Finances & Money Frugality

Blackberry Owner for a Day: Why it wasn’t worth it

On Friday, I walked into a Verizon Wireless store just to check out some phones in person, but walked out with a new Blackberry Storm. At least this wasn’t as big of a purchase as when I went to the Acura lot looking for a used Volvo…and drove away with a $30,000+ Acura TL-S.

But then on Saturday morning, I returned the phone. Why? read below…

Blackberry and the $720 “Blackberry Privilege Tax”

While I thoroughly enjoyed the Blackberry Storm for the night that I owned it, my wise wife reminded me that I would be paying an additional $30 “Blackberry Privilege Tax” each month, above and beyond our regular cellphone bill. On a 2-year contract, that adds up to $720 dollars.

But I just replied “I can drop the plan anytime and just use it as a PDA”, which was the main reason I got the Blackberry. I wanted the PDA benefits like a calendar I could sync with Outlook or Google, a task manager, etc., and get the added benefits of direct email access, an internet browser, facebook, twitter, and multimedia, all bundled in one sleek package. The Storm didn’t disappoint (mostly).

But then I found out something shocking online when I got back from the VZW store: You can never drop the Blackberry Plan with Verizon Wireless. You can never drop to just a text/pix plan or a data access plan. You have to just keep paying the $30/mth until the contract is over in 2 years, or hope your employer picks up the tab (which would be $45/mth to use the corporate email).

That comes out to $720 over the 2 years, above the $70/mth I already pay for my plan (before a 20% discount I currently have). I’d be spending $2400 for a stinkin phone that lets me access the internet and email. Granted, I wouldn’t blink at this cost of my employer were paying it, but this is coming out of my wallet! That’s not very frugal, is it?

Buy a Blackberry, Get one Free

During March 2009, Verizon Wireless is offering a buy 1, get 1 Blackberry deal. I didn’t even know about it until I was in the store, which is the main reason I bought the phone so quickly. I figured I would also get the wife a phone during this deal, and since the salesman offered me a way to return the phone without paying the restocking fee (more on this later), I went for it.

But think about it. $30/mth for one Blackberry is bad, but $60/mth for two is doubly worse. We’ve been holding off on getting cable for years because we saw it as an unnecessary purchase, even though we’d love to waste our time in front of the Discovery Channel and TLC. We’ve argued over that extra $45/mth for years, but I didn’t blink an eye at the thought of paying $60/mth for something we already get (at home through our laptops): internet access and email. Again, not a problem if your employer is paying, but s/he wasn’t in this case.

So again, I have my much-more-clever-than-me wife to thank for this insight.

Returning the Blackberry Storm

I cried myself to sleep knowing that I would have to part with my Crackberry in the morning, but I was comforted knowing that the salesman gave me an out. As long as I used less than 10 minutes of talk-time, I could return it without paying the $35 restocking fee. So I didn’t use the phone at all except to use the internet and email features. I played around with the click-touch keyboard and found it pretty intuitive (it’s also my first Blackberry), but I made sure not to get too invested in it, knowing it would be gone in mere hours.

As a note, the return process was uneventful and only took 15 minutes. They send the Storm back to the factory to get re-imaged, but I deleted my personal information from it first anyway.

I’m not sure if all Verizon Wireless stores will offer you this return option, but my salesman saw my wife’s hesitancy to get the phones and was nice enough to consider the need for peace in our marriage. The bigger lesson learned here is to know all the right questions to ask. Had I thought to ask whether I could drop the plan might have saved me the drive back to return it, and the “heated discussion” (aka argument) that ensued when we got home from the VZW store.

Perhaps if BB cuts their plan price in half, it’ll be more tempting. But until then, I’ll just have to live with my paper notebook and “normal” cell phone.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I entirely agree! Blackberrys are fun and useful, but the price tag is simply too high. Maybe later down the road the price will go down, but until then I can be like every other person in history and not use handheld internet.


  • You know… I have a Blackberry(curve, T Mobile unlocked version) and have debated greatly on the need for a data program. However, I can not bring myself to justify the added expense for web and email on the go.

