Bargain hunters flooded T-Mobile’s UK website on the 18th of November to bag themselves free SIM only deals, each worth a total of £96 per year. The SIM only deals were the result of an apparent glitch according to a tweet from EE, T-Mobile’s parent company. But was this a genuine error or a marketing ploy designed to drum up attention in a crowded SIM only market place?
This fantastic freebie first gained mass traction on the HUKD social network when a user ‘mathewpod’ posted the deal which elicited a response of 1179 comments. A number of big tech news sites including Pocket Lint and Digital Spy quickly picked up on the commotion and published the details which were syndicated by Google News. Leading UK SIM only Comparison service Comparisim also noticed the interest in the free deal, “We certainly identified a ripple of T-Mobile targeted traffic on the date in question.”
The freebie frenzy was cut short as the deal was quickly amended to the correct price by T-Mobile but for those who were lucky enough to get hold of one (or more) of these amazing deals, T-Mobile confirmed, in an email, that they would honour all the transactions “We will honour this mistake and your SIM will be with you shortly”.
T-Mobile also confirmed that they gained a huge response as a result of the “mistake”. So much so that it would seriously impact their ability to deliver within their usual 2 day time frame, “we have had a lot of orders because of this error so please allow up to 7 days for delivery.”
The deal that was affected by the glitch usually retails at £8 per month and is T-Mobiles lowest cost tariff. Maybe it was luck on T-Mobile’s part that the glitch affected their cheapest SIM only deal and not a more expensive one or indeed a mobile phone tariff. Or perhaps there was a little more to it.
Suspiciously this isn’t the first time T-Mobile caused a kafuffle with an alleged online price blunder. In November 2011 there was a nearly identical SIM only “glitch” in which T-Mobile’s lowest cost SIM only deal appeared on their website with a £0 price tag.
If these pricing ‘accidents’ truly were accidents, why aren’t they happening with mobile phone tariffs and why does it seem to only ever happen to T-Mobile’s cheapest SIM only deals? A staggering coincidence or a marketing stunt? Let’s examine how this so called error might affect T-Mobiles pocket.
Since most people ordering the deal were doing so purely for the sake of getting something for nothing rather than because it was the most suitable tariff, we expect those who got the deal will find it difficult to keep within the confides of 250 minutes, 5oo texts and 500MB data, which is what the deal offers in terms of usage. As its T-Mobiles smallest tariff it’s quite likely that most bargain baggers will exceed their quota and end up paying above average out of bundle charges. If this happens it could mean T-Mobile will simply break even in terms of cost.
Then of course there is customer retention value, whereby each of these new T-Mobile customers may potentially remain on T-Mobile, after the free 12 months is over. This would mean T-Mobile acquiring what could be many thousands of brand new customers 12 months from now. Moreover SIM only customers are the most valued any network can have. Our contact at Comparisim.com told us, “In recent years providers have taken a real interest in promoting SIM only deals because the profit marines are much greater than with mobile phone contracts”.
Like all providers, T-Mobile has to buy in their mobile phones from manufacturers and pass this expense on to the customer via the mobile phone contract price. If this error were to have happened to a mobile phone tariff it would have left T-Mobile quite critically out of pocket. However since the conspicuous pricing errors seem to only happen to SIM only deals it won’t really incur much cost to T-Mobile and the small cost that is involved can easily be absorbed if not outweighed by the out of bundle charges and customer retention value.
A shocking yet convenient coincidence, or simply a genius marketing ploy, it’s pretty certain that T-Mobile won’t be making a loss on it. Let us know what you think in the comments below.