Know your cell phone billing terminology. When you first sign up for a cell phone contract, most likely you will ask, “Are there any hidden charges?” Their answer will most likely be no. Technically, one could say they are not lying, as they do not use the term “hidden charges.” Instead they use such bureaucratic terms as “monthly access charges,” “usage charges,” “activation fees,” “surcharges,” “other charges,” “taxes, governmental surcharges and fees,” and so on, ad nauseum. You can bet that as soon as the public gets hip to these terms, the cell phone companies will change the terms they use. That way, whenever you ask about specific types of charges, they will have the technical right to say there are none. This could just be angry conjecture on my part. Or you could call it wise cynicism. Point is, know your terms.
Watch your cell phone bill like a hawk. When you get your first cell phone bill, look it over. If it is not exactly as you were told it would be, call your cell phone company and prepare to turn on the charm. You get more with honey than you do with vinegar, so be polite and charming and to-the-point when you speak to their trained “customer service agents” (read: wily salespersons.) These agents are well trained, they already know what your concerns might be, and they have the power to reduce your bill.
Call their bluff. Cell phone companies know they are lying to you when they market their prices. That is how they get you on-board. Only later do they reveal the real price with all the surcharges, at a time when you already have the working phone in hand and appreciate the service coverage. The cell phone companies bank on most people eating the difference in price. That is how they profit. But they also expect a certain percentage of customers to know better and call their bluff. Because you are reading this, you are now in that percentage. You have to call their bluff and don’t be shy about asking for reductions.
Lie. When you get a customer service agent, realize they are just working schmucks like yourself. They are trained to be wily or they will lose their job. Work with them on a human level. Say, “When I first signed up, I asked the agent if there were any charges whatsoever–surcharges, fees, taxes, anything at all above that 54.99 (or whatever the price was)–and the agent said no. None. Zero. Nada.” Even if you did not ask that way back then, say it now. You are lying, but so were they. It is the language they speak. So lie. I am giving you permission. It is justified.
Even if the extra fees are your fault, ask them to reduce any overage minutes you might have incurred. Say, “I used more minutes than I expected this time. That charge is way more than I would normally pay.” Sound like a lost puppy dog. Do not argue with the agent. If they say no, move on to another item in your cell phone bill and say, well what about this, what about that. Use the terms printed on your bill. Wear the agent down until they give you something. Their job is to please you.
Another way to reduce your cell phone charges is to graduate to a higher monthly limit of minutes. Your base charges will increase, but you will not be charged any overage minutes. Customer service agents might say something like, “If you upgrade to the 1000-minute plan I can erase at least $100 off your current bill.” This might be worth it, so do consider it.
Another way to reduce your cell phone bill is to switch companies. But if you like the service area and coverage of your current cell phone company, this may not be feasible. That is part of why the company has you by the proverbial cojones. Luckily, your company gets its power not by being completely evil, but by acting like a slick little brat. It wants to seem like a good company, so hold the company to its wonderful image. Make them treat you at least as well as it treats its marketing executives.