offering so much consumer choice in so many combinations that it’s stupefying. Still, the end result of the market’s structure is that American discussions of cell phones resemble nothing so much as feudal peasants arguing with one another about whose lord treats them best and why their ration of the season’s crops is fairer, heh.

I can’t tell you how nice it is to be out from under the absurd regime of warring plans and phones tied to service providers.

melting

I for one have not had much success in getting carriers to throw a bone to me as a “loyal customer” but for all those that try, good luck.

I also am not planning to upgrade even if I could get the fully subsidized price. While the speed is pretty compelling I want to see the true performance once people begin getting their hands on these. Secondly, the best feature is not the HW but the iPhone 3.0 software upgrade, which will be available to all.

Ron

I got my first cell phone in 1986 with cellular one the only carrier in Tacoma, WA it was bought out by AT&T, at the time they were good to loyal customers made things right if yo had a complaint and rewarded long time customers with extra minutes at no charge. AT&T was bought out by Cellular one and I had problems at first but they eventually worked things out CelllularOne was renamed AT&T. I went through the analog phones, then the analog/digital phones then the digital phones. When my digital phone started dieing I switch to the first ever offered digital/GSM phone and it worked for about 1 1/2 years before giving me trouble and needed to be replaced. I had never been on or had to sign a contract. I now needed a new phone. AT&T informed me they no longer sold duel or tri-system phones I would have to purchase a new GSM only phone and I had to sign a 2 year contract. I told them to look at my time with the company, I had never been on a contract but was a loyal customer. It did not matter to them how long I had been a customer, no contract no phone. I have mentioned being a long time loyal customer to them before both at the store and on the phone at their national phone number and it does not matter to them. The days that a company gave special treatment to loyal customers is gone. Now-a-days its sign this contract because we do not trust you and we are going to make sure we get our money even if we do not deserve it. I am still with AT&T as they have the best service both in this country and abroad but good luck saying you are a loyal customer.

Andrew

I am not arguing that ATT owes me anything at all. I am fully aware that I am in contract and understand the way phone prices are subsidized. But I also have little good faith in either ATT or Verizon, based on how both have treated me as a customer in the past. So if I can get a concession out of ATT towards an early iPhone upgrade, great, and–bonus for ATT–I’d have some goodwill restored towards them. If not, I’ll abide my contract and either pay the mid-level upgrade price or wait a year until my contract runs out and switch to Verizon when they have the iPhone3Gs2. I bet ATT would prefer that the latter option never happens, which is why there’s a small chance they’ll work with me now to get me into a new 2-year contract with a new 3gs.

ATT owes me nothing here, but it never hurts to ask; they just might value retaining a 3+ year customer.

George

Just for the record,

Here in LA, my Sprint service was horrible and billing was horrible. ATT reception and iPhone have been very good here. No regrets at all switching to iPhone.

Al

It just amazes me that so many people have absolutely no concept of what they sign when they sign a 2 year contract. You are promising to pay, the monthly rate that you agreed upon, 24 times. It’s a contract that cannot be broken unless both parties agree to the breakup terms. If you and AT$T cannot agree, the old contract remains in force until it expires.

If you don’t like it, remember that the next time you sign a contract.

TT

Nice view shared. I am still deciding whether to get the iphone 3g s. I think 3G S is cool. :)

Remo

It amazes me at all the whining about AT&T charging an extra $200 for people who didn’t fulfill their contract. Apparently you people think that it is AT&T or the governments job to subsidize you for your entire life. You signed the contract how about being an adult and living up to its terms. Heck, AT&T is being pretty nice about the whole thing by not charging you the full unsubsidized price if you are still under contract. Perhaps you need to be kept from signing contracts anymore as they seem to be meaningless to you.

PS – AT&T ALWAYS allows upgrades at least 3 months before the contract ends – it is nothing you have to fight for.

MPJ

Yes but if the subsidy price is $199/299 why are people getting charged 599/699 without a subsidy? The subsidy is typically $200 not $400. Cheaper to break the contract remaining on your phone and just get a new line.

Terry

Your iPhone “breakup” was in February. I would not call that recent.

Terry

Your iPhone “breakup” was in February. I would not call that recent.

ray

thanks for the article. i, too, am looking to upgrade my blackberry bold to the new 3GS, BUT according to the ATT website, I can’t upgrade until November of 2009. This reminded me of what I did November last year. Why? Remember what came out at that time; the BlackBerry Bold. According the ATT and it’s “rules”, I wasn’t eligible for an upgrade until December 2008. I called customer care in November, and asked them if it would be any way possible to allow me to upgrade to the new Bold one month early. Without hesitation, they “made a note” in my account that allowed me to do that. So I hurriedly went to my closest ATT store, and told them my situation. They looked up my account, and I walked out with a new Bold in my hand. Even though I’m still 5 months away from an upgrade (according to ATT’s rules), I am still going to make the call to customer care and see if they will allow to do the aforementioned. I don’t see why not. I mean, I’m going to be signing a 2-year contract. Right?

Andrew

Thanks for the heads up. I’ll have to give this a shot. Though I have to wonder if he had better luck because he did this “months ago”, perhaps before ATT got its story straight.

I tried something similar this week only to be told by an uninformed CSR that I was eligible for what turned out to be ATT’s one-time early upgrade (with $75 fee). A rep in store and then on the phone later both corrected me–it’s not available for iPhone upgrades–but I didn’t push very hard.

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