    The Curve version that I have has WIFI built into it so I can access the internet in a lot of places and to be honest, I really don’t use my phone in that way.

    The phone also has bluetooth and I have it set to wirelessly update my TASKS, CONTACTS, and APPOINTMENTS with OUTLOOK on my computer anytime I walk within 30 feet of my office computer. This approach works well for me…

  • I’ve got a blackberry pearl and I’ve been debating dropping the data plan – my provider gave me the device for free and I’m paying $15 on top of my bill just to check email. While its useful some of the time the reality is you can find a computer easily enough to get access to your email. If my employer was paying for it then I wouldn’t care but do you really need to have that much spam? (most email is just that).

  • I’m with you. The BlackBerry “Priveledge Tax” (I like that term, BTW) is a deal killer for me. Last year I got a Samsung Blackjack II and my wife got the BlackBerry Pearl. We both had the whole data package initially since it was part of the deal in getting the phones for such a low price, but once the required period was over, we dropped it as soon as we could. It was nice at the time, but totally not worth it to me. Fortunately AT&T let my wife drop the BlackBerry fees and she can still use her phone without the internet and data plan. Now we only pay about $50 a month total for both our phones. (We split the cost with my entire family since we have a family plan). It’s still more than I like paying, but it sure beats the $100 a month that iPhone users have to pay.

  • I agree. I had a Blackberry for one year and then canceled. I find it is easier to use a cheap cell plan and paper notebook and calendar.

  • at least you gave it a shot! on our weekend away from town a few of my friends were playing around w/ theirs and it got me thinking…if I had one myself, i don’t think i’d have as much fun being out and about. they were checking their work and personal email every 30 mins! and if i could check my blog and/or blog while on it? $hiiiiiit i’d be in trouble.

    so at least for now, i shall pass on it too. but if the sidekick ever comes around on Verizon it may be a different story 😉

  • I resisted a blackberry for years (from work). Not for cost but I just felt that it’d get me a little too connected. As it turns out – it actually gives me a feeling of relaxation knowing I can just check it every now and then to make sure nothing’s brewing. But I don’t think I would do in on my dime.

  • I have an iPhone and not a Blackberry, but the same thing applies. I struggled for a long time with the high price tag attached to the plans, but in the end, caved in. Personally, I’m happier that I have it for all those times when I need to look up directions or am bored. However, I cry every time I see my bill.

  • My husband has the blackberry storm. It is definitely a curse. He uses it for work and they co-pay for it but seriously……I am hoping it dies. They are termed Crackberry for a reason. Don’t try and use the GPS feature either as it simply sucks(you sound like my Hubby – he walked out with the Acura RL) He used to have the blackberry pearl….then it ended up in my stepsons hands the day the Storm came out. He offered it up to me…I politely declined. I am on my fully paid for really old motorola phone. No camera, takes an hour to send a text message and is your most basic model. And thats the way I like it – my telephone plan is separate and they keep calling me offering up new models. I tried cancelling and they dropped the line rate so low I couldn’t refuse. I agree with your wife. If hubby didn’t have it paid for by work it wouldn’t live at our house either.

  • I’ve avoided seriously considering a Blackberry for years. I could deal with the cost because I can see the benefits, but two things stop me:

    1) I hate learning my way around a new gadget, so I’d never maximize its usefulness.

    2) It limits your ability to enjoy the moment you’re in. It’s bad enough to see couples walking down the street on their cell phones with other people, but to watch a group of friends out to lunch or dinner taking turns tuning out of a conversation to “inconspicuously” poke out an email is just too much. I don’t want to become one of those!

    And $720 extra…ouch.

  • I have been struggling about whether or not the blackberry is worth it, and this is what I have come up with…on a side note, with sprint they have an everything plan that includes blackberry service and is actually a very good deal (so it’s something to consider) but after much research I have found that people only think the blackberry is the best because it was the first and most popular one that allows you on the internet. If you ask someone who has the treo, or the moto Q9 you will find they like it just as much, and when they swiched to blackberry for the “trend” they didn’t see much difference or actually preferred their old phones.

