Wirefly.com: Cheap Prices, Cheap Service
Dec 13, 2006 (Updated Dec 20, 2006)
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After deciding to purchase the LG VX8600 phone, I decided to buy the phone from Wirefly.com, because it featured the best price I've found so far (free with rebate). This is the first cell phone I bought online.
Browsing through the Wirefly.com site, I could see that they had a pretty comprehensive inventory, at least as far as I could tell. For example, I also browsed Amazon.com, and found that they didn't even sell the LG VX8600 yet. And while they are selling the LG VX8500 (the "Chocolate"), which is another phone I considered buying, it was $49.99 after rebate for the original black phone, and $99.99 after rebate for the new color phones. Wirefly.com offers all these phones for free after rebate.
They sell the newest phones, and they offer the best prices. This made Wirefly.com seem like a good option.
Placing the order is a fairly straightforward process. Click the phone you want, click the options you want, including the type of calling plan you want, and the features you want to add to your plan (e.g., text messaging package, etc.) I was pretty happy with Wirefly.com so far, because they seemed to have very complete and accurate descriptions for both the phone and the service provider.
You can also select an option to switch your existing wireless phone number to your new phone. (You will need your account number.) I definitely wanted to keep my number, so I made sure to enter this information.
There is a button at a few stages during the ordering process which invites you to place your order on the phone. If you click it, you get a toll-free number and a "Call Code" which you can give to continue your order on the phone.
I was ordering two phones with a family plan. Although they advertise that you get free two-day FedEx shipping with your order, they charged me $9.99 because I ordered two phones. ($14.99 for Next-Day shipping.) That's ... kind of stupid. Eh, whatever.
After reviewing my order, I went ahead and placed the order. I also printed the receipt.
ORDERING: After Order is Placed
The next morning, I checked my e-mail and thought it was odd that I hadn't received a confirmation e-mail from Wirefly.com. The receipt I printed out did tell me to go www.whereismyorder.com to check on the status of my order. So I did.
The status page said me that I should call Customer Service or Live Chat with them, because there was a problem with my order. I called them, but I was on hold for a pretty long time. (Over 15 minutes.) When I finally got someone, she told me that the phone numbers I wanted to switch over were not in the area of my mailing address, so they couldn't complete my order.
There was no notice of this policy during my ordering process. But keeping my numbers was important to me. I asked them to change my address to a friend's who lives in that area code, and she can receive the phones for me. All was well ... or so I thought.
Soon after giving her the new address, I checked my e-mail, and got a message that says, "Great news! We are shipping your order! ... As you requested, we are transferring your existing number (xxx) xxx-xxxx ..." But this wasn't great news at all. The problem was, that wasn't my phone number!
I definitely did not want new phone numbers. So I had to call Wirefly.com back. I was on hold again, but I finally talked to someone, and asked them to cancel my order, which they did.
I placed my order again. This time, I entered my friend's address, and requested again to transfer my existing phone number.
When I checked the order status again, there was another problem and I needed to call them back. After being on hold for a while, the person I talked to told me to call Verizon directly, and gave me an Account number.
So then I called Verizon. It turns out that my earlier order (with new phone numbers I didn't want) had already created an account with Verizon, so when they received the new order, there was a blip in the system - i.e., because I was no longer a brand-new customer, I may not be eligible for the new-user rebates. Once I explained to the Verizon rep. what happened, they agreed to delete the first account.
ETA: A week after I had this problem, I received a bill from Verizon for over $400.00!! Because of the two new accounts that were erroneously created and canceled just hours later, Verizon billed me for the activation fees and cancellation fees for both phones. I had to call Verizon (again!) and was luckily able to clear up the situation. But still, what a pain.
ORDERING: Annoyance Begins
When I checked the order status again, there was yet another problem! I had to call them back ... and be put on hold yet again.
And when I finally got a hold of someone, they told me to call Verizon again. The reason this time was because I had changed my mailing address, which caused a blip in their credit check, and they wanted to ask me a few question to verify my identity. This is fine and understandable. Wirefly.com also told me I should get an "approval code" or something from Verizon, and call them back and tell them.
After verifying my identity with Verizon's credit department, I asked them for an "approval code." But they told me I was approved, and that was all I needed to tell Wirefly.com.
ORDERING: Annoyance Turns to Aggravation:
I wasn't annoyed about having to verify my credit info. Wirefly.com wants to make sure I'm approved before they ship my phone, and Verizon wants to make sure my credit is good and there is no identity fraud going on. That's fair.
In any case, I call Wirefly.com back ... and then they do the silliest thing.
The guy I'm speaking to puts me on a conference call with Verizon. And once we get connected, he just ... doesn't say anything. I'm like, 'What's going on? And the Verizon rep. is like, "Hello? Why did you call?" And the Wirefly.com rep ... has nothing to say.
Anyway, So I ask the Verizon lady if my credit is approved, to which she says yes. And then I ask the Wirefly.com rep, "Was that the information you needed?" And he says, "Yeah, I think so."
Basically, I don't understand why Wirefly.com didn't just call and ask them directly. I'm not sure why I needed to be on the line. The entire thing took more than 15 minutes.
