Can you lower this amount slightly?
July 29, 2014 8:36 PM   Subscribe

I accidentally ran up my phone bill to $1100. I want to know what I can say, if anything, to try to lower my bill.

I ran up my phone bill like never before. I have been with Verizon for two years on a family plan. I've been talking to someone (long distance relationship) for two months and my last bill was over, but not by an astronomical amount.

I did it again, and this time I can't afford it. I'm willing to buy LDR a phone and put them on my plan (we have unlimited family minutes) which would be quite a bit cheaper. They have unlimited minutes on their phone, but they're on a different network and I am being charged insane amounts of money. Skype is not an option as I am on the road a lot and data is not available in some of the areas I travel, although we do that occasionally.

Anyway, I received some warning text notifications about going over my minute limit, but nothing specific about how bad it was. I understand that per my service contract, I'm responsible for monitoring my phone usage. I know that this was irresponsible. What I want to know is: how much am I really on the hook for?

Is there anything I can say (short of being dishonest) that will give me a one-time reduction? What's reasonable to ask for? Should I ask for a manager, then ask for their manager? Should I go into the store and throw myself on the mercy of the clerks?

Thank you for your answers.
posted by ostranenie to Human Relations (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, here's the thing:

Did you make those phone calls knowing you were on the hook for paying them?

If yes, then pay them. What you can do is ask for the payment to be spread across multiple bills. You may need to escalate past the frontline CSR up into management. Be polite, stay calm, and understand that you did incur those charges and if they want them paid that's kind of on you.

I'm not judging you.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:50 PM on July 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Just call and tell them your plan doesn't include enough minutes, ask if they can waive the overage fees if you upgrade to a better plan. Chances are good that they'll do just that.
posted by foodgeek at 8:55 PM on July 29, 2014 [34 favorites]

One thing that might help is first figuring out if you are out of your contract. Even though you're on a family plan, your individual line is subject to it's own contract. If you're past the (usually two year) contract mark, you have leverage to threaten to leave. Which makes sense here since you'd (theoretically) want to go to your SO's cell provider. If you can get to the "retention" person they might be able to drop your bill down to keep you from leaving.
posted by radioamy at 8:56 PM on July 29, 2014

Best answer: I ran up a huge bill when I was in Canada for work calling the states on my cell phone. I called AT&T and very embarrassingly apologized and asked if they could do anything. The woman agreed to change my plan retroactively to a MUCH cheaper minute rate for international calls. It took a $600 phone bill to $80. You could call their support line and see if they could do the same thing? It will probably be a one time thing - but it worked for me.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 8:57 PM on July 29, 2014 [25 favorites]

Best answer: fffm - politely disagree. This is a common tactic among service providers - give a ridiculously high bill, then when you call, the phone company negotiates you down to say $300 and then you think "I got a deal!" Whatever you do, keep negotiating like this guy.

Explain the situation, offer to upgrade to a different plan, and keep negotiating. Wear them down.

In the future ask for a cap on your monthly bill - shut your phone off if you're over $150.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:59 PM on July 29, 2014 [11 favorites]

Best answer: We overran by a few thousand minutes in the month after my father-in-law died and Verizon allowed us to retroactively switch to a plan with more minutes. It was a more expensive plan, of course, but the difference between the monthly plan amounts was significantly less than the cost of paying for the extra minutes! I think we may have had to sign a new 2-year contract on the new plan but it was very worth it.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:37 PM on July 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: In terms of getting things lowered/waived I've had success being upfront and realistic about my financial situation. This isn't really the same, but I got Time Warner to not-increase my rate for 3 years by calling them and just telling them I like internet but I can't afford this because I don't make enough money (which part of the reason it works is because it's true) and I think I need to cancel and being nice about it the whole time.

Basically, I think you are likely on the hook for the charges incurred. BUT if your situation is such that you can't afford to pay a $1100 bill (which I wouldn't), then it would make more financial sense for the phone company to put you on some monthly payment plan than to pay a collections department to deal with an ongoing hassle. I do have experience lowballing when I have a large payment I need to make. Usually I pitch it like, "Look, it's important to me to stay on top of my debt, but my financial situation is such that I can only pay X amount (include reasons sometimes). I really don't want this to go to collections, would you accept (whatever, $20 per month)?" Usually they are like, "No, $50 please" but my point is it is like a negotiation and you can get traction by being honest and likable.

On preview… I think the above advice might be better!!
posted by mermily at 9:40 PM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Nthing to just call, admit that you fucked up and that it's your mistake but that you didn't realize what you were getting yourself into, you'd like to stay with them as your provider, ask if they can help you figure out a better plan and switch you do it, and is there anything they can do to help out with the high charges because you can't afford them.

