Waived Cell Phone Activation Fees Are Harder To Come By

Waived Cell Phone Activation Fees Are Harder To Come By

We have a family cell phone plan which covers my wife, my sister-in-law, and my mother-in-law.  My father-in-law and I both have cell phones provided by work, so it’s just the three lines.

mb-cellphone201308Recently, all three decided that it was time to upgrade phones.  They were all over two years old, and after some wavering and looking around, the decision was made to stick with Sprint.

My wife and sister-in-law both obtained their phones through Best Buy, where they got iPhone 5’s for $50 less than could be found elsewhere.  My mother-in-law also got an iPhone, but she was in the market for a 4S and got hers from a local Sprint store.

I’ve had an account for ten years now with Sprint, so I was pretty familiar with what would come next.  Sure enough, on the next bill, there were activation fees for each of the lines.  They put a charge of $36 per line in addition to the normal monthly charges.

I’ve always had very good luck with getting these waived.  One hundred percent luck, as a matter of fact, and I was hoping to keep my streak alive.  It would not be as easy as in the past.

The last couple of times were actually much easier.  For awhile, Sprint had a program (I think it was called Premier) where longtime customers got extra benefits, one of which was automatic waivers of activation fees.  I know one of our renewals took place while this program was still active, so that didn’t even require a conversation.  Unfortunately, Sprint shut down that program a couple of years back.

In other cases, I got the equipment from Sprint by placing an online or telephone order, and would get a waiver in advance or during the order process.  Buying two of them through a third party, I knew I would have to ask later.

The first attempt I made was to open up an online chat session.  Within a couple of minutes, I could tell two things:

  • I was typing with someone overseas.  Phrases were somewhat disjoined and I could tell that English was not their first language
  • They were operating from a script.  Some of the sentences did flow and were very well written.   Too well written, and I could tell that I was dealing with someone copying and pasting lines from a ‘script’.  The person denied it when I asked directly, but the difference in tone between some of the lines (that I suspected were ‘scripted’) and those that they had to type were different.

One of the recommendations I’ve learned to try is to get the person to deviate from the script.  I did try a few questions to break the person out, but they would just jump right back in.  Another idea I’ve seen is to ask to ‘chat’ with a manger.  I tried this and got the person’s ‘supervisor’, and I’m pretty sure it was probably the person sitting next to him.

After awhile, I gave up on trying to get it done, but I did ask to have someone call me, and that I wanted to speak to someone at the management level.  They said that this would be noted, and that I would hear from someone soon.

Within a day, I did speak to someone.  On the phone.  Someone that spoke English as their first language and was most assuredly not reading from a script.  He asked what my concern was, and I politely explained that I was looking to have these charges reversed due to our long loyalty with Sprint, never missing or being late on a payment, and the rest.

And what did he do within two minutes of getting on the phone?

He waived the charges.

I did get the sense that this might be one of the last waivers we’ll get.  He launched into a discussion about how Sprint is putting together a big upgrade of their network, and how those upgrades cost money.  He actually went into the process of how an individual tower is upgraded, and some of the roadblocks that they have to face (each tower usually requires municipal approval, something I would have never guessed).  I could tell he was telling me these things not to make excuses, but because he was genuinely interested in the topic and wanted to share information.

I was happy that the $108 in charges were reversed, but I guess I should budget for these in a couple of years when we’ll likely be faced with them again.

Though I’m sure going to try to get them waived!

Readers, do you pay activation fees or have you been able to slip out of them?  What are your tricks of the trade in getting these charges reversed?

13 thoughts on “Waived Cell Phone Activation Fees Are Harder To Come By”

  1. I’ve never paid an activation fee. One issue that my parents have had continued problems with is deposits. They are on Sprint as well and absolutely hate it but are stuck. Their credit score is so bad that any other carrier would charge them a $200 deposit PER LINE. My parents simply don’t have $400 to put towards simply switching, on top of the cost of new phones and the actual service charges.

  2. I’ve never been able to figure out what the point of the chats are. I will try to use them sometimes – so much easier than calling in! – and the end result is me always calling in because they can’t help me.

  3. I don’t think I’ve ever paid for an activation fee and had Sprint for years. I recently just switched to Ting and I’m saving a bundle (as of right now $100 per month!) for the exact same services. We had to pay an early termination fee for my husband’s phone, but Ting has a program that refunds you up to $75 for early termination. So far I love Ting!

  4. When negotiating with anyone, you need to look for a reason to get them to do what you want. It may be a long relationship, volume or just sticking with the rules.

    • That’s true, though the problem when you’re working with an entry level customer service rep is that you can’t personally offer them anything that would motivate them to give you what you want. They personally could care less if you leave, which is why you often have to get to someone at a different level who has motivation to retain customers or improve satisfaction.

  5. There is no reason to pay such fees, and it’s a matter of taking an approach like you had in order to avoid them. Being persistent, and knowing how such exchanges work (the whole supervisor charade) can result in savings that add up. I suspect that many people aren’t so persistent or aware, and are simply giddy with excitement about a new phone that they don’t think of much else.

  6. At the moment, my employer has a deal with AT&T (where we have our service) that waives all activation fees…so luckily I don’t have to have those phone calls/chats. Kudos to you for getting it done, though. The thing I think is funny is that companies (not just cell phone service providers) tell us that they have to add extra fees to improve their service – in the case of cell phone providers it’s their network. Oh, those things cost money so we have to charge you more. That’s complete crap…..they are upgrading their service coverage and network speed to KEEP me as a customer. If they don’t upgrade they will lose me to a competitor. By charging extra to upgrade their service they are essentially making US pay THEM to keep us happy. That’s insane!

    • Very good way of thinking about it. Essentially, we’re going to give you what you want but in order for you to get it, you’re going to pay for us to give it to you. With cell phones, it just all goes back to the lure of the shiny new gadget.

  7. My wife nor I have ever paid an activation fee, but we do not use subscription phones. My wife has a Samsung Galaxy S3 on a StraightTalk plan for unlimited use for $45 per month. Our son has some little LG non-smart phone on a trackfone plan of $10 per month. It is not unlimited use, but it provides many more minutes and texts than he uses. I am trying out the new FreedomPop phone that is an HTC EVO phone with free 200 minutes of voice, 500 texts, and 500 MB of data per month. The data is pretty limiting, but the phone works fine over WiFi, so as long as I have a hot spot, I am not using anything from my allotment. I’ve only had it for a few weeks, but I like it so far. It uses the Sprint network.

  8. my cell phone bohoemeth wouldn’t even waive the charges recently when my home needed a network extender. i lobbied long and hard, but their profits are at a point where they don’t mind upsetting the little guy.

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