RadioShack Bullies Customers in Exchange for iPhone 5

It has been almost 1 week since I encountered mind boggling, awful, unthinkable customer service at RadioShack. I, along with my husband, attempted to purchase 2 iPhone 5s that were held for us at the Charlotte, NC Store 01-2351.  What happened next had me pondering the treatment of consumers today.  The brief story below explains why I walked away from purchasing an iPhone 5 at RadioShack.  Note: I recognize that this event is not the end of the world and after all,  I was only trying to purchase a cell phone.  The purpose of this post is to get the word out about RadioShack’s treatment of their current and potential customers, in hopes that others are not treated the same way that I was.

Upon realizing that I wouldn’t receive the new iPhone 5 from Verizon Wireless or Apple until late October, I called several other retailers in our area, hoping to get my hands on the  latest Apple creation sooner.  Target Mobile put me on their waiting list, but were very upfront and honest, mentioning that they had been receiving a handful of phones every shipment and unfortunately, none were Verizon.  I called the local RadioShack and they also mentioned that they were out of stock, but added me to the waiting list for 2 iPhone 5s (1 for me and 1 for my husband).  One day later, I received a call from the RadioShack Sales Associate, excitedly stating that our phones were available for pickup.

“Awesome, we’ll be there after work to pick them up.”  About 10 minutes later I receive an additional call, from a different Sales Associate, once again stating that our phones were available for pickup.  Again, I mentioned that we would be there after work to pick them up.  Before I could hang up the phone, the Sales Associate stated “We are asking that customers purchase an accessory with their new phone because people are starting to cancel their contracts after receiving the discounted iPhone 5.”  I thought about this statement for a few seconds and responded that her comment didn’t make sense, but that we could discuss this further when I arrived to purchase the phones.  End of the conversation.

Two Sales Associates greeted us at the checkout area, one sucking on a lollipop (this was the 1st sign that I was about to encounter an unprofessional situation), upon our arrival to the store.  My husband stated that we were there to pick up our phones while I perused the iPhone 5 cases.  I quickly realized that I was not interested in the handful of cases available in the store, and would purchase the case that I already researched- Otterbox Commuter, online when I got home.

Sales Associate: “Are you all upgrading?”

J: “Yes”

Sales Associate: “OK. So what case or screen protector do you want?”

Me: “I want the Otterbox Commuter but you don’t have any in stock.  I’ll just order it online.”

Sales Associate: “Oh, well we should be getting them in.  You can just buy another case today and then return it when the one that you want comes in.” 

Me: “No, I’d rather not do that.  I’ll just purchase the Otterbox Commuter online tonight.”

My husband, J, agreed and we proceeded to initiate the transaction.

Sales Associate: “What is your password?”

Me: “Which password? My Verizon password?”

Sales Associate: “Yes, I need it.”

Me to J:” I don’t think it is necessary to tell her my password”

J to Sales Associate: “Can you let her type it in your computer instead of saying it out loud?”

Sales Associate: “Yeah, I guess.” (in an annoyed tone)

I proceeded to type in my online account password.  The Sales Associated quickly realized that she didn’t even need that password, only the last 4 digits of my SSN. Wow.

After 30 seconds of looking at her computer screen, the Sales Associate went to the back of the store.  She returned shortly after and said:

Sales Associate: “They ask that customers getting the iPhone 5 purchased an accessory too.”

Me: ” O.K, you guys don’t have the cases that we want so we will not be purchasing any accessories here today.”

Sales Associate: “Well, what happens when you walk outside and drop your new phone and it breaks? You don’t want that to happen.”

Me:” Agreed, but that is a risk that I assume after purchasing this phone. You and your company are not responsible upon me exiting this store.”

Sales Associate looking at my husband:” We can’t sell you the phones if you don’t buy other items.”

Me: ” Is this a Corporate Policy or your individual store requirement?”

Both Sales Associates:“Yes”. They were also both nodding their heads yes.

Me: “Are you sure this is a Corporate Policy? If I call Corporate right now and mention this to them, will they agree with you? Do you realize how unethical this is?”

Both Sales Associates: “Yes”

Me: “O.K, give me a few minutes to call them”  Unfortunately, the Corporate office was already closed so I was unable to speak to anyone.  While I was attempting to reach Corporate, the male Sales Associate, presumably the Manager, started trying to persuade my husband to avoid the iPhone 5 and purchase an Android instead.  I later realized that this was because the profit margin on the iPhone 5 is much less than Android devices.  This explains his attempt.

J: “So you’re telling me you aren’t going to sell us these phones without an accessory…that you don’t want our $400?”

Sales Associate: “They ask that we have you purchase an accessory if you’re going to buy the iPhone 5.”

Me: “J, let’s go.  I’ll call Corporate again on Monday morning. We aren’t falling for this.”

I obtained the store business card, including the names of the Sales Associate and Manager and left the store.  Upon returning home, I posted a comment on RadioShack’s Facebook wall, explaining the unfortunate event.  I received 2 responses from them, the most recent mentioning that a District Manager would be contacting me.  That still hasn’t happened.  UPDATE: Within 5 minutes of publishing this post and forwarding the link to RadioShack via private FB message, the Regional Manager contacted me, apologizing for the unfortunate event and stating that this was absolutely against their Corporate Policy.  She offered a $20 gift certificate for any future purchase.  This was the response/action I expected within 1 day of the incident; unfortunately it took me  writing this post to see action taken.

We realize that the mobile phone market is a pretty cutthroat business with very slim margins for the retailers involved, but this experience shed light on a particularly egregious practice.  What you have here is a company that has a limited supply of one of this year’s most coveted items and they are unethically using that to their advantage by trying to up sell customers by forcing them to purchase accessories (which provide higher profit margins) or face walking out of the store empty-handed.  Sadly, I’m sure this trick works for them a high percentage of the time:  I can just picture Sally Customer standing at the counter in her Radio Shack store and she’s presented with the option of leaving the store with nothing, or paying an extra $40 and walking out with her version of the Holy Grail.  “There it is…just inches from my grasp. Eeeaaaaaak!!!”  Radio Shack 1; Sally 0.

So, we’d like to bring this practice to light and provide awareness so you won’t get caught off guard when you find yourself in the situation.  These associates at retail stores are supposed to attempt to up sell me on accessories and add-ons when I make a big purchase.  That’s called selling and it’s part of their job as a salesperson.  The fact that they’re retreating to using a line that “it’s required by Corporate Policy” is lazy and pathetic.  I’m sure somewhere up the line someone at Radio Shack Corporate came up with this tactic and perhaps they require their associates to use it.  They’re likely held to some high quota every month for accessories and were told to meet some ridiculous metric like an 80% accessory to iPhone 5 sale ratio.  But, if your salespeople can’t do their job and convince me that an accessory is a good fit for me, don’t have them force me to purchase one to get what I came in looking for.

This is a very poor business practice and it puts all of the people involved in a very awkward, high-pressured situation.  Fortunately, there has been no better time than the present for the small consumer to let her voice be heard and share stories like this with the public.

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