Tip: Speak to the Retentions department for large discounts on your cell phone bill

While we patiently wait for the passage of the 1and1 Internet inspired domain propagation woes, here is a quick tip that can potentially save everyone a good chunk of cash on their monthly cell phone bills. Note that this tip is designed for people in the United States; because of the different way cell phone plans are designed in other parts of the world, this tip may or may not work outside the USA.

All major cell phone service providers have a department called Retentions (also known as Customer Loyalty). The sole purpose of this department is to make the customer happy; to do whatever it takes (within reasonable limits) to make sure a customer stays with the company. Often times this means attractive discounts towards monthly plans and phone purchases for “loyal” customers.

How good can these discounts get? T-Mobile USA sells the Samsung Vibrant for $199 with a two year contract, which includes a required monthly data plan for $30/month. I know someone who ordered the Samsung Vibrant for $50 with two year contract and $20/month for the same data plan. In other words, a savings of $640 (plus how much is saved on tax) over two years.

Discounts are not limited to just when you want to purchase a new phone or a new plan. If at anytime you find a better deal for the services you have, especially if said deal is available at a different provider, call up and speak to the Retentions department. The worse that can happen is they say “no” and you have wasted 20 minutes of your life; on the other hand you may get lucky and get rewarded for your efforts with a sizeable discount.

Now not everyone can get the same discounts and flexibility of the Retentions department varies from company to company. However, generally speaking, the longer you have been with a company the better discounts Retentions can give you.

So how to talk with Retentions? Most (if not all) major companies have voice activated customer care systems. If this is the case, call the customer care line and say “Retentions” or “Customer Loyalty”. If this is not the case, call the customer care line and connect with any representative. Once you have connected ask to speak to Retentions or Customer Loyalty.

Remember the amount of discounts or benefits you get from Retentions is highly dependent on how long you have been with the company. However, here are a fee tips to get the best discounts possible:

1) Whenever speaking with a representative of any company, you should always be kind, courteous, and patient. Speaking to Retentions is no different: Be kind when you speak with them, be courteous by greeting them (EX: “Hi, how are you doing today?”), and be patient with their response.

2) You may not want to cancel your service with the company, but the representative does not know that. Mildly threatening to cancel your services can go a long way towards convincing the representative to entice you with better deals. (EX: “That iPhone on AT&T is such a nice phone, I have been thinking about getting it.”)

3) As I already mentioned, the length of time you have been with the company is a big factor to the amount of discounts you get. Therefore, if you have been with the company for more than a short period of time, be sure to remind the representative how long you have been with the company. “I have been with your company for X years and this is the best you can offer me?” is a favorite line of mine.

4) Research beforehand. Find.out what types of deals other customers are getting. The more information you have, the better you can gauge the discounts offered to you.

5) Representatives are people. Each representative has a different personality and they can have bad days. So if you feel the rep you are talking with is not offering the discount(s) you are looking for (this is where research is important), end the call and call again. Chances are the next rep will offer you a different deal. (Be warned the deal may not be a “better” deal but if this happens you can mention how a previous rep offered you X deal.) Indeed, I have had two reps offer me two different prices (difference of over $100) within a couple of hours of each other (i.e. I called in multiple times).

Let me repeat your mileage will vary; not everyone will be able to get discounts and not everyone will get the same discounts. However, it never hurts to try. Good luck to everyone.

Have other money savings tips? Share with us in the comments below.

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13 comments

  1. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @david roper: Well no one forces you to sign up for the two year contract. You can buy phones out right (at their full price) and you don’t have to sign a contract. In fact I prefer having the choice of signing a contract and getting a subsidized phone or buying a phone at a full price and not signing a contract.

    It is true that phones are locked to a specific network, but it is very easy to unlock them, with the service provider themselves often providing the unlock codes. However, there is that problem of CDMA vs GSM…

  2. Peccadilloes

    iinet tried to get me to sign for 2 years with a free modem. the break fees are high. I chose to pay $80 more to break with anyone we like. our broadband speed is very low in oz. 5Gb/sec. adsl2+!!
    iinet are a good provider otherwise in a poor market.

  3. Jyo

    This goes the same for internet service plans. I remember long ago when I was using netzero and I called to cancel a dial-up plan. I ended up with a couple free months of dial-up and free year of NAV (well, this might’ve caused more problems…but free!)!!

  4. Moseph Joseph

    @david roper: I couldn’t agree more! Fortunately, AT&T service is not problematic in my area, but other iPhone users that I know who live in other areas of the country aren’t as lucky. My sister, for example, complains of dropped call all the time. For her, it would be nice to have the option of using the iPhone on Sprint’s network.

    Thanks for this tip, Ash. My contract is up in 2 months, so when the time is right I will see what sort of deal I can get. :)

  5. david roper

    Good to know but in the US you cannot cancel a contract until your (generally) two years are up. Europe has it all over us, they buy their phones and select their service. They can cancel anytime. We in the US have stupid contracts that penalize us severely if the two year are not up.

    Often the cellphone are “linked” to the service. One model/brand of phone will not work on another network etc.

    I hope the US fixes this mess one day.

  6. a simple happy man

    Hi Ashraf and all

    You can also go to Contract cancellations and tell them you are thinking of leaving them.

    I signed with TalkTalk in the UK for unlimited broadband and anytime talk 2 months ago.

    as an ex telecommunications engineer I knew my line was connected to the exchange but they told me it wasn’t, promptly disconnected it and reconnected it and charged me £79.99 for nothing.

    when i complained and threatened cancellation for that and loads of other mistakes I eventually wound up after about 5 phone calls threatening to go elsewhere, with the fee refunded £15.00 rebate plus free broadband and line rental for 3 months.

    And I am going elsewhere now because they just handed me a Direct Debit return charge ‘cos i cancelled the DD to stop them taking the £79.99 even though I told them and cancelled the DD thro’ them!

  7. peccadilloes

    australia is not the US, not the land of the free…
    iinet just did not bother. I needed to suspend my sydney broadband for 3 months, while I was overseas. they would not suspend my a/c without maintaining the charge fee.
    I cut my broadband. iinet bumped up the Gb allowance massively.

    my plans changed and I was stuck for a month while I analysed all the offers. finally I went back to iinet. the speed I get is very slow 5Gb. which is normal!