A Tale Of Two Phones

April 17, 2006

For some months now I have been debating whether to get a new cellphone or not. My current phone is several years old, and while it still works, I am suffering from tech-envy as it doesn't play games, support bluetooth, or take pictures. Moreover, it is at least one transmission standard out of date, if not two, making it increasingly difficult to use.

Last week my father acquired a cellphone from Cingular largely to allow him some freedom of movement in the final days in my mom's life. Running errands or just getting away from it all will be easier with a line of communication at their disposal. He choose Cingular since that is my carrier and in-network calls are free. Having seen a Sony-Ericsson model I really liked late last year in Best Buy, and with assurances from a co-worker that his Cingular reception inside our building has improved considerably, I decided to get a new phone.

Being a big dopey at times I managed to get two new phones within a matter of hours last Friday. On the Cingular "upgrade your phone" site the Sony-Ericsson W600i was listed for $299. With a two-year service agreement and through an online order I would get an immediate $100 discount plus a $100 mail in rebate. The cost for the phone then would be $99. Cool. At Amazon the same phone lists for $199, and their incentives included a $50 Cingular rebate plus a $150 Amazon rebate. In other words the phone was free from Amazon. So I ordered the phone from Amazon and started counting the days until delivery.

Friday afternoon I got an email from Amazon indicating that my new service with Cingular had been established and my new phone number would be 913..*. Oops. I've already got a phone number, I don't need or want a new one. Calling Cingular Customer Service I learned that number portability has some limits. Namely, phones sold at discount prices for new service can't have numbers from existing service transferred to them.

Since I was getting a better deal from Amazon, and since I expressed my unhappiness to the service representative, they did agree to credit my account $50 and waive the one-time setup fee, an additional $36 savings. This made the Cingular deal only $12 more than the Amazon one, and I got to keep my current cellphone number. So I placed the second phone order Friday afternoon.

So now I have two UPS tracking numbers, and two packages due to arrive tomorrow, each containing an identical phone to the other. The plan is to immediately return under the "buyers remorse" clause the Amazon phone and only activate the Cingular one.

The moral (or marble for you Eddie Izzard fans) of the story is: read all the fine print, or you too can spend $415 in one day one two identical phones from two sources just so you can send one back and wait for a refund.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.