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Ledgem

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jan 18, 2008
1,988
851
Hawaii, USA
As a bit of an explainer to non-Americans who might not be aware, our telecommunications companies are seemingly always looking for ways to get extra money out of customers for basically doing nothing, and this took the cake for that.

I upgraded my iPhone recently, making the purchase at an Apple Store. The retail experience at the stores has really gone downhill; wait times even on non-product launch days and not on weekends is incredibly long, and I've had multiple instances where I'm put on a list for a representative to help me, only to check in a bit later and discover that my name has somehow dropped off the list. Bemoaning the general retail experience aside, I was a bit shocked at a part of the sales process I had with an Apple Store employee who was really quite nice and helpful, and I'm guessing either had a misunderstanding or was instructed to say these things.

I'm a long-time AT&T user, so naturally the store employee selected an AT&T phone for me. Things were proceeding smoothly until we got to the end. For a reason that wasn't clear to me, they ran things through my phone plan. Everything checked out, and right before I hit the button to accept everything, the store employee told me that AT&T would be charging me a $30 upgrade fee.

An upgrade fee from AT&T? What on earth for? I wasn't doing any special financing, nor was I changing my phone plan. I wouldn't even be taking a new SIM card requiring a number transfer - I'd be using the SIM card from my old phone. There was literally nothing that needed to involve AT&T in this transaction. The salesperson noted that AT&T wasn't unique in this, and that other cellular providers also charge upgrade fees. Yet to me, this made no sense.

I apologized to the salesperson, knowing that this would set us back a bit, and asked if they had any of the SIM-free (generic unlocked) versions of the phone configuration that I wanted. They did. She noted that there would indeed be no "upgrade fee" associated with this version, but it wasn't recommended. It would work, but I might experience more frequent call drops or random service outages if I didn't pay the upgrade fee. To the best of my knowledge (and experience, because this was far from my first time transferring SIM cards between unlocked phones) that was an untruth, but I didn't want to be one of those annoying customers who pick fights with salespeople, so I just let her explain her part and politely said I'd take my chances.

But she wasn't done. SIM cards have shelf lives, she told me. She admitted that she wasn't entirely sure whether that meant there was a limited number of times you could swap them between phones, or if it was based on the age of the SIM card, but it was another frightening-sounding reason to go with the AT&T phone. Again, to the best of my knowledge, this is another untruth. I pressed forward with my request. A quick cancellation of the sales process, running the AT&T version back, and bringing out the SIM-free version, and I was on my way.

I am a technology fan and regularly read about technology and its developments. It is crazy to me that you would need to have a level of comfort and "expertise" to not be swindled in this manner. I wonder just how many people are needlessly paying this "upgrade fee" for absolutely nothing. I am also incredibly disappointed in Apple. When I looked it up later, the upgrade fee is only supposed to come into play in certain conditions: if you're financing through the phone company, or if you're changing your plan. Granted, the article is outdated by about two years, but to me those are occasions where the "upgrade fee" sort of makes sense. So it's possible that this represented a lack of training on the salesperson's part... but the whole bit about why I should go with the AT&T version instead of the locked version was utter nonsense and came off as a scare tactic that I'd expect from an AT&T employee, not an Apple Store salesperson.

I should note that I also recently upgraded my wife's iPhone through Apple's online store, of course getting a generic unlocked one. There were no notices about having problems with service, nor with SIM card degradation.

For multiple reasons, I think I'll be steering clear of the physical Apple Store locations for anything besides having a look at the products in person. I will provide feedback to Apple on this experience. But I thought I'd post about it here, partly to warn others to make sure that they're not getting ripped off.
 

zorinlynx

macrumors 604
May 31, 2007
6,898
12,252
Florida, USA
As a bit of an explainer to non-Americans who might not be aware, our telecommunications companies are seemingly always looking for ways to get extra money out of customers for basically doing nothing, and this took the cake for that.

