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Whether you’ve actually experienced one or have only had nightmares about them, I think we can all agree that early termination fees are ugly and can hardly be considered merciful. When you sign that contract for your shiny new device, you are signing away a commitment to that phone. You are marrying that company, and should you become divorced before death (or 2 years) do you part you can expect to pay alimony.

ETFs are tricky once you get them, because it’s a lot harder to get them taken off than it is to get them there. Both of my experiences with ETFs resulted in misunderstandings (one on my end, one on theirs). Only once was my ETF removed because technically I had cancelled my service the day my contract ended and whoever or whatever was doing the billing hadn’t caught on. The other time I was just one day off from my 14-day trial (I thought it was 15), and that was my multi-hundred dollar mistake that I’ll never make again (read: the day I learned how to read a contract).

Speaking of 14-day trials, does anyone else feel that it’s too short of a time period to decide if you want to keep the device for such a long time? One of the reasons I went back to Sprint from T-Mobile was because they had their 30-day trial offer going on. It was impeccable timing for me, because I was already fuming that I discovered I didn’t like my device on the 15th day, and I was just thinking that people should have more time to decide if they like a device that they’re going to keep for two or more years. So it was off to Sprint I went.

It was fortunate that they had their 30-day trial because it was somewhere around the 20th day that I realized how much I missed WiFi, and the Palm Pixi I had chosen didn’t have that feature. So I traded in for a BlackBerry Curve 8530, and all I had to do was pay a $35 restocking fee. In fact, I was so pleased with my experience at Sprint that I decided I wanted to work there. My first month there was great. The 30-day return policy was a hit and just about everybody seemed pleased with the extra time they got to try out on their phones. Then after my first month they revamped the policy and went back to the 14-day exchange/return policy, and that’s when people got confused and ETFs once again were the bane of my existence, even if I wasn’t the one being fined.

My hope for the future is that prepaid carriers keep chugging along to the point where they catch up to offer the top-tier phones that contracted carriers have to offer. Even though the phones are more expensive (sometimes even full price) at least people don’t have to worry about surprise ETFs if they decide to ditch the carrier.

Have you ever had an issue with ETFs? Was the amount worth paying just to get away from the carrier? Tell me your ETF horror stories in the comments!

 


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