How to get the best deal out of your wireless service provider

Attempt to cancel. And sound like you mean it. But be polite! 

I'm serious. If you're a wireless customer in Canada, who is on a contract (that's most of us), then you're overpaying, unless you go through the motions of attempting to cancel your plan every once in a while. It's probably worth your time to call once per year. There's always a better deal available, and if there isn't, tell them you want to think about it and then just don't call back to finalize the cancellation. I would say most people on smart phone plans can save $20-25 per month if they are willing to invest about 1 hour per year in going through this process. The same principles apply to your cable and internet providers. In fact, they're probably all the same company. 

Step 1:

Have your story figured out in advance. Either you are coming to the end of your contract and you're thinking of switching, or you've got a better offer from another carrier or something like that. I personally like leveraging another carrier. Especially a discount carrier. Tell your carrier that you're getting offered a plan for $45 per month for unlimited EVERYTHING and you just can't pass up that deal. 

Step 2:

Call your wireless carrier (*611) and choose the corresponding number option to cancel. This will get you to the retentions department. They likely call it "Customer Relations" or something fluffy like that. This skips you past the first line of customer service people who have little power to give you a better deal. The retentions department has much more power to offer you deals to keep you as a customer.

Step 3:

Remember. Be polite. The people on the phone are just doing their jobs and if you're reasonable, rational and pleasant, you'll get a better deal. Only in extreme circumstances should you pull out your best irate "the customer is always right" routine. That won't get you too far, unless you are actually arguing over a major mistake the carrier has made, like a big billing error, which they usually try not to admit to anyway.  

Step 4:

Write down what they are offering you. Have a pen, paper and calculator ready to see what the potential offers will save you. Or, better yet, have a spreadsheet going. I once had a poor "Customer Relations" rep on the phone for 2 hours one night going through all my options (minutes, long distance, data, SMS, MMS, voicemail, etc.) to try to justify staying with my them. Certainly, he couldn't match the $45 per month I was quoting from the discount carrier, but he was trying really hard. He got as close as he could and then I conceded that by staying with them, I was saving several hundred dollars in cancellation fees, so "he'd won me back!". I saved almost $40 per month on my bill and he felt like he'd done an awesome job. He really had. 

Step 5: 

Save the details. Whether you're using a spreadsheet or pen and paper, make sure to save the offer you were promised and also write down the confirmation number that they should give you. Make sure to get that confirmation number. I've had a few instances where the offer I was promised wasn't "processed correctly" and have had to call back to get things fixed. Without the proper details, you might have to start all over again. That's not fun.


Pay attention to your bills, especially the one right after you've switched to a new plan. I've definitely had challenges with incorrect billing, and I even suspect that when you switch plans in the middle of a billing cycle, the major carriers try to use that scenario to confuse you with a bunch of "partial charges" that you expect to even out the following month, but they never do. They count on you being either still confused, or too lazy to call back. The last plan change I made a few months back, resulted in a $70 overcharge in the form of "partial charges", about which I had to call back and argue. I had the math all done and I still couldn't convince 3 different people on the phone that they had made a mistake. All they could respond with was a generic "This is how partial charges work. It will all even out". To which, I asked "So, I'll see a $70 credit next month?" and they answered "No". In the end, they gave me the $70 back in the form of a "goodwill credit" as a way of avoiding having to admit they made a mistake, or worse, tried to rip me off. In hindsight, I think the better route to go is to make any changes to your account effective only at the start of your next billing cycle. As tempting as it might be to try to take advantage of your new hard fought deal immediately, waiting a week or two until your next billing cycle starts, might just save you some hassle. Otherwise you could end up wasting another hour or more on the phone. 

Good luck and happy hunting for good deals!

Discounted Apple Products

As most people that own Apple products know, Apple doesn't really do "sales" in the same way most manufacturers and retailers do. They typically have a couple of relatively small deals they offer each year around back to school and Black Friday. Those deals also don't really consist of major savings on your purchase. There may be a small discount, but more likely, they will offer you an Apple gift card for use on your next purchase. Apple sticks to a rather strict everyday pricing model. They also handcuff the resellers of their products by only offering a very small wholesale discount. This prevents retailers from offering large discounts and also from undercutting Apple's own retail prices in their online and brick and mortar stores. Apple's first preference is always to sell to the consumer directly, where they make the highest margin and control the experience. The latter may be even more important to them.

The iPhone is a little different because of the on-contract subsidy model that exists with carriers. You can find better deals on iPhones because the carriers are willing to offer a larger upfront discount to secure your business and a monthly bill of likely $80 per month or more for the next 2 years. 

So, where's the best place to buy Apple products at a reasonable price? On Apple's Online Refurbished Store. You can get "good as new" refurbished products, that come with a full one year warranty, at 10-40% off the regular retail price. They sell Macs, iPods, Apple TV's, and even iPads (no iPhone). The models that are typically available on the site are at least a few months old, ranging back to the prior model year or possibly older. Not every model or configuration is available all the time, but another great service that will help you find what you're looking for is a website called RefurbMe. This site is an alert service for the refurb store. It will tell you all the models that have been available, when the last time was that each was seen as in stock, and let you sign up for email or SMS alerts when the one you're looking for comes back in stock. This way you don't have to keep checking stock manually every day. As soon as the model or configuration you want is back in stock, you'll know and can go online and buy it.

I've bought two iMacs and an Apple TV from this site over the past 5 years and have never had a single issue. All products were in perfect condition and have functioned flawlessly since the moment I took them out of the box. I've heard the same thing from everyone I've talked to that has gone this route. I swear by it.