Free Refills & Why I Love America Rotating Header Image

#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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3 Comments

  1. Kolja says:

    Hate to break it to you, but it’s simply not true that everyone is using pre-paid phones here. In fact, companies in Germany were among the first to introduce the subsidized mobile phones that come with two year contracts.

    The only thing I see as a avalid criticism is that here nobody cares if you break your phone. unless you are just at the end of your two year contract, nobody will offer you a free phone.

  2. John Doe says:

    How about talking about the plans that makes you pay when you recieve a call. Plans who don’t work in the entire world. Or plans that are at least 5 times as expensive as in Europe. Or plans that don’t include high-speed internet and top of the line technology (oh wait, that’s not the fault of the plan… it’s the fault of the low-tech telephone companies in the US).

    But hey… I can get another phone for “free” at least 😉

  3. S.Jobeson says:

    1. The mobile phone business in the US is one of the things I hate about living here. I paid as I used in Europe (though as mentioned a lot of people are on contracts as well…I would say 50/50) and it was much cheaper. Even including the “free” phones.

    2. I also prefer to text so find it puzzling anyone sees that as something a person would only do to conserve voice costs.

    3. In the US you pay incoming and outgoing whereas in Europe only the caller pays.

    4. In Europe regardless of which method you choose you don’t have to pay more to add a texting plan…a data plan….a breathing plan. You ca actually use your phone how YOU want! Amazing. I looked into pay as you use plans in the US recently and there are none I could find that offer data. There were only monthly plans like Virgin mobile but you still pay a set monthly fee regardless of usage just without contract.

    5. You can buy a SIM card from a company of your choice without giving your first born and every detail of your life and having a credit check run.

    6. LOTS more phone choices without all the stupid bloatware and carrier based junk stuffed on there. My mother’s AT&T serviced phone would not let me remove a bunch of the AT&T software she never uses. But it takes up the first screen and a half of her settings…no way to rearrange it either.

    Ugh….There are good things about most places…but in the US mobile phone service is not one of them.

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