  • Thank you for blogging about me so positively!! I am thankful that I helped you see the light! Like my mom always said, “sleep on it before you make a big decision”. I try not to make money decision late in the day, because things always seem clearer in the morning. What do you think?

  • @Jennifer, I asked around to find out what makes BB better than others and the main response is that it’s geared towards email. Email is delivered right to you rather than you having to use the built-in web browser to go to your email provider and login each time. Otherwise, if you’re getting it for the PDA aspect, not email, then you have many more feasible options out there.

  • If you will earn $720+ because of the features then go for it. I got the G1 Google phone. The SHOP SAVVY feature has helped the phone pay for itself! I wanted a GPS that was $499, I scanned the barcode and the phone found it for $334 elsewhere. It has saved on books too. Amazing! This phone has paid for itself ($98 at Sams) and it is on the way to paying for its own monthly bill!

  • Yes I agree, not spending it puts you ahead of saving money when you do buy it.

    I buy things for work and need to get the lowest price or else justify why I spent more. This helps out there. It is simply a tool and if it does not add something to the mix the it is simply another burden. I studied the Blackberry long and hard before deciding on this unit. God news is that it has full HTML and can red your website on the go. Now I can show people what I mean when I pimp your site!

  • Thanks for advertising my site to your friends Robert! I did also try to justify for myself that I could blog from anywhere, but then I have to accept the fact it’s hard enough for me to focus right now with 3 grad classes going on (and other life events I’ll be blogging about soon).

  • I went the route of a Palm Treo because you DON”T have to get the data plan and can just use it on a normal txt/pix and voice plan, but keep all the other PDA functionality. In fact I’m due for the “new every two” thing from Verizon, but I think I’m just gonna keep going with this one. 😉

  • I’ll be getting Palm Pre when it come out this summer, despite avoiding the blackberry and Instinct from Sprint. I want the Palm for several reasons – one is being able to sync outlook so I can access my work calendar. Having a full-time job, writing for MYC, and going to school keeps me busy. I’m beginning to falter on remembering things. I just need a better organizational system and I really don’t like paper. I have a PDA right now, but I always forget it. I don’t forget my phone, and how convenient will it be to have it right there on the phone. Hopefully it won’t be too expensive, but we’ll see.

  • My Shop Savvy app finds lower prices. Yesterday when I saw something I liked for $14.99 and scanned it, I found it on Amazon for $.24! This tells me that is ain’t worth it. Sometimes the hunt is more exciting that the pirchase and in this case I bought neither item.

  • I got my Blackberry Curve, for $79 strictly by my negotiate skills

    My plan is $50 a month include email plan and favorite 5 from Tmobile

    Everyone knows not to get a tech gadget as soon as it’s release, it will cost you an arm and leg

  • Wow! As a Verizon Wireless customer owning the Blackberry Pearl and paying the “Privilege Tax” for almost 2 years, it was hard for me to let go. Once you go PDA, its hard to go back. I was already on my 5th Pearl replacement and the tech rep was nice enough to give me the option of upgrading early (it was March and I wasn’t due for upgrade til Oct). Given they should have taken care of me at the 1st replacement, I’ve been with Verizon for almost 10 years and I’ve always been taken care of.

    Anyways, I went to the store right after getting off the phone with the tech rep and was hesistant to get another Blackberry. I ended up getting the Curve. Long story short, I decided enough of the privilege tax and I returned the Curve for a LG Chocolate (non-PDA). I was charged the $35 restocking fee but I somewhat felt like I won, when I got a $60 price adjustment for finding the LG cheaper online the next day.

    I miss my data plan: checking email, reading your blog in traffic, getting real-time bus info, etc. But I realized I couldn’t be any more happier!

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Brilliant. I’ve been eyeing the blackberry for the exact same reasons. I’d really love to have a great calendar feature integrated into my phone that syncs my home and work calendars, and the BB fits the bill. I just don’t want to pay for the plan.

    I’d much rather pay $800 for the phone up front and pay $30 per month for the service. If they could offer me that deal, I’d buy two.


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