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iPhone buyers report AT&T store woes

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By Charles Starrett

Contributing Editor
Published: Wednesday, August 1, 2007
News Categories: iPhone

Following a MacDailyNews report that AT&T Stores have been hiding and refusing to demonstrate Apple iPhones to potential customers, readers have reported mixed but negative-skewing experiences about their attempts to purchase or even just see iPhones at AT&T stores. Some positive reports have been posted, but MacDailyNews and many of its readers have suggested that AT&T stores and their employees are being less than cooperative with customers interested in testing or purchasing the iPhone.

Some reports claim that the iPhone display units that appeared around the device’s launch have been removed, without explanation. Other reports claim that AT&T employees informed customers that they had to purchase an iPhone to be able to see one. Still others suggest that the commission-based employees are not receiving enough financial incentive to push the device over other models, and that they have instead opted to attack the product.

A report from “DM” states, “I went to my local corporate ATT store in Northern NJ, they did not have any iPhones in stock (probably true). But what a little disconcerting is that they were trashing the iPhone and Apple as putting out a bad product and suggested that I buy the new Blackberry Curve. I just smiled, walked out and across the mall and bought one at the Apple Store.”

A separate report from “Jim Steward” states, “My local AT&T store had them on display at first, then took them out. The display is still there, but no iPhones are attached. I didn’t have any trouble purchasing the iPhone, but they would not even bring it out of the back room until I had paid for it. If I hadn’t been set on buying the iPhone when I walked in or had not already looked at and held one, I would’ve gone to another AT&T store to see if I was treated any better.”

We encourage our readers to share your AT&T store experiences, positive, neutral, or negative, in the comments.

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Comments

21

I agree with bonsai’s point regarding AT&T. While my nine years as a subscriber to Cingular/SBC Wireless/AT&T have had their ups and downs, I am cognizant of the fact that other service providers are equally, if not more, capable of effing things up. So to borrow the adage, I went with the devil I knew and avoided the devil I didn’t.

My launch day experience in Arkansas at a small AT&T store was fine. The employees were courteous and helpful, and they managed the line quite well. I had no activation troubles, and my iPhone has functioned extremely well.

Interesting, Mr. Mozealous, that you chose to rip bonsai for his comment but didn’t have any cross words for malren, who simply took his commenting opportunity and abused it with a bunch of I-told-you-so garbage.

Posted by Flippy Hambone on August 1, 2007 at 11:44 AM (PDT)

22

AT&T signs you up for roadside assistance - opt out!

http://2aday.wordpress.com/2007/08/01/att-iphone-service-opt-out-only-36-roadside-assistance/

Posted by jbelkin on August 1, 2007 at 12:38 PM (PDT)

23

I am surprised that AT&T employees’ push for the iPhone is inconsistent across the country. Too bad there’s not an AT&T employee on the forum to clarify the “less commission on iPhone” theory.

I personally don’t have any experience with AT&T and purchasing an iPhone except for popping into a store to play with one the week it came out. I think my local store still has the display units out.

I haven’t gotten an iPhone due to my poor past experience with AT&T. Though I’m happier with Verizon, they too have room for improvement.

Posted by cxc273 on August 1, 2007 at 1:13 PM (PDT)

24

I’ve been with AT&T for two years now.  I was with AT&T two years before that.  I was with Verizon between.

I got the best customer service with Verizon and no dropped calls.

In my first two year period with AT&T, I had really bad customer service problems and bad coverage.

In these past two years, I have had pretty good coverage, and some annoying but not catastrophic customer service problems.

I would have preferred Apple teamed with Verizon in the U.S., but I can stomach the annoying customer service problems of AT&T.

And if Verizon was going to make Apple turn out a fu-uh-uh-ugly UI phone like they did with the RAZR, it may be just as well.

Posted by alexarch in Dallas, TX on August 1, 2007 at 1:21 PM (PDT)

25

The ATT store in Brentwood CA (Northern CA) had the docks on display with no phones in them. A friend mentioned he went to a different local ATT store and they also did not have them on display. It would be nice to see this story hit the big newspapers….