ORDERING: Mistakes Were Made
Wirefly.com definitely made some mistakes.
- The first is that they did not make clear to me during the ordering process that I could only transfer my number if my mailing address was in the same area code.
If you see this link:
You will see that it doesn't explain that anywhere on this page.
- The second mistake is that they put the order through by assigning me new phone numbers without consulting me. Because of their mistake, I had to call them and cancel my order with them, and again with Verizon. That was four unnecessary and time-wasting phone calls I had to make. And then a week later, I was billed for the activation and cancellation fees ($420) for the erroneously created account, which I had to clear up myself.
After messing up my order, isn't is really Wirefly's job to make sure Verizon didn't go ahead with creating an account? They made the mistake in the first place, and I had to deal with all the fallout.
- They're also not so great with e-mails. After placing an order, I did not receive a confirmation e-mail. In fact, I never received any e-mail during all those problems they were having with my order - I only learned I had a problem by checking my order at the www.whereismyorder.com site. In fact, they only sent me e-mail when the order is shipping.
- Also, while I understand that I needed to call Verizon to verify my identity, once I did that, there is no reason Wirefly.com reps could have not verified my approval on their own.
So it was pretty aggravating, with all the time I wasted on the phone, being on hold, or explaining for the 12th time what was going on. In the midst of the whole process, I was ready to just give up and forget Wirefly.com. But at some point, Verizon had already begun porting my phone number from T-Mobile, and canceling the order means I could lose my phone number, and I didn't want that to happen.
ORDERING: Overall Impression
Wirefly.com has a very do-it-yourself feel to it. As I mentioned above, you can call them to place an order. But when I called the ordering line because I was on hold with the customer service line for so long, a voice message clearly told me that the orderling line won't have any information about existing orders. How crafty of them. So there is little choice but to deal with being on hold with customer service.
Also, the customer service phone number only appears on the order page *after* you placed your order. And the "Order by Phone" button appears only when you've begun the ordering process. I.e., there is no dedicated page that lists their contact information.
I'm also not crazy about their failure to communicate with you - they don't even e-mail you an order confirmation, or notices of order problems. It's completely on you to keep track of your order by logging on to their website.
And because they fail to communicate with you about order problems, your only notice is by checking your order online. And the site only tell you that there is a problem, they don't tell you what the problem is. So you have to call them and do the legwork yourself.
Their return policy is a bit draconian, as well. You have to initiate a return in 15 days, and they must receive it by 30 days. I guess this is fine, but you do have only 15 days to discover any problems with your new phone & service. (At the store, they give you a full 30 days.) In addition, they will authorize (but not charge) your credit card for $250, in case something goes wrong with the return. If something's wrong with my return, isn't just keeping my money good enough? I guess they do this because they are charging you less upfront.
I still don't like it. What if the return shipment is damaged through no fault of your own? I think the retailer should try to claim that loss with the carrier's insurance first, and not suck the money out of your credit card.
Once the order is complete, they activate your phone before they ship it to you. If you are porting your old number to your phone like I did, the process of "porting" the number has already begun, and your old phone will, in theory, eventually be cut off. (Wirefly.com does tell you to not call your service provider to cancel the account yourself - you can lose your number.) And hopefully, you will receive your new phone before the old phone cuts off.
Upon shipment, they will send you an e-mail (finally, a blessed e-mail!). Once again, you are directed to www.whereismyorder.com for tracking information.
I got my phone via FedEx in two days. (My only complaint with this is that after the string of mistakes by Customer Service, they promised to upgrade me to FedEx Next-Day for free, but they didn't. Blah, whatever.)
The packaging was definitely inadequate. Inside the box were my two original phone boxes, and just *one* of those air pillows that Amazon.com also uses. And my air pillow popped, so it was just a flat plastic bag, and provided no padding for the phone boxes which were just rolling around the bigger box. (Luckily, the phones were fine.)
Activating the phones was pretty easy. The enclosed instructions were easy to follow, and within minutes, my phone was working with my old phone numbers! So that was neat. (FYI, my old T-Mobile phone was still able to send, but not receive calls with my old number, too, for a few hours. That was weird. It eventually cut off, though.)
(The instructions do advise you in THIS TYPEFACE!!! to charge your phone for 24 hours before activating it. I guess so it doesn't shut off during the activation process or something? I totally pooh-poohed that and just left my phone plugged in while I activated it. And besides, it was fully charged in like 30 minutes anyway, so there. I live dangerously.)
Each of my phones cost $99.99 with two rebates totalling $100 ($30 + $70). One of the requirements of this rebate is that I need to send in a Verizon Wireless bill for this phone that is dated 150 days after my purchase date that shows my account is active and in good standing. So I need to wait about 6 months before I can request this rebate. Who knows when I get my check after that?
The phone is advertised as free, but you still have to pay upfront, and you will also pay sales tax on the original price. And if you buy more than one phone, you have to pay for shipping.
Paying for something and getting your money back 7-8 months later? I don't really call that "free". But it's still the best price I've found, even without the rebates.
