Monday, October 24, 2011

George Mindling Column 10-15-2004


Cell Phone Sellers Don't Need Deals


The young girls in front of us screamed and jumped up, cheering as if they had actually watched the really great combination lateral and forward pass that scored a touchdown for the Port Charlotte Pirates football team. They were among many of attendees at the game who were there for something even more socially important: The Great American Cell Phone Flip and Call Contest!

Cellular phones were everywhere, especially in the crowded lawn between the stands and the ticket booth. No one could see the game from there, but no one seemed to care. The social interaction under the old oak trees on this beautiful early autumn evening was at an epidemic proportion. Chatting and laughing, punching numbers on tiny, lighted telephones and plugging fingers into open ears was the order of the evening. Rarely was a group of kids seen without at least one member being on a cell phone. Sometimes every one in the group had a cell phone held tightly against their head, totally oblivious to the world around them. The sea of youthful exuberance represented what cell phone companies love, a sense that if you didn't have a phone, you need to get one.

With the saturation of the domestic U.S. cell phone market changing the way cell phone manufacturers and service providers market and bill their customers, many of the old incentives for signing on with a given company are gone. The old free phones with signing a long term contract has crept up to now only partial reimbursement for a phone, often less than 50% rebate for signing a contract. Often the phone itself is an obsolete model that won't be offered next year.

Some special deals are based on one or two-year contracts, but read the contract carefully. The charge for breaking a contract seems to be an industry standard of $175.00.

Most cell phones have a one-year warranty, so be careful with a two-year contract. A special warranty or insurance package for the telephone is usually around $6 a month in addition to your regular service charge, but there may be a $50 deductible for a replacement telephone, depending on your policy. Without the insurance, the replacement telephone is strictly up to you. You just can't buy any cellular phone and expect your cell phone service to work. The phone has to be one the carrier services. You can bring your old number to a carrier, but not your old telephone.

If you haven't signed up for a wireless calling plan, check the J.D. Powers page for a customer satisfaction survey about wireless service at: http://www.jdpower.com/cc/telecom/index.jsp

According to the J.D. Power survey released September 9th, 2004, "overall satisfaction performance with wireless service providers has increased 5 percent over 2003, the first time a significant increase has been achieved on a year-to-year basis in three years."

The survey also states the average reported per-minute cost has lowered to 14 cents. Tell that to the parents who foot the bill for the newest, must-have cell phones when the first bill comes.

George Mindling

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