Posted by Robin on August 1, 2007 at 4:30 PM (PDT)

26

I went into an AT&T store just a couple days after the official launch. They told me I couldn’t look at one until I bought one. That was the moment I knew I’d be driving the 45 minutes to the apple store to get mine. @#(&% you AT&T!

Posted by urbanslaughter on August 1, 2007 at 4:56 PM (PDT)

27

I was a PacBell/SBC/Cingular/AT&T customer in the Southern California area for just under 10 years but switched in April to Verizon due to the absolutely intolerable customer service.  I tried to hang in there just to get the iPhone and hope that I would find the iPhone experience satisfying enough to compensate for the lack of customer service, but unfortunately I reached my last nerve with them.  However, having been with Verizon since then I noticed I drop less calls in a month on Verizon than I did in 3 or 4 days with Cingular/AT&T, plus the many times I’ve dealt with Verizon’s CS I’ve been very impressed.  Now I’ve been playing with my roommate’s iPhone since the launch day and I absolutely love it (except for text messaging), but even it is not enough to make me wanna go back to AT&T after all I’ve been through.

Posted by skidemn on August 1, 2007 at 5:26 PM (PDT)

28

I’ve been with ATT for some years, and I’ve pretty much been through all of them since back in the days of PacTel and LA Cellular.  I have found that all cellcos suck.  They just suck more or less depending on geography.  They all have dead spots, and switching carriers pretty much just means learning where the new dead spots are. 

I did notice that ATT put up a new tower by the freeway right near my office a few days before iPhone launch.  That was a big dead spot, and is now live. 

On the whole, I guess ATT did about as well as any of the cellcos would have.  Although this bidnuss about hiding the iPhones is interesting. 

My girlfriend went to an ATT store and got sold a Blackberry.  They obviously make a bigger commission on those things.  She did this before she got to see my iPhone and regretted it.  Too bad.

Posted by James P on August 1, 2007 at 7:46 PM (PDT)

29

I purchased my Phone on July 20 from an ATT store in Eugene, Oregon. I had to wait for an agent to help me. They had iPhone displays up and the guy who waited on me demoed the device and was helpful in selling it to me.

Posted by Braulio Escobar on August 1, 2007 at 11:19 PM (PDT)

30

I was waiting in line for 30 min at the ATT in Alhambra, CA on the launch day.  They had NO phone in the store due to shipping delay/mistake and they did not even bother to tell the people in line.  They were only taking pre-order and charging shipping.  WTH…There must have been at least 40 people there.  I ended up driving to an Apple store, and waited another hour to get one.

Posted by aerohunter on August 2, 2007 at 1:08 AM (PDT)

31

I went into a local AT&T store about a month after launch.  There was an iPhone rack in the back filled with accessories but no iPhone.  I asked if they had one on display and they said, “We used to, but not any more”. 

Then one of the guys behind the counter said what I think was “It’s the worst thing that’s happened to the store”.  At first I thought he said “best thing” but after that he said something to the effect of, “It’s decreased the attachment rate, everyone want to look but not buy”.

I’ve gone into a couple other AT&T outlets and also not seen iPhones on display, let alone working.  I’m glad Apple has their own outlets to showcase the product, including online and the retail stores.  It’s really a bold product and it should be given its fair chance at the market and not buried by AT&T.

Posted by Nick on August 2, 2007 at 6:16 AM (PDT)

32

I bought mine at an AT&T store about a week after launch.  No worries, walked right in and played with the iPhone on the display for awhile, and then absolutely had to have it. The AT&T folks fixed me up very quickly and answered all my questions.  They said they’d been selling out of the iPhone almost every day.

I should go back there and see if they still have the display up.  I’ll try to do that and report back.