I upgraded my iPhone recently. The retail experience at the stores has really gone downhill; wait times even on non-product launch days and not on weekends is incredibly long, and I've had multiple instances where I'm put on a list for a representative to help me, only to check in a bit later and discover that my name has somehow dropped off the list. Bemoaning the general retail experience aside, I was a bit shocked at a part of the sales process I had with an Apple Store employee who was really quite nice and helpful, and I'm guessing either had a misunderstanding or was instructed to say these things.

I'm a long-time AT&T user, so naturally the store employee selected an AT&T phone for me. Things were proceeding smoothly until we got to the end. For a reason that wasn't clear to me, they ran things through my phone plan. Everything checked out, and right before I hit the button to accept everything, the store employee told me that AT&T would be charging me a $30 upgrade fee.

An upgrade fee from AT&T? What on earth for? I wasn't doing any special financing, nor was I changing my phone plan. I wouldn't even be taking a new SIM card requiring a number transfer - I'd be using the SIM card from my old phone. There was literally nothing that needed to involve AT&T in this transaction. The salesperson noted that AT&T wasn't unique in this, and that other cellular providers also charge upgrade fees. Yet to me, this made no sense.

I apologized to the salesperson, knowing that this would set us back a bit, and asked if they had any of the SIM-free (generic unlocked) versions of the phone configuration that I wanted. They did. She noted that there would indeed be no "upgrade fee" associated with this version, but it wasn't recommended. It would work, but I might experience more frequent call drops or random service outages if I didn't pay the upgrade fee. To the best of my knowledge (and experience, because this was far from my first time transferring SIM cards between unlocked phones) that was an untruth, but I didn't want to be one of those annoying customers who pick fights with salespeople, so I just let her explain her part and politely said I'd take my chances.

But she wasn't done. SIM cards have shelf lives, she told me. She admitted that she wasn't entirely sure whether that meant there was a limited number of times you could swap them between phones, or if it was based on the age of the SIM card, but it was another frightening-sounding reason to go with the AT&T phone. Again, to the best of my knowledge, this is another untruth. I pressed forward with my request. A quick cancellation of the sales process, running the AT&T version back, and bringing out the SIM-free version, and I was on my way.

I am a technology fan and regularly read about technology and its developments. It is crazy to me that you would need to have a level of comfort and "expertise" to not be swindled in this manner. I wonder just how many people are needlessly paying this "upgrade fee" for absolutely nothing. I am also incredibly disappointed in Apple. When I looked it up later, the upgrade fee is only supposed to come into play in certain conditions: if you're financing through the phone company, or if you're changing your plan. Granted, the article is outdated by about two years, but to me those are occasions where the "upgrade fee" sort of makes sense. So it's possible that this represented a lack of training on the salesperson's part... but the whole bit about why I should go with the AT&T version instead of the locked version was utter nonsense and came off as a scare tactic that I'd expect from an AT&T employee, not an Apple Store salesperson.

I should note that I also recently upgraded my wife's iPhone through Apple's online store, of course getting a generic unlocked one. There were no notices about having problems with service, nor with SIM card degradation.

For multiple reasons, I think I'll be steering clear of the physical Apple Store locations for anything besides having a look at the products in person. I will provide feedback to Apple on this experience. But I thought I'd post about it here, partly to warn others to make sure that they're not getting ripped off.

I always buy and finance through Apple and move my SIM card myself. Never been charged a fee.

AT&T even replaced my SIM card for free once when it became outdated and didn't support VoLTE and WiFi calling the year the iPhone 6 came out. As long as you avoid involving AT&T in the phone upgrade you will pay nothing.

Also, SIM cards don't expire or "wear out". At worst they won't support new network features but apparently replacing them is free when they don't.
 
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eyoungren

macrumors Core
Aug 31, 2011
23,841
17,688
ten-zero-eleven-zero-zero by zero-two
Apple genius was probably misinformed, either a former AT&T rep or told to say those things (as you mentioned).

None of it's true of course. I've avoided activation fees simply by swapping SIMs, just like most people do. The current SIMs we have in our phones and iPads are over four years old.

