Confessions of a Cell Phone Salesman

It’s no surprised to anyone to find out that companies are always trying to sell you more product and service than you actually need. But it’s not always so easy to tell how they craft their pitch to make a luxury sound like a necessity.

Shopping for a new cell phone plan has quickly become just about as complicated as shopping for a new car. Minutes, data plans, insurance. Touch screens, 3G, mobile apps. What do you actually need, and how do you separate it from the clutter?

Steve Burnside worked as a sales rep for for a major carrier for years. He says the sales staff at cell phone retailers are pressured to up-sell devices, plans and accessories whenever possible – convincing consumers to spend more than they might have intended. As always, one of the best defenses is doing your homework and arming yourself with information. Know what the competitors are doing and don’t let the hottest, newest phone detract you from what you really need, Burnside said.

Adding to that, Jeffrey Blyskal, senior editor at Consumer Reports, explained that many of the big carriers are easing on their two-year contract requirements. For more flexibility, consider going with a one-year agreement or even without a contract if the option is available. But be forewarned that the phone will cost more the shorter time you are committed to the carrier. Blyskal also stressed the importance of price shopping for added services. Things like text and photo messaging, web access and data services will add up quickly, so if you need any of those features make sure you check out all available carriers to find the best deals. But, like with shopping for a home, stay away from buying too much product. Decide in advance how much phone you need, Blyskal said – not just how many features but also how many minutes. And if you’re being pressured into a seemingly good deal with added features you didn’t know you needed, remember this: A deal isn’t a deal unless you absolutely need what you’re buying.