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May 8th, 2009:

#14. Cell phone contracts

Phone Man

The only thing more unpleasant and anxiety inducing than buying a used car is strolling into your neighborhood cell phone store to replace your broken handset.

Unfortunately, since the typical cell phone has a life expectancy just shy of that of a mosquito, replacing a cell phone is something we all have to endure with a maddening frequency.

You can try to take care of your phone. Buy the $10 screen covers and the $30 cases. But before long, you’ll open the door to your car and hear the ‘clank’ of your cell phone hitting the pavement. That’s $300 bucks down the drain. Or at least in Europe it would be.

But in America, we have something called the monthly cell phone plan that protects us from the little cell phone accidents in life.

The process is quite simple. Once you break your phone, you need to brace yourself and venture into the local cell phone store (Note: The more cheap gizmos and covers in small plastic bags covering the walls the better. These are s signals of quality establishment). The shopkeeper will explain that you’ll have to pay for any repairs because—despite the fact that your dropped the phone—the damage was actually caused by water, and is thus not covered under your accidental damage insurance.

But, the shopkeeper will explain, you don’t need to pay for a new phone because you’re eligible for a “free upgrade.”

All you need to do is swear an oath that you, your family and any future heirs will continue to use your current carrier for all your cellular communication needs, and the free phone is yours.

The cynics out there will say that the “free” phones are actually a horrible deal when you consider the true cost of a two-year contract and all of the various surcharges that the cellular provider will doubtless slap on the bill. But these people have never dealt with European pay-as-you-go cell phones.

Consider the benefits of the American model:

  • You never have to worry about running out of minutes because any overages are just slapped on the bill.
  • You don’t have to “text” all day to save money because you don’t pay for minutes as you go.
  • No one ever uses the terms “top-up” or “SMS.”
  • You’re never cut off of a call because you ran out of pre-paid time.
  • You never need to worry about checking your balance on the go.

To not have to worry about the day-to-day details of European cellular communications AND get a free cell phone every 12-16 months, all in exchange for signing a contract is really quite the deal. Plus, the two-year contract term gives you the freedom to not worry about finding a better deal on your cellular service—because you’re not allowed to switch anyway.

God Bless America!

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