AT&T promised me a free iPhone — or did it?

1000 Words / Shutterstock.com
1000 Words / Shutterstock.com
Tomas Stockton is offered a “free” iPhone 5 from AT&T. So why isn’t he getting it?

Question: I recently spoke with an AT&T representative via chat about a billing issue with my U-verse Internet account. After resolving the issue, she offered me wireless service.

At first I declined, stating that I was happy with my current carrier. But the representative persisted and offered me a family plan consisting of four lines of service and four “free” iPhone 4s’s for $179 per month with all taxes, surcharges and fees included.

Then I asked about the iPhone 5s and the representative stated that I could switch all of my iPhone 4s’s to the new iPhone 5s’s for free after 30 days. I was very skeptical and told her to contact me in 10 days. I printed our chat session as evidence.

A few days later, I called AT&T and spoke with a different representative and explained the offer. After I told her that I had it in writing, she agreed to honor it. She said that after 30 days, all I had to do is walk into an AT&T corporate store and pick up my free iPhone 5s’s.

A month later, I walked into the AT&T corporate store to pick up my free iPhone 5s’s and they had no idea who I was and could not find any notes on my account or any history of the offer.

I contacted AT&T, and a representative explained that the U-verse representative did not have the authorization to make that offer, and since it was not part of any current AT&T promotion, they would not be honoring it.

Please understand that I am happy with AT&T’s wireless service. I just want them to honor their offer of the free iPhone 5s’s. Can you help? — Tomas Stockton, Round Rock, TX

Answer: When someone offers you something for “free,” don’t walk away — run! Even if AT&T’s written offer had been legit — and I’m not saying it was — then the “free” part was a scam. No one is giving away “free” iPhones. At best, they are included in the price of your purchase.

To know just how brainwashed the buying public has become in regards to the word “free,” I point you to the hateful comment on this post about the true meaning of “free.”

You can’t make this stuff up. People believe in free, even when the facts say otherwise.

Only this time was different. At least, that’s what you thought. You were led to believe that you could walk into an AT&T store just 30 days after buying four iPhone 4s’s and trade them in for iPhone 5s’s at no additional charge. (That’s not a “free” phone, by the way; the price of your original iPhone 4s’s would have included an upgrade. If it were truly free, then AT&T would be handing out iPhones on the street corner. Last time I checked, it wasn’t.)

By the way, wireless companies are notorious abusers of the word “free.” Look at all these free phones from the AT&T site. Are they really “free”? No, they are not. You have to sign a contract and pay AT&T real money to get your hands on one.

You might have appealed your case to someone higher up at AT&T. I list their executives on my customer service wiki. But I’m not sure if it would have done you any good.

I went back and forth with AT&T on this issue several times. A representative reviewed your grievance and said you were right about the first iPhone 4s offer.

“The confusion comes when we get to the iPhone 5s issue,” he says. “We would not have offered anyone four of these devices for free. They were, still are, a leading product for us and that’s something we wouldn’t have done. We are just not sure how the customer might have gotten that impression.”

The chat transcript shows a representative saying you can upgrade your iPhone “and there is no fee.” But you interpreted that as AT&T saying the entire upgrade would cost nothing. AT&T sees it differently. It says that it was only agreeing to waive the upgrade fees, but not the cost of the phone.

You’re going to have to keep those iPhone 4s’s. Don’t worry, they’ll be eligible for an upgrade in two years.

Was AT&T's offer too confusing?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend