AT&T and RIM: Alienate your repeat customers with "Early Upgrades" and overpriced devices

AT&T and RIM: Alienate your repeat customers with "Early Upgrades" and overpriced devices

Summary: $399.00 PLUS an "Early Upgrade" charge? WTH?As some of you are aware, I am a BlackBerry user.



$399.00 PLUS an "Early Upgrade" charge? WTH?

As some of you are aware, I am a BlackBerry user. For the most part, this is not by choice -- I could certainly get by with another mobile device such as an iPhone 3G or T-Mobile G1 or any number of other competing units, if it wasn't for that fact that I use corporate email, specifically Lotus Notes, and the only way I can wirelessly sync a device with it is by using our BlackBerry Enterprise Server. In other words, if I want mobile corporate email, I can have any device in the world that I want as long as it's made by RIM.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" for more.

At the end of last week while traveling on business, I noticed that my AT&T BlackBerry 8820, which had been serving me for just over a year, was no longer taking a charge. Alas, the internal USB connector had become wobbly and dislodged from the PCB, as if it contracted a case of electronic rectal prolapse.

So the first thing I did when I got home was run to the local AT&T store and see if I could get it replaced at a reduced cost or repaired. No such luck -- the store clerk told me it was out of warranty, I would have to get a new unit.

"Okay, do you guys have the new Blackberry Bold? I need a full keyboard and I might as well upgrade to 3G".


"Great, let's go with it."

"Okay sir. But understand, you don't qualify for an upgrade at this time, so I'm going to have to charge you $75 as an early upgrade fee, you'll have to pay full retail on the unit, you'll need to renew with a 2-year contract, and the rebate on the Blackberry Bold is only $100"

"What the hell! I'm spending $75.00 more than I should be?"

"I'm sorry sir, but there's nothing we can do."


What a new AT&T Wireless customer pays for a Blackberry Bold (Source:

"So what you're telling me is even though I am a repeat customer, you're going to charge me more than what you would charge a new customer, plus hit me with additional fees because my device died early."

 "Unfortunately, yes."

"Goddamit. If I bought a freaking iPhone 3G you'd still be charging me that damn fee, but at least the stupid phone is half the price."

 "Yeah, the new RIM devices are awfully expensive. Do you really need one?"

"Well, I don't see a point in getting an EDGE-based Blackberry now, and I'm stuck with it if I want corporate sync."

"Man, that bites for you, dude."

"Goddamit. Just wrap the thing up and give me the new holster. Here's my freaking Mastercard."

"You want the 8GB storage card with that too?"

"How much is it?"


"Oh, what a bargain. Screw that, I'll buy it on Amazon."

Have you too been bitten by the dreaded "Early Upgrade" charge at your wireless carrier? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: BlackBerry, Hardware, Mobility, AT&T


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Makes me glad I'm cheap....

    When my $50 per month Verizon contract ended in 2006, I downgraded to a $20 Motorola Go-Phone and I buy a $100 card which lasts me nearly a year.
  • RE: AT

    You can use the Blackberry Connect software for Windows Mobile 5/6 to get your Lotus Domino mail through your Blackberry Enterprise Server using a Windows Mobile 6 device such as the HTC Tilt. I've been using it for months with no problem and my admin doesn't even realize I don't have a real Blackberry.

    Blackberry Connect for Windows Mobile:

    (scroll down on the page to find the actual download link)

    Dump that Blackberry!
  • Cell phone batteries, warranties, and lack of support

    Why does a phone sold with a two-year plan only have a one-year warranty?
    - Why did AT&T discontinue the "forever" warranty? (I paid $5 per month to keep my V60 under warranty for 8 years. I only switched phones when this policy was cancelled and needed to change from TDMA to GSM.)
    - Why doesn't AT&T support the phone for the life of the plan?

    My current phone is a LG CU500. I bought the phone the first month it was available. The original battery died at 10 months. The store did not stock batteries for a phone discontinued more than 6 months ago. The nearby AT&T Device Warranty center replaced the battery.

    The second battery died at 10 months. AT&T would not replace the battery. The warranty center did not stock batteries for phones no longer in the one year warranty. Calling phone warranty support received the same message. Visiting the store received a sales pitch to buy a new phone -- apparently the two-year wait for the discount is not a full two years, but no current phones have the swivel camera of the cu500. Could not buy the battery online from AT&T. Bought the battery for ~$20 from; arrived in AT&T packaging. (Be careful. The OEM is 1100mAh. Many online retailers sell a 700mAh battery for $8-$50.)

    I have been a AT&T customer for more than a decade, and currently am a "preferred" corporate customer. Why wouldn't AT&T spend $20 to keep me happy? My monthly AT&T bill is much higher. I disliked the hassle of not receiving support from AT&T.

    About LG cu500:
    GOOD: Camera swivels at top of phone for easy aiming from any position.
    BAD: Maximum 1GB (microSD) storage for audio recording, music, pictures, and video.
    BAD: Cannot access calendar during phone call.
  • RE: AT

    Bye the insurance then it's only $50.00
  • You ripped yourself off

    Who agrees to pay full price, lock into a 2yr contract, AND pay an additional $75 on top of all that? You should have walked away.
    • When you're a corporate customer

      You have no choice. What should have I done, pay an early termination fee of $250, and go over to another carrier?
      • When you're a corporate customer

        Here in the UK, we had a like-for-like free swap of blackberrys in the corporate environment if they broke. It was fairly cheap to courier it to the user - mind you distances are a little shorter here.

        But don't blame RIM, blame AT&T.
      • UK is better

        Even as a pay monthy consumer, you would have been 2 options by my employer if you were with us (Im sorry I know its coming across as spamming your storys but I do work for a cellphone company ok?), Firsty a one off fee of 70 pounds to get the same handset replaced like for like or alternativly 30 pound one off and then 6 pounds a month for insurance for atleast additional 4 months.
      • What you should have done...

