Let me tell you, using a Kenyan cell phone as totally RUINED me for the cell phone shenanigans that go on here in my country. I'm sorry, access fee? Three year contracts? Minute counting? Ridiculous charges? BAH HUMBUG TO ALL OF YOU!
I definitely long for the days of "Buy phone (cheap). Buy SIM card (less than $2). Buy top up card (as much or as little as you want). Phone. For cheap. Run out of credit? Go buy another card. You can buy them anywhere, even Korr, where the nearest network is a three to four hour walk and a huff up a mountain away. Needless to say, I had a little bit of rage at the Canadian wireless business when I got home. (AND? Did you know that, at least with one company, when you answer your phone, it starts charging you from when it started RINGING, not when you actually said hello? GAH!)
However, ease of cell phone use wasn't the only thing I learned when I was in Kenya. I also learned about bargaining and bartering. Oh, yes. Bartering. Not just for Kenyan curio markets, people.
When I got home, I wanted to look into maximizing the value of my cell plan, so I called up Company Friendly, my current provider's competition, to scope out the deals I could get on plans. The guy was really helpful, and told me all the options and all the features I could get on a new mobile plan. Pretty comparable, though it looks like a slightly better deal than the one I had with my current provider, Company Red, who I've been with for over six years now.
I decided to scope out my other options with Red, as I had just gotten whatever to get my cell up and running again when I got home from Kenya, and hadn't yet done a lot of research. I asked about plans and options, and got some dud in customer service who didn't offer any extra info like the Friendly dude did, and for that alone, I was willing to abandon ship, so I called up Friendly again, but this time with a little bit of ammo.
"Soooo, I'm thinking of switching to you guys from Red, but I'm just wondering what kind of incentive you can give me to do that..."
Well, click, click, click, and off I was transferred to the special, "Come on over to OUR side" department, and was lured in with all kinds of extra features and a waaaay better deal that I was getting with Red. Sweet! So I signed up, and my phone arrived about a week later. But, just before I called to activate my new Friendly phone, I remembered a very important bargaining rule: always go back to the Other Guy and tell them what Competition Guy is offering you. Maybe Other Guy can sweeten the deal."
So I called Red.
"Hi! So, I'm a six year customer with you guys, and I'm about to switch to Friendly. I've got the new phone here, and was just about to call and activate it when I thought I'd better call you and see what you're prepared to do to keep me as a Red customer."
A lot, apparently.
They asked what Friendly was offering me - which was a really good deal - and then completely blew it out. of. the. water. They were throwing features and freebies at me faster than I could keep track of them. I made a list (three times I had to ask them to slow down so I could write it down), then told them I'd think about it and get back to them.
Just for kicks, I called Friendly back to see if they could better it.
"Uhhh... wow. We can't even TOUCH that," they told me. Ok, fair enough. I had a 30 day satisfaction clause in my contract, so I had them send me a return mailer and I sent back my phone, called Red, and signed up for a three year contract, which includes the following:
* 250 minutes per month (was 200, but as he was running through my features at the very end was like, "250 minutes, right?" Ummmm... yeeeessss.)
* Evenings and weekends starting at 6pm, not at 9, included
* Free incoming calls
* Caller ID, voice mail, and 2500 texts
* 100 minutes of long distance a month
* FREE Blackberry Flip phone, without a data plan (apparently nearly impossible to get)
* 65% off the data plan fee, should I want one (I don't)
... all for under Not Very Much Money At All... ten dollars LESS, in fact, than when all I had was 150 minutes, caller ID, and evenings at 6pm.
So with all this, now, I'm thinking seriously of canceling my home phone, so I called Red again (gotta always go through the Retention department now) to ask about upping my plan minutes a little bit a month, just in case.
"So, what's the next Retention plan up from mine if I wanted to increase my monthly minutes? I'm thinking of canceling my home phone and want to e sure I don't go over my minutes."
"Well, I could give you 100 bonus minutes a month for the duration of your contract."
"Um, bonus minutes, as in for FREE?"
"Yep. One hundred minutes a month for the next three years. So you'd have 350 minutes instead of 250 for the same price."
"Well, you HAVE been with us for a really long time, so that's why we can offer you that bonus."
I thought that's why I got all that OTHER bonus stuff, but OK!
"Well, uh, sure! Sign me up!"
So, seriously folks. Finished your contract with your current cell company? Call them and tell them you're about to jump ship, and watch 'em scramble! I think I might call them back next month and see what else they'd like to throw in for me!