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Last week I took the plunge and bought a new mobile. Because I wasn't actually bothered about keeping my number I cancelled the contract I was on and decided to start a new contract so that I could take advantage of the numerous special offers. After a good search on the Web I decided which phone I wanted and that the best deal was at Carphone Warehouse. I didn't want to order online (why wait for delivery when I could walk out of the shop with one?) so I wandered along to my local store to make some enquiries.
~~~ The Store ~~~ The store itself was a large outlet on the outskirts of town. This particular store has the benefit of free parking and a fitting centre if you wanted a car kit fitted. The store is very nicely done, with lovely wooden floors, a seating area and stock gracefully displayed on the walls and shelving. There are lots of leaflets and brochures laying around to help you decide upon your purchase and best of all there are NO HOVERING SALESPEOPLE. Lets face it, being asked "Can I help You?" numerous times whilst you shop is always annoying. At Carphone Warehouse you are not bothered by the salespeople who are sitting behind the counter waiting for you to come to them. As I knew what I wanted to enquire about I went straight over to the counter to get advice.
~~~ Salesperson ~~~ The girl I spoke to appeared quite knowledgeable, that is she would have appeared quiet knowledgeable to someone who didn't know what they were looking for. Of course she would have had you spending a lot of money if you listened to her advice. I explained what I wanted and asked if it was OK to take out a new contract with the same operator who I had just cancelled one with. She told me this was no problem as they used a different service provider (very confusing, you have a contract with an operator Cellnet, Orange etc and you are signed up through a service provider such as Cellular Communications).
~~~ Sales Pitch No 1 ~~~ I explained to the salesgirl that I was interested in a Nokia 3330 on BT Cellnet Net 100 tariff. She promptly tried to sell me a more expensive phone, allegedly the one she had herself. As I mentioned I'd already checked out the features on all the models on the website and I found that the 3330 was the right phone at the right price for me. The brochure she showed me listed the price of the phone I wanted as £9.99 but I thought it had been free on the web site, although I didn't mention this as I was going to go home and check.
~~~ Incorrect Information ~~~ Carphone Warehouse do a lot of radio advertising. In these adverts they always stress how knowledgeable their staff are and how much training they do. I asked the girl what extras I get with this phone and this contract and she told me I could get a £50 trade in on my old phone if I returned it complete with the manual and charger. I liked the sound of this as I had read it on the website but she neglected to mention that I wouldn't actually get £50, but a £50 credit to spend on accessories when I purchased the phone (same day only!). I then asked about the cashback offer on BT Cellnet contracts and she told me that wasn't Cellnet it was One to One. Not only did I know it was Cellnet it was printed in the brochure she was showing me!
~~~ Sales Pitch No 2 ~~~ I was then interrogated on my use of a mobile, did I ever use it in the car? Not often I told her but she still proceeded to try and sell me a hands free kit for the car which I could have supplied and fitted for a mere £150. I simply told her no thanks.
~~~ Sales Pitch No 3 ~~~ Finally I was treated to the biggest and best sales pitch. Insurance. I never buy extended warranties and I hate paying out for insurance but here was a beautiful sales pitch to get me to fork out a further few quid every month. I was reminded that if my phone was broken they would not supply a loan phone whilst mine was away for repairs unless I bought insurance. If my phone is lost or stolen it will cost me £250 to get a replacement. I just listened with a glazed expression as I know none of these problems are as great as they make out. If my phone is away from repairs I can pop my SIM card in an old handset (I have plenty of handsets at home). If your phone is lost or stolen you ring your service provider and they block the SIM card and send you a new one, if its too soon to buy a handset upgrade (you can't get one for 12 months) you find an old handset. I know this from experience, my Dad has lost 2 phones in 18 months!
~~~ The Purchase ~~~ I left the Carephhone Warehouse and headed home to mull over the information. Being the sort of person who can't wait I went back out 20 minutes later to buy my phone. This time I went to the second Carphone Warehouse store in our town (oddly very close to the other one) as I didn't want to see the same salesperson.
~~~ Salesperson No 2 ~~~ The salesperson in the second store appeared to be more knowledgable. She explained that the £50 trade in on my old phone was to spend on accessories in store that day and that I would also get 25% off the price of any accessories I bought that day. Again I was told the handset I wanted was £9.99 and I said that it was shown as free on the website (I had a printout in my handbag!). Apparently Carphone Warehouse don't have the same deals in store as they do on the web site and although the handset would cost £9.99 I would get a free pair of Calvin Klein sunglasses. I was itching to get that new phone in my hand so I handed over my proof of ID and bank details for the direct debit. It took the girl about 5 minutes to get me all signed up with my new handset.
~~~ Sales Pitch No 4 (or is it 3 again?) ~~~ After processing all my details and signing me up for my contract I was asked to come and look at a board by the counter. Yep it was the insurance again. I stood with that glazed expression staring at a board giving all the information whilst the salesgirl explained to me the many reasons why I would need to pay extra money to insure my new phone. Then I politely declined and had to sign to say it had been offered. I wonder if Carphone Warehouse have been having problems getting the staff to sell this?
~~~ The Deal ~~~ Finally I left the Carphone Warehouse with a lovely new phone. I had purchased a Nokia 3330 on a BT Cellnet Net 100 tariff. I used my £50 trade in on my old mobile to purchase a nifty hands free kit/charger for the car (RRP £49.99, but I got 25% off) and pay the £9.99 for the phone. I have a pair of Calvin Klein sunglasses being delivered this week (hell I'm a £2.99 in Boots sort of girl, anyone wanna buy designer sunnies?). I have to pay a monthly line rental of £18 but after six months Cellnet will send me a cashback cheque for £50 and after 12 months they will send another one.
~~~ The Return ~~~ Well I purchased my phone on a Friday and on the following Tuesday I discovered a fault. A fault which meant my phone didn't actually ring! I called Carphone Warehouse on Wednesday morning and told them about it, the chap on the phone got me to check the software version and it was the latest. He told me to bring in the phone and he would exchange it. I couldn't afford to be unable to make calls whilst I charged a new one and I could still use my phone to make calls so I asked him to charge one up for me. I popped along Wednesday evening and exchanged my faulty phone for a fully recharged new phone. No arguments no hassle.
~~~ The Bottom Line ~~~ I would definitely go to the Carphone Warehouse again. The deal I got was the best I could find with a reputable company (I'm very wary of these places that advertise in the paper). The sales pitch is tiring but endurable. I would recommend using them but I would say check out all your options first as the staff may not give you the right information. Oddly though the staff seem very well trained to sell insurance.