Be polite and human, but on't ramble too much. Ask, don't demand. The customer service person may bump you up to a manager because they may not be authorized to fix charges at this dollar-level. If you hit a wall with the agent and they can't help, you'll have to be the one to escalate it...this isn't a big deal, just thank them sincerely for their help and nicely ask to talk to their manager.
posted by desuetude at 10:16 PM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think the key is to say you can't afford, ask if there's anything they can do, and call back or elevate the call until you get someone who seems willing to help. You just have to be really persistent.

The one time I had Verizon, I wanted out of my contract because their service was having problems delivering my text messages to certain area codes. I reset my phone, sent it back to them and it just never got resolved and I got sick of calling them and having them give me the runaround. In other words, I gave up too easy. After my contract ended, I ran to Virgin Mobile where I pay $55 a month for unlimited talking, unlimited texting and unlimited data. No family plans, no time windows, just a flat rate.

If this person you're talking to isn't out of the country, it's absurd that you are paying "long distance" in 2014. Long-distance isn't a thing anymore and you are being severely screwed by your cell phone carrier.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:33 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had an experience exactly like Suffocating Kitty's--went to Canada for a week-long work thing, tried to keep my usage low but only partially succeeded, called AT&T and asked if there was anything they could do, and the rep retroactively switched me to their unlimited roaming plan (which I then cancelled later). The major telcoms know that people occasionally do this, and as long as you're not a serial offender there's a certain amount that they're willing to write off for customer goodwill (it works, too; Ma Bell basically has my business for life now, and here I am on the internet singing their praises.) Just ask if there's anything they can do to lower it. Saying that you're interested in adding another line going forward is also in your favor; they definitely want to keep you on the hook (punintentional) if you're about to up the money you're paying them every month.
posted by kagredon at 2:14 AM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: 1100 bucks? That's like $40 a day! Which is highway robbery.

If being nice fails, I'd ask for their "retention" department and say "give me 900 reasons I should not go over to T-Mobile, who will pay my early termination fees and sell me unlimited voice *and data* for $50 a month?"

These guys are desperate to keep on-contract postpaid subscribers like you who never think about their bill.

All phone companies suck. But Verizon is a special kind of evil. I would cease giving them my business if they don't lower your bill and suggest a plan that fits your usage. Frankly, no one should have significant limits on voice minutes in 2014 on a major carrier. Fuck that noise. That $1100 of talk cost Verizon about $3 to provide.

But you need to pay attention in the future as a matter of financial prudence, to all your expenses. Log in to your account and check your charges every week or something. You must have had some suspicion. You can't run up a bill like that on domestic minutes unless you're on the phone for a few hours every day.

Or buy a new phone on the same carrier as your partner so you get free minutes (why should you buy them a new phone?) or buy a prepaid phone charged with exactly how many dollars you can afford (but those are always a ripoff by the minute).

There are dozens of carriers, counting MVNOs, who offer unlimited talk on a cheap plan with a cheap phone (hey, you're just talking). You just paid for two years of service with the cheapest of them in one month of Verizon ripoff overage fees.

DTMFA. And by "motherfucker" I mean Verizon, but actually your LDR partner ought to chip in on a bill you both ran up.
posted by spitbull at 3:23 AM on July 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

Also, all you travelers, T-Mobile offers insanely cheap international voice and free international 3G data in like 200 countries, Canada included. It just works. No new SIM cards or local phone purchases.

I sound like an ad, but really I'm just a satisfied customer of 10 years paying $150 a month for unlimited data (3G after 2gb of LTE/4g on three of them, to be sure) and voice on three phone lines and a tablet with negligible concern about international travel and so far still solid customer service. I only curse them when I'm in a few rural places I go with weak network coverage (but TMo works fine in bush Alaska and the Ozarks, I can report).

When I had ATT I cursed them daily. My friends and family with Verizon have a similar loathing for their carrier.

I do not understand the appeal of ATT/Verizon/Sprint unless you live in a rural area.

You can do even better with Ting and other MVNOs if you are ok with the Sprint network.
posted by spitbull at 3:34 AM on July 30, 2014

Best answer: I had a similar situation a couple of times over the years with AT&T and T-Mobile and in both cases they offered to forgive me the overage if I switched to the higher plan that would have covered the minutes. The critical point was that they would only do it for the prior month, not further back. So call right away.
posted by Dragonness at 7:36 AM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

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