I avoid activation fees for new SIMs by either getting on eBay or elsewhere. They can be had for nothing or next to nothing, versus the $25 T-Mobile wants to charge.

Hopefully, this isn't a trend. You're supposed to be able to ask Apple for a new SIM free of charge.
 

jbachandouris

macrumors 603
Aug 18, 2009
5,479
2,476
Upstate NY
The upgrade fee has nothing to do with Apple, but the carriers themselves. As stated, if you swap SIMS from the old phone to the new, that should solve it. Blaming Apple for the carriers' greed solves nothing.
 
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eyoungren

macrumors Core
Aug 31, 2011
23,841
17,688
ten-zero-eleven-zero-zero by zero-two
The upgrade fee has nothing to do with Apple, but the carriers themselves. As stated, if you swap SIMS from the old phone to the new, that should solve it. Blaming Apple for the carriers' greed solves nothing.
Blaming Apple for carrier greed would be one thing if Apple got it right. But being misinformed about how the carrier is supposed to apply that greed to the customer and then trying to extract it from the customer is another.

OP is blaming Apple's ignorance and misapplication of the carrier's policies, not their application of them.
 

vertical smile

macrumors 603
Sep 23, 2014
5,949
6,799
The retail experience at the stores has really gone downhill;

This has been my experience as well. I used to love making a trip to the Apple Store, now I literally dread it.

It would work, but I might experience more frequent call drops or random service outages if I didn't pay the upgrade fee.
I doubt that she was trained to say this, I think she was just not knowledgeable about Apple's products.
This seems to be a growing trend for Apple's Support reps, Geniuses, and sales.

But she wasn't done. SIM cards have shelf lives, she told me.
At this point, I probably would have asked to speak to someone else.

Apple genius was probably misinformed
This is probably the case.


Blaming Apple for the carriers' greed solves nothing.
Even if the carriers had a bunch of charges, it is Apple's fault that their employee was telling things that are not true.

I had a similar experience a few months ago when I was making a claim with AC+ for my iPhone.

The support rep asked me if there was water damage, which I replied that there wasn't any AFAIK. She then informed me that if water damage was found then I would have to pay the full price of the phone.

I told her that water damage is covered on the AC+ warranty, then first she argued that water damage isn't covered, she then changed her mind and said that water damage is only covered if I admitted to exposing it to water.

I told her that there is no way that she is right about this, she then transferred me to her supervisor, he agreed with me about the water damage policy and finished processing the claim.

I have a lot more stories like this one.

As a very longtime Apple user, in my experience, Apple's quality in HW, SW, and support has really gone down hill over the past 6 years.
 

benshive

macrumors demi-god
Feb 26, 2017
714
6,139
United States
I'm with AT&T and I only remember a $25 activation fee that gets tacked on to the next bill after I upgrade, and this is going directly through AT&T. Thanks for the story. This will be good to keep in mind the next time that I upgrade.
 

Puppuccino

macrumors 6502
Sep 24, 2019
439
413
Mobile networks are awful things that over charge on everything and try every game there is, I’m not surprised. I’d assume Apple would be better but obviously that’s not always the case.

I’ve always bought SIM-only deals and buy my phone separate. You always end up paying more in the long term otherwise.
 

Ledgem

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jan 18, 2008
1,988
851
Hawaii, USA
Unless financing, I am unsure why one wouldn't get a SIM-free iPhone?
I'm not sure, either. And that's part of my disappointment with them. Even if they have phones earmarked for AT&T customers (for what ever reason), why wouldn't the representative go with an option that would save the customer money if it's all going to work the same in the end, anyway? I don't think I should have to lay it out for her that the SIM-free option is the one I really need; that's her job to be aware of whether they should be bringing out the SIM-free or the AT&T-versioned phone.

As for her explainers behind the SIM card, I don't think she was knowingly lying - she probably misunderstood something, or was just going off of what someone told her. I suppose it's also possible that she was digging a bit to try and save face for going with the AT&T version instead of the SIM-free one in the first place, but she seemed nice enough that I don't think that was the case...

