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Monday, August 23, 2010

Radio Shack's Bait-and-Switch Scam

As everyone who follows my blog knows, I rarely post negatives.  But today I had an experience at the Plymouth Radio Shack store that made me see red.

After a morning at the University and lunch with her fellow graduate assistants Alexandru and Barbara, Raluca T. and I went out today to price cell phones.  We were specifically looking for a Net10 prepaid phone for Raluca, as both Alexandru M. and I have had excellent luck with Net10 service, and found it quite economical.  Our first stop was at Radio Shack in the Hatch Plaza in Plymouth.  We found a Samsung 401G on a Net10 hanging card advertising the features of the phone, and above it a price of $59.99.  One of the features advertised was that the phone comes with "300 minutes of airtime and 60 days' service, available upon activiation."

Ralu liked this phone, so we took it down and brought it over to the counter.  There, Ralu told the clerk that she would buy the phone, but that she wanted it activated before she did so.  To "show the clerk the money," I pulled three $20 bills out of my wallet, saying, "Our full cost will be the $59.99 that was on the hook, right?" She did not answer, which I attributed to her concentrating on the activation process.

It took at least twenty minutes to get the phone activiated, a problem which I finally solved for the clerk by turning my Net10 phone on and discovering that there was no service at the counter, but four bars' worth of signal at the storefront window.  Finally, the clerk came over to the window, and "Voila!"  The phone showed 60 days and 300 minutes' available.  Time to close the deal!

Back to the checkout counter we walked, at which point I again offered the clerk my three twenties (Ralu's money was accidentally left at home).  The clerk asked, "Would you like to add more airtime to the phone?"  I looked at Ralu, who decided that 300 minutes was plenty for starters.  We declined.  Then the clerk said, "We only sell these phones along with extra airtime.  It is our policy."

As a retail customer, poor service is a pet peeve of mine, but a bait-and-switch scam like this one struck me as unethical at best, if not illegal.  I protested, citing the price tag on the hook above these phones on the wall. No argument would make the clerk relent.  We went back over, and found that the clerk had removed the price from that display hook.  When I returned to the counter, I lost my temper.  My ears must have turned red with my anger, and I am surprised if they did not smoke.  I told the clerk I wanted to talk to the manager.  When the manager came out, she upbraided me for getting angry with the clerk, and told me that the clerk would have been fired if she had taken our money for the phone without selling us more airtime.

After a short argument with the manager that was clearly going nowhere, we left.  As I walked away, the manager shouted, "You're an idiot!"  I beg to differ.  I'd have been an idiot to have bought anything from that store.

The Outcome for Ralu:

Thanks to some coupons that Alexandru got when he bought his Net10 phone, we have just ordered online a Samsung 401G from Net10's website, refurbished, for $41.99, guaranteed, freight included, accessory kit included, and 500 minutes of airtime included.

Net10's motto is "No Bills, No Contracts, No Evil."  That is the kind of customer service that has kept me loyal to Net10 for the past five years.


  1. Every time I make the mistake of walking into a RadioShack (which is very rare), I walk out fuming, insulted, and empty-handed. They're pure evil in my book, and should have gone out of business years ago. I feel your pain. Try not to burn down the store. ;-)

  2. Just got ripped off by Radio Shack yesterday. I went in to purchase a refill card for my Net10 Samsung T401G phone. They didn't have the actual cards (for some reason), but were making sales from a terminal. The guy behind the counter asked me how much money I wanted to put on it.

    I told him "$30.00," because I usually get the $30 card with 60 days of service from Walmart (for almost the past six years now). In fact I specifically mentioned the corresponding amount of time that went with the $30. He rang it up, showed me the airtime PIN number on the receipt, and I exited the store.

    En route to the car, I noticed that I was not sold 60 days worth of airtime, but 30. I went back into the store and asked them about it. They claimed that no, you couldn't get 60 days worth of airtime from Net10 unless you spent more money; and refused to refund the sale.

    Since I had almost 4,000 rollover minutes carry-over from the past 5+ years, the last thing I needed was even MORE minutes for the same amount of time! To say I was P.O.'ed is putting it mildly. Now I'm afraid to even use the PIN in the event they deliberately sold me minutes *without* the unlimited carry-over feature (i.e. from the other type of Net10 prepaid calling plan). If I wanted to spend more money on my mobile phone service, I could've (more conveniently) gotten $20 worth of minutes for 30 days from Net10's online website. I will NEVER spend another dime at Radio Shack ever again -- PERIOD!

  3. A year later and they STILL bait and switch. They advertise a Getting Started with Arduino Kit that includes the Getting Started with Arduino book, yet refuse to extend the offer at the counter. How do they get away with this?


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