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Wireless Shopping

Shopping for wireless phone service could be easier than it is. You can easily check out the calories per serving on food labels, and the costs of one particular credit card versus another–if only it were that easy with cell phones. It’s no simple task to compare one wireless phone plan against another. You have to do some homework to get the best deal.
Determining which calling plan suits your needs in terms of price, service and coverage and then trying to compare competing offers side-by-side can be a daunting task. It’s easy to see why consumers often end up with deals that don’t meet their expectations.
Shopping for cell phones would be a whole lot easier if every carrier had to present certain key price and service conditions on a standardized basis. Until that happens, consumers should carefully study all the fine print before committing to a plan. Read Consumers Union’s Model Service Standards
The beautiful actress or the man in the trench coat? Which to choose?
While advertisements might be clever and appealing, don’t rely solely on ads when choosing wireless phone service. In fact, the only thing consumers complain more about than wireless carrier marketing and advertising are billing and rates. State attorneys general have filed numerous suits against wireless carriers, based on violations of state laws prohibiting false advertising and unfair business practices.
How will you use the phone? An advertisement that sounds like a good deal could be a very costly mistake if you sign up for a calling plan that’s wrong for you.
Here are some things to consider:

–Will you use the phone more during the daytime or evenings and weekends?
–About how many hours will you use the phone to make and receive calls?
–Will the majority of calls be made near your home, or will you call while traveling?
–Will you make long distance calls from the cell phone?
–Will you use extra features, such as wireless web, voice mail, etc.?

Pick the right calling plan. Consider your own needs in evaluating and comparing calling plans. Do you need local, regional or national? Do you need more daytime minutes included? Is long distance extra or included? How does the carrier define the regions?
Read the fine print. Do not rely on advertisements or the word of a sales representative to give you all the details of the calling plan. Carefully read the Terms of Service Agreement, or contract. Look for additional charges and conditions, such as charges for usage over your allotted minutes; roaming charges; charges for directory assistance calls; termination penalties, etc. The contract may require binding arbitration. Contract terms may differ by retailer or agent–that is to say, the retailer may impose terms in addition to those set by the carrier.
Check out the carrier and the coverage. Ask the carrier if it offers a no-risk trial period that lets you try the phone. Check out the phone’s coverage (coverage maps are no longer required by federal rules, so you may not get one if you ask), dropped calls, ease of use. Carrier signals can be affected by topography, and sometimes fade inside buildings. Also, check with your friends and neighbors about their own experiences with a particular carrier’s coverage and customer service.