Monday, December 21, 2009

New Cell Phone Software Can Save You Money

I'm pretty sure we still call them phones out of habit.  They do so much more than make calls.  The ability to make phone calls has become a second or third or fourth priority of cell phone function.  They could be accurately described as mobile computers.  Virtually all cell phones now have cameras, text capability, event calendars and calculators.  The most recent phones and upcoming generations have audio and video recorders, internet capability, email, music players, maps, GPS, resource libraries and online markets where you can download content directly to the phone's hard drive.   I've watched 80's sci-fi movies in which the characters carry around devices much more primitive than our modern day "phones."

People are beginning to catch on to the value of cell phone software when purchasing goods and services.  When you are out and about, looking for last-minute Christmas-gift treasures, you can use your phone to check competitor prices. If you are unfamiliar with what a salesperson is telling you, or the price of something is fishy, just look it up on the internet. The iPhone actually has several apps that scan bar codes and look for exact matches to compare prices. Comparing prices on your phone works best at trade shows when someone offers you a "rare deal."  Trade shows are no longer isolated, so long as your phone has signal.  Find out just how rare the sale is before taking a salesperson's word.  If the deal's for real, the salesperson will welcome your efforts to verify his or her claim. If your phone has full access to the internet, be sure to check out companies with the BBB at m.bbb.org.  We have recently developed fully functional online reliability reports that are easy to navigate from a cell phone browser.

When you're searching for a place to eat, check out Yelp.com to see what local restaurants are highly recommended and which ones are closest. After your meal, or during, you can review the restaurant for others (If you are an iPhone user, you can download Yelp's free app). You can also download a tip-calculator to save valuable time before rushing back to work from your lunch break.

The value of new "phone" technology and software are truly apparent when used to protect yourself from contract disputes.  The BBB gets more complaints involving contracts than anything else: cell phone contracts, vehicle payment contracts, mortgage contracts, leasing agreements, etc., etc. Rare as it is, we have seen companies and consumers both alter the text of contracts.  We've heard sales pitches where the sales person directly contradicts what's in the contract, hoping the consumer won't read it.  Like I said, these things don't happen often, but you can guard yourself against them just in case. Use your camera to take photos of a contract and immediately email it to yourself (newer phones have scanners you could use).  If you have a dispute with a business, and you could swear that your contract protects you, check it yourself.  You have a time stamped copy in your email inbox.

This next bit may rest on the border of Paranoia and will probably only be useful if you're locked into a business relationship with someone you've already had problems with.  If you have no other option than to do business with someone who is already untrustworthy, you can record your conversations using a phone's voice-memo recorder.  This will ensure that one party can't change its story later and get away with it.  Depending on the state you live in, you may have to inform the other party that they are being recorded.  Typically, this is common courtesy, anyway.  You're just trying to protect yourself, not perform a sting operation. (Although, if you are performing a sting operation for some reason, in Missouri, you don't have to inform the other party that they are being recorded. As long as one party of the conversation agrees--and that would be you--it's legal to record the conversation).

If you can think of more examples of useful phoneware or phone shopping experiences please feel free to mention them in the comments below.

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