Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Amazon and the evil of cellphone companies

Tobacco companies are unequaled in the purity of their evil, but, in their defense, they have a certain dark style. American cell phone companies are evil in a sleazy, cowardly sort of way, a bit like Saruman's lackey Wormtongue.

I've been steeped in their vile juices as I balance my lust for the iPhone, my wife's need for a replacement for her beloved Samsung i500, and the vileness of Cingular. Amazon is a good weapon to expose Cingular's nature -- and Amazon's collusion. The Treo 680 seems a bargain at $50 with a $40/month plan, but watch what happens when one walks the billing trail at Amazon. The final shopping cart tells all ... palm Treo 680 Smartphone (Cingular): Cell Phones & Service


+ Cingular Nation 450 Rollover Minutes
(Monthly service charge of $39.99 billed by Cingular)


+ Cingular 2 Year Contract
(No Charge: Included with Cingular's Monthly Rate Plan)


+ PDA Connect Unlimited (Browse the web and access e-mail.)
(Monthly service charge of $39.99 billed by Cingular)


+ Regulatory Cost Recovery Fee
(Monthly service charge of $1.25 billed by Cingular)
The $40 mandatory "PDA plan" is where all the cost recovery occurs. Six months of this plan is exactly equal to the $250 Amazon chops off the phone price if you stay for 6 months ...

Oooooh, I hate the cell phone companies. My wife has commented on the resemblance to American auto manufacturers before Japan freed us from their rotting grasp. Who will save us from the cell companies? Not Apple, alas.

Update 1/11/07: Wow. My head spins. I spent about an hour today talking about phone price with 3 different Sprint business reps while also reviewing the web site. Here's the "secret sauce" to these discussion. Ask "What date does my contract expire?". When you learn that date, follow any question about rebates, credits, etc with the question "Does that change the date my contract expires?" The trick is that Sprint trains its reps to use different language, so they can answer "no" to questions for which any reasonable person would answer "yes".

The bottom line: If you don't want to change your contract expiry date, you go to a Sprint store and pay full price, or you buy a used phone on eBay or Craigslist. I'm told some Radio Shack stores will sell used phones, but I distrust the quality there. I have a visceral distrust for eBay, so it's Craigslist or list price.

Lastly, looking over the scam I first documented above, I'm thinking Amazon's a part of the deal too. In other words, they sold out. Well, it's not the first time.

The next time a politician hits me up for a donation, I won't ask them about healthcare reform or global warming, I'll ask them if they'll vote to require any cellphone vendor to accept a compatible unlocked phone.

No comments: