Verizon is upping the prices of in-store phone activations—though it’s also lowering the cost of ordering and activating phones using its app or online services, per CNET.
While Verizon used to charge $30 for all upgrade and activation fees (a common industry practice, and one of the many ways carriers have introduced sneaky ways to increase bills), as of Thursday, upgrade fees will be reduced to $20 if it’s done in-app or online, CNET wrote. On the other hand, it will now cost $40 to upgrade or activate in a store or over a phone, which Verizon told CNET is to justify some kind of “full-service experience.” And the circle of life goes on.
As the Verge notes, the complicated web of fees that customers must navigate to activate new lines or upgrade their old phones varies by carrier, and even then tends to change by carriers’ whims. A&T charges $25 to $45 (the latter for two-year contracts available for specific phones) for online purchases, while Sprint charges $30, according to the Verge. T-Mobile, which has made a big deal out of how it won’t charge customers a slew of random fees, quietly increased the price of a “SIM Starter Kit” for new lines that is indistinguishable from an activation fee to $25 in 2017, and charges a $20 in-store customer support charge. (T-Mobile online upgrades don’t incur these charges but cost shipping, according to verified employees on an unofficial Reddit.)
It’s possible to avoid some of these fees through various methods like asking for fees to be waived or buying phones retail from a third party and swapping the SIM card personally—but the latter option will prevent you from getting carrier financing for an upgrade.
It’s clear that Verizon would prefer customers to go through the online route rather than go to a store, where it has to pay for a retail presence and costs like rent and staff. Lower online fees are good for customers who aren’t in a rush, but one scenario where this might suck is if you need to replace a phone with a newer model fast (say, if you “downloaded the Spiderman app”)—you’ll probably have to pony over the full $40. [See update below.] It probably also sucks if you’re a Verizon retail employee who relies on foot traffic and commissions.
Update: 4/17/2019, 8:00 p.m. ET: There’s other options to avoid the higher $40 “full-service experience” fee and still receive a phone quickly, a Verizon spokesperson told Gizmodo via email.
Those include ordering a phone online and selecting in-store pickup, which results in the lower $20 fee. They also noted same-day delivery comes in at $20 plus a $8.99 delivery charge. Fair enough!