My time working in mobile phone shops has taught me that – for many – buying a new phone can be a daunting and stressful experience. There are thousands of mobile deals, hundreds of handsets and just as many salesman stepping over each other to get you to part with your cash.
There’s a common belief that staff in mobile shops are pushed to sell particular deals or handsets, regardless of what’s best for the customer. That’s not always the case – but in my experience it can be.
Your experience in a mobile phone shop may be dictated as much by the individual advisor as by the store itself. For me, there are two types of mobile sales advisor.
Sales through service
The first type believes in what I call ‘sales through service’. They’ll go out of their way to ensure you leave their store confident you’re on the right deal. These advisors take the long term view – rather than getting you on the most expensive deal they can manage regardless of your need, they recognise the benefit of a happy customer who’ll come back when it’s time for an upgrade and recommend the store to friends.
Unfortunately, there are also those who would step over their own grandmother to get the sale that will maximise their earning potential.
Which?’s investigation into mobile phone shops shows that the type of advisor you’ll get can be a matter of luck, so it’s a good idea to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. I’ve put a few tips together to ensure that next time you visit a high street mobile phone shop you’re armed and ready to tackle even the toughest salesman and his well rehearsed sales patter.
Before you hit the high street
Even the best advisors will need to base their recommendations on what you tell them. It’s their job to ask the right questions to coax vital information out of uncertain customers, but you’re more likely to end up with a perfect deal if you do a degree of analysis in advance.
Step 1: How do you use your mobile now?
Ask yourself these questions about how you typically use your mobile – consider both functionality and usage.
- How many photos do you take with your mobile phone, and what do you do with them – upload to Facebook? Print? Picture Message?
- Do you listen to music on your mobile – either tracks from your digital collection or the radio?
- Do you play mobile games when you have some spare time?
- Do you browse the mobile web or use apps? This will affect both the handset you need and the type of tariff.
- Do you use the phone in the car or on the move?
- How many calls do you make/texts do you send on a typical day?
Step 2: What would your dream phone do?
Modern mobiles can do things I wouldn’t have dreamed possible just a few years back, so think big. Ask yourself the question: ‘If I could do anything with my phone, what would I do?’.
Define your list of top five handset wants, even if they seem completely crazy – there might well be something out there that fits the bill, so be imaginative (within reason – sadly we’re not quite at the stage where your mobile phone can do the ironing).
Step 3: Research what’s on offer from various providers
Do a bit of online research to see what deals are out there that would meet your needs. Even if you have a particular network in mind, it pays to check what’s on offer from rivals. Online mobile phone comparison websites like Omio are a great one stop shop to compare deals from all the UK’s biggest retailers.
If you’re confident with technology and know what handset you want, use comparison sites to buy online – it saves you a trip to the high street and buying online means you’re automatically covered by distance selling regulations if you change your mind. In store, you may not be able to return an unwanted handset unless it’s faulty.
Step 4: Head to the mobile phone shop
If you want to get hands on with handsets, hit the high street. If you’re served by a ‘sales through service’ advisor then the prep work you’ve put in will help you breeze through all the questions a good advisor will ask.
If you get the other kind, you’ll be in a great position to cut through any pushy sales patter. Stick to your guns – remember you might be tied into any deal for as much as two years. If you feel pushed or pressured at any stage, take your business elsewhere.
A final word to the wise – don’t be bamboozled by ‘free’ gift offers unless the freebie’s one you’ll really make use of. They’re never really free, you’ll be paying for them over the length of the contract in higher monthly payments – and if you really needed an Xbox or camcorder, you’d probably already have one.