They get you with the fine print, then make the fine print hard to find.
I spent the better part of last week digging through websites, calling representatives and generally pulling my hair out trying to sort out all the details about cellular phone service from the Big Four. I came to a couple of conclusions, the clearest of which is that all four of them do whatever they can to hide the tiny details that can make a big difference for some of us.
I know that most companies do this. But most companies aren’t all over your TV, paying for ads on YouTube and everywhere else, and have huge colorful graphics plastered all over their website with tiny disclaimers and superscript references way down at the bottom in a different color font. I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s damn near deceitful.
You don’t have to trick people into buying something that’s worth the money. Phone service included.
The things they feel the need to hide behind three links aren’t even that terrible. I doubt many people would fault a company for cutting off your service if you make too many calls from outside the U.S. on the “wrong” plan or using your phone to do something against the law. And we all know there are fees for everything, so why bury them? It only makes a carrier and their service look better to people who aren’t aware of all the baggage that comes with any phone plan, so I’ll assume they are doing it to purposefully deceive new customers. If you know someone shopping for their first phone plan, help them out.
I also saw two things that I really liked this week. Verizon and Sprint get a shout out here for doing something better than anyone else.
Starting with Sprint, I want to talk about their new changes to their unlimited plans. They are super basic — calls, texts. data and some tethering. They are also super cheap, especially if you need more than one phone line. This is just what a lot of people are looking for. There are options for calling to Canada and Mexico (for example) but they are options, as is not added to a base plan making it more expensive. I’d like to see the rest follow and show us something a good bit cheaper with zero frills.
Verizon and Sprint each buck a trend and get a good-guy award.
Verizon does something important about those hidden details I talked about earlier. If you go through the motions to set up new phone service through Verizon on their new unlimited plan, part of the checkout process has a big blue link saying “see all the details of this plan” right where you can see it. When you click on it, you’ll find the full terms and conditions for everything you picked and have in your cart. They are written in garbled legal language, of course, but they are there. Where you can find them. The only thing they could do better would be to force you to click to agree and put them in those bullet points telling us how great the plan is on the front page of Verizon.com.
So thanks, Sprint and Verizon. I’m not a fan of any service company, but I do appreciate the little things.
Short and sweet this week so we all can prep for an onslaught of phonery stuff in the next 48 hours.