How Much Are You Really Paying for that New iPhone?

new iPhone costs

Are you being deceived by the sales people at your local AT&T or Verizon store?

A new iPhone is coming out, it seems, every second — so it’s no surprise when we find ourselves wandering into an AT&T store or Verizon store to “check out” the new phones.

This happened to me — and the result has not been pretty.

When I wandered in, I had the iPhone 4 (yes, I know…ancient in these times) — and was just checking to see how much it would be to upgrade. The “really nice” AT&T sales guy came over and said “Let’s check out your account and see what you’re eligible for.” Okay…so turns out I was “eligible” for an upgrade. I said I wasn’t interested in spending a lot on a new phone (the iPhone 5s was selling for $299 — and I didn’t think that it was necessary to upgrade for $300).

But what came next is the problem.

The AT&T sales guy said, based on my eligibility for an upgrade, I actually didn’t have to pay anything for the phone — and he could lower my monthly bill, too. Wow. I was impressed and happy that I stopped in. So I said “Yes, let’s do it.”

He worked with me on getting the phone, my contacts switched over to the new phone, etc. Then he passed me over to another sales person who had me sign the paperwork. What I knew: I was signing a contract for 2 years (typical) and I had a plan that included e-mail, unlimited texting and more. Did I carefully read the contract? No…I glanced at it and figured I had talked through everything with the sales guy. This wasn’t my first cell phone, so I honestly wasn’t expecting any surprises.

But the reality is something the sales people are not telling you upfront. It wasn’t until I got my monthly bill that the story changed.

I found out that somehow in this whole process, I had signed up for a Wireless Equipment Installment Plan and was paying a monthly fee ($28.85) towards the cost of my new phone, which…get this…was not the $299 phone cost that was advertised in the store, but $749.99!!! Somehow, I had gotten roped into paying an installment plan for my new phone with exorbitant interest charges.

There must be some mistake, I thought: I called AT&T and got through to a supervisor, Alexa, who told me that “I signed a contract so there’s nothing she can do.” And furthermore, I should have read the contract “more closely” as this information was not hidden. But I said: I was going on what the sales person told me and didn’t expect any surprises; he told me I didn’t have to pay for the phone and so I didn’t anticipate any surprises. “Well I’m sorry the salesperson told you that, but there’s nothing I can do,” she said. “You signed a contract.”

My response: “You think a salesperson is going to tell a customer that they’re actually going to be paying almost $800 for a phone that sells for $299?? You’re sadly mistaken.”

But come to find out two of my friends had this also happen to them. Check your bills (so many of us don’t) and see if you’ve been charged for an installment plan for exorbitant costs for your phone; if so, e-mail me. I’m putting together a class action lawsuit against AT&T (and maybe even Verizon—as one of my friends had this happen to her at a Verizon store).

We have a right to know exactly what we’re paying for…up front — without deceptive sales practices, which is what is going on here.

Share your stories with me at valerie@valerielatona.com!

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Valerie LatonaAbout Valerie Latona
As the former editor in chief of Shape (the active lifestyle magazine) for 5 years, I personally spoke with a lot of women (thousands over the years, from around the nation) and what I found is this: it's not easy to stay healthy, to get (and stay) fit, and to stem the weight gain tide (and even the tide of disease) that inevitably happens to us as we get older.