After finally finding a job that pays a me a good wage on a regular basis, I decided a treat or two was in order, and on the top of the wishlist was a new mobile phone, resigning the Nokia E71 to the bedroom drawer, where it will no doubt sit for years to come. From experience, I knew that the best (and probably cheapest) way to get a half-decent phone these days was to sign up for a contract. With 12 month contracts few and far between, new customers are now having to settle for 18 or 24 month plans.
I seem to have spent most of my time recently looking at every available phone on the market, and, as somebody who loves phones with endless features and phones that are so big that you struggle to hold them in two hands, I decided on the new HTC Desire HD, which retails for around £500. This Android-powered device is the closest thing [apparently] to an iPhone, which isn’t manufactured by Apple, and as a ‘Phone of the Year’ winner, it was definitely worth a go.
Anyway, keen to save up some of my earnings, I didn’t want to spend as much as my previous contract with T-Mobile – £35 a month! I shopped around online and came across an alternative T-Mobile package, which would cost £25.53 a month for 900 minutes of talk-time, 500 text messages and the usual ‘unlimited’ (but actually limited) internet. And best of all, the pricey handset on this 24-month contract was thrown in for free.
But like a big kid, I knew that if I ordered this contract online, I would have to wait several days for delivery. But I didn’t want to wait several days – I wanted it straight away – so I ventured in Reading, and, armed with my internet deal printed on a piece of paper, I entered just about every phone shop that Reading had to offer.
We all know that those working in mobile phone shops are just sales-people, who happen to know a thing or two about mobile phones, and they are prepared to do anything to get new customers to sign on the dotted line. Although I eventually purchased from Phones4u (over the phone), Phones4u wins the award for the most dishonest and ignorant sales staff out there.
On entering the store, I quickly saw my humongous future phone on the display stand and walked towards it, but before I could get there, I had already been pounced upon by a salesman. I know that these people are keen to get my custom, but can I not be allowed to browse for at least a minute before I am hassled? “What can I do for you?” he asked me. “I want that phone on a contract, but I don’t want to pay for the handset”, I replied. The deals offered were far from brilliant so I decided to cut to the chase and I handed over my print-out. “This is what I have found. Can you beat it?” The salesman looked surprised that at least one customer that day had done some research before visiting the store. How on earth was he going to keep me in the store and get me to sign up for a deal?
The answer to that question was simple. He was going to lie to me. The salesman assured me the deal was not as good as it appeared because the phone would be “refurbished”. When asked if Phones4u were allowed – by law – to provide me with a second hand phone without clearly stating it, he confidently said yes. Not wanting to lose my business, he invited me to take a seat with a colleague of his and together we were to run through the contract options available to me. But it took a good 10 minutes to actually make any progress, as the worker was more focused on getting my contact details; telephone numbers and address, no doubt to bombard me with nuisance calls and letters when I leave the store, having not made a purchase! And before we even got to choosing a contract, I was already being talked into pay £9.99 a month for insurance on a phone that I didn’t even have. Incidentally, when buying online or over the phone, the cost is slashed to just £6.99 a month and the insurance is exactly the same.
With the whole ‘refurbished phone’ thing still playing on my mind, a £30 contract that was offered seemed reasonable. After all, as the salesperson put it, I would get a brand new phone in-store, all for just £5 a month more than I wanted to spend. I loved how it was “only £5 more”. Yes, £5 a month was easily manageable, but that worked out to a very significant £120 over the two years.
Hating the service and the obvious mis-selling tactics and the untruthful claims made by staff, it was time to leave the store and move on to the next one. For the sake of a £5 bonus in his next paycheck, the staff member was happy for me to part – unnecessarily – with so much more money than I wanted to in contract fees and around £36 extra (over two years) in insurance charges. These ignorant people had only one thing on their mind and it certainly wasn’t me [the customer] and my requirements.
The day looking in phone shops was a bit of a failure and I returned home without a phone, despite having looked in the Carphone Warehouse, Virgin Media, O2 and even 3 (the tiny section in the Superdrug store on Broad Street), where the worker seemed more interested in two eastern European girls who seemed to hover around the displays. He was so interested that he abandoned our chat to go and speak to them. Perhaps I should have told him that these girls were way out of his league.
For anybody considering a new mobile contract, steer clear of the high street shops altogether. You will be dealt with by a bunch of dishonest clowns, who only care about how much commission they will be taking home at the end of the month. If you like to be lied to, ignored and cheated out of hard-earned cash, then by all means visit the shops – Phones4u, in particular.