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Picking the Right Store / Dealer
Tips to find the best buying experience
Common Mobile Phone Store Types
Carrier Stores: Owned by carriers, typically smaller but can access your account for you.
Independent Stores: Often similar to carrier stores, but not officially owned by them. Often can still access your account and works with one or two carriers. Some are chains with multiple locations.
Big Retail Stores: These are your typical electronics stores or big box stores with electronics departments -- WalMart, Best Buy, Costco, etc.
Other: From pawn brokers and swap meets to petrol stations and mall kiosks, there are plenty of alternatives to dedicated stores and stands.
Different Stores, Different Options
Looking for help with your account or carrier warranty assistance? A carrier branded store is likely your best bet!
Looking for the broadest selection? Big retailers often carrier multiple brands and support multiple carriers.
Know which carrier you plan to use? Be sure to call ahead to independent stores and make sure they support your intended carrier before hitting the road.
Planning to upgrade? Many big retailers offer tech trade-in programs that rival or beat what carriers offer.
On the hunt for a used phone? Be sure to check with local electronics repair shops and independent dealers. These can offer an alternative to scouring online classifieds and prove a bit more peace of mind should something go wrong with your new phone or you have questions.
Services and Perks
Free Wi-Fi: Many carrier branded stores offer free Wi-Fi on-site to help you get your phone setup and running without hitting your data allowance.
Phone Switching: Most carrier stores will help you transfer contacts and apps between phones if you’re looking to upgrade. One less headache for you!
Tech Support: If you can’t figure out a phone feature or something isn’t working right on your phone, most stores offer on-site troubleshooting to assist you. If you’re looking for the ultimate service, Apple Stores are likely your best (but most costly) option--many even include on-site repairs!
Loaner Phones: Need your phone repaired? Some carrier branded stores will offer basic loaner phones to keep you connected while your phone is in the shop. Be sure to call ahead to check.
Finding the Best Store
Check Reviews: Whether you’re visiting a carrier store or an independent shop, be sure to check reviews before heading out. The experience from one location to the next can vary greatly. Popular options include Yelp, Google, Facebook, and the Better Business Bureau.
Size Matters: If you’re looking for a personalized experience, choosing a smaller option -- such as a local independent dealer -- might work best. Carrier stores and bigger retailers are often busy and you might find yourself waiting in a queue. Furthermore, many work on commissions -- this means pushy salesman and endless bargaining.
Skip the Store Entirely: Many carriers offer everything you need to start service, warranty claims, upgrade your phone, add a line, or even cancel service online. Better still, you can find exclusive deals and discounts you won’t get in-store. No travel, no pushy sales, no waiting!
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