Negotiate your way to a better mobile phone deal

Rachel Lacey's picture

There’s one annual chore I’ve really come to hate. Given the time of year you’re probably thinking tax returns or maybe the obligatory January detox. No, what I’m having a grumble about is getting my mobile phone upgraded.

The term ‘upgrade’ suggests that in return for another year with the same supplier I should land myself a better deal. Well, not so if my experience with O2 is anything to go by.

Now I accept I may not be O2’s typical customer – as far as I’m concerned, so long as I can text and chat on a phone that isn’t so small it gets lost in my cavernous handbag, I’m happy. I certainly don’t need it to go online, listen to music or work out how many calories are in my lunch.

Ever the personal financial journalist, what matters to me is whether I’m getting good value for money and that’s where O2 upgrades seem to be lacking. Unless, that is, you put up a fight.

Now, I’ll admit that thanks to repeated negotiations with O2 over the years I am on a fairly good deal: my current £25 a month buys me 500 free minutes and 100 free texts, yet when I called in to ‘upgrade’ the best they could offer me was 200 minutes and 400 texts for £30 a month, over 18 months rather than 12. “So,” I said, “You want me to pay £60 more a year, tie myself in for longer and get less free minutes?” That’s hardly an upgrade.

So, as I have done for the last couple of years, I was forced to tell the now increasingly frustrated person at the other end of the line that I would have to think about cancelling my contract and taking my business elsewhere. Within a second I’ve been put through to ‘retentions’ where they seem to be a bit more amenable and I’m offered 400 minutes and 1000 texts for £25 a month. A better deal certainly, so I go away to research the handful of phones I’ve been offered online.

Call me a technophobe, but this is the bit I really dislike. My own phone does the job ok, and I neither need, nor want a new one. So rather than trail through several mobile phone review sites – which from my experience only serve to add to the confusion – I rang O2 back and asked what they would offer me just to keep my own phone.

It was only at this point that I was offered a really good deal – 500 minutes and 500 texts for £20 a month, plus £150 cash-back. Ok, so it did take a fair bit of huffing and puffing but it does show that if you are willing to negotiate you can get a really good deal.


Your Comments

Hi Rachel,

I'm no financial journalist, but I do enjoy writing. Recently, like you, I've turned my skills to the potentially stressful art of tight negotiation. Like you, I've got a contract with 02 which had today in fact, come up for renewal. The conversation with the 02 'negotiator' on the blower went something like this:

Me: "Good morning -- I would love to stay with 02 but with one of your competitors I notice this super deal for £15.00 per month. What can you offer me for £10.00 per month?"

02 Negotiator: Stunned silence for rather a lengthy time, during which I thought I had lost him, then: "Erm, what sort of deal were you looking for?"

Me: "Well, I was thinking of unlimited texts and 300 minutes rollover for £10.00 per month."

02: "Erm, I can't do that for you at that price. What about 600 texts and ......."

Me: "Your competitors' deal looks far more tempting at moment, unless we can reach a compromise, I'll go to them."

02: "Well, if you keep your phone, I can offer you £150 cashback, unlimited texts and 600 minutes a month, for the price of £20 per month."

(I did some quick mental arithmetic; not my strongest point, but I worked out I'd probably still be paying around £15 and had a good deal).

Me: "That sounds reasonable, I'll take that, thank you."

After the conversation I used the calculator on my phone (the only 'extra' application I use) and worked out that with over 18 months, with the £150 cashback, I would only in fact be paying £11.67 a month! So, yes, I would suggest to people that it is definately worth learning how to negotiate. I think the trick is to get a clear picture in your mind of what you want from the deal and really, REALLY believe that you will achieve what you want. People are often very nervous about haggling, but perhaps the way to look at it is to think that it is your right to get the best price for an item or a service. Remember the seller will do just about anything to ensure they get the sale, especially in these difficult economic times.

Steve Nicholls

I'm in a similar situation to you in that my phone contract with O2 expired last week. I called them up yesterday to announce that I'd negotiated a deal with Vodafone on a phone that I wanted and could O2 match it. 'Mike' at O2 said "No, we don't sell that item over the phone" however after lengthy negotiations and asking for my PAC (Port Authorisation Code - this is what you need to change networks and keep your existing number. As soon as you ask for your PAC they get all nervous and start throwing freebies at you because suddenly they actually think you know what you're talking about and are serious about leaving!) I got offered a good deal. My old contract was 750 mins and 750 texts for £35 per month. Not bad I hear you say, but I'm broke and I want more...for less...much more and much less. I then spoke to "Clare" at O2 who was very nice (to be honest Mike seemed to grunt quite a lot and I found him quite rude). She eventually offered me a similar handset to the one I was looking at before for......(drum role please).......600 mins, 2000 texts, unlimited internet and a phone for £97 all for £20 per month! A great deal yes, but I told her to put a note on my account so I could come back to her. I'm off to an O2 store today with my new bargaining weapon to see what else I can blag and try and get a similar deal with a free or at least cheaper phone - £97 is far too much, especially when I wanted a different one originally!

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