However, while the phone I'm buying (the LG VX8600) cost $99.99 up front, there are other phones that have no upfront costs at all. E.g., Cingular's LG CU500. (For this particular phone, you will still be charged a "Processing Fee" of $9.00 + tax.) So if you don't want to deal with the rebate, there are other options. [ETA: The savings are still contingent on your maintaining your wireless account in good standing for a certain period of time - which is how Wirefly makes their money from the sale. So if you violate those terms, you could be on the hook for the cost of the phone at a later time.]
---Edited to Add:---
Epinions member beyondmemes gave me a heads up that my having changed my billing address with Verizon Wireless may jeopardize my rebate submission.
I looked on the rebate forms I got with my order, and also on whereismyorder.com, and these are the requirements for the rebate:
(1) copy of sales receipt (from Wirefly.com)
(2) copy of UPC from phone box (some rebates may require the original UPC)
(3) copy of wireless bill dated 150 days after activation date (on your sales receipt)
Regarding the bill, the site says the following:
You need only include the specific page(s) from your wireless bill showing the following required information:
- Wireless Service Provider Bill Date (date of the statement or invoice)
- Mobile Number
- Carrier Account Number at time of claim submission
- Section showing that all previous balances have been paid in full
So there is no requirement that my billing addresses need to match.
I called Verizon Wireless to confirm that the dealer ID (Wirefly.com) is associated with my account even after changing my billing address. (It is.) Good to know.
I also e-mailed Wirefly to ask them about this. This was their reply:
Please be advised that your rebates will not be affected if by your bailing [sic] address is changed. Please be sure to notate your new billing address on your rebate form once you are ready to submit it.
So I don't anticipate that there will be problems with my rebate because I changed my billing address. But if I do have problems, I will update this review at that time.
*However, keep in mind that there are things that can mess up your rebate:
- activating your phone by calling Verizon Wireless yourself (the phone is already activated by Wirefly before shipping; follow the written instructions complete the process)
- changing your wireless phone number
- changing the name of the account holder
- downgrading your calling plan
- changing your device (without written permission from Wirefly)
- failing to pay on time, or canceling your account
LetsTalk.com is another internet retailer of cell phones, which you might want to check out, for comparison shopping. It also features a pretty comprehensive inventory, and similar offers and prices as Wirefly.com. While I didn't buy anything at LetsTalk.com, I did browse the site and noted some differences with Wirefly.com:
- LetsTalk.com offers free 2-day shipping, even if you buy more than one phone with a family plan
- LetsTalk.com offers an option to have your phone sent to a address different than the billing address of your wireless phone
- In CA and TX, LetsTalk.com charges sales tax for the full retail price of the phone you buy, regardless of the discounted price you pay. (Wirefly.com only charges tax on the discounted price you pay at the time of checkout.) Because I live in CA, the two phones I purchased at Wirefly.com would have cost me about $30 more in sales tax at LetsTalk.com
- LetsTalk.com offers a $30 rebate if you use ebates.com (Wirefly.com does not)
- LetsTalk.com only has a 7-day return policy! But in CA, they have a 30-day return policy (as required by CA law).
If you're considering buying from Wirefly.com, LetsTalk.com is worth a comparison. For example, the LG CU500 phone is free with rebate on Wirefly.com, but you make $24 after rebate on LetsTalk.com.
So I didn't have the best experience with my first-ever online purchase of a cell phone. There were definitely some screw-ups on their part. And what's with not sending an order confirmation e-mail?
But would I buy from them again? Heck yes! What great prices! But be forewarned that if you place an order to port your existing number, and if your area code is not in your billing address, it can transpire a veritable clusterf*ck series of events. (Sorry about the indecorous word, but it is the most appropriate.) I know now that if I want to keep my number, I need to have my phone sent and billed to an address that's compatible with my area code. (As soon as my phone was activated, I logged on to VerizonWireless.com, and just changed my billing address to my current address. Not quite sure why this requirement exists, but it's not hard to deal with - now that I know.)
They really should let customers know about this. A lot of people want to keep their phone numbers, and people do move around. I can't imagine I'm the only person with this problem. (I haven't lived in my old area code for some time now, and I never had any trouble with buying new phones and providing my current address before.)
I wonder if I could have received the original order - the phones with other numbers, and then just called Verizon to change the numbers to mine? Wirefly.com does "strongly recommend" that I don't do this, and that I should request my numbers to be transferred during my initial ordering process, because it might not work. [ETA: Now I know that this is a bad idea, because (1) the phone numbers may not be successfully ported, (2) I may invalidate my rebate.]
**To sum up my Wirefly.com experience:
The inventory they offer on their website is comprehensive. And the prices are great.
* Customer Service is weirdly stingy about confirmation e-mails and contact phone numbers. When I did eventually get to talk to them, they didn't always know what was going on or how to best help me. However, they were polite and not rude at all. And I spoke to a lot of them. So that was nice.
* Also, they're stingy about packaging - more air pillows, or how about some peanuts! They're shipping expensive stuff they don't want to break. A little more padding, please.
Would I recommend Wirefly.com? Yes, but with caveats. Not exactly a first class shopping experience, but in the end, I was still happy to pay less.
What product did you purchase or try to purchase? LG VX8600
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