On Friday, I walked into a Verizon Wireless store just to check out some phones in person, but walked out with a new Blackberry Storm. At least this wasn’t as big of a purchase as when I went to the Acura lot looking for a used Volvo…and drove away with a $30,000+ Acura TL-S.
But then on Saturday morning, I returned the phone. Why? read below…
Blackberry and the $720 “Blackberry Privilege Tax”
While I thoroughly enjoyed the Blackberry Storm for the night that I owned it, my wise wife reminded me that I would be paying an additional $30 “Blackberry Privilege Tax” each month, above and beyond our regular cellphone bill. On a 2-year contract, that adds up to $720 dollars.
But I just replied “I can drop the plan anytime and just use it as a PDA”, which was the main reason I got the Blackberry. I wanted the PDA benefits like a calendar I could sync with Outlook or Google, a task manager, etc., and get the added benefits of direct email access, an internet browser, facebook, twitter, and multimedia, all bundled in one sleek package. The Storm didn’t disappoint (mostly).
But then I found out something shocking online when I got back from the VZW store: You can never drop the Blackberry Plan with Verizon Wireless. You can never drop to just a text/pix plan or a data access plan. You have to just keep paying the $30/mth until the contract is over in 2 years, or hope your employer picks up the tab (which would be $45/mth to use the corporate email).
That comes out to $720 over the 2 years, above the $70/mth I already pay for my plan (before a 20% discount I currently have). I’d be spending $2400 for a stinkin phone that lets me access the internet and email. Granted, I wouldn’t blink at this cost of my employer were paying it, but this is coming out of my wallet! That’s not very frugal, is it?
Buy a Blackberry, Get one Free
During March 2009, Verizon Wireless is offering a buy 1, get 1 Blackberry deal. I didn’t even know about it until I was in the store, which is the main reason I bought the phone so quickly. I figured I would also get the wife a phone during this deal, and since the salesman offered me a way to return the phone without paying the restocking fee (more on this later), I went for it.
But think about it. $30/mth for one Blackberry is bad, but $60/mth for two is doubly worse. We’ve been holding off on getting cable for years because we saw it as an unnecessary purchase, even though we’d love to waste our time in front of the Discovery Channel and TLC. We’ve argued over that extra $45/mth for years, but I didn’t blink an eye at the thought of paying $60/mth for something we already get (at home through our laptops): internet access and email. Again, not a problem if your employer is paying, but s/he wasn’t in this case.
So again, I have my much-more-clever-than-me wife to thank for this insight.
Returning the Blackberry Storm
I cried myself to sleep knowing that I would have to part with my Crackberry in the morning, but I was comforted knowing that the salesman gave me an out. As long as I used less than 10 minutes of talk-time, I could return it without paying the $35 restocking fee. So I didn’t use the phone at all except to use the internet and email features. I played around with the click-touch keyboard and found it pretty intuitive (it’s also my first Blackberry), but I made sure not to get too invested in it, knowing it would be gone in mere hours.
As a note, the return process was uneventful and only took 15 minutes. They send the Storm back to the factory to get re-imaged, but I deleted my personal information from it first anyway.
I’m not sure if all Verizon Wireless stores will offer you this return option, but my salesman saw my wife’s hesitancy to get the phones and was nice enough to consider the need for peace in our marriage. The bigger lesson learned here is to know all the right questions to ask. Had I thought to ask whether I could drop the plan might have saved me the drive back to return it, and the “heated discussion” (aka argument) that ensued when we got home from the VZW store.
Perhaps if BB cuts their plan price in half, it’ll be more tempting. But until then, I’ll just have to live with my paper notebook and “normal” cell phone.