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Early adopters penalized $85 for sticking with AT&T

So we're hanging around in the TUAW back room, drinking coffee and comparing iPhone 4S war stories when I point out that I could have saved a bit of cash by cancelling AT&T and hopping over to Verizon.

AT&T penalizes many of its first-day-iPhone 4 customers by $250 for buying the first-day iPhone 4S. Verizon and Sprint do not. If you stood on line to buy your AT&T iPhone 4, your current cancellation penalty (your ETF) is likely to hover around $165 unless you're a preferred customer. (You can calculate that value over at Wolfram Alpha.)

That's a good deal less than the $250 AT&T will add to the base price of their units. Loyal first day iPhone 4 AT&T customers are being penalized by about $85 for sticking with AT&T and not canceling and moving to Verizon.

So Steve and Megs encouraged me to contact AT&T and see if they would do anything for me as a loyal (albeit somewhat unwilling) customer.

I called up 611 on my iPhone, and went through the whole range of robots until being put on hold for about 45 minutes. Finally, a human picked up. After being transferred to someone who handled this kind of matter, I was told in no kind terms that no, AT&T would not make any adjustments.

Their reply was along these lines: Even if it were cheaper to dump us and go to Verizon, you didn't so we will not make any adjustments. Harsh but realistic.

So if you didn't stay up all night and place your order as I did, let me give you a few recommendations.

First, call their sales department and make your case before placing any orders. Second, be willing to walk away from any call and try again. As Chris Anderson pointed out to me, a lot of this may depend on who you talk to. "Just keep trying," he suggests. "You'll get help eventually."

That extra $85 would have been welcome but right now, I don't have the time. I have kids I have to take care of and work to do. If you do pursue this for yourself, and have any luck, do let me know. Drop a note to the tip line or leave a note in the comments.

TUAW contacted AT&T for a statement on this post. Spokesperson Seth Bloom replied,

Existing iPhone customers who are upgrade eligible will qualify for our best pricing now ... and of course many will qualify in the near future if they don't today.

We want to help customers upgrade to a new device as quickly as possible - exact timing can depend on several factors unique to each account (length of contract, payment history, etc.).

More details here.

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