A customer shouldn't have to have much specialized knowledge about this. The sales specialist should note which carrier they're using, note that there's nothing special going on about plan changes or financing, and choose the option that is most cost-efficient for the customer. If they get into this habit then they run the risk of being regarded similarly to car dealerships and some car shops. Nobody wants to pay for things that are unnecessary and that could be avoided.
 

1rottenapple

macrumors 68040
Apr 21, 2004
3,950
2,052
People need to stop calling them geniuses. Apple could really improve the shopping/pick up experience by adopting an amazon locker like setting. They can just put you watch, AirPod, mac computer in these lockers as you pick them up. No wait just use the app to let them know you are on the way and just pick it up.

I got the Pro and its so dumb to have to wait in line to pick something up when you can solve these and probably save on labor and not hire a few workers by using a locker system.
 

magicMac

macrumors 6502a
Apr 13, 2010
836
271
UK
I always buy and finance through Apple and move my SIM card myself. Never been charged a fee.

AT&T even replaced my SIM card for free once when it became outdated and didn't support VoLTE and WiFi calling the year the iPhone 6 came out. As long as you avoid involving AT&T in the phone upgrade you will pay nothing.

Also, SIM cards don't expire or "wear out". At worst they won't support new network features but apparently replacing them is free when they don't.

there was a thing circa-2006 in the UK where a few operators did need to send out new SIM cards so customers could use their new 3G network and beyond; but this is only because the likes of o2 and vodafone in the UK were still issuing basic GSM-only SIM cards right up until their 3G launch, whilst the rest of the world had moved on. Three were the first operator in the UK to issue UMTS based SIM cards (USIM) and did so from the beginning in 2003 as it was required for their 3G network at the time. But indeed since this transition from GSM to UMTS SIM over 10 years ago, access to 4G and 5G and other features should not require a new SIM at all. OP was being swindled man !
 

Khedron

Suspended
Sep 27, 2013
2,561
5,735
Terrible customer experience.

And just think how much worse things will be when you don't have a physical SIM card in your hand you can transfer between phones yourself but are forced to jump through the carrier's hoops every singe update.

This is why you MUST say no to Apple's abysmal eSIM and demand dual physical SIMs (like Tim is willing to give Chinese customers but not others).
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People need to stop calling them geniuses. Apple could really improve the shopping/pick up experience by adopting an amazon locker like setting. They can just put you watch, AirPod, mac computer in these lockers as you pick them up. No wait just use the app to let them know you are on the way and just pick it up.

I got the Pro and its so dumb to have to wait in line to pick something up when you can solve these and probably save on labor and not hire a few workers by using a locker system.

This is why in the UK I buy Apple products from Amazon or Argos. Apple stores are a joke.

The only Apple product I trusted an Apple store to provide is my AirPods shortly after they launched, and fortunately that experience was just about bearable.
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Mobile networks are awful things that over charge on everything and try every game there is, I’m not surprised. I’d assume Apple would be better but obviously that’s not always the case.

I’ve always bought SIM-only deals and buy my phone separate. You always end up paying more in the long term otherwise.

Never assume Apple is better. They sided with AT&T with their 5Ge scam so expect them to always be willing to screw customers for the benefit of carriers.
 
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SisterBlue22

macrumors demi-goddess
Apr 29, 2015
1,696
2,701
Arizona
People need to stop calling them geniuses. Apple could really improve the shopping/pick up experience by adopting an amazon locker like setting. They can just put you watch, AirPod, mac computer in these lockers as you pick them up. No wait just use the app to let them know you are on the way and just pick it up.

I got the Pro and its so dumb to have to wait in line to pick something up when you can solve these and probably save on labor and not hire a few workers by using a locker system.

The Apple Store sales reps aren't called "geniuses". The people who work at the Genius Bar (that you make an appointment with when you have an issue) are called geniuses.
 
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