Posted by Crispin on August 2, 2007 at 7:47 AM (PDT)

33

Got my iPhone at a AT&T mall store about a week and a half after launch. My store had a sign but no actual iphones on display. The lady was very nice and answered all of my questions. When she later realized they were sold out of 4Gigers she took my number and promised to call me as soon as they came in. Well,I’ve been through that before and stores almost never call you back. But,she did..the very next morning I got a call. Activation was iffy and I had to wait until I got home from work to find my activation email. Not being able to play with my new $500 toy before work was a bummer but it ended up ok. The phone does not work in my home because according to the coverage map my place is right in the middle of a weak zone with moderate coverage. This forces me to keep my current CDMA carrier(which gives me 5 bars even in the inner most part of my apt)since my cell is my only phone. Once I walk out my door the phone works fine.
Buying the phone and the service at the ATT store was fine.

Posted by WIPod on August 2, 2007 at 8:46 PM (PDT)

34

Forgot to say,when I went back to the store to return a case I did see a little kid playing with a iPhone. The store person was watching him like a hawk but she did take a step back and let the kid mess around with it so,at least at my store they do seem to have a working demo that you can test out,even for people they know won’t be buying one. Coverage inside the mall is 5 bars so I feel for the guy who plays with it,see’s 5 bars and then once at home never gets more than 1. Oh,wait,that would be me.

Posted by WIPod on August 2, 2007 at 8:49 PM (PDT)

35

Do AT&T stores carry a lot of accessories?

That may be a financial incentive, because those probably carry fat margins.

A lot of stores carry iPods, which have thin margins, so that they can sell accessories, which carry much bigger margins.

Posted by wco81 on August 2, 2007 at 9:15 PM (PDT)

36

San Diego CA Mira Mesa ATT Store has all these low brow thugs working their. In the 20 mins I was waiting to buy my iPhone some ghetto fabulous rapper type guy was hitting on a customer while I overheard some fat guy with a permanently attached bluetooth ear piece trash talk the iphone to someone who currently owned the razr. It took me another 20 mins to complete the transaction as the sales woman was arguing with a manger at whisper tone about selling me the 8 gig iPhone which was all they had. I called later and turned out they had 4 gigs but were lying to get me to buy the 8.

Posted by KEVIN on August 3, 2007 at 1:59 AM (PDT)

37

My experience was totally painless here in Denver, CO.  I walked into my local AT&T store this week and asked if they had the 8GB iPhone in stock.  I noted that they had a rack of accessories, but no iPhones on display.  I had already done my research, so I didn’t have questions or require a demo.

The attendant went in the back and grabbed my phone, brought it out and ran my credit card.  I was in and out in under 5 minutes.  Activation was about 5 minutes total once I got it home.  Note that I am an existing AT&T customer ... I was swapping from an HP HW6515 Windows Mobile phone. 

All-in-all, it was the most painless new phone purchase I have ever made.  I was impressed.

Posted by Rob Witte on August 3, 2007 at 12:39 PM (PDT)

38

the 37 comments I read don’t seem enough to build an AT&T case. Many comments are favourable (and there should be many more that did not comment, given their positive experience): the negative hints refer to a general misfunctioning of customer-seller behavior in AT&T, to a lack of test iPhones, to whispers or suspect.
The simple fact of a lower percentage of earning in iPhone selling has been adfirmed without the least hint.
If the press aired these rumors, then it would be “August” press, that is, laking of proper news.

Posted by Andrea Blasina on August 3, 2007 at 4:49 PM (PDT)

39

The AT&T store in Burlingame California also had no iphones on display, two weeks after the launch. I asked them about it, and I was offered no good explanation.

I was a Sprint customer for about 8 years before AT&T, and I can say their stores and customer service are equally bad. AT&T does have a dedicated iphone help line. Calling this line is preferable to going to the AT&T store. I only went because I had trouble porting my number and needed a new SIM card. The employees were helpful, but I did notice that they were put on hold by their own company! Fortunately, the iphone sells itself, even if AT&T doesn’t have the good sense to market it properly.

Posted by Mike on August 5, 2007 at 7:34 PM (PDT)

40

Um. . . are people aware that AT&T has franchise stores and company stores. The company stores are the only ones allowed to actually sell the phone. Franchise stores are not. This may be why you haven’t seen displays.

Posted by Vanessa on August 6, 2007 at 1:12 PM (PDT)

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