        You made a poor choice..alas, the easy one that most sheeple would make, but still, a poor one. Tell me, are you one of those that bought a home in the last 5 years too? (LOL & J/K)

        Seriously though, your choices should have been:

        1) Contact RIM, I'm sure you can send your device in for repair at a cost. In fact, after 2 minute search I found out that RIM charges $190 to repair any out of warranty phone. See here:
        2) If repair from your manufacturer was not available, try a third party shop-- there are hundreds out there (in the NY/NJ area).
        3) Buy a used device. Dude, Craigslist, eBay, many places have these things used that can take your SIM card straightaway?
        4) If AT&T wants to punish you, return the favor: reduce your service to the lowest level ($29 per month), leave the phone in the basement and sign up with someone else. You save money by not being locked into the 3rd year or higher service fees, they lose because the revenue is going elsewhere.

        The only reason you paid up like a chump was because of the unwillingness to do your due diligence, for whatever your reasons (too busy, no time, LAZINESS, etc, etc.) it boils down to the fact that you just didn't try hard enough.

        And that is the problem with people today. They'd rather post some whiney blog about price instead of DOING something about it.
  • Unlocked Nokia

    Get yourself an unlocked Nokia and do what you want.
    You may spend a little more but you'll be happier in the long run.
    Mine is an N95. Adrian? E71:
  • RE: AT

    Blame your IT department for restricting your device (& carrier) choices. CommonTime sells the best Lotus Notes MOBILE device synchronization product out there. Any carrier and just about any device (smartphone or pda)
  • Alienating repeat customers ...

    ... is what ATT does. Regardless of what phone you use. I bought my first cell phone in 96 or 97, and it was on the PacBell network. PacBell got bought by SBC and changed to Cingular, and I remained a customer. Cingular became the New ATT and I remained a customer. To this day I have never been given any kind of benefit or leeway for being a customer for over a decade. I remain on ATT because they have the best price of all the major carriers for the specific kind of calling plan I want. But they really and truly suck when it comes to recognizing or rewarding repeat / long-term customers.
    Gravyboat McGee
    • And since you're still with them

      regardless of their lack of recognition, they have absolutely no incentive to give you anything for your loyalty.
      • Aye, therein lies the rub ...

        ... as a continuous customer I get no recognition or reward. If I were to jump ship every XX months and switch carriers, I'd get free phones and discounted plans galore, but I'd be facing the hassle of having to change my billing and possibly phone numbers and re-building contact lists etc, etc (regardless of the 'number portability' laws, some systems still tell you that you can't move yer number from service X to service Y because of yadda yadda yadda technical issue). I can avoid the hassles and be treated like dirt, or get the princely treatment and fight through all the possible and probable issues that arise from switching carriers. Well, I'm just lazy enough to take what ATT is dishing out. Doesn't mean I have to like it ;-)
        Gravyboat McGee
        • Indeed

          I feel your pain somewhat - I was a loyal Nextel customer for many years and they didn't recognize my years of customer loyalty, when they were bought by Sprint I didn't see a reciprocal recognition (a good friend of mine had went with Sprint the same time I went with Nextel and he got 10% off of his bill for customer loyalty)... And I transferred to Sprint and got one of their phones... and jumped ship from them due to bad CS and them trying to charge me for a business data plan when my plan already had unlimited data. So I went to AT&T and iPhone - and kept the same phone number I had from my Nextel days. The only reasons I'm with AT&T are that it is a family plan (my wife and daughter went to AT&T just prior to me going from Nextel to Sprint) and even with the iPhone I'm paying less than most comparable cell plans and I like my iPhone too much to switch.
  • Alienate potential customers, also

    A friend and I went to an AT&T store to check out the I-Phone and discovered that though I was in a AT&T coverage map area, I would be serviced by a 'partner'.

    Because of that fact they would not sell me a phone plan. I was told if the salesperson made a mistake and sold a plan to me that AT&T would send a notice of cancellation within a couple of months because my home zip code was not within their network.

    Special service from the Constitution violators.
  • RE: AT&T and RIM: Alienate your repeat customers with early upgrades and overpriced devices

    You have pointed out just one of the many unfair, and totally corrupt business practices, of cell phone companies.

    They lock you into 2 year contracts, but then only warranty the phone for a year.

    They charge 45 cents a minute, once you go over your 'plan', but provide no mechanism to warn you when this happens.

    Switching plans, even to one that costs more monthly, requires another 1 year commitment.

    If you take your Blackberry device out of the country and turn it on, it will download your email, at the prevailing international roaming charge. You can get a $2000 charge for data, in an hour, and you have no idea it's even happening.

    Etc. Etc.
  • RE: AT&T and RIM: Alienate your repeat customers with early upgrades and overpriced devices

    They lost my business about 2 months ago. All it took was considerable costs for new phones (batteries were bad and no longer available on my old ones) major charges for texting ( a major issue to my daughters ) and a very unpleasant sales clerk with a take it or leave it attitude.
    Don't worry, they managed to come up with extra charges on the way out, even though it was renewal time.
    dazzled and dazed
  • Blackberry Connect - most devices


    I learned recently you can use Blackberry connect on most devices(Nokia,Palm, HTC) to connect to your corporate blackberry enterprise server. That way you can choose the phone you want and at a cheaper prices that $400. Just a suggestion
    • It does have issue's though.

      The blackberry connect software for windows mobile atleast is quite buggy.
      It stopped msn messenger working on my htc and on my diamond.
      It even killed web browsing on my tytn 2 out side of